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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

THE OPEN MEETING CANARD

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Judges and DAs in Madison apparently need a refresher course in the law.

Let's start with Christian Schneider 101:

19.87      
19.87 Legislative meetings. This subchapter shall apply to all meetings of the senate and assembly and the committees, subcommittees and other subunits thereof, except that:


19.87(1)      
(1) Section 19.84 shall not apply to any meeting of the legislature or a subunit thereof called solely for the purpose of scheduling business before the legislative body; or adopting resolutions of which the sole purpose is scheduling business before the senate or the assembly.

19.87(2)      
(2) No provision of this subchapter which conflicts with a rule of the senate or assembly or joint rule of the legislature shall apply to a meeting conducted in compliance with such rule.

19.87(3)      
(3) No provision of this subchapter shall apply to any partisan caucus of the senate or any partisan caucus of the assembly, except as provided by legislative rule.

19.87(4)      
(4) Meetings of the senate or assembly committee on organization under s. 71.78 (4) (c) or 77.61 (5) (b) 3. shall be closed to the public.
 

19.87 - ANNOT.      
   History:  1975 c. 426; 1977 c. 418; 1987 a. 312 s. 17.
 

19.87 - ANNOT.      
   Sub. (3) applied to a closed meeting of the members of one political party on a legislative committee to discuss a bill. State ex rel. Lynch v. Conta, 71 Wis. 2d 662, 239 N.W.2d 313 (1976).
**

 

I've written before that I don't think this lawsuit has a chance of succeeding in the end. Here's why: Senate Chief Clerk Rob Marchant, a non-partisan official who offers legal and parliamentary advice to the senate, wrote in an email to senators the night the bill passed that the vote was legitimate:

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 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.

I thought you might find this information to be useful.
Thanks.
Rob

 

Just in case you don't trust Marchant, let's take a look at what the Open Meetings law actually says. The law states:
 

19.84 Public notice. 

 
(3) Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than 2 hours in advance of the meeting.
But the law also states:

19.87 Legislative meetings.

 
(2) No provision of this subchapter which conflicts with a rule of the senate or assembly or joint rule of the legislature shall apply to a meeting conducted in compliance with such rule.

 

So the Open Meeting law says that the legislature's rules trump the Open Meetings law when the two are in conflict. And the legislature's rules hold that during a special session, under which the legislature had been operating, the only notice required is a posting on a bulletin board in the capitol: 

Senate Rule 93 (2)
   (2) A notice of a committee meeting is not required other than posting on the legislative bulletin board, and a bulletin of committee hearings may not be published.

 

So the rules and statutes clearly seem to hold that no notice was required other than a bulletin board posting. Republicans did that. And then, as a courtesy and just to be safe, they waited the minimum two hours required by the Open Meetings law when 24 hours' notice is "impossible or impractical." Why might it have been "impractical" to give 24 hours' notice?

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