Judge Blocks Contentious Wisconsin Union Law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge on Friday temporarily blocked the state’s new and contentious collective bargaining law from taking effect, raising the possibility that the Legislature may have to vote again to pass the bill.

Lawmakers had approved Gov. Scott Walker’s measure last week, breaking a three-week stalemate caused by 14 Senate Democrats fleeing to Illinois. Demonstrations against the measure, which would strip most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights, grew as large as 85,000 people.

Dane County District Judge Maryann Sumi granted the temporary restraining order in response to a lawsuit filed by the local Democratic district attorney alleging that Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings law by hastily convening a special committee before the Senate passed the bill.

Sumi said her ruling would not prevent the Legislature from reconvening the committee with proper notice and passing the bill again.

But Walker’s spokesman and Republican legislative leaders indicated they would press on with the court battle rather than consider passing the bill again.

“We fully expect an appeals court will find that the Legislature followed the law perfectly and likely find that today’s ruling was a significant overreach,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and his brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, said in a joint statement. “We highly doubt a Dane County judge has the authority to tell the Legislature how to carry out its constitutional duty.”

In addition to restricting the bargaining rights, the law would require most public workers in the state to contribute more to their pension and health care costs, changes that will amount on average to an 8 percent pay cut. Walker’s spokesman Cullen Werwie was confident the bill would become law in the near future.

“This legislation is still working through the legal process,” Werwie said.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the decision will be appealed because the Legislature and the governor, not a judge, are responsible for enacting laws and can’t be blocked in a dispute over the procedures under which a law is passed. Assistant Attorney General Steve Means said the Justice Department planned to proceed with the appeal process later Friday or early next week.

Even if the Legislature is forced to come back and take up the bill again, at least one Senate Democrat will be there. Sen. Tim Cullen said he would not leave the state again.

“I think that does great damage to the institution,” Cullen said. “I have no regrets about doing it once, but that was in extraordinary times to try to slow the bill down.”

The Senate couldn’t pass the bill in its original form without at least one Democrat to meet a 20-member quorum requirement for measures that spend money. With the Democrats in Illinois and refusing to return after three weeks away, Republicans convened a special committee last Wednesday to remove the spending items. The bill then passed with no Democrats present.

That move is being challenged in another lawsuit brought by Democratic Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, who argues that the bill as passed still should have required the 20-member quorum. A hearing on that was set for April 12.

Opponents of the law were hopeful the judge’s ruling temporarily blocking enactment of the law would lead to concessions.

“I would hope the Republicans would take this as an opportunity to sit down with Democrats and negotiate a proposal we could all get behind,” said Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

The head of the state’s largest teachers union said the Legislature should use this as a chance to listen to opponents of the measure, not vote to pass the same bill again.

“Wisconsin’s educators call upon the Legislature to take this as a clear signal that Wisconsinites will not tolerate backroom deals and political power plays when it comes to our public schools and other valued services,” said Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Marty Beil, director of the state’s largest public employee union, said in a statement, “We are gratified to see some of our so-called `leaders’ finally held accountable for their illegal actions.”

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed the lawsuit this week alleging the open meetings law was violated because 24 hours’ notice wasn’t given for a meeting of the special legislative committee convened to amend the bill.

Justice Department attorneys argued that notice on a bulletin board posted about two hours before the committee meeting was to start last Wednesday was sufficient under rules of the Senate.

The judge said DOJ couldn’t show the committee was exempt from the 24-hour notice requirement. She said Ozanne could ultimately win the case and ordered Secretary of State Doug La Follette to hold off on publishing the law — the last step before it can take effect. La Follette had planned to publish the law on March 25.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha said the ruling was a move in the right direction.

“I’m very pleased,” Barca said. “As you know, I felt from the moment they called this that this would be a violation of open meetings law. This is an important first step in this regard.”

