In a blow to Wisconsin's public employee unions, the state Supreme Court late Tuesday that a committee of Republican lawmakers violated open meetings laws when they approved the budget repair bill that strips workers of most bargaining rights.
As of result of the ruling, all of the provisions of the bill will be put into place and previous rulings by Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi, who struck down the legislation, are overturned.
In its ruling, the high court said the lower court "exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers...and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the act."
Furthermore, the justices wrote, the legislative conference committee that approved the budget repair bill in March and sent it to the full Legislature did not violate the state's open meetings law. The vote was 4-3.
"The doors of the Senate parlor, where the joint committee on conference met, were open to the press and members of the public... Access was not denied," the court said in its opinion. "There is no constitutional requirement that the legislature provide access to as many members of the public as wish to attend meetings of the legislature or meetings of legislative committees."
Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers say the budget repair bill's provisions that require many pubic workers to pay more toward the cost of health insurance and pensions is a need to ease Wisconsin's budget crisis.
In a one-sentence statement Tuesday, the governor simply said: "The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again."
Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) is disappointed. Mount Pleasant-Sturtevant Patch reached him shortly after the vote.
"We're seeing the first great consequence of the Supreme Court race," he said. "Prosser sided with his Republican colleagues, and they managed to nullify collective bargaining law and open meetings law in one fell swoop."
The state legislature will convene on the Assembly floor still tonight, June 14, to begin debating the state budget.
State Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) issued this statement on his Facebook page, "This is a victory for separation of powers and for judicial restraint."
Did the Supreme Court make the right decision?