Judge Sumi Strikes Down Act 10, Collective Bargaining Reforms Thwarted

MacIver News Service | May 26, 2011

[Madison, Wisc…] The judge who had been blocking implementation of Wisconsin’s public employee collective bargaining reforms has now struck down the law altogether, saying legislative Republicans failed to give proper notice before acting on the bill in committee.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi issued her ruling Thursday, writing that the law is voided because lawmakers failed to provide proper public notice of a Conference Committee meeting wherein the bill was amended.

“The court must consider the potential damage to public trust and confidence in government if the Legislature is not held to the same rules of transparency that it has created for other governmental bodies,” Sumi wrote.

Republicans argued that the Legislature, when in Special Session, is not bound by the law requiring a broad public notice.

“This was not the case in which proper notice was missed by a few minutes or an hour,” Sumi wrote.

However, GOP lawmakers asserted they did provide the minimum two hour notice justified by the the ‘good cause’ provision of the statutes, even though that was also unnecessary.  Sumi disagreed.

“Act 10 was passed and signed into law in accordance with the rules of the state legislature,” said Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. “I remain confident that the Wisconsin State Supreme Court will rule accordingly and Act 10 will become law.”

Republicans are expected to immediately appeal the decision. Since an appeal would likely take time to be heard, they may also move to pass identical provisions as a part of the biennial budget next month.

“This overdue reform is still a critical part of balancing Wisconsin’s budget,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). “Republicans are keeping the promises we made to balance the budget, hold the line on government spending, create jobs and improve the state’s economy.”

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is currently debating the budget and is expected to finish their work and send the bill to the full legislature next week.

MacIver News Service’s Bill Osmulski reports from Madison.