The bill was part of Walker’s solution for plugging a $137 million state budget shortfall. A part of the measure would require state workers to increase their health insurance and pension contributions to save the state $30 million by July 1. Other parts of Walker’s original proposal to address the budget shortfall were removed before the bill passed last week. The Legislature planned to take those up later.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Pat

    You must know more than the story tells. How do you know any of them are liberal elitists? Could it be that the judge is only enforcing Wisconsin’s notice law and awaiting the facts from both sides? I bet you convict people before the trial begins too.

  • C K

    Comments like this are what make the tea party look uninformed and reactionary. The fact is that there is an open meetings law in WI, and there is reason to believe that law was violated. Tea party or no, at the very least you would expect this corse of action, and agree that anything less wold be unfair and unlawful.

    Just because you disagree with something doesn’t make it wrong.

    • Sandy

      Comments like yours are stupid and uniformed thinking anyone who doesn’t agree with your liberal B S belongs to the tea party.

    • Action and Informed

      They are uninformed and reactionary. What it looks like is what it is.

    • Victim Du Jour

      You don’t even know basic 7th grade civics.

  • Purrmaid

    A perfect example of the checks and balances working in a democracy.

    • Victim Du Jour

      We are a republic

      • Walker

        A perfect example of the checks and balances in a republic

      • BS at its finest

        Heil Victim Du Jour

    • johnnycmoun

      tell the stupid democrat congress people to get back to work and be part of the solution and quit crying and running away from responsibility. stupid is what stupid does – packers suck and so does your congress persons

      • Captain Long Dong

        Wisconsin is stupid.

    • clearanswers


  • Bettue

    How can you state :judges defy the will of the voters? This issue was never put on a ballot for voters to vote on! Walker keeps saying, :The voters have spoken” Until it is an item voted on by the registered voters of Wisconsin, quit stating this is what the voters want!!

    • barfed up my GOP platter

      maybe it can be simplified – walker didn’t get the majority of all the votes. He got more of those few that voted. lmao

      Way to go WI – now maybe show up and vote next time. Or not

      • unquestionable logic

        If you don’t vote NO one to blame but yourself. and all of the data I have seen from the media is that GOP will win again. the polls taken earlier where weighted in pro-union favor. BUT if there are recall elections for all of those involved both the rupubs and the chickens that ran and hid from their duty. It will be interesting to see how it will end up. AND your statement is STUPID he DID get the majority of ALL the PEOPLE THAT VOTED. you see that’s what counts in an election. are ALL OF THE PEOPLE THAT VOTE.

        • pss

          you must have seen that POLL on fox news! …………….we all know who owns and runs fox and we all know that it is a rebublicking channel and spins the truth to favor the right -wing nutjob commie conseratives

    • missy

      did u vote?

  • kill me for freedom

    It basical says until the court cases are settle…it can’t be the law of the land. Sounds fair to me…

    The one part this story doesn’t address is whether or not removing the collective bargaining from a budget was legal. It just talks about the open meetings law when there are two points to the way this law was passed that is being challenged in court.

    • kill me for freedom

      Now, the story did address the other issue and is much longer than oriignally reported.

  • Purrmaid

    “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    I’d rather see a compromise than a take-over. Adults working together with mutual respect for the jobs each has to do and what it means to the rest of society.

    • Curtis

      Read the posts and ask yourself this: Are some these people able to find some middle ground? Treason, traitor, are words that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly. People in negotiation who had given wage and benefit concessions are called greedy. Either society is changing, or the minority has found a way to drown out the majority.

    • Tom

      I would rather see a compromise also but how can we get the Democrats to get back to their jobs. I think that it was cowardly of them to run off out of state like they did. Does this mean that every time there is something that they don’t like they are going to disappear? I am a tax paying citizen in WI and if they can not do the job they were put in office to do then resign and go get a different job and stop wasting my money. To simply put things,(officials in office get back to WORK)!

      • Mark

        They didn’t abandon their jobs. Civil disobedience takes courage.

