A bill sparked by the contentious debate over Governor Scott Walker's 2011 budget repair bill is headed for the floor of the state Assembly. If approved, it would eliminate the role of the Secretary of State in publishing bills before they can become laws.
Currently a bill does not become law until the Secretary of State publishes it; the person holding the office must do so within ten days of the governor signing the bill. Two years ago, the law made it possible for a Dane County judge to suspend the enactment of 'Act 10,' the controversial collective bargaining law, before the ten-day window closed. At a public hearing in the Assembly Committee on Government operations this week, bill author and Republican Senator Glen Grothman said it's time to take the Secretary of State out of the process. "The idea, which I think came about for the first time last session, that the Secretary of State would say, 'I disagree with the legislature on what they believe labor law should be, or we could say on what they believe criminal law should be, and I should delay the effective date of these bills by ten days,' is a little bit silly."
But Secretary of State Doug LaFollette told the committee democracy is not supposed to be a speedy process and the ten-day delay gives citizens the chance to consider possible problems in a bill. He also said the bill ignores the constitutional role of the Secretary of State as a part of the executive branch of government. "The constitution says the Secretary of State shall keep a fair record of the official acts of the legislature and that's always included their publication. This piece of legislation clearly violates that concept of separation of power."
The bill has already passed the state Senate on a party line vote. The committee is expected to vote the bill on to the Assembly floor before the end of the month.
This is a corrected version of the story. The original version stated that Secretary of State LaFollette was ordered by a judge to publish the bill, implying that he had refused to publish it in the ten day window. That was inaccurate. The second sentence in this corrected version better reflects the actual sequence of events.