UPDATE: Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds 2011 union law

By: Zac Schultz Email
By: Zac Schultz Email

UPDATED Thursday, July 31, 2014 --- 7:55 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the 2011 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, sparked massive protests and led to Republican Gov. Scott Walker's recall election.

The court upheld the law 5-2 Thursday under a challenge filed by the Madison teachers union and a union representing Milwaukee public workers. They had argued that the law violated workers' constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection.

A federal appeals court twice upheld the law as constitutional.

The law prohibits public worker unions from collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation.

Walker introduced it shortly after taking office, and rose to national prominence as he defended it and won the 2012 recall election.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, March 25, 2011 --- 6:20 p.m.

Union chapters file suit against Wis. law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two public union chapters have filed a lawsuit challenging the state's contentious new collective bargaining law.

Union chapters representing Madison public works employees and Dane County firefighters contend the law's impairs unions' ability to sustain themselves and individuals' ability to associate with them. They go on to argue the law creates conflict between union and non-union public workers and the state Senate lacked the necessary quorum when it passed the law on March 9.

The law strips most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights. Police and firefighters are exempt.

Democrats have filed two other lawsuits challenging the law. A judge has blocked the measure's publication while she considers the challenges.

A spokesman for the state Justice Department, which is representing the state, declined comment.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 24, 2011 --- 1:47 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin appeals court says the state Supreme Court should decide whether a law that takes away nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers should be allowed to take effect.

A majority of the seven-member Supreme Court must agree to take it or it would remain in the appeals court.

The 4th District Court of Appeals said Thursday it is appropriate for the state's highest court to take the case because it presents significant issues that are likely to end up before the Supreme Court anyhow.

A Dane County judge issued an order last week preventing Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law, saying Republicans violated the state open meetings law when passing it.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 24, 2011 --- 6:45 a.m.

Wis. DA adds arguments to uphold union law block

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin prosecutor says it would be premature for an appeals court to review whether an emergency order blocking publication of the state's new collective bargaining law was properly issued.

Democratic Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne has accused Republican lawmakers of violating the state's open meetings law during debate on the plan. Judge Maryann Sumi issued an emergency order last Friday blocking the law's publication.

The state Justice Department contends Sumi meddled in the Legislature's affairs and wants permission to appeal.

Ozanne says in briefs filed Wednesday Sumi has set a full hearing for next week on the order and nothing suggests she issued it recklessly.

A number of unions, including the state's largest teachers union, filed a request Wednesday to join the lawsuit.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, March 21, 2011 --- 12:30 p.m.

From Attorney General's Office:
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT FILES APPEAL TO RESTRAINING ORDER

MADISON – Today the Wisconsin Department of Justice filed an appeal in the 4th District Court of Appeals seeking to lift a Temporary Restraining Order placed on Secretary of State Doug La Follette’s duty to publish 2011 Wisconsin Act 10.

Taken directly from the brief the Department asserts:
[The] “Court does not need to determine whether the Open Meetings Law was violated. Instead, it must only assess whether a court may issue an injunction against a party over whom it has no personal jurisdiction, whether a court may issue an injunction to interfere with the constitutional power of the Legislature to declare what shall become law, and whether a court may issue an injunction to suspend publication of a law on a legal basis that does not provide the court with the authority to declare the law void. If the court lacks any of these powers, the TRO must be promptly vacated.”

In summary, today’s action by the Justice Department argues:
(1) The (Dane County Circuit) court had no jurisdiction over the legislators (who have legislative immunity) or the Secretary of State (who is not a proper defendant in an Open Meetings case and also enjoys sovereign immunity;

(2) The court may not interfere with the legislative process and enjoin the publication of a bill as the last step in the legislative process; and

(3) Even if the Budget Repair Act were published law, a court could not void it on the basis of an Open Meetings violation. Supreme Court decisions have made clear that a court may not void a law based upon the legislature’s failure to follow rules of legislative process, whether those rules exist in statute or legislative rules. Courts may only evaluate whether constitutional procedural requirements were met.

