Just because I haven't blogged about the political situation here in Wisconsin doesn't mean that I've forgotten about it or lost interest. No, no. Far from it. I just thought y'all could use a little break.
But I'm back to writing about this because the situation is getting worse, not better, and the tactics certain members of the Republican party have resorted to in order to get their way deserves scrutiny and criticism. (I could actually use much stronger language to convey my feelings on the subject, but I'm a big believer in civil discourse, especially in times like these, so I'm going to keep calm and cool here.)
I'll try and spare you details because those can be found from better media sources than this blog, but in case you haven't been paying much attention, I'll get you up to speed. On March 9, State Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald held a vote on the [supposedly] non-fiscal portions of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill. The vote was taken less than two hours after it was announced, which is in direct violation of the state's open meetings law, which requires a 24-hour notice. None of the 14 Democratic senators who left the state to deny quorum were able to make it back in time for a vote. Walker signed the bill on Friday, March 11. Madison saw its biggest rally yet the next day (Stuart was there; I was on my way to Kentucky with the kids) with well over 100,000 people in attendance. The bill can not become law until it is published by the Secretary of State Doug La Follette. La Follette announced he would wait the maximum waiting period - 10 days - before publishing the law because of the various legal questions surrounding the bill, in particular the constitutionality of the senate vote. A Dane county judge issued a court order blocking the publication of the bill. That court order has been challenged by the state Attorney General Van Hollen, and now the whole thing is going to the state supreme court. Yesterday, the Legislative Reference Bureau published the bill anyway, which doesn't make it law (that can't happen until it's published by the Secretary of State), but it's an administrative step taken in defiance of the court order.
It's all rather confusing, isn't it? As far as I can understand, the legal wrangling is not about whether the senate vote was constitutional (it clearly wasn't), but is all about whether the judicial branch has the right to step into the legislative process. Normally, they don't intervene, but of course, everything about this situation is exceptional. It was blatantly illegal for the senate to call a vote on the budget repair bill less than 24 hours after announcing it, so the vote should not be valid. But does a judge have the right to intervene in how the legislature handles its affairs and issue a restraining order to block the bill from being published? Obviously, I'm no expert on the law and the constitution, but it seems to me that if the legislative leaders so blatantly disregard the law, they should not be able to get away with it. What's the point of having those rules if they're not followed? And if they're not enforced?
You might ask, if the bill is hung up in court because the vote taken on it was unconstitutional, why doesn't Scott Fitzgerald just call another vote, wait the 24 hours, and do the whole thing over legitimately? In a rare moment of journalistic integrity, Greta Van Susteren of Fox News asked Fitzgerald that very question, and he all but admitted he's afraid he won't get the votes the second time around. If you don't believe me, watch it for yourself: video of Scott Fitzgerald speaking with Greta van Susteren.
So even though marching around the Capitol Square in the cold (it was 25, windy and spitting snow this afternoon) with my handmade "Save Union Rights and Medicaid!" signs is starting to get a little old, I was back there today. The crowd was certainly smaller than in weekends past, but determined all the same, and we were joined by several Union Cabs in parade honking "SHOW me what de-MOC-racy LOOKS LIKE!".
There is so much at stake in this fight: union rights, public services, the quality of public and higher education, and now, the integrity of the democratic and legislative process. It saddens me to see my home state so deeply divided, to see people pitted against one another on issues like whether teachers are over-compensated for the work they do. I am not giving up.