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Proposal would amend constitution to hold legislature to open meetings law

Democratic lawmakers have introduced a plan that would amend Wisconsin's constitution so that the open meetings law applies to the state legislature.

Democratic lawmakers have introduced a plan that would amend Wisconsin's constitution so that the open meetings law applies to the state legislature.

Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca and Rep. Jon Richards say their plan was prompted by the recent state Supreme Court ruling involving Wisconsin's collective bargaining law. That law had been held up for months after a circuit court ruled legislators broke the open meetings law when they passed it. But the Supreme Court ruled it was up to the legislature to enforce its own rules and that it cannot be bound by the statutes.

But the legislature can be bound by the constitution. Rep. Barca says this proposal would make sure that the open meetings law that's been on the books for 35 years applies to everyone.

"We want to cement the notion of what was intended 35 years ago--that the legislature would be held accountable. That the legislature would not be above the law," says Barca.

The move has the backing of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. Its vice president, Christa Westerberg, says it would make sure the law applies to the legislature in the same way it does to local boards throughout the state.

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"It's really as many court opinions have already found essential for the controversial cases when the temptation to close the meeting, shut out the public and remove the bother of public participation is the greatest."

The plan would need to pass two consecutive sessions of the legislature and be approved by a majority of voters before it's written into the constitution.

Majority Republicans had no immediate comment on whether they'd consider bringing it to the floor for a vote.

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