UPDATE 1-Wisconsin Republicans say anti-union law in effect

* Republicans say bill now ‘the law’

* Democrats seek further clarification

MADISON, Wis., March 25 (Reuters) – Wisconsin Republicans
said on Friday a measure stripping state public employees of
most collective bargaining rights was now in effect after it
was published by a legislative agency despite a judge’s order
against publication.

The move looked certain to stir fresh controversy over the
legislation, which in recent weeks sparked huge demonstrations
and ignited a national struggle over efforts by several
budget-strapped state governments to rein in union power.

Democratic state senators fled the state in an ultimately
unsuccessful effort to block a vote on the bill, seen as one of
the biggest challenges in decades facing U.S. organized labor.

Republican supporters of the law said the judge’s temporary
restraining order on publication had not applied to the
Legislative Reference Bureau, which published the legislation,
Wisconsin Act 10, electronically on Friday.

Legal publication of the legislation is required for it to
go into effect.

The restraining order was issued last week by a judge
hearing a complaint by the Dane County district attorney
against several Republican legislators who orchestrated the
law’s passage two weeks ago. Dane County encompasses the state
capital, Madison.

Scott Fitzgerald, head of the Republican-controlled state
Senate, said the bureau’s action made the bill “the law” and
insisted the action did not violate the restraining order
because that did not mention the bureau specifically.

“If the DA didn’t want the Legislative Reference Bureau to
publish, then the DA should have made sure that they were part
of the restraining order.”

Mike Huebsch, a member of Republican Governor Scott
Walker’s Cabinet, said the administration would now “carry out
the law as required.”

The LRB is a nonpartisan agency whose director is appointed
by the leaders of the Wisconsin State Assembly and Wisconsin
State Senate — both Republicans who support the measure.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which has defended the
bill in court, called the publication “lawful” and said it
would evaluate how the LRB move “affects pending litigation.”

The move seemed to catch Democrats by surprise. A
spokeswoman for Pete Barca, the top Democrat in the state
Assembly, asked journalists seeking comment to be patient.

“We’re seeking information from various sources,” Melanie
Conklin wrote in an e-mail, “hoping for further clarification
soon.”

Walker pushed the legislation, saying it was part of a
package needed to combat the state’s budget deficit.

Union and Democratic critics said that argument was a
smokescreen for busting state workers’ unions.
(Writing by James Kelleher; Editing by Jerry Norton)

UPDATE 1-Wisconsin Republicans say anti-union law in effect