  • rid of it

    I’M REALLY SICK OF THE POP UPS covering the bottom!!!!!!!! Makes it not fun to read the news

    • Matt

      learn to click the X

  • Iconoclast

    I’m sorry, did the people of WI vote to strip the collective barganing rights of most state employees or did the Governor and state republicans simply decide to make a new law that goes against hard fought and established right for workers? Solving these budget issues needs to be docklast one with the help of the wealthy in addition too the sacrifices of working people. You seem h#ll bent on blaming working people. Why is that? Are you a right wing christian nut job who has been brainwashed by the GOP because they are happy to lie to you for your vote. You gave up your dignity way to cheep my friend.

    • PFred

      So far, your’s is the most intelligent comment made on this part of the story.

  • Cindy

    I agree Trudy, Walker should now commence with the layoffs and then they should pass the original bill now that the 14 traitors have returned back!

    With that approach, Wisconsin gets to trim the fat from the greedy teacher’s payroll while also protecting the taxpayers by ridding them of the burden of collective demands of the unions.

    Its a Win-Win!

    • Paul

      Yeah, ’cause nothing’s more greedy then a middle class person trying to feed and support their family. Oh, the horror!

    • PFred

      There is no win-win. WI taxpayers end up paying in the end no matter which way it goes. No one wins when thousands of people are laid off, the families suffer and the communities suffer. Don’t be ignorant Cindy!!!

    • Poppy GHWB

      A traitor is “a person who commits treason by betraying his or her country” (Dictionary.com). You may have a right to criticize the 14 Democrats but to call them traitors is hateful and untrue. They haven’t betrayed their country in any way. Their decision to prevent a vote by leaving the state was certainly extreme. Remember how Governor Walker went about his decision here to make change to collective bargaining? There was no room for negotiating on his part. He made that point clear. And even though he has that right as Governor, to act in the way he chose, that doesn’t make anyone here a traitor. Throwing hateful words around does nothing to change Wisconsin’s budget differential and it certainly doesn’t benefit taxpayers. You are obviously not aware of what a teacher earns are you? I’m all for change to how unions negotiate. I’m a taxpayer. Do I get a voice or am I supposed to simply shut up and take whatever you tell me I should think Cindy? Please let me know how your inner pulchritude and divine wisdom will help our country rise to a better place for it’s citizens? We’ve been missing your amazing insights. Finally, you’ve arrived.

    • Matt

      Cindy, Traitors? do you even know the meaning of the word? Also This wasn’t about money this was about removing someone’s right to freedom of speech. They all agreed that they need to reduce payrolls and other costs. The whole reason why they left is because it would take away people’s right to speak as a group. I think you need to stop watching Fox News.

    • Wilbur

      Greedy billionaires want more money
      Greedy millionaires want to be billionaires.
      Greedy corporate CEO want million dollar salaries
      Greedy corporations make billions
      Working and middle class want to try to maintain where they are at.
      Some people just can’t find anybody else to blame for their woes so they take it out on the working and middle class because they have no power to take on the greedy so they beat on who they can.

    • Patriot

      They ARE traitors!!!! Death threats have been made against the elected officers of the State of Wisconsin! Live ammunition was found on the Statehouse grounds during the siege. Democrats are respnosible for this outrage and must be punished!!! The Democratic Party must be outlawed, its members and supporters arrested, their offices closed, their property seized and their families monitored!!! Those who would oppose the Republic forfeit their rights!

      • pss

        Patriot you are NO patriot maybe you are the one who should be put in prision and stripped of your rights just try this THINK BEFORE SPEAKING ! we are better of without your moronic statements just because someone dosen’t agree with you dosen’t make the a bad person or a criminal they are aloud to voice there opinion right or wrong just like you !!

