A controversial new Wisconsin law that limits the collective bargaining rights of thousands of public employees in Wisconsin is back on the books.
On a 4-3 vote along partisan lines, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that lawmakers were not constricted by the state’s open meetings laws when they passed the controversial legislation in March. Their decision overrules a Dane County Circuit Court judge, who initially struck down the legislation.
The Wisconsin situation has drawn intense national attention. Supporters and opponents of the new law have eagerly awaited the Supreme Court’s decision, so they can plot their next steps.
Changing Gears’ Guide to Understanding The Wisconsin Debate
Although new challenges are expected, the law will take effect as soon as the bill is officially published, a development that appears imminent, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The new law limits employees ability to bargain over their salaries and requires them to contribute to their pension and health-care premiums.
In its majority opinion, the court wrote of the circuit court ruling, “one of the courts that we are are charged with supervising has usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature.”
While concurring with parts of the decision yet dissenting with its cornerstones, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson admonished her fellow jurists for what she called a superficial and political decision.
“The Dane County Circuit Court took the time and made the effort to consider the issues carefully and write a 48-page decision, including findings of fact and conclusions of law, explaining and supporting its reasoning,” she wrote. “In contrast, this court gives this important case short shrift. …
“On even casual reading, the explanations are clearly disingenuous, based on disinformation.”
Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose trumpeting of the law stirred fierce protests in the state capitol, said the legislation was needed for giving local governments flexibility in dealing with budget deficits.
Changing Gears has covered the Wisconsin situation in depth over the past few months. Here’s a Q&A about issues involved in the public employee debate.