MADISON, Wis. - The contentious collective bargaining law that strips most public workers of nearly all collective bargaining rights and force them to contribute more to their pension and health plans isn't in effect, according to an amended restraining order released on Thursday morning.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued the amended ruling at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday. She had earlier issued an emergency order blocking Wisconsin's secretary of state from publishing the law, called Wisconsin Act 10. However, Sumi re-issued her order on Tuesday after a hearing and this time, she has warned that any officials who violated it will face sanctions.
The judge further amended the ruling on Thursday to read, "Further, based on the briefs of counsel, the uncontroverted testimony, and the evidence received at the March 29 evidentiary hearing, it is hereby declared that 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 has not been published."
The judge said Tuesday that her previous order was "misunderstood or ignored" and that "those who act in open defiance of a court order are in peril of sanctions."
Gov. Scott Walker's top aide said on Thursday that the administration will abide by Sumi's order to stop preparation to implement the law. Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said that the Republican governor's administration still believes the law took effect when a state office posted online last week.
Huebsch said Walker will abide by the judge's ruling earlier Thursday that the law hadn't taken effect. Her ruling came after Walker's administration ignored a restraining order she issued earlier this week saying work on the law should stop while she considers a lawsuit challenging the statute's legitimacy.
Walker officials had contended the order didn't apply to them because they weren't named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The controversy about the law stems from a lawsuit filed by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne alleging Republican legislative leaders violated the state's open meetings law during debate on the proposal in the state Legislature.
Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca welcomed Sumi's actions on Thursday. In a statement on Thursday he said, "The judge made it abundantly clear on Tuesday that Gov. Walker and his administration, including Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, shouldn't be implementing Act 10. I believe she made it clear then with her order that stop means stop."
Barca accused Republicans of failing to respect the rule of law and putting the state at financial risl.
"But Mr. Walker and Mr. Huebsch chose to ignore her warning that they were jeopardizing the finances and stability of state government, apparently believing they are above the law. This morning with her added order she has taken away their last excuse," Barca said in the statement. "I can only hope today's amended order is crystal clear enough for them to stop disregarding the rule of law."
Huebsch said they still believe the law was passed and published legally.
"While I believe the budget repair bill was legally published and is indeed law, given the most recent court action, we will suspend the implementation of it at this time. DOA will continue to abide by the court orders, like the department has done all throughout this process," Huebsch said in a statement.
State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald condemned the Sumi's actions.
"Once again, one Dane County judge is doing everything she can to stand in the way of our efforts to improve the economy and create jobs. The fact that the prosecution didn't even request an amended TRO makes it clear: this is judicial activism at its worst," he said in a statement.
After hearing a day of testimony on bill publication and open meetings issues on Tuesday, Sumi also expressed dismay that the Legislature hadn't simply brought the bill up for a vote again to avoid further court proceedings.
Fitzgerald said he took offense to that suggestion.
"I do take offense to that. I mean, if Judge Sumi was in the middle of a trial and I stepped in and said, 'Why don't you just do it over because we don't like the results,' I think they would be taken aback by that," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald also said he thinks it's an issue of separation of powers, saying if the Senate writes its rules and passes them, that the Legislature is governing itself and not the judicial branch.
Meanwhile, two other lawsuits brought against the state related to the collective bargaining bill will not be combined.
Sumi heard arguments Wednesday over whether the AFL-CIO should join its lawsuit with one Dane County is bringing against the state, arguing the law would do irreparable harm to the county and its employees.
The Department of Justice argued that any consolidation of the suits would be premature.
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