The State Supreme Court says a Dane County Judge overstepped her authority in halting the Governor’s controversial collective bargaining law. In a 4-3 decision, Justices ruled Judge Maryann Sumi did not have the power to stop a law stripping away the collective bargaining rights of many state workers from taking effect.
Judge Sumi had blocked implementation because of arguments that Republicans violated the open meetings law during passage of the bill. Sumi’s order had prevented Act 10 from being published, which stopped the state from deducting higher pension and benefit contributions from state employee’s paychecks.
In the opinion, Justices noted the decision to overturn Sumi’s ruling was based on the fact that she “usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature.” Justices also dismissed claims that the open meetings law was violated; noting the press and public had access to the conference committee meeting where the final version of the bill was introduced.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) says the decision proves the bill was legally passed and shows no rules were broken.
However, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says the Supreme Court ruling is a huge step back for open government and essentially puts the Legislature is above the law.
The decision came just hours before Republicans were expected to add the collective bargaining language into the proposed state budget. Speaker Fitzgerald says that will no longer be necessary.
Democrats were highly critical of the timing of the order from the court. Representative Barca called it “highly curious” for the ruling to come just a day after the Speaker said a decision would be needed Tuesday, or else the Assembly would proceed with plans to add the provision to the budget.
Republicans say they were just as surprised as Democrats were by the timing of the decision, and Fitzgerald dismissed claims that some sort of coordination took place as just “conspiracy theories.”
The decision by the Supreme Court now clears the way for the Secretary of State to publish the law, the last step needed for it to take effect.