Wisconsin Republicans may have swiftly backtracked on a proposal that would have gutted the state’s open records law, but the big question remains as to who inserted the language into the budget bill in the first place and whether Gov. Scott Walker (R) -- who was already facing a lawsuit challenging him to release certain legislative documents -- was involved in pushing the changes.
The changes to the public records law were initially approved by the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee by a party-line vote Thursday evening, before the long Independence Day weekend. But a fierce backlash prompted Republican leaders, led by Walker, to announce during the holiday weekend they were dropping the provisions. The proposal, part of a budget package known as Motion #999, would have removed a number of legislative documents from under the scope of government transparency laws, and would have permitted lawmakers to opt out of submitting to other types of public records requests. The proposal appeared to target communications tracking how legislation is developed, which often reveals the influence of special interests.
So far, Republicans have stayed mum on who initially pushed for the changes, though it has emerged in the last 72 hours that most of leadership chain was at the very least aware of them before they were put in front of the Joint Finance Committee on Thursday. As for Walker's role, the specifics of his involvement, if any, remain unknown. But the consensus in Madison is nothing would have gotten that far in the legislative process without at least Walker's tacit approval.
Read More →