The State’s brief may be viewed at:
http://www.doj.state.wi.us/news/files/Petition11CV1244.pdf

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UPDATED Monday, March 21, 2011 --- 12:15 p.m.

Wis. DOJ files to appeal union law order

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Justice Department has filed a request to appeal an emergency order blocking the state's contentious new collective bargaining law.

Democratic Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne asked for the order blocking the law's publication as part of a lawsuit he filed last week. Ozanne maintains Republican legislative leaders violated the state's open meeting law during debate on the proposal.

The Republicans have countered they did nothing wrong. But Judge Maryann Sumi decided on Friday the lawsuit had a reasonable chance of succeeding and granted the order.

Justice Department attorneys represent the Republicans. Since Sumi's order isn't final, they must win permission from an appeals court to challenge it. The agency argued in its filing to the state Court of Appeals that Sumi had no authority block the law's publication.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED: Friday, March 18, 2011 -- 5:21pm
By Zac Schultz
Twitter @zschultz15

Madison: The battle over the budget repair bill has moved from the Capitol to the courthouse and Friday the protesters got a victory. But that win may be temporary.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi has issued a temporary restraining order preventing the secretary of state from publishing the budget repair bill, essentially preventing it from becoming law.

At issue is the joint conference committee from March 9th, where on just two hours notice, Republicans met and amended Governor Walker's budget repair bill.

Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) was the only Democrat on the committee, and argued throughout the meeting needed 24 hours notice. "This is a violation of law. This is not just a rule, it's the law. This is a violation of the open meetings law."

The bill was quickly passed in the Senate and Assembly and signed by Governor Walker.

This civil suit would prevent Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette from publishing the bill, the final step before it becomes law.

The Department of Justice says the hearing did not violate the open meetings law, but even if it did the judge cannot act. "The court cannot jump into the legislative process before a law has been published," says Asst. Atty. General Maria Lazar.

Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne says there would be irreparable harm if they had to challenge the bill after it became law. "At this point it is best to keep the status quo than it is to throw the system into a tailspin and try and correct it afterwards."

Judge Maryann Sumi says the meeting likely violated the law. "It's not minor. It's not a minor detail...We are entitled by law to free and open access to governmental meetings and especially governmental meetings that lead to the resolution of very highly conflicted and controversial matters."

Sumi has scheduled a full hearing for March 29th, where she could lift the restraining order or make it permanent.

Republicans Jeff and Scott Fitzgerald issued a statement calling the ruling a significant overreach, saying "Dane County always seems to play by its own rules, but this morning we saw a Dane County judge try to re-write the constitutional separation of powers."

Meanwhile, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has already said he will appeal. Asst. Attorney General said the same right after the ruling. "We disagree with it. The reason they have appellate courts is because circuit court judges make errors. We think that happened in this case."

Democrats know this fight is not over. "I'm not going to get into whether this is a big move or not. It's the first step in the process," says Ozanne.

"We're just very pleased and gratified that our system of checks and balances are well in place in Wisconsin," says Barca.

The constitutionality of the bill is not being questioned, so at any time the legislature can introduce and pass a bill that will do the exact same thing.

Governor Walker responded to the court order Friday from Lacrosse, "It's just the process we have to work out what the next steps are there in terms of the alternatives by the judge or if there's an appeal but the bottom line is I'm confident the law will be upheld."

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UPDATED: Friday, March 18, 2011 --- 2:13p.m.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued the following statement with respect to the Temporary Restraining Order issued this morning by Judge Sumi in State ex rel. Ozanne vs. Fitzgerald, et al.:

The Department of Justice plans to appeal today’s motion granting a temporary restraining order enjoining the Secretary of State from publishing the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, commonly referred to as the Budget Repair Bill. The Legislature and the Governor, not a single Dane County Circuit Court Judge, are responsible for the enactment of laws.

