Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Collective Bargaining Law

Said GOP violated transparency law in passing bill; didn't rule on merits of the law itself

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A circuit court judge struck down the controversial Wisconsin law that curbs public sector unions' power to collectively bargain Thursday, the Associated Press reports, continuing controversy over legislation that was pushed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker earlier this year and which Democratic state legislators attempted to block from passing by fleeing the state. Dade County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi took issue with how the law was passed, not what is in it--she found that GOP lawmakers had violated Wisconsin's open meetings law in passing the bill. Wisconsin's Supreme Court will hear arguments on the law June 6; that gives Republican legislators time to pass the law again to remedy the problem Sumi cited in voiding it.

Democratic lawmakers fled February 17 to prevent a quorum, and as the weeks passed and they remained refugees in neighboring states, Republicans decided to pass the bill without them. They called a meeting to put the bill into a form that would allow passage, and announced the meeting only two hours in advance. That short warning was at the heart of the lawsuit. State law requires 24 hours' notice for such a meeting.

"This case is an exemplar of values protected by the open meetings law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government and respect for rule of law," Sumi wrote in her 33-page decision.

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