Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Gov. Walker's Anti-Union Law
A Wisconsin judge on Thursday struck down a controversial anti-union law on the grounds that GOP legislators violated the state's open meeting laws by not providing sufficient public notice when they passed the bill.
The New York Times reported: "Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court said the Senate vote on March 9, held after 14 Democratic senators had fled the state, failed to comply with the open meetings law, which requires at least two hours’ notice to the public."
“The legislature and its committees are bound to comply with the open-meetings law by their own choice,” Judge Sumi wrote in her decision. “Having made that choice, they cannot now shield themselves from the provisions that give the law force and effect.” She also wrote: “This case is the exemplar of values protected by the open meetings law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government and respect for the rule of law,”
The law, proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, effectively stripped most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. The law also called for all state workers, with the exception of police and firefighters, to contribute more to their pensions and health plans. Republicans argued that the measure was necessary for the state to close a $137 million budget deficit.
Republicans and Democrats each had their own reaction to Thursday's ruling.
"Judge Sumi's ruling today speaks for itself, the Republicans' actions violated the law," Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller said in a statement. "Today we see the price of the Republicans refusing to negotiate and putting their partisan political advantage ahead of the best interests of the people of Wisconsin."
Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzegerald, however, was critical of the judge's ruling. “There’s still a much larger separation-of-powers issue: whether one Madison judge can stand in the way of the other two democratically elected branches of government,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “The Supreme Court is going to have the ultimate ruling.”
The fight over the bill is far from over, though, with the Wisconsin Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments on June 6 to determine whether it will take up the case. Republican legislators could also try and attempt to pass the bill again.
Several other states are currently considering legislation similar to the one proposed in Wisconsin.