I’m not going to speculate about why Gov. Scott Walker didn’t realize what a mess he was getting Wisconsin into when he tried to pass his budget repair bill. To call him unintelligent would be a low blow, but he sure is shortsighted and self-promoting.
While trying to tackle the state deficit in itself is laudable, Walker’s gung-ho approach has lead to nothing but a legal morass. What did he want? To cut the budget. How did he want it? Any way it could be done. Meanwhile, Wisconsin courts, lawmakers, union members, teachers and many more have been left spinning their wheels in the muck that is the legal aftermath of Walker’s bill. As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, recent developments have lead to a postponement in the decision to recall eight (yes, eight) state senators. With no decision likely to be reached as late as July, the circus continues in the house that Scott built.
As of publication, petitions have been or are being brought against Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin and Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend.
Failed recalls include Democratic Sens. Spencer Coggs and Lena Taylor of Milwaukee, and Democratic Sens. Fred Risser and Mark Miller of Madison. Not only that, but there are numerous calls for special elections and the statewide recount of the Supreme Court election.
Lewis Beilin, an attorney for Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, calls this array “unprecedented,” and because of the general chaos, the GAB has not been able to use its standard protocol to determine whether or not the state senators should be ousted and a recall election should take place.
Petitions for recalls were filed at all different times, and the senators in question “are targeted for their support or opposition to a bill that would strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Normally, the GAB knows whether to hold a recall election within 31 days of a petition being filed, but in this case, petitions filed on April 1 may not be presented until between May 31 and June 3.
Surprisingly, though, GAB lawyers, Republicans and Democrats mostly agree on the extension of the deadline. Jeremy Levinson, an attorney for the committees to recall Kapanke and Hopper, only protested the extension of the deadline for these two senators, saying that since these petitions were turned in much earlier, they should be reviewed by the May 17 meeting. Beilin denied this request because the GAB already had too many other matters on their agenda and direly needs the extra time to verify the petitions. The fact that parties on both sides are being recalled (and both sides mostly agree to the extension) supports the idea that everybody, regardless of political affiliation, knows it’s a legal minefield out there.
As of right now, recalls for Kapanke and Hopper will be under review on May 23. The other six senators will come under review between May 31 and June 3, and barring further legal snafus, eight elections will be held on July 12.
My libertarian, reluctant tax-paying, union hating mother would want me to mention that it’s the people of Wisconsin, not other legislators, calling for their state senators to be recalled. She would be correct; there is obviously a large faction that disputes the legality of the Democratic senators’ great flight out of Wisconsin and would like to see them answer for their absences. I myself am not really certain it was the best thing for them to have done in the situation. What I am certain of, however, is that what forced their hand was Scott Walker and his demagogues. Forcing senators to absolve their actions may be warranted, but the legal quicksand the budget-repair bill put us in is only going to suck us further under if we continue to struggle.