Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Collective Bargaining Law
Even though a circuit court judge on Thursday struck down Wisconsin's law stripping nearly all collective bargaining power from most public workers, she won't have the final say in the union fight that has captivated the nation.
The state Supreme Court will decide on June 6 whether it will consider the case and Republicans who control the Legislature could also pass the law a second time to avoid the open meeting violations that led to Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi's ruling Thursday.
Gov. Scott Walker pushed for the law as a way to help balance the state budget. His spokesman had not seen the ruling and had no immediate comment. Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitgerald's office told Fox News that Sumi's ruling only finalized the temporary restraining she issued against the law earlier and that given her liberal leanings, her decision came as a surprise to no one.
Fitzgerald's office also said the ruling does not change the status of the law's implementation.
Walker and Republican leaders have said they would pass the law again as part of the state budget next month if necessary.
A spokesman for Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office defended the state, did not return a call. Ismael Ozanne, the Dane County district attorney who argued for striking down the law, also did not immediately return a message.
Sumi ruled that Republican legislators violated Wisconsin's open meetings law during the run-up to the bill's passage in March. She said that renders the law void. She had previously put the law on hold temporarily while she considered the case.
Sumi said violating the open meetings law betrays the public's trust.
"The court must consider the potential damage to public trust and confidence in government if the Legislature is not held to the same rules of transparency that it has created for other governmental bodies," she wrote in a 33-page decision. "Our form of government depends on citizens' trust and confidence in the process by which our elected officials make laws, at all levels of government."
The law called for public workers at all levels, from janitors at the state Capitol to local librarians, to contribute more to their pension and health care costs, resulting in savings to the state of $300 million through mid-2103. The law also strips them of their right to collectively bargain any work conditions except wages. Police and firefighters are exempt.
Democrats see the law as an attempt to weaken labor unions, which have been among their strongest campaign allies. Senate Democrats fled to Illinois for three weeks in February and March in a futile attempt to block a vote in that chamber.
Republicans passed it without Democrats present, using a hastily called meeting to put the bill in the form needed to do that. The calling of that meeting with less than two hours' notice is what led to the lawsuit.
Fox News' Michael Tobin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.