Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, March 18, 2011

Judge Blocks Wisconsin Union-Busting Bill

A little good news for a change, at least temporarily:

CHICAGO — A judge issued a temporary restraining order on Friday that prevents Wisconsin’s new law cutting collective bargaining rights for public workers from taking effect, at least for now.

The decision, issued by Judge Maryann Sumi of the Dane County Circuit Court, temporarily bars Wisconsin’s secretary of state from publishing the controversial law, one of the procedural requirements for it to come into effect in the state. Publication had been expected late next week, but Judge Sumi’s ruling delays that until at least March 29, when she plans to hold a full hearing on a lawsuit that questions the validity of the collective bargaining law based on the speedy manner in which it was carried out earlier this month.

An appeal is possible even before then.

Opponents of the measure said they hoped the decision was but the first of many that would ultimately undo legislation that has split the state and drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators to the state capital over a matter of many weeks. Supporters of the measure, however, said the judge’s decision was merely a blip, certain to be overturned as various legal efforts make their way fully through the court system.

In the lawsuit before Judge Sumi, Ismael R. Ozanne, the Dane County district attorney and a Democrat, alleges that Republican legislators violated the state’s open meeting requirements — which require 24 hours notice or two hours in emergencies — when they pressed through the bill. Republican lawmakers dominate both chambers in Wisconsin, but had been blocked from passing the measure when Senate Democrats left the state in February, preventing a needed quorum. On March 9, the Republicans unexpectedly called a meeting of a conference committee, changed the law so it would not require a quorum, and hurried it through the Senate. A day later, it passed in the Assembly.

Judge Sumi was first appointed to the court in 1998 by Tommy Thompson, a Republican former governor, then elected in 1999 and 2005. Judicial elections are nonpartisan in Wisconsin.

FireDogLake has more:

Sumi stressed that she was not judging on the merits of the legislation, but on the specifics of the open meeting requirements. Wisconsin law requires that public meetings are announced with 24 hours notice, 2 hours if there’s some extenuating circumstance which prevents advanced planning. The meeting in question, the conference committee, actually had less than two hours notice. “I have been shown no rule that overrides the statutory requirement,” Judge Sumi said.

The legislature in Wisconsin could simply re-do the conference committee, under the rules, and pass the bill again. Since they believe it’s a “non-fiscal” bill, quorum requirements would not apply. Alternatively, with the Fab 14 Senators back in Madison, they could just pass the budget repair bill they wanted all along, and have the quorum to do so, unless the Democrats leave the state again.

But this temporary restraining order will stop the implementation scheduled for March 25. And it drags out the process once again, keeping it in the headlines. This is not at all what Scott Walker and the Republicans facing recall elections wanted to see.

In addition, it gives time for other legal cases to be brought. There could be municipal challenges that the law’s changes in pension contributions violates “home rule” provisions that allow the cities and towns to govern their own pensions for their workers.

So a temporary stop to the union-busting in Wisconsin.

Given all the union-busting happening in places like Ohio, Florida, Maine, New Jersey, New York and elsewhere, I'll take even a little (albeit temporary) good news.

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