So here’s a new wrinkle for the recall saga in Wisconsin. Three of the elections against state Senate Republicans have already been certified. There is a hearing scheduled this week to deal with challenges to the other six – three against Republicans, three against Democrats. But the Government Accountability Board has delayed the decision on the Democratic recalls, because of allegations of faulty signature-gathering.
A Government Accountability Board spokesman said Friday the board’s staff needs more time to review factual and legal challenges to the petitions targeting the senators, Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Jim Holperin of Conover and Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie. Democrats have alleged that circulators used widespread fraud and misrepresentation to gather signatures.
The board will still review challenges to three petitions targeting GOP senators Tuesday, but won’t decide on the other petitions until June 8 at the earliest.
There are two implications here. One is that the GAB will find that widespread fraud and misrepresentation that Democrats have alleged, and rule that it disqualifies the three recall petitions. This would mean that the only recall elections this summer would be against state Senate Republicans.
The other possibility is that, on June 8, the instances of fraud are found to be either unprovable or not large enough to change the eligibility of the petitions, and the Democratic elections get certified. But that would not be in time to schedule elections on July 12, thought to be the prescribed date for all the elections. Again, two choices here. Either all of the elections are pushed back to later in the summer, or just those Democratic elections get moved back, with the certified Republican elections set to go on July 12.
If I were the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, I would really push for this second option. By tomorrow, six recall elections would be certified and ready to go against Republican Senators. Why not just hold them on the prescribed date? It would reduce uncertainty in the various state Senate districts, and considering that the viability of the Democratic petitions are in doubt, by July 12 this entire thing could be over.
Tactically, splitting the Republican and Democratic elections would be really good news. Because there’s still the matter of the anti-union law, which Scott Walker says will be passed one way or the other. With the Democratic elections delayed, that outcome would be more in doubt. Walker and the Republicans want to pass the anti-union provisions inside the budget bill, which is by definition fiscal in nature. The Democratic Fab 14 Senators could leave the state again and delay that outcome until after the July 12 recall elections, denying Republicans a quorum needed for fiscal bills to pass it. That would be a much easier task if three of their members weren’t facing recall on the same time frame as the Republicans.
What’s more, even if Walker and the Republicans split the anti-union bill off, as they did last time, from the budget, and pass with a legal open meeting, they will see a court challenge if the Fab 14 stays away. That’s because the anti-union provisions themselves are inherently fiscal, not just according to labor and progressive leaders, but according to the Republicans who want to pass the bill:
And if it is the case that Fitz Van Walker’s union-busting provisions of law are indeed “a critical part of balancing Wisconsin’s budget,” then not only were those provisions passed unlawfully according to constitutional and statutory open meetings requirements, they were also passed unlawfully according to Article VIII the State constitution, which requires a three-fifths quorum of State Senators in order to pass “any law which … discharges or commutes a claim or demand of the state.”
Scott Fitzgerald did not have such a quorum when he had passed the provisions of law during a twilight meeting for which he gave only one hour and fifty seven minutes public notice, provisions of law designed to discharge collective bargaining demands of the State to the express end of, as the horse’s mouth itself puts it, “balancing Wisconsin’s budget.”
In other words, even if the State Supreme Court complied with Governor Scott Walker’s Department of Justice lawyers’ demand that Judge Sumi’s decision be vacated, 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 would likely be immediately enjoined by another court on other constitutional “fiscal bill” grounds.
That means that Senators staying out of state would be likely to delay the anti-union bill until after the recalls. And there’s now a ream of quotes from the Fitzgerald brothers and Scott Walker himself talking about the fiscal nature of parts of the bill, all of which can be entered into evidence.
So keep an eye on this ruling from the GAB, because it not only could stop the recalls of Democratic Senators, it could set things up so that the anti-union bill in Wisconsin cannot pass until after the recalls, at which point Democrats could control the state Senate.