-By Sam Stein
May 26, 2011- A Wisconsin judge struck down the state's controversial anti-collective bargaining law on Thursday, but Democratic state senators say that doesn't mean the measure won't still go into effect.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that Republican legislators violated Wisconsin's open meeting law when passing the measure, which strips most public employees in the state of collective bargaining rights. A March 9 committee meeting on the measure, concluded Sumi, was "held on less than two hours notice in a location that was not open and accessible to citizens."
"Judge Sumi's ruling today speaks for itself, the Republicans' actions violated the law," said state Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) in a statement. "Today we see the price of the Republicans refusing to negotiate and putting their partisan political advantage ahead of the best interests of the people of Wisconsin."
Senate Republicans rushed to pass the anti-union bill on March 9, while their Democratic colleagues were still out of town. Democrats had left the state to deny their Republican colleagues the quorum needed to pass budget-related measures. But in an unexpected move, Walker and the Republican lawmakers split their bill into two, allowing the non-budget collective bargaining measure to fly through with no Democrats in the room.
The state Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for June 6 to determine whether it will take the case. If it decides to do so, both Republicans and Democrats widely believe that based on the court's ideological make-up, the law will be upheld.
"If [Republicans] can get a Supreme Court appeal, I know we'll lose on that," said state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee).
But it may not even make it that far; Republicans may not be able to appeal to higher courts in this instance. That's because, as a Democratic state Senate aide explained, Republicans asserted legislative immunity so they would not be party to the case when it was initially considered. Democrats, instead, took up the defense, so as to allow a legal challenge to come forward.