March 31, 2011- A state law to sharply curb union bargaining by public employees is not in effect, a Dane County judge ruled Thursday, continuing the turmoil over a measure that sparked massive protests and prompted Democrats to boycott the Senate for three weeks.
Gov. Scott Walker's administration said it would comply and discontinue the implementation of the law.
"Based on the briefs of counsel, the uncontroverted testimony, and the evidence received at the March 29, 2011, evidentiary hearing, it is hereby DECLARED that 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 has not been published within the meaning of (state statutes), and is therefore not in effect," Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled in a two-paragraph order.
On Tuesday, Sumi reiterated an earlier order that Secretary of State Doug La Follette was barred from designating a date to publish the law and said no steps should be taken to implement the law. But at that Tuesday hearing, she declined to issue a declaration that the law had not yet been published.
For nearly a week, attorneys and state officials have disagreed over whether the law was in force. That's because late last week the Legislative Reference Bureau – which was not named in the restraining orders – published the law on the Legislature's website.
The law has been challenged by Democratic Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, who says Republicans who run the Legislature violated the state's open meetings law when a committee was quickly convened to advance the bill to the Senate.
In response to the order, Walker's administration said it was halting action on putting the law in force.
"While I believe the budget-repair bill was legally published and is indeed law, given the most recent court action we will suspend the implementation of it at this time," said a statement from Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch.
"I am pleased that now we have a clear statement that the law is not in effect and that we have to straighten this out," said La Follette, a Democrat.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said the order was needed because he said Walker's administration had ignored past warnings from the judge.
"This morning with her added order she has taken away their last excuse," his statement said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) called the order "judicial activism at its worst."
"Once again, one Dane County judge is doing everything she can to stand in the way of our efforts to improve the economy and create jobs," said a statement he issued.