According to news reporter Jessica Arp, a Dane County judge in Wisconsin has halted the implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union law. Judge Maryann Sumi said that the prosecution was likely to succeed on their claim that the conference committee for the bill, which stripped collective bargaining from most state workers, violated open meeting requirements.
Sumi stressed that she was not judging on the merits of the legislation, but on the specifics of the open meeting requirements. Wisconsin law requires that public meetings are announced with 24 hours notice, 2 hours if there’s some extenuating circumstance which prevents advanced planning. The meeting in question, the conference committee, actually had less than two hours notice. “I have been shown no rule that overrides the statutory requirement,” Judge Sumi said.
The legislature in Wisconsin could simply re-do the conference committee, under the rules, and pass the bill again. Since they believe it’s a “non-fiscal” bill, quorum requirements would not apply. Alternatively, with the Fab 14 Senators back in Madison, they could just pass the budget repair bill they wanted all along, and have the quorum to do so, unless the Democrats leave the state again.
But this temporary restraining order will stop the implementation scheduled for March 25. And it drags out the process once again, keeping it in the headlines. This is not at all what Scott Walker and the Republicans facing recall elections wanted to see.
In addition, it gives time for other legal cases to be brought. There could be municipal challenges that the law’s changes in pension contributions violates “home rule” provisions that allow the cities and towns to govern their own pensions for their workers.
Meanwhile, the labor assault in the states continued this week, as Oklahoma became the latest to eliminate collective bargaining for state workers, reversing a 2004 bill that allowed unionization in municipalities. Like Scott Walker’s bill in Wisconsin, it exempts police and firefighters, but strips collective bargaining for “non-uniform” public employees. Four cities which had agreements before 2004 will get to keep them.
Clearly, this is a coordinated effort to bust unions across the country. But in Wisconsin, for the time being, they’ve been stopped.
[Update: Judge Sumi’s ruling underscores the importance of Wisconsin’s upcomming April 5 Supreme Court election.]