Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi struck down legislation repealing most collective bargaining for public employees, but the measure could still gain new life from the state Supreme Court or a fresh vote by lawmakers. Dane County judge strikes down collective bargaining law - JSOnline:
In a 33-page decision (.pdf), Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overturned the legislation and ruled that GOP lawmakers broke the state's open meetings law in passing it March 9 amid raucous protests by union supporters. The legislation would limit collective bargaining to wages for all public employees in Wisconsin, except for police and firefighters, and impose cuts in their health and pension benefits to help balance a massive state budget shortfall.
On March 18, Sumi had placed a temporary hold on the law, but Thursday's ruling voided it - at least until the Supreme Court decides whether to act in the case.
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The ruling - the latest kicker in a tumultuous three and a half months - could push GOP lawmakers to pass the collective bargaining measure again. It also highlights the importance of Supreme Court Justice David Prosser's election to the sharply divided court following a statewide recount - one that Prosser opponent JoAnne Kloppenburg is still considering whether to challenge.
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In the decision, Sumi appeared to be bracing for an outcry from supporters of the law, noting that judges are supposed to apply the law even if their decisions will be "controversial or unpopular."
Sumi wrote that Ozanne showed by "clear and convincing evidence" that the open meetings law had been violated and that past lawmakers had intended for their actions to be bound by that law. She also said the law carried a constitutional force because the state constitution says the doors of each house of the Legislature must remain open when lawmakers are in session.
"The Legislature and its committees are bound to comply with the open meetings law by their own choice. Having made that choice, they cannot now shield themselves from the provisions that give the law force and effect," wrote Sumi.
The state Supreme Court woll hold oral arguments on whether to take the case on June 6.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called the decision that grew out of his complaint a "huge win for democracy in Wisconsin" and urged Republicans not to plug the collective bargaining changes back into the state budget, saying they should instead look for compromise with state unions to save money.
"It is not healthy for Wisconsin for us to be such a divided state," he said.
Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, said the decision promotes open government.
"I think it's a victory for sunshine, for the citizens of this state, not just us.... Do we see this as a permanent victory? No, but we see it as a victory today," he said.
In addition to the open meetings case, there are two other lawsuits over the measure, and other court challenges could come later. If Republicans eventually succeed in defeating the open meetings objections, the legal battle will shift to whether the legislation itself can be challenged.
Here's what's next in the battle for Wisconsin:
May 31: The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has certified three recall elections against Republican Senators for the ballot. The board will hold a hearing on May 31 to decide the other six recall petitions - 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats - for the ballot.
June 6: Supreme Court to hold oral argument on whether to take the collective bargaining case.
July 12: Recall elections of up to nine state senators to be held.