[JURIST] The Dane County Circuit Court [official website] on Monday denied [opinion and order, PDF] Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen’s [official profile] request to delay invalidating certain provisions of a controversial law [text] limiting the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions. The Budget Repair Bill forces most state workers to pay more in health insurance and other benefits and compels unions to be recertified each year. Judge Juan Colas reasoned that Van Hollen failed to provide sufficient evidence demonstrating that Wisconsin would suffer fiscal consequences if the stay was denied. Balancing between the harms of the public interest and of the stay, the court favored the public interest. The court stated that public interest is harmed by the state’s repeated intrusion into matters that are statutorily designated as local affairs.
The Constitutions are the fundamental expressions of the will of the people acting in their sovereign capacity. Even laws enacted by the legislature and governor, though they may manifest the popular will of their time, are subordinate to them. Even a temporary infringement of fundamental rights of speech and association protected by the Constitutions is an irreparable harm. That infringement becomes all the more substantial when multiplied by the tens of thousands of affected municipal employees (assuming defendants’ initial argument that thousands of local governments are affected is correct). Granting a stay would allow that substantial harm to that fundamental public interest to continue.
As a result of this denial, the court’s September 14 decision and order [JURIST report] ruling that the Budget Repair Bill violated union workers’ rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association and equal protection under the US and Wisconsin constitutions will remain in effect until Van Hollen’s appeal [JURIST report] is ruled on.
The Budget Repair Bill has been the subject of copious legal and political controversy since its passage in March 2011. In July the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to reopen a case challenging the Budget Repair Bill because of a justice’s refusal to recuse himself [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court’s upholding of the Budget Repair Bill overruled a Dane County Circuit Court’s decision [JURIST report] last year that struck down the law for violations of the open meetings rule.