Wisconsin judge clarifies ruling blocking union bargaining law

[JURIST] A judge for Wisconsin's Dane County Circuit Court [official website] issued an order [text, PDF] Tuesday prohibiting implementation of the state's new Budget Repair Bill [Senate Bill 11 text, PDF]. The order emphasizes that a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] issued March 18 prohibits not only publication of the bill, but implementation of its provisions as well. Judge Maryann Sumi warned state officials [Wisconsin State Journal report] that any attempt to implement the bill would expose them to sanctions. Government officials caused the state's reference bureau to publish the bill [Act 10 text, PDF] on Friday. Republicans claim they did not violate the restraining order because only Secretary of State Doug La Follette [official website] was named in the order and not the reference bureau. Some Republican legislators argue that the law went into effect Saturday. The restraining order stems from a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] filed earlier this month by District Attorney Ismael Ozanne [official website] claiming that Republican legislators passed the bill in violation of Wisconsin's open meetings law [text] which requires 24-hour notice of public meetings in non-emergency situations. Nothing in the judge's orders prohibits the legislature from passing the law, which strictly curtails public unions' collective bargaining rights, with proper notice. State officials said they are still considering how to respond to Tuesday's order.

Ozanne is the second public official to mount a legal challenge to the bill, following a similar suit [complaint, PDF] filed earlier this month by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk [official profile]. Falk's suit came immediately after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker [official website] signed the bill into law [JURIST report] earlier in the month. The provisions limiting bargaining rights incensed unions and their supporters, sparking protests which have been ongoing since February 15, when SB 11 was introduced to address the state's $3.6 billion deficit. Earlier this month, a Wisconsin judge ruled that the state capitol building must remain open [JURIST report] to the public during business hours, despite an attempt to close the building to protesters who had occupied it as part of a protest against the proposed restrictions on collective bargaining. The Wisconsin State Employees Union Council 24 [advocacy website] filed the petition earlier in the day in reaction to Walker ordering the capitol building closed and removing protesters.

 

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