Wisconsin: Sharing legislative drafts with lobbyists, not public

In the case of Lautenschlager v. Gunderson, a Wisconsin appeals court has dismissed an appeal by Peg Lautenschlager of a lower court ruling. The lower court said that under Wisconsin’s sunshine laws, legislators are allowed to share drafts of legislation with lobbyists, while still being able to withhold drafts from the public.

The appeals court dismissal does not speak to the underlying merits of the lower court ruling. Instead, it dismisses the appeal because it was brought by Lautenschlager as a private citizen, when the original lawsuit was filed by the Wisconsin attorney general’s office during her tenure as head of that office. She no longer holds the office, and the current occupant of the office elected not to appeal the lower court ruling.

Thus, the lower court ruling stands. One interesting aspect of it is the claim by the judge that Wisconsin courts should not interfere with how state legislators draft legislation because that’s a core legislative function. This is a separation of powers argument.

I most recently ran into a separation of powers argument when considering the Alaska Public Records Act. The Alaska Supreme Court has a tradition of ruling that gubernatorial deliberations in that state enjoy protection from public scrutiny under a somewhat similar separation of powers argument. I need to write a post about how this applies to Sarah Palin and her e-mail situation. But, everytime I google “Sarah Palin”, I get 23 trillion search results and my computer crashes.

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3 responses to “Wisconsin: Sharing legislative drafts with lobbyists, not public

  1. Wow! This is an incredible. Is there a movement to appeal to the legislature?

    I would like to cross post this to the Sunlight Foundation is that ok?

    Nisha Thompson
    Online Organizer
    Sunlight Foundation

  2. I don’t think there is a movement to re-structure Wisconsin’s OR statutes to change this but unless there is further court action, which would at this point (I believe) require an altogether new lawsuit, it is only the legislature that can change this aspect of Wisconsin’s law.

    I imagine there’s not a very high probability of the legislature voting to change the exemption it has granted itself regarding its deliberative process.

    Thanks for blogging about it.

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