Wisconsin Republicans voted this week to hold their state-fleeing Democratic colleagues' paychecks and fine them $100 a day until they return to the capitol and allow a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's (R) controversial anti-union bill. Then, they took away the Democrats' staffs and parking spaces. Now, the state Senate has ordered the Democrats detained and brought to the capitol, using "force and assistance from police" if necessary. Is that legal?
This is a "clearly illegal move": Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) is wrong when he insists this "truly unprecedented measure" is legal, says Rick Ungar at Forbes. "The Wisconsin state Constitution expressly prohibits the arrest of lawmakers," except for "felony, treason or a breach of the peace." This simply won't stand.
"Wisconsin Dem. senators officially fugitives from the law"
Critics are misreading the law: The constitutional clause everyone is butchering means that courts can't legally compel the Democrats to return to work, says Jim Lindgren at The Volokh Conspiracy. But the state Senate can clearly police its own "miscreant legislators." Wisconsin's Constitution gives each chamber of the legislature the "privilege to compel attendance," just as the U.S. Senate can (and does).
"The arrest clause of the Wisconsin Constitution applies only..."
Legal or not, it sure looks bad: "I'm no lawyer," but this is an overreach, even if it's legally permissible, says O. Ricardo Pimentel in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Everyone should look askance at anyone having the power to get the cops to bring you to work." And Republicans, especially, should be wary of looking like "Big Brother." Still, "give Fitzgerald points for consistency." After docking Democrats' pay and reassigning their staffs, "arresting the senators is just the next logical step."
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