Decisions of the Supreme Court have made it clear that judges may not enjoin the Secretary of State from publishing an Act. Further, the Secretary of State is without discretion to refuse to publish an act because of perceived procedural irregularities or constitutional concerns. Decisions of the Supreme Court are equally clear that Acts may not be enjoined where the claim is that a rule of legislative procedure, even one as important as the Open Meetings law, has been violated.

No matter whether individual citizens agree with the substance of the bill or the manner in which it was enacted, I would hope all see the value in ensuring this matter be given the opportunity to work its way expeditiously through the judicial process.

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UPDATED Friday, March 18, 2011 --- 11:00 a.m.

Judge blocks contentious Wisconsin union law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state's new and contentious collective bargaining law from taking effect.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued the order Friday to temporarily block the law as District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, had requested.

Ozanne filed a lawsuit contending that a legislative committee that broke a stalemate that had kept the law in limbo for weeks met without the 24-hour notice required by Wisconsin's open meetings law. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the measure and Gov. Scott Walker signed it last week.

A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to comment, citing the legal fight. Messages left for comment with Walker's spokesmen, as well as Democratic legislative leaders, were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 18, 2011 ---- 10:45 a.m.

Breaking News right now: A judge has issued a temporary restraining order halting the implementation of the budget repair bill. But the judge pointed out, lawmakers can give proper notice and hold joint conference committee meeting again. Dane County's D.A. filed a lawsuit contending a legislative committee met without the 24-hour notice required by Wisconsin's open meetings law. Stay with NBC15.com for continuing coverage.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 10:30 a.m.

Judge hearing lawsuit to block Wisconsin union law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin judge is hearing arguments on whether to block the state's new and contentious collective bargaining law from taking effect.

Dane County's district attorney filed a lawsuit contending a legislative committee that broke a stalemate that had kept the law in limbo for weeks met without the 24-hour notice required by Wisconsin's open meetings law. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the measure and Gov. Scott Walker signed it last week.

The law can't take effect until it's formally published, and the Democratic secretary of state says he plans to wait the full 10 days allowed to publish it March 25.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, wants Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi to grant an emergency order blocking publication of the law. The hearing was under way Friday.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 17, 2011 --- 11:58 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin judge says she'll decide on Friday whether to issue an emergency order blocking publication of the state's new collective bargaining law.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing Republican legislative leaders of violating Wisconsin's open meetings law during the rushed run-up to a Senate vote on the measure last week. He wants a judge to block publication of the law so the case can be heard before the measure takes effect.

Judge Maryann Sumi had originally scheduled a hearing for Thursday morning, but pushed it back to Friday. Ozanne says he has as many as 20 witnesses lined up.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 16, 2011 --- 3:50 p.m.

Wis. DA files lawsuit challenging union law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin prosecutor has filed a lawsuit accusing Republicans of violating the open meetings law when they made changes to Gov. Scott Walker's plan to restrict public sector collective bargaining.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne alleges in the suit that Republicans didn't give enough public notice when they hastily convened a committee last week to advance the plan. Ozanne is seeking an injunction blocking the secretary of state from publishing the law and a ruling that the law is void.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Juneau Republican, says Fitzgerald is completely confident the law was followed.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 16, 2011 --- 3:05 p.m.

Press Release from the Office of the Dane County District Attorney:

DANE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY ISMAEL OZANNE FILES COMPLAINT FOR OPEN MEETINGS LAW VIOLATIONS

After receiving verified complaints in relation to an open meetings law violation by a joint committee of the State Legislature last Wednesday, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced he has filed a complaint in the Dane County Circuit Court charging violations of the open meetings law in an effort to vindicate the interests of the public in ensuring governmental bodies at all levels adhere to all of the requirements of the open meetings law.

