Wisconsin judge's stern rebuke: collective-bargaining bill is not law

Wisconsin Republicans have been claiming that their signature collective-bargaining bill became law last week. A local judge disagrees, saying her injunction takes precedent.

By , Staff writer

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    Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette listens to Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar make her opening arguments at a hearing in front of Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, Wis., Tuesday.
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The Wisconsin circuit court judge who issued an injunction to prevent the state's controversial collective-bargaining bill from becoming law, issued a second order late Tuesday to stop the state from violating her original ruling.

Earlier this month, Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that Senate Republicans may have violated the state’s open meetings law in its maneuvers to pass the collective-bargaining bill. Judge Sumi said more time was needed to examine the actions of the legislators.

Sumi’s ruling prevented the bill from being published by the secretary of state’s office, which makes it law. However, last week the Legislative Reference Bureau, a legislative service agency not named in the original restraining order, published the law.

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That loophole gave the administration of Gov. Scott Walker (R) the green light to proceed as if the bill was law. The administration announced Sunday that, in accordance with the collective-bargaining bill, it would no longer collect dues on behalf of the unions and that public employees would be charged more for their pension and health-care obligations.

In her ruling, Sumi criticized the administration for violating her original ruling. “Apparently that language [in the ruling] was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation [of the collective-bargaining bill] was enjoined. That is now what I want to make crystal clear,” she said.

Sumi warned against legislators who may act “in willful defiance of a court order” may be subjecting them to sanctions.

Walker aide Mike Huebsch issued a statement following the ruling saying the administration will evaluate the new order. “We will continue to confer with our legal counsel and have more information about how to move forward in the near future,” Mr. Huebsch said.

The next hearing on the case is Friday.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Legislative Reference Bureau Chief Stephen Miller said he believed his agency could publish laws without the approval of the secretary of state. But Mr. Miller acknowledged that his agency has never done so in his 12 years in the position.

Among other measures, the bill eliminates collective-bargaining rights on all issues but wages for non-law-enforcement state workers in Wisconsin. Sumi has said that if she were to rule against the bill, lawmakers could pass it a second time if they followed legislative rules clearly.

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