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Another Fightin’ La Follette



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Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill has a new, albeit brief, foe: Doug La Follette, Wisconsin’s secretary of state.

La Follette, a Democrat, has announced that he will take 10 days — the maximum waiting period — to publish the law. “We’ll just automatically do it on the tenth day,” LaFollette says. “I see no reason to divert from it.”

John Fund wonders:

One possible explanation for Mr. La Follette’s behavior is that opponents of the new law are marching into court in Madison to block its publication, which could give them extra time to seek an injunction.

But there’s another theory. The 70-year-old Mr. La Follette is a descendant of “Fighting Bob” La Follette, a dominant force In Wisconsin’s adoption of Progressive Era legislation such as the graduated income tax. To see one of the Progressive Era’s crown jewels — public sector collective bargaining — substantially dismantled has apparently stirred obstructionist impulses in the current family upholder of the La Follette tradition.

Meanwhile, the unions are scurrying to sweeten their deals before the law hits the books:

School boards and local governments across Wisconsin are rushing to reach agreements with unions before a new law takes effect and erases their ability to collectively bargain over nearly all issues other than minimal salary increases.

The law doesn’t go into effect until the day after Secretary of State Doug La Follette publishes it and it doesn’t supersede contracts already in place, fueling unions’ desire to reach new deals quickly. La Follette said Monday that he will delay publication until the latest day possible, March 25, to give local governments time to try to reach agreements.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker had asked La Follette to publish the law Monday, but the Democratic secretary of state said he didn’t see any emergency that warranted doing so. La Follette opposed the bill and said he sat in his office watching parts of a weekend protest that brought as many as 100,000 people out in opposition to the law.

On a side note, this is not the governor’s first tangle with the La Follette legacy:

Wisconsin governors are typically sworn into office near the East Gallery, where a prominent bust of La Follette gazes out under the Capitol dome with the governor’s office behind him.

But not this year. Incoming Republican Gov. Scott Walker will be sworn into office near the North Gallery, meaning many in the audience will be sitting with their backs, or sides, to Fighting Bob.



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