“Once this office received a verified complaint, which is needed by statute to give us jurisdiction, we began an investigation,” said District Attorney Ozanne. “Our investigation has found merit in the verified complaints, which allows us to commence this litigation. This litigation does not address the merits or the wisdom of the legislation.”

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 15, 2011 --- 12:55 p.m.

Wis. judge pushes back hearing on union bill suit

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A judge says no one should expect a quick ruling in a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's contentious collective bargaining law.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette says he plans to publish the law on March 25. But Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, a Democrat, has filed a lawsuit to block publication and challenging the legality of the state Senate's vote on the plan.

Judge Maryann Sumi told attorneys she'll hold a hearing on Friday. She may decide whether to block publication that day if she's comfortable, but said she won't rule on the rest of the case that day.

She says she'll be out all next week and warned that no one should expect a quick resolution.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 3:50 p.m.

Wis. Democrat sees more challenges to union bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Democratic leader says more legal challenges are possible in an effort to stop a bill that would strip most Wisconsin public employees of collective bargaining rights.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha says Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette could aid help by delaying publishing the bill, the last step before it becomes state law. Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill Friday morning. La Follette can wait 10 days to publish it.

Barca also defended his call for the removal of Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon on Thursday. Barca says Fitzgerald violated the law to "push through a bill the people don't want."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 2:40 p.m.

Judge denies request to block Wis. anti-union law

By TODD RICHMOND and SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A judge has denied an emergency request to block a law that takes away nearly all collective bargaining rights from the vast majority of Wisconsin's public workers.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the legislation Friday morning, but it doesn't take effect until the day after an official secretary of state notice is published in the Madison newspaper.

Democratic Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the publication. She argues the state Senate unconstitutionally passed the bill Wednesday.

Dane County Circuit Judge Amy Smith declined to issue an emergency order blocking the law, saying Falk's attorneys didn't prove how publishing it would inflict irreparable harm on anyone. The judge scheduled a full hearing in the case for Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 11:50 a.m.

Lawsuit filed to stop implementation of union law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A judge is hearing arguments in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Scott Walker that takes away nearly all collective bargaining rights of most public workers.

Democratic Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk filed the lawsuit on Friday. She argues that the Senate did not have the legally required quorum of 20 senators when it passed the bill on Wednesday night.

The 19 Republican senators passed the bill after a special committee removed fiscal items from the measure which would have required at least one Democrat to be there. Falk argues the bill in its new form still could not pass without 20 senators present.

The measure passed the Assembly on Thursday and Walker signed it into law Friday morning.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 11:15 a.m.

From the Office of the Dane County Executive:

Falk Statement: Dane County Files Lawsuit Against State Legislative Action

County Executive Kathleen Falk issued the following statement after Dane County filed a lawsuit in Dane County Court this morning, challenging the recent action taken by the Wisconsin state legislature. Today’s lawsuit follows legal complaints Dane County filed Thursday with the Dane County District Attorney and Wisconsin Attorney General:

“The founders of our state and nation created a government of checks and balances to prevent the kind of abuse of power that we’ve so sadly witnessed in the Wisconsin State Capitol in recent days.

That’s why Dane County is taking legal action, filing suit this morning to block the Republican legislature and Governor’s efforts to eliminate the rights of Wisconsin workers. Good public policy doesn’t result from violating the law - - it results from people listening to and working with one another.

Through my many years as County Executive and Assistant Wisconsin Attorney General, I know our state government is supposed to work better than it has this week.”

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UPDATED: Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 9:45 p.m.
REPORTER: Chris Woodard

Tonight the realization is setting in for many who oppose this bill that their only option now is fighting it in the courts. That fight has already begun.

We've been told there will be more legal challenges to come but right now the questions revolve around if the state's open meetings law was violated.

A heated and quickly organized conference committee meeting is now the focus of a legal fight.

It's one of the few chances left to fight Governor Walker's Budget Repair Bill.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk says, "I have never seen anything like this."

Falk is among 4 people, including Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who have filed complaints with the Dane County District Attorney alleging the states open meeting laws were violated when the conference committee met.

