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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Question for my lawyer peeps

by folkbum

So I've been following the challenge to the union-busting (among other things) bill in Dane County Circuit Court, reading all the arguments and whatnot, and I have a question.

Which has nothing to do with the merits or any other aspect of that case at all. While I remain kind of hopeful about that case, I am not optimistic about the overall situation, considering that whatever the outcome of that trial Republicans still hold legislative majorities and all los hermanos Fitzgerald need to do is reconvene and pass the thing paying extra super attention to all the p's and q's. Why they haven't yet, in fact, is quite the puzzler.

Regardless, here's my question: The committee hearing that is allegedly in violation of the open meetings law was a conference committee. And this is where I'm stumped, because I, like a probable-minority of Americans who geek out on how a bill becomes a law, am familiar with the way conference committees typically work. At the federal level, for example, the House and the Senate both pass their version of a bill, a conference committee irons out the differences, and then the conference report--that newly-ironed revision--is again voted on in both houses of Congress.

But at the time this particular conference committee convened, only the state Assembly had passed a version of the bill in question. The Senate had not. So how in the dickens is it possible for a conference committee to meet and reconcile versions of a bill if there is no Senate version to be had? Is this just some quirk of Wisconsin law by which a "conference committee" doesn't mean what it means at the federal level?

And again, I'm not saying that any of this means the world is suddenly full of rainbows and unicorns for my union brothers and sisters, given that the legislature can do pretty much what it wants at this point and nertz to the rest of us. Rather, I am trying to understand the rules here, and would really appreciate a clarification.

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