Last week, The
Wisconsin Supreme Court spared the state's Republican lawmakers from having to
do what many were hoping to avoid: passing the collective bargaining bill that
had touched off weeks of protests in Madison earlier this year a second
In a 4-3 decision split along the court's conservative-liberal line, the
justices overturned a lower court's ruling that the Legislature had violated
the state's opening meetings requirements in passing the union rights bill (AB
11a) by failing to give 24 hours' notice before taking action on the measure.
Citing the importance of the separation of powers, the majority said the
Legislature had not violated the state Constitution when it relied on its
"interpretation of its own rules of proceeding" and gave just under
two hours' notice before meeting and voting.
One of the justices in the majority was David T. Prosser, who faced a tough
re-election fight in April because of his conservative leanings, tying him to
the union-unfriendly policies of Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Republican
lawmakers. Prosser actually issued his own opinion concurring with the
Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, generally viewed as the leader of the
court's liberal wing, slammed Prosser's opinion in her dissent.
"It is long on rhetoric and long on story-telling that appears to have a
partisan slant," she wrote, later adding, "This kind of order seems
to open the court unnecessarily to the charge that the majority has reached a
pre-determined conclusion not based on the facts and the law, which undermines
the majority's ultimate decision."
Walker was restrained in victory, issuing only a one-sentence statement.
"The Supreme Court's ruling provides our state the opportunity to move
forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again," he
His brevity may have been partly out of relief. Republican legislative leaders
had warned that if the Supreme Court didn't rule on the matter by June 14th,
they would probably have to attach the same union rights measure to the state's
budget bill, which was expected to be approved last week.
Democrats seemed resigned to the court's decision but not ready to give up the
fight, knowing the Senate recall elections that grew out of the fight over the
collective bargaining bill are less than a month away.
"I guarantee you, some Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief about
not having to take this up again," said Sen. Christopher Larson (D).
"On the other hand, these justices just sent a reminder to voters of what
has happened here." (NEW YORK TIMES, POST-CRESCENT [APPLETON])
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