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Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds union bargaining law

The Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website] upheld [opinion text] the Budget Repair Bill [Senate Bill 11 text, PDF] on Tuesday, overruling the Dane County Circuit Court [official website] finding [JURIST report] that legislators had violated the "open meetings" rule. Ruling 4-3, the court stated that lower court Judge Maryann Sumi had "invaded the legislature's constitutional powers."

The court's decision on the matter now presented is grounded in separation of powers principles. It is not affected by the wisdom or lack thereof evidenced in the Act. Choices about what laws represent wise public policy for the State of Wisconsin are not within the constitutional purview of the courts. The court's task in the action for original jurisdiction that we have granted is limited to determining whether the legislature employed a constitutionally violative process in the enactment of the Act. We conclude that the legislature did not violate the Wisconsin Constitution by the process it used.
Attorney General JB Van Hollen [official website] stated [press release], "The Court has vindicated our arguments that the Dane County Circuit Court overstepped its Constitutional authority when it sought to invalidate the Budget Repair Bill on the basis of an alleged violation of the Open Meetings Law." Governor Scott Walker [official website] was also pleased with the decision [WHBL report]. The law is reported to take effect on June 29 [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report].

The Budget Repair Bill requires state employees to contribute a percentage of their salaries to their pension and health care premiums, and eliminates the ability of public employee union members to collectively negotiate anything but wage increase, which will be capped by the Consumer Price Index. In March, Sumi temporarily enjoined the law from being published, and then issued an order [JURIST reports] clarifying that the temporary restraining order prohibits not only publication of the bill, but implementation of its provisions as well. The judge's temporary restraining order stemmed from a lawsuit [JURIST report] filed earlier in March month by District Attorney Ismael Ozanne claiming that Republican legislators passed the bill in violation of Wisconsin's open meetings law.

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