Things have quieted down a bit in Madison, Wisconsin
since March, when the state's Republican majority pushed a bill through the
Legislature curbing the collective bargaining rights of most public employees
amid raucous protests. But the battle over union power in the state
Last month, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi struck down the collective
bargaining law, ruling that GOP lawmakers violated the state's open meetings
law in passing the measure by, among other things, failing to give proper
public notice before convening a conference committee that approved it.
"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,"
Sumi, an appointee of former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, wrote in her
The law could still be revived by the state Supreme Court, which is expected to
hold oral arguments on whether to take the case this week.
"Either it will be resolved like that - through the Supreme Court - or
we'll look at alternatives with the Legislature," said Gov. Scott Walker
Facilitating the judicial route is the re-election in April of Supreme Court
Justice David Prosser, giving conservatives a slim majority on the sharply
divided court. However, Jo Anne Kloppenburg, Prosser's challenger in that race,
which was widely considered a referendum on the union issue, is still
considering whether to contest the election, having led Prosser by a narrow
margin before thousands of uncounted votes for Prosser were discovered in
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said he and his fellow GOP
lawmakers would consider passing the legislation a second time as part of the
2011-'13 budget, which they are committed to passing by June 30. But he seemed
inclined to wait for the high court's decision.
"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. The Supreme Court is going to have the ultimate
ruling.... This overdue reform is still a critical part of balancing
Wisconsin's budget," he said.
Meanwhile, two other lawsuits over the union measure are also still pending.
And recall elections will be held on July 12 for nine senators - six
Republicans and three Democrats - whose stances on the bill sparked petition
drives around the state. (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL)
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