Political Headlines June 15, 2011: Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Republican Governor Scott Walker’s Anti-Union Bill

POLITICAL HEADLINES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS: WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS ANTI-UNION LAW

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker: “The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again.”

  • Court allows Wisconsin’s union law to take effect: A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Republican Gov. Scott Walker a major victory Tuesday, ruling that a polarizing union law that strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights could take effect.
    In a 4-3 decision that included a blistering dissent, the court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she declared the law void. She sided with a lawsuit that claimed Republicans didn’t provide proper public notice of a meeting that helped get the original legislation approved.
    The legislation sparked weeks of protests when Walker introduced it in February. Tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the state Capitol for weeks and Democratic senators fled the state to prevent a vote, thrusting Wisconsin to the forefront of a national debate over labor rights.
    Walker claimed that the law, which also requires public employees to pay more for their health care and pensions, was needed to help address the state’s $3.6 billion budget shortfall and give local governments enough flexibility on labor costs to deal with deep cuts to state aid. Democrats saw it as an attack on public employee unions, which usually back their party’s candidates…. – AP, 6-15-11
  • Wisconsin Court Reinstates Law on Union Rights: The Wisconsin Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for significant cuts to collective bargaining rights for public workers in the state, undoing a lower court’s decision that Wisconsin’s controversial law had been passed improperly.
    The Supreme Court’s ruling, issued at the close of the business day, spared lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Capitol from having to do what some of them strongly hoped to avoid: calling for a new vote on the polarizing collective bargaining measure, which had drawn tens of thousands of protesters to Madison this year and led Democratic lawmakers to flee the city in an effort to block the bill.
    Republican leaders had warned on Monday that if the Supreme Court did not rule by Tuesday, they would feel compelled to attach the same measure to the state’s budget bill, which is expected to be approved this week…. – NYT, 6-15-11
  • Divided Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds anti-union law: A sharply divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a controversial measure that curbs the collective bargaining rights of public workers in the state can go into effect.
    In what was essentially a 4-3 decision, the high court overturned a lower court, which had ruled Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings law when they passed the measure in March.
    “Access was not denied,” the Supreme Court declared in Tuesday’s decision. “There is no constitutional requirement that the legislature provide access to as many members of the public as wish to attend meetings of the legislature or meetings of legislative committees.”
    But Tuesday’ 68-page decision was a thicket of concurrences and dissents, reflecting the sharp divide the measure has created in the state itself.
    David Prosser, whose recent reelection to the state’s high court had been hotly contested by opponents of the union measure, wrote in his eight-page concurrence that GOP legislators had good reason to rush things they way they did, given the ugly mood of protesters at the Capitol.
    “The circuit court concluded that the legislature should have provided public notice of the special session conference committee 24 hours in advance,” Prosser wrote.
    “The court did not acknowledge that thousands of demonstrators stormed and occupied the state Capitol within a few hours of the notice that a conference committee meeting would be held.”
    But Justices Shirley Abrahamson, Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Coons disagreed, saying their colleagues had rendered a “hasty judgment” in a case where “the answers are not clear and our precedent is conflicting.”
    The three in dissent blasted the order to overrule the lower court, saying it was “based on errors of fact and law.
    “They inappropriately use this court’s original jurisdiction, make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties’ arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin’s constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891,” the three said…. – Reuters, 6-15-11
  • Court allows Wisconsin’s union law to take effect: The ruling on the law, which strips most public employees of collective bargaining rights, is a major victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
    The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Republican Gov. Scott Walker a major victory on Tuesday, ruling that a polarizing anti-union law stripping most public employees of collective bargaining rights could take effect.
    In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she said Republican lawmakers had violated the open meetings statutes and declared the law void….
    In a one-sentence reaction, the governor said: “The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again.”… – LAT, 6-15-11
  • Supreme Court reinstates collective bargaining law: Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reinstatement of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers.
    The court found that a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state’s open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when it hastily approved the collective bargaining measure in March and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had halted the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.
    The changes on collective bargaining will take effect once Secretary of State Doug La Follette arranges for official publication of the stalled bill, and the high court said there was now nothing to preclude him from doing that. La Follette did not return a call Tuesday to say when the law would be published.
    The ruling came on lines that have become familiar in recent years for the often divided court.
    The majority opinion was by Justices Michael Gableman, David Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. The other three justices – Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks – concurred in part and dissented in part. Abrahamson’s dissent was particularly stinging as she upbraided her fellow justices for errors and faulty analysis…. – Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, 6-15-11
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