Judge tosses Wisconsin union reform: Why judges are dismantling the GOP agenda
A judge has ruled against Wisconsin’s controversial collective bargaining law. Across the country, state and federal judges are weighing whether the 2010 Republican surge led to legislative overreach.
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“We are testing the waters,” state Rep. Marva Beck, a freshman legislator in Texas, told The New York Times last year. “We passed legislation saying, ‘We have the right to do this,’ and federal judges are saying, ‘Whoa, wait a minute while we look at this.’ ”Skip to next paragraph
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Across the country, judges have rejected prison-privatization programs, drug testing for welfare recipients, new abortion rules, and a so-called “docs vs. Glocks” law that barred doctors from asking patients about firearm ownership. Meanwhile, the biggest court victory in recent years goes to Democrats, whose party-line vote for federal health-care reform in 2009 passed muster with the US Supreme Court this summer.
In Florida, Senate President Mike Haridopolos told the News Service of Florida that liberals are trying to thwart the will of the electorate by using the courts.
"What have liberals historically done?" he asked. "When they can't win elections, they go to the courts."
Concerns about a politicized judiciary have gained traction in some quarters. Republicans cried foul, for example, over what they said was a political opinion attached by federal Judge Sam Sparks to his ruling against a new law in Texas requiring doctors to show sonogram results to women seeking an abortion.
“It is ironic that many of the same people who zealously defend the state’s righteous duty to become intimately involved in a woman’s decision to get an abortion are also positively scandalized at the government’s gross overreaching in the area of health care,” Judge Sparks wrote.
It’s not clear what effect Friday’s ruling will have on the Wisconsin law. The Dane County ruling by state Judge Juan Colas came in response to one of several lawsuits filed against the law. But last year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the merits of the law as it looked at an appeal from a different lawsuit.
The law forced workers to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits, while stripping away their ability to bargain collectively with local governments over those benefits. It was intended to save money for state and local governments at a time when the state faced a $3 billion budget shortfall.
Walker, in turn, closed the budget shortfall within a year without raising taxes.
Friday’s ruling hinged on the fact that the law created separate rules for police and firefighters. That served, Judge Colas said, to "single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions."
Walker issued a statement accusing the judge of being a "liberal activist" who "wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor.”
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