Friday, March 11, 2011

It ain't over 'til it's over, Part One

So Governor Walkalloveryou has gotten what he wanted - for the moment, anyway, it's important to note. In a surprise and quite possibly illegal maneuver, the Wisconsin GOPpers rammed through a bill stripping virtually all collective bargaining rights from state employee unions, along with hampering their ability to collect dues and subjecting them to yearly re-certification elections. There are a whole bunch of different things I want to say in response. As usual, the one that I think is the most important will come last.

The first thing to say is that the illegality I mentioned is one part of why I say "for the moment." What the GOPpers did was to take the "budget" bill, strip out everything except the parts aimed at crippling unions and cutting benefits, and pass it at a conference committee meeting called on two hours notice - calling the roll even as state Assemblyman Peter Braca was still speaking. The problem for the GOPers is that there simply is no question but that the meeting violated the state's open meetings law, which requires at least 24 hours notice. This, bluntly, is open and shut: The meeting broke the law. There is no rational argument to the contrary. Which should mean that any action taken there was likewise illegal and thus invalid. Which should in turn mean that any court willing to apply what is clearly the law should be ready to issue an at least preliminary injunction barring the invalid "kill the unions" law from going into effect. Such a legal challenge appears to be a certainty and it's hard to see what a legal justification for rejecting it would be.

The problem, of course, is that it remains to be seen if the courts are as prepared to ignore the law as the GOPpers were.

Another thing I thought worthy of comment was Walkalloveryou saying he applauded what the legislature did. It's odd - not surprising in this case but still odd - to see a governor applauding a blatant violation of law, but never mind. Rather, I wanted to describe a fantasy I had of someone during his presser asking this question: "Governor, I need you to help me understand something. This bill stripping away bargaining rights either is budget-related, in which case the Senate could not have passed it because it didn't have a quorum, or it's not budget-related, in which case you were lying for weeks when you insisted it was. There is no third option here. So which is it? Did the Senate act illegally or a you a liar?" Of course, a fantasy because no one in the press corps was going to ask that, being either brainwashed or gutless. Or brainwashed into being gutless.

Which in turn serves to point up yet again again again how poorly served we are by our news media, especially our national news media. That will be part two of this.

Footnote: There are two other questions I'd like to see Walkalloveryou asked but which he won't be. One is, "If these givebacks and rights-strippings are so necessary because of a budget crisis, why did you exempt police and firefighter unions, which have among the highest pay and benefits? What is the connection between that exemption and the fact that those unions were the ones that endorsed you in the election?"

The other is, "Um, Governor, the argument is that this bill could be passed by the state Senate because all the budget-related items had been stripped out. If that's true, why are you still calling it 'the budget repair bill' as you just did in your statement?"

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