The open meeting law says notice of a meeting must be given 24 hours before hand unless that's impossible or impractical in which case a 2 hour notice is all that's needed.

(19.84 (3) Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.)

Democratic Representative Peter Barca says he only got one hour and fifty minutes notice.

Falk says, "What Senate Republicans did last night in a rushed and illegal manner radically changes what county government can do."

But Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald says they did everything by the book, sighting a Senate rule that says no advance notice is required except for posting on a legislative bulletin board.

(Senate Rule 93 (2) No notice of hearing before a committee shall be required other than posting on the legislative bulletin board, and no bulletin of committee hearings shall be published.)

The DA now has 20 days to look at the arguments and decide if he'll move forward with a lawsuit.

Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne says, "Transparency in government is of the utmost importance. It's the foundation that builds communities trust in representatives and government. So this is very important and we are taking a close look at it."

Both Cieslewicz and Falk also filed complaints with the state Attorney General's office, who also has jurisdiction.

Tonight that office says they are gathering facts and won't have any more to say until they've had a chance to review things.

In a statement Fitzgerald released last night he said the non partisan Senate Chief Clerk agrees with him that no laws were violated.

If legal action is taken and a judge finds otherwise, the request is that the passing vote be voided.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 12:25 p.m.

Democrats assert law violation in Senate action

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Dane County officials have directed county attorneys to take legal action over the state Senate's passage of a bill taking away collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said Thursday that state officials don't get to choose which laws they'll follow and when.

She was referring to a committee meeting called Wednesday night before the Senate took action. City attorney Mike May says he believes the action violated the state open meetings law.

State law requires at least 24 hours' notice of a meeting, or two hours' notice in case of emergency. Wednesday's 6 p.m. meeting was noticed at 4:10 p.m.

Senate Clerk Rob Marchant says under Senate rules, no notice was required other than posting it on the legislative bulletin board.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 11:05 a.m.

Press Release from County Executive Kathleen Falk:
Statement: Dane County Pursues Legal Action

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk issued the following statement on Thursday morning, after she and County Board Chair Scott McDonell directed Dane County attorneys to pursue legal action related to the state legislature’s recent actions:

“In my 35 years of working with the state legislature, I’ve never seen such a blatant abuse of power and process as what took place in our Capitol Wednesday evening.

State officials take an oath to uphold the law and regardless of their zeal to achieve political means, they don’t get to chose what laws they’ll follow and when.

This morning, Chair McDonell and I directed our county attorneys to take legal action today to ensure the laws and rules followed by public policymakers in this state for generations are followed.”

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 10:05 a.m.

Democrats assert law violation in Senate action

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has authorized the city attorney to pursue any legal actions that might be filed over the state Senate's passage of a bill Wednesday night taking away collective bargaining rights from public workers.

City attorney Mike May says in an e-mail he sent to the mayor and city council members that in his opinion a committee meeting called before the Senate took action was in violation of the state open meetings law.

State law requires at least 24 hours notice of a meeting, unless there is an emergency which allows for just two hours notice.

Wednesday's 6 p.m. meeting was noticed at 4:10 p.m. Senate Clerk Rob Marchant said under Senate rules, no notice was required other than posting it on the legislative bulletin board.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 8:55 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Democrats claim Republicans violated the state open meetings law with a hastily convened meeting before the Senate passed a bill that takes away most collective bargaining rights from nearly all public workers.

State law requires at least 24 hours notice of a meeting, unless there is an emergency which allows for just two hours notice.

Wednesday's 6 p.m. meeting was noticed at 4:10 p.m. Senate Clerk Rob Marchant said under Senate rules, no notice was required other than posting it on the legislative bulletin board.

But open meeting law attorney Robert Dreps says the Senate didn't show that there was an emergency allowing for the 24-hour notice to be ignored and even if that had been shown the two-hour requirement was violated.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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