Our View: Passing laws in the budget process is hazardousSame-sex partnerships went into effect in Wisconsin earlier this week. Obviously there are strong sentiments on both sides of the issue, but what disturbs many observers is the fact that the law was never debated openly, but rather written and passed in the state budget process.
By: Editorial staff, Hudson Star-Observer
Same-sex partnerships went into effect in Wisconsin earlier this week. Obviously there are strong sentiments on both sides of the issue, but what disturbs many observers is the fact that the law was never debated openly, but rather written and passed in the state budget process.
Writing laws into the budget is a trend that has seemingly grown in recent years, and it is not healthy in the debate over laws and issues that impact state residents.
Gov. Jim Doyle and the state Legislature did not do the state any favors when they bypassed the traditional lawmaking process to make a basic change in the way Wisconsin treats large groups of people.
The domestic partnership change in the law was one of hundreds of items squeezed into the state budget. In reality, it should have gone through the debates and deliberative process that accompanies most major policy decisions.
Regardless of the issue, by legislating through the budget, public discussion is restricted. In the end, it attracts lawsuits and underlines the adversarial process of opponents and sidesteps the relatively cooperative process of legislation.
Before the first same-sex application had been received, the lobby group Wisconsin Family Action initiated a lawsuit alleging that the state has violated a constitutional amendment passed in 2006. That referendum defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and stated in part, “A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”
The debate over same-sex partnerships, and many other questions, could have been better addressed throughout the two-year legislative session. The budget was passed on a five-month fast track. The longer process would have allowed all sides to present their positions — maybe involve a little “give and take” — and maybe reach a consensus.
It is possible that the same-sex partnership law that was passed in the budget is the best possible law there could ever be found on the books. But by passing laws without following the normal legislative track, the state will now have to spend money for attorneys to defend the laws and the process.
The state has also alienated a large segment of the population who felt they did not have an opportunity to weigh in on the debate. These are consequences that, for the most part, could have probably been avoided in the normal lawmaking process.