March 10, 2011- Last night in Wisconsin, amidst the uproar over the state Senate's surprise passage of Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union bill, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's (R) office released an counter-argument to one particular Dem objection: That the sudden conference committee would have violated the state's open meetings laws.
At last night's conference committee (video below), Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) strenuously argued that the conference committee violated the state's open meetings law, which requires at least 24 hours notice before a government meeting, unless there is good cause to act more quickly. Instead, only about two hours notice was supplied for this meeting. As the Capital Times reports, many opponents of the bill are already mobilizing challenge the bill on this basis, that a key meeting to pass the bill was illegal.
In response, as WisPolitics reported last night, Fitzgerald's office released a message from Chief Clerk Rob Marchant, saying that the conference was subject to different rules — the ones governing special sessions of the legislature — and that no advance notice is required at all.
There was some discussion today about the notice provided for the legislature's conference committee. In special session, under Senate Rule 93, no advance notice is required other than posting on the legislative bulletin board. Despite this rule, it was decided to provide a 2 hour notice by posting on the bulletin board. My staff, as a courtesy, emailed a copy of the notice to all legisaltive (sic) offices at 4:10, which gave the impression that the notice may have been slightly less than 2 hours. Either way, the notice appears to have satisfied the requirements of the rules and statutes.