      • Blue Dog

        As posters noted below. The USA is not a Republican Republic. What you are promoting is a totalitarian state led by Republicans which would require an overthrow of the current President,. Thus you comment is treason

        • Blue Dog

          this was to “patriot” who is no patriot

    • Robert B

      Cindy, you have GOT to be kidding! You have apparently been drinking the republican kool-aid! “Greedy teachers” ???? What kind of idiotic comment is that? Have you seen what they make. There are plenty of ways that Wisconsin can trim their budget without going after the middle class!
      Trust me, collective bargaining is not a “burden” to the Wisconsin budget.

    • Rae

      I agree. Unions are nothing but money grubbing people who will do anything for the union including intimidation. Let the layoffs begin. Send pink slips to all the teachers in the State of Wisconsin. Thier educational standard is a poor as Minnesota’s. There is no need for unions anymore. When they were started, they had the right idea, now they are nothing but protection for the lazy in the workplace and a way to bleed me the taxpayer dry by crying “More money!!”. These people have Masters degrees and they don’t seem to understand the concept of “NO MONEY TO PAY YOU! CAN:T GET BLOOD OUT OF TURNIPS WHO ARE UNEMPLOYED!”

    • LLP

      Yeu that’s right so the GOP can give it back to the Koch brothers whom seem to own the GOP any way. We got the best goverment leaders that money can buy.

    • Alan

      @ patriot or mark or waste of taxes, or whatever other name you go by. You really cannot believe the garbage you just printed. How quickly the events of Jan 8th are forgotten. Not the incident itself, but the accusations that flew later. Yet here you are attaching a small thing and essentially calling for a totalitarian state. That would not be patriotic.

    • Todd

      They make on average $51k a year. They start in the low $30’s. 4 to 6 year degree in college. I woiuld hardly call that greedy. Greedy is a bunch of millionaires running for congress and state offices so they can get complete power along with the wealth.

    • pss

      cindy what if this was your job or a family members job think about that! would that be a win-win then ?

  • Yankee

    Trudy, I find your callousness in thinking 1,500 layoffs is “okay” quite selfish. Shame on you.

    • Poppy GHWB

      Hey, Patriot!
      By your very words I sense you hate your country. At least you’re honest. Your words remind me of history: Joseph Stalin; Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Yes, if threats are made, those individuals should be brought to justice. That doesn’t make the entire Democratic party treasonous. You must know that. Right? Your words are really frightening. Do you want to threaten me? Do you hate Democrats? Oh, by the way, just to clarify. I didn’t say I was a Democrat. Those were two separate questions. May I am and maybe I’m not. Do you even understand the magnitude of your words? I’ll pray for you. If your own child were a Democrat, would you have them arrested as well? Just for their beliefs?

  • Mike D


    Stick to more pressing/life-threatening matters like the travesty in Japan where people’s lives are actually at stake. I’m sure they’d be happy here taking an 8% pay decrease.

  • Paul

    Republicans met in committee two hours after they announced they would. Wisconsin law requires 24 hour notice. They broke the law. There is no judicial activism involved. Sorry to allow the truth to interrupt your rant.

    • Lisa

      Paul – Thanks for clearing things up that SHOULD have been included in the article. Shoddy journalism is rampant.

  • Paul

    Blah! Blah! Blah

  • ron eichhorst

    why is it that theis goverment is against unions fare barginning and does nothing against their own salaries which are too high

  • Carol Brown

    At last we have a bit of good news – for a change.

  • Um...wait...

    Um….”these liberal elitists are a threat to our Republic”? Last I heard, we were a democracy.

    • Bill

      “Last I heard, we were a democracy”

      You must have gone to public school, the USA is a constitutional republic

      • ....hmmmmmm

        Wow… bashing the public school system.
        Hey Bill…. what kind of job did you land as a kid to pay your way through private school?
        Another case of someone who woke up on third base and thought he hit the triple.
        Pull the silver spoon out of your a$$ and go kiss your parents’ for hitting that triple for you. While you’re at it… take a look at many of the public schools in the Twin Cities. You’ll find them right ABOVE a good portion of the private schools in the rankings.

