Scott Walker’s team must be getting worried about their legal strategy in the case of the anti-union bill. Because now, there’s open talk about going back to the drawing board and putting the provisions into another piece of legislation, in this case the budget bill for this fiscal year.
Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Thursday that while the “preferred avenue” for implementing the collective bargaining bill is still the state courts, there is a “possibility” the bill will be inserted into the 2011-2013 state budget.
“There is a possibility, and it has been informally discussed among Republican leadership, including the Joint Finance Committee co-chairs, that if the matter can’t be fully decided on by the Supreme Court, then it will be inserted into the full budget,” Welhouse told The Capital Times.
The legality of the bill, which would strip most collective bargaining rights from state employees, was challenged by Dane County District Attorney Ozanne Ismael on the grounds a special conference committee violated the state’s open meetings law when it approved the collective bargaining bill on March 9.
Given the disposition of the judge in that case, who already put an injunction on implementation of the law, it’s a good bet that she will rule that the meeting did violate Wisconsin law. Then Republicans would have to go through the appeals process, which could take quite a while. Putting the anti-union provisions into the budget bill is an admission of guilt.
But it sets up an interesting proposition. The same rules would apply in the legislature: the “Fab 14″ could simply walk out again on the budget bill, which clearly has a fiscal impact. Republicans could try the same maneuver they did to pass the collective bargaining stripping before, while taking the proper time to call the conference committee meeting. Or, they could simply allow the Fab 14 Democratic state Senators to stay out of the state. That would include three Senators – Robert Wirch, Dave Hansen and Jim Holperin – who face recall elections sometime in the summer. Forcing them out of state would basically sideline them during those elections.
Then there’s the question of whether those six Republicans facing recall would vote for the bill a second time. Maybe some would – co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee Alberta Darling, who is up for recall, said she’d agree to it. But with Sen. Dale Schultz opposing last time, only two of the six would be needed to flip to derail the bill.
And there’s the countdown factor. After July 12, if Democrats pick up three seats and carry the state Senate, the anti-union bill is dead, and furthermore, any shenanigans in redistricting are dead, along with most of the rest of the Walker agenda. So the Governor needs to choose what he wants to fast-track in the next couple months to prepare for the eventuality that he will not have total control of the government.
There are a lot of interesting subplots to this. Stay tuned.