MARCH 26 UPDATE: Legislation that was pushed through the Senate in the dead of night in violation of the open meetings law was published Friday, despite a temporary restraining order barring publication. “This is another sign that the governor and legislature are in a desperate power grab to take away the voice of teachers, support staff, nurses, home health care workers and other public employees,” said Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell. “These tactics are not in the Wisconsin tradition of open government and do not represent the will of the people. From the start, our members agreed to increased financial contributions the governor said would balance the budget, but they have said it is wrong for government to silence their voices in the schools. Yet, the governor and Legislature refuse to listen. Now, the same disregard is being shown to the rule of law.” A rally is being held at 1 p.m. in Madison today to protest the law.
By Cynthia McCabe
A judge on Friday morning ruled that the publication of the collective bargaining law that strips workers of their rights to bargain contracts must be halted, because its passage may have happened illegally.
According to Politico, Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order preventing the secretary of state from publishing the law until she can rule on the case. The matter came before her in a complaint by the Dane County district attorney on behalf of public officials who believe Republicans violated the state’s open-meeting law while maneuvering to get the law passed.
Mary Bell, the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which represents 98,000 teachers and support professionals in the state, applauded the ruling:
The ruling will “halt implementation of the law designed to strip public employees of their voices in their schools. The vote on this bill violated state open meeting laws, and it also violated the public trust Wisconsinites have in their elected leaders.
“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.
“The Legislature should not move ahead with another vote on this wrongful bill, but instead take this as a chance to step back and listen to the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who have said this extreme law hurts working families and destroys the traditions and values we hold in Wisconsin. It’s time for our elected leaders to do what’s right for Wisconsin voters versus advancing a political agenda.”
Throughout the past month, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin workers, families, students and supporters have thronged to Madison and towns around the state, protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to undercut decades of workers’ rights. This past Saturday, more than 100,000 rallied at the statehouse to protest the law’s passage on March 11.
What Sumi will examine is the late-night maneuvering by Republican backers of the law on the night of March 10 that led to it being signed into law by Walker the next day. They stripped from the bill all financial aspects, which they said allowed them to vote in absence of the 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators who left the state to prevent the anti-worker bill’s passage.
Even though the polls showed that a majority of Americans and the residents of Walker’s own state disagreed with him, he set in motion a set of technical procedural moves that helped ram through the unpopular bill.
“Its legality is dubious,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said after the law’s passage. “Its intent is mean spirited. It is perhaps the most grievous example of how democratic decision making should not take place. The governor and his legislative minions should be ashamed of what they’ve done.”