The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Republican Gov. Scott Walker a major victory on Tuesday. They ruled that a polarizing union law could take effect that strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights and at the same time overturned a lower court ruling that Republican legislators violated the state’s open meetings law when they passed the measure in March.
In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she said Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings statutes in the run-up to passage of the legislation and declared the law void.
The court said: “One of the courts that we are charged with overseeing has usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin constitution grants exclusively to the legislature … exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers … and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the Act.”
In its written decision, the court cited the importance of the separation of powers, and said the Legislature had not violated the state’s Constitution when it relied on its “interpretation of its own rules of proceeding” and gave slightly less than two hours’ notice before meeting and voting. In the end, the provision passed without the attendance of any of the Senate’s 14 Democrats who had fled to Illinois to block the vote from occurring.
Walker, who said the measure was needed to help the state fix its finances, welcomed the judgment, saying it “provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again”.
Wisconsin’s attorney general, JB Van Hollen, said the supreme court had “vindicated” the administration’s arguments.