Wisconsin AG asks judge to keep union law in force while ruling appealed

Wisconsin's top attorney has asked a judge to hold off on enforcing his decision to invalidate major parts of the state's law cracking down on collective bargaining. 

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, asked the Dane County Circuit Court to put the ruling on hold while the decision is appealed. Hollen argued that lifting parts of the law would return the state to a "broken system" and that -- in his view -- the law is likely to be upheld on appeal anyway. 

"(The law) addressed real and significant financial problems faced by local governments.  It makes no sense to force a return to a broken system before the appellate process is completed," Van Hollen said in a statement. 

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled Friday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's law is unconstitutional as applied to school and local government employees, declaring sections of the law "null and void." His ruling did not affect state workers or those at the University of Wisconsin System. 

The Walker administration and the plaintiffs in the case are now at a standoff until the courts can clarify. 

Madison Teachers Inc., which brought the suit, claimed over the weekend that unless and until an appeals judge weighs in, "significant sections" of the law are not in effect, "restoring MTI's right to collectively bargain" with its local school district for pay and benefits. 

Attorney Lester Pines, who represents the Madison teachers' union that brought the lawsuit, says he will vigorously oppose Van Hollen's request to put the ruling on hold. 

The judicial ruling comes after state lawmakers endured a wave of recall elections, with Democrats and union supporters trying to punish Republicans over the policy. The highest-ranking of those targets -- Walker himself -- survived the recall push in June. 

With Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas posing the latest challenge to his signature policy achievement, Walker indicated politics was at play again. 

"The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5th.  Now, they are ready to move on," Walker said, in reference to his recall election victory. "Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process." 

The judge who overturned the law was appointed to the bench by Walker's predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. 

In his 27-page ruling, Colas said the law violates the state and federal constitutions. He wrote that it is "undisputed that there is no constitutional right to collective bargaining." However, Colas argued that the state was stepping on other rights in the course of rolling back collective bargaining -- namely, "the rights of free speech and association." 

He wrote that sections "single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association." 

The ruling throws into question changes that have been made in pay, benefits and other work conditions for city, county and school district workers. The law only allowed for collective bargaining on wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation; all other issues, including workplace safety, vacation and health benefits could no longer be bargained for. 

The governor's appeal is likely to end up before the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.