Judge Again Blocks Wisconsin Union Bill
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled again that any efforts for further implementation of Gov. Walker’s power-grabbing budget bill should be halted immediately. While she came just short of holding that the law was not already in effect, in a revised ruling and comments she made it clear that she was not pleased with the Republican leadership, saying that this order was intended to clarify an order that “had either been ignored or misinterpreted.”
The ruling came after a series of legal maneuvers by the Walker administration and challenges to the bill.
Judge Sumi’s order once again fell on deaf ears. Minutes after handing it down, Assistant Attorney General Steven Means said that the legislation “absolutely” is still in effect.
The degree to which Walker and his political allies feel they are above the law is simply astonishing.
The order will remain in effect until Friday, when Sumi will take additional testimony to determine if a further extension is necessary.
Multiple Legal Challenges
The procedures in Judge Sumi’s courtroom were just one of the challenges taking place on Tuesday. Earlier in the morning a state appeals court refused to allow Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) to withdraw an appeal over the law. Van Hollen had argued that the appeal was moot since the law was already in effect.
Van Hollen came up with that argument after an end-run around the Secretary of State’s Office. During testimony it was revealed that Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) met with top officials at the Legislative Reference Bureau for about an hour on Friday to get them to reverse their decision to publish the bill.
According to testimony, this is the first time when such a meeting was called and when the LRB was asked to publish a bill without a date established by the secretary of state. The testimony described the request as “insisting.” Since Fitzgerald is effectively the boss of LRB employees, they felt they had no other choice.
More Ethical Problems Emerge
After testimony concerning the pressure to publish the bill emerged Judge Sumi ordered the state to provide Secretary of State LaFollette his own attorney because the stories of just how the bill was published, and who authorized it to be published in direct violation of Sumi’s earlier order were not matching up.
Meanwhile State Employees Feel The Squeeze
In another move that shows nothing but contempt for the rule of law, the Walker administration announced that it was no longer collecting dues on behalf of state unions and, as of Sunday, was charging employees more for their pensions and health care. Walker’s law requires most public workers to pay at least 12.6% of their health care premiums and half of the cost of their current pensions.
If anything these proceedings re-energized the challenges to the Walker administration and re-focused attention to the upcoming state supreme court elections which will be held on April 5th.
For more on the events in Madison, click here.
photo courtesy of marctasman via Flickr