Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstates collective bargaining law

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by Tom B, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. Tom B

    Tom B

    Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstates collective bargaining law

    Madison - Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated Gov. Scott Walker's plan to all but end collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers.

    The court found a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state's open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when they hastily approved the measure and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had struck down the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.

    The majority opinion was by Justices Michael Gableman, David Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. The other three justices - Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks - concurred in part and dissented in part.

    The opinion voided all orders in the case from the lower court. It came just before 5 p.m., sparing Republicans who control the Legislature from taking up the contentious issue of collective bargaining again.

    Legislative leaders had said they would have inserted the limits on collective bargaining into the state budget late Tuesday if the court hadn't acted by then. But the high court ruled just before that budget debate was to begin.

    The Assembly is to take up the budget Tuesday night.

    The court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi's ruling, which had held up implementation of the collective bargaining law, was void ab initio, or invalid from the outset.

    In its decision, the state's high court concluded that "choices about what laws represent wise public policy for the state of Wisconsin are not within the constitutional purview of the courts."

    The court concluded that Sumi exceeded her jurisdiction, "invaded" the Legislature's constitutional powers and erred in halting the publication and implementation of the collective bargaining law.

    The court added that its role is limited to determining whether the Legislature employed a "constitutionally violative process in the enactment of the act. We conclude that the Legislature did not violate the Wisconsin Constitution by the process it used."

    Tens of thousands of public workers and their supporters demonstrated at the Capitol in February and March. They are now ramping up efforts for more protests over the state budget, which makes deep cuts in state aid to schools and local governments.

    Lawmakers' stance on collective bargaining triggered efforts to recall state senators. Recall elections are scheduled this summer for six Republicans and three Democrats.

    The legal fight over Walker's plan will continue on other fronts. Two other lawsuits are already pending, and "numerous" others are expected, according to Madison attorney Lester Pines, who represented Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) in the case the Supreme Court decided Tuesday. The other cases challenge the law on other grounds, rather than on open meetings violations.

    The justices issued their order just one week after hearing oral arguments that lasted more than 5 hours, making them the longest in memory if not state history, attorneys said.

    Walker's fellow Republicans in the Legislature passed the measure in March and he signed it, but Sumi quickly blocked it and then later struck it down because she said a committee of lawmakers violated the open meetings law in adopting it.

    Walker's administration then asked the Supreme Court to take over the case, and the court scheduled oral arguments for June 6 on whether to do that. Until Tuesday, the court had not officially said whether it would even accept the case.

    In February, Walker proposed eliminating most collective bargaining for all public workers except police, firefighters and State Patrol troopers.

    The day the Senate was to take up the bill, the Democrats prevented action on the bill by fleeing to Illinois. Under the state constitution, at least 20 senators had to be present to pass the measure because it included fiscal elements, and the Republicans hold just 19 seats.

    After three weeks, Republicans - with less than two hours' notice - created a conference committee with lawmakers from both houses and stripped out the parts of the bill that were considered "fiscal" under the narrow state definition. The Legislature then passed it and Walker signed it.

    Democratic Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne then filed a court complaint alleging the committee violated the open meetings law. He said the committee needed to give 24 hours' notice before meeting and had to allow more people into the room to see the meeting.

    The room was packed with legislative aides, reporters and camera crews, but just 20 members of the general public were allowed into the meeting. Hundreds if not thousands of others attempted to get inside.

    The state constitution requires the doors of the Legislature to remain open when it is in session, and that portion of the constitution is referenced in the state's open meetings law.

    The open meetings law requires public entities to provide 24 hours' notice before meeting except in emergencies, when they can give two hours' notice. The meetings have to be accessible to the public and can be closed only for certain reasons, such as considering legal matters.

    No one argued in court that the conference committee had good cause to meet with less than 24 hours' notice, and as it happened, the committee met with a little less than two hours' notice.

    The open meetings law has an exception that allows the Legislature to write rules that exempt it from the meetings law. The two sides disagreed whether lawmakers have established a rule on when meetings must be noticed for joint committees.

    During arguments, four of the justices signaled they were skeptical of Sumi's ability to halt the law. "I think frankly you've got to amend the constitution" to have the open meetings law apply to legislators, Roggensack said during arguments.

    Sumi first blocked the law with a temporary restraining order, saying Ozanne was likely to succeed on his open meetings arguments. Walker's administration then filed a petition for what is known as a supervisory writ - a request that the high court take over the case.

    Last month, while the Supreme Court was considering whether to take the case, Sumi entered her final order enjoining the implementation of the collective bargaining law.

    In its ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court said it took up the case because the lower court had "usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the Legislature."

    The Republican lawmakers are immune from civil process during the legislative session, and so far they have been unwilling to appeal decisions by Sumi because they would have to give up that immunity to do so.

    Sumi determined she was able to rule on the case even though the Republican lawmakers never appeared in court. She said they would be allowed to mount a full defense once their immunity expires. Violating the open meetings law could cost them fines of up to $300 each.

    The order comes just after Prosser narrowly won re-election April 5 after a campaign that prominently featured the collectively bargaining measure and claims that Prosser was an ally of Walker's. Prosser and his opponent, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, did not comment during the campaign on the merits of the case, but others portrayed Prosser as being in support of the law and Kloppenburg as being opposed to it.

    Prosser served as Assembly speaker as a Republican, but he said during the campaign that he set aside his partisanship when he joined the court in 1998.

  2. Sucks to live in Wisconsin where they tried to do the right thing.

    Looks like Taxpayers will be screwed again.

    Oh well....I LOVE TEXAS!
  3. oraclewizard77

    oraclewizard77 Moderator

    I guess in Texas, they don't teach you how to read and comprehend what you are reading.

    To put it in stupid Texan terms so you will understand the article.

    "Now the Govenor elect has both the consensus of the people and a mandate from the courts.

    This is a great thing for the tax payers of Wisconsin."

    See, you retarded Republicans won again. Always nice to see the stupid poor vote against themselves.