Monday, March 28, 2011

Despite a Dane County judge's temporary restraining order against Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, the Legislative Reference Bureau published the legislation Friday, sparking controversy over whether the law is in effect.

State law requires bills to be published within 10 working days after they are enacted. Walker signed the bill March 11, making Friday, March 25, the last day it could be enacted.

On March 18, Secretary of State Bob La Follette wrote to Mike Barman of the Legislative Reference Bureau asking him to remove March 25 as the date for publication of the bill and "not to proceed with publication until I contact you with a new publication date."

Laws generally take effect the day after they are published, making Saturday the first day the law would be implemented. There is disagreement, however, as to whether the law is actually in effect since La Follette's office has not published it yet.

"I don't think this act makes it become effective," bureau director Stephen Miller told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "My understanding is that the secretary of state has to publish it in the [official state] newspaper for it to become effective."

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said the Legislative Reference Bureau's actions are of no legal significance.

"This case, including the legal significance of today's actions, should be resolved in a court of law," Ozanne said in a statement Friday.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said La Follette does not have to publish the bill for it to become law, however.

"No action by the secretary of state is required by this section for the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish an act," Van Hollen spokesperson Bill Cosh said.

UW-Madison political science professor Dennis Dresang said for the bill to become law, it must be published by the Secretary of State. According to Dresang, as it stands now the law is not in effect.

He said the purpose of the having reference bureau publish the law is "simply to let the public have a look at the bill, rather than to publish it for legal effect."

Dresang said the only reason there is a controversy is because Walker administration officials and Republicans are saying the bill is law.

"I don't think there's any question that the bill is not law," Dresang said. "The only people who are saying it is law are the people who are the advocates for it."


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