The state Senate passed its first bill today on a party-line vote, changing the way a bill becomes enacted.

Bills that pass both houses of the Legislature and the governor signs currently become enacted after the Secretary of State publishes the act in the official state newspaper of record, currently The Wisconsin State Journal. Although the bill would keep the secretary’s responsibility to publish the acts intact, it would enact bills the day after the governor signs them.

The secretary currently can delay a bill’s enactment by ten days, and this change stems from Secretary Doug LaFollette’s delay of the contentious collective bargaining law that sparked protests at the Capitol in 2011.

LaFollette said his office treated the law as they would any other and would have published it on the tenth day, but a Dane County circuit court judge placed an injunction on the law before he could do so. He said if the judge had not done so, he would have published the law and “there would be nothing to talk about.”
In June, the state Supreme Court found Republicans had not violated the state’s open meeting law in passing the law and stopped the injunction, and LaFollette published the law on the tenth day after that ruling, he said.

“It is a bad idea, which is totally unnecessary,” LaFollette said. “It’s a solution that’s searching for a problem. … The fact that they think they can get retribution against me by changing a process that’s worked for decades is foolishness.”

LaFollette, who has been at his role for decades, said he has always worked with governors in the past, including Gov. Scott Walker, on publishing bills that are time-sensitive right away.

Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, introduced the bill, which passed out of committee last week on party-line votes as well. He said LaFollette thinks he has a role in the legislative process, but only legislators and the governor do.

“The people who run to enact public policy in the state are the state senators, the state assemblymen and the governor,” Grothman said.

Grothman pushed back against senators who said the bill reduces the public’s access to legislative information. He said the Internet has made access to state government much easier and added nobody waits for the State Journal’s publication of laws to find out what laws the Legislature passes.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said, “this isn’t about Doug LaFollette.”

But Democrats disagreed, including Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, the longest serving state legislator in the country. He criticized Republicans for having this bill, rather than a bill on job creation or any other important issue, being the first one the Senate votes for.

He added the rules are in place so the secretary can space out when laws are published, especially at the end of legislative sessions, when legislators rush to pass dozens of bills.

“This bill would create no jobs,” Risser said. “What it does … is gut the opportunity of the Secretary of State’s participation in the legislative process. Basically, it’s a bill aimed at the one Democrat left in state elective office. So much for bipartisanship.”