        • shelly

          Twin City public schools REALLY?? we are talking WI not MN hmmm thought you knew that!

          • more than capable prof. & mother

            Today its WI, tomorrow CA maybe next week MN, what’s it matter?
            Its all relevant.
            Fact is were all going to have to tighten our belts a little bit we shouldn’t bicker over today middle class, tomorrow the rich and next week the poor. Everyone grow up a little bit.
            We do dishes because they are dirty not because they are our dishes.
            We take out the trash because its full not because no one else will.

        • more than capable prof. & mother

          That’s because the bar is set low. TC schools are pittiful. I have 2 in HS and community college is our bar. Now NSP HS they are teaching children..preparing them for college even. .aybe my 8yr old will be taught some usefull things…by the time she is in NSP HS. My point….NSp is public school…with staff tthat will retain their jobs. They lead by example. Arlington….Humboldt……Harding…comoteachers watch out your jobs are on the line. Reform is comming.

    • M.

      Thanks, “Um…wait…”, I needed a good laugh! A Democracy… Hahaha!

      Oh yeah, by the way, you heard wrong.

    • Victim Du Jour

      The US Constitution says we are a ” Republican form of government”

      We are a Republic, not a democracy

      • YES in DEED

        Yes, we are a Democratic Republic. AKA We vote for people to represent us in Washington. I don’t know how so many U.S. born citizens don’t know this simple fact. I have only known a few (3) legalized citizens but THEY all knew it.

        • william

          There are those on the board who think we are a Republican Republic.

    • Victim Du Jour

      The US Constitution says we have a republican form of government. Look it up!

  • Mark

    The bill that was signed does appear to violate the 24 hour law, so it’ll get over-turned, then those democrats will leave the state again and it will be all for not, yet again. The republicans will give proper notice and then it will still pass. The democrats aren’t going to win on this one, the people voted who they wanted in office, now live with it.

  • shirley

    Thank GOD Judge Sumi, can see what’s going on here. Any time any party takes away your will to talk or negotiate an issue, whether it’s wages, work ethics, or benefits, that’s taking away the peoples rights to get their side heard, and it’s giving the other side the authority to say this is what we’re offering, take it or lump it.

  • Constitutionalist

    Separation of powers. Checks and balances. Read the constitution. THAT is how laws become law.

    • Note to self

      That’s right, Constitutionalist. The constitution does have the power to protect the people from partisan warfare. It just takes more time and process than any of us prefer.

  • Poppy GHWB

    Even Governor Walker would disagree with what you just said. You think that the only people worthy of the ‘Republic’ are those who think like you do. Will your hate lead to a better community for children, for families? For all? I suggest reading, anything really. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Judges follow precedent directed by legislative laws and governing rules which are set by the constituents, yes, the voters you claim to be your own. Your words are that of a bully, not someone trying to make positive, even if sometimes difficult change. Governor Walker is a hero compared to you. And I don’t agree with his recent tactics on how he went about passing this bill. But at least he doesn’t act like he’s God, does he?

  • Victim Du Jour

    Isn’t it treason for this Judge to make the Union more powerful than a elected Republic State Legislature and executive branch?

    All it takes is two witnesses, and the Judge is in big trouble.

    • PFred

      No, it isn’t treason, it is her job to make sure laws are not broken, even if they are by the politicians YOU voted to put into office.

      • Victim Du Jour

        There is Nothing in the United States or Wisconsin State Constitution that protects the Union.

        The Judge is out of order

        • Walker

          Your ignorance over what the judge ruled on in pathetic

        • Walker

          Lest there be some person out there that agrees with you someone must clarify your ignorance. If your victims are people calling you on your lack of knowledge then you have a few more issues to work out. So your point on these boards is put out misinformation. When you cannot win an argument you resort to juvenile behavior. Clearly you have wasted the taxpayer dollars spent on education. No wonder why they want to cut teacher’s salaries.

