Dane County judge Maryann Sumi issued a ruling today halting the publishing of the collective bargaining bill that was passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature last Thursday. Judge Sumi’s ruling bars the Secretary of State from publishing the bill which is required for the law to take effect. Secretary Doug La Follette (D) was postponing the publishing of the bill until March 25th so the courts could have a chance to pass a ruling on the contentious bill that has drawn impassioned reactions from both sides while garnering national and international attention. Judge Sumi ruled that the the State’s open meetings laws were violated when a special committee was convened to reformat Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill, and in turn creating a bill dealing specifically with collective bargaining for non-public safety state employees. She made no ruling on the merits of the bill, only the manner in which it was passed. Judge Sumi noted that the bill could be brought back to the Legislature anew and passed again.
The ruling is a temporary setback for Gov. Walker and proponents of the bill who see it as a vital means of improving the State’s $137 million fiscal shortfall. Opponents of the Governor’s bill however see this as a victory and redemption for their efforts to block the initial passage of the bill. Assistant Attorney General Steven Means stated that the State will challenge judge Sumi’s ruling, and will appeal. Further, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has also sued the state to block the implementation of the bill. An additional hearing on the merits of the bill has also been set for March 28th, which Sumi as the presiding judge. What this means is the collective bargaining bill has been temporarily, if not altogether overturned, but with appeals looming, public debate on the measure is far from over.