A Wisconsin judge issues a new ruling on the GOP union-busting law, perhaps wondering whether anyone in Madison can read (and if not, why they’re trying to chase away all the teachers …)
Madison – For the second time in less than two weeks, a Dane County judge Tuesday issued an order blocking the implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to curb collective bargaining for public workers.
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi said that her original restraining order issued earlier this month was clear in saying no steps should be take to advance the law. The GOP governor’s administration did so after the bill was published Friday by a state agency not named in Sumi’s earlier temporary restraining order.
“Further implementation of the act is enjoined,” Sumi said.
“Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear.”
She warned that those who violate her order could face court sanctions.
But outside the courtroom, Assistant Attorney General Steven Means said the legislation “absolutely” is still in effect.
The statement by Means – the executive assistant to Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen – shocked Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).
“It’s just startling that the attorney general believes you should not follow court orders anymore,” he said.
In a later statement, Department of Justice spokesman Bill Cosh said: “We don’t believe that the court can enjoin non-parties. Whether the Department of Administration or other state officers choose to comply with any direction issued by Judge Sumi is up to them.”
The new restraining order bars Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette from designating a publication date for the law or running a notice about it in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Sumi’s written order does not name anyone else.
It is in effect until further order of the court, and another hearing is slated for Friday. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, has asked her to permanently halt the law because he believes a legislative committee violated the open meetings law when it approved the legislation.
Sumi has not yet ruled on whether lawmakers violated the open meetings law, but she noted the Legislature could resolve the litigation by passing the measure again. Republicans who control the Legislature showed no signs of considering that.
“It’s disappointing that a Dane County judge wants to keep interjecting herself into the legislative process with no regard to the state constitution,” said a statement from Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon). “Her action today again flies in the face of the separation of powers between the three branches of government.” …
The judge’s order can be found here.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin has already started putting the law in place anyway, while some local governments are waiting for the courts:
Gov. Scott Walker’s administration no longer is collecting dues on behalf of state unions and, as of Sunday, is charging employees more for their pensions and health care, even though nonpartisan legislative attorneys say the changes are not yet law.
Backing up the administration, the state Department of Justice argued that the new law – which eliminates most collective bargaining for public workers – is in effect and asked a judge to vacate a restraining order against the law. Meanwhile, a Dane County prosecutor asked a judge to declare that the law is not now in place.
Highlighting the different legal interpretations, some local governments are not implementing the new law for their employees. Officials with the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County said they are waiting for answers from courts before making any changes on benefits and union dues.
The dispute over the new law goes before a Dane County circuit judge on Tuesday, and higher courts are ultimately expected to rule on it.
State workers began paying more for benefits starting Sunday, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said Monday in a conference call with reporters. They also no longer are being billed for union dues, and those changes will show up on checks issued April 21, he said.
Employees working for the Legislature are also now being charged more for benefits, said an aide to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).
That comes even though an attorney for the Legislature has concluded the law probably has not taken effect, as spelled out in a memo Monday to Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).
The law requires most public workers to pay at least 12.6% of their health care premiums and half the cost of their pensions – 5.8% of pay for most state employees.
Meanwhile, the first recall against as Wisconsin Republican state Senator may have reached its signature threshold. You’ll never guess which one it is…