    • Victim Du Jour

      Most Judges are appointed now days, that’s why a lot of them don’t know how to read.

      We don’t live in a judicial dictatorship.

      • fred3

        now you hate judges is there anyone you do like

      • william

        You need to look at your ballot more carefully next time.

    • Walker

      Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as “…[a]…citizen’s actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation].” In many nations, it is also often considered treason to attempt or conspire to overthrow the government, even if no foreign country is aided or involved by such an endeavor

      How is that treason. There are rules and procedures a legislature must follow. They did not. The 24 hour notice is the law, the facts are there. Your use of inflammatory language is an example of the problem of having a legitimate discussion of issues.

  • Look at all the stupidity!!!

    You were probably one of the people that were he!! bent on paying millions and millions to find out who Clinton put his dipstick in but have a hard time when the same thing happens to your side LEAGALLY. Just shut up about the “liberals” already, you idiot repubs seem to forget that there are more than just “liberals” and repubs, those are only 2 of the parties that people affiliate with.

  • How About Them Apples

    The republicans knew this law would never fly, but now they can say to their people
    look how hard we tried.

  • Freddy Madson

    Walker is a doofus and a pip squeak, right wing wind bag. WI should recall him today.

    • Mark


  • Victim Du Jour

    The Judge is committing an act of treason in an open courtroom.

    Unions and activist Judges are not more powerful than the entire elected State Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch.


    • Walker

      A law is a law. Just because you disagree with something does not make it treason. It is part of the checks and balances in a republic. But it was nice at the end where you apologized for being ignorant and hateful. Nice touch.

      • Victim Du Jour

        There is nothing in the constitution that protects government Unions.

        When Judges make up pretend rules out of thin air it’s called treason.

        Judges are not the public policy making branch of the government.

    • ...hmmmmm

      The judge is acting within the confines of the law.
      Treason? A little dramatic.
      You don’t really believe your own B.S., do you?

    • Victim Du Juror

      and not sorry.

      I am the jury

      • Wilbur

        In a republic when they form a jury they look for people who are neutral or impartial. You are neither.

    • Poppy GHWB

      Victim Du Jour is wrong. The judicial branch is part of the checks and balances.
      The legislative body and the executive branch are the other two. They are supposed to balance each other out. When all the areas have run the course of ‘checks’ the constitutional interpretations of all three governmental parts meet the requirements of ‘balances’. If Wisconsin Governor Walker’s law has been passed within the boundaries of the Wisconsin and US Constitutions, then it will eventually become law. Otherwise the bill will be rejected. At that point the Governor and the legislature can take up the measure again, this time ironing out the constitutional differences and passing the legislation. That’s how the system works for everybody. Sorry Victim Du Jour! Your argument is befuddled with weak logic. By the way, are you the victim or the victimizer? Your not using hateful words to prey on other people, are you? Your use of soundbites needs a lot of work. The word ‘activist’ has run it’s course, don’t you think? Its not very convincing anymore. Oh, look up the word ‘treason’. I think you’ll find the real meaning of that word in the dictionary. I’ve defined it in another post. I think what you meant to call the judge was a ‘patriot’, “One who loves, supports, and defends one’s country” (www.thefreedictionary.com). You see, the judge is only following precedence for laws which already exist: A true patriot, don’t you think? Maybe you need to go back to school? Maybe you need a smaller classroom with more individual attention? Would that help? Oh, wait, that would go against the grain of your very logic. Sorry again, Victim Du Jour.

      • Victim Du Jour

        But the configuring does not give labor unions any authority or rights at all.

        The Judge has no grounds to block the law.

      • Walker

        Victim’s ability to process what he reads must be impaired. The Wisconsin law is that there needs to be 24 hours between proposal and passage of a law. When they removed the bill they passed from the other legislation, it created a new bill. They waited two hours, not 24

    • Kelly Kriefall


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