Media Advisory: Heartland Legal Scholar Comments on Stay of Wisconsin Collective Bargaining Law

Published March 18, 2011

Dane County, Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order Friday blocking a new law constraining the collective bargaining rights of most public workers in the state. Sumi ruled in favor of the Dane County district attorney, who claimed Republicans in the legislature violated the state’s open-meetings law in pushing the legislation through.

The following comments by Maureen Martin, senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute and a resident of Green Lake, Wisconsin, may be used for attribution. For additional comment, please contact Martin at [email protected] or 920/295-6032.

“At best, the judicial challenge to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill in Wisconsin is a clear-cut measure of Democratic desperation. At worst, it merely postpones the inevitable.
“The Democratic district attorney in Dane County in heavily liberal Madison filed a court case this week alleging the 19 Republicans in the state Senate violated the state open-meetings act by failing to give 24 hours’ notice of their vote on the bill, while the 14 Democratic senators had absconded to Illinois to avoid it. But non-partisan Senate staffers had concluded the Senate was in a special session and had its own rules requiring no notice of the vote. Thus, because such Senate rules trump the open-meetings act, these staffers gave Republicans the go-ahead to vote without the Democrats.

“Judge Sumi’s entry today of an order temporarily preventing the budget repair bill from going into effect is being spun by Democrats as a victory for them and a setback for Republicans. But all the judge did was maintain the status quo pending her ruling in about 10 days on the merits of the case. Both the Wisconsin senate and assembly have passed the bill, and Walker has signed it. It will go into effect upon publication, which is what the judge’s ruling temporarily prevents.

“Republicans are considering an immediate appeal. They are also considering giving 24 hours’ notice and taking a re-vote on the measure, which would make the case moot.

“One can only wish the Dane County Democratic district attorney would be this aggressive in prosecuting the perpetrators of dozens of death threats against the Republicans.”

Maureen Martin
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

The Heartland Institute is a 27-year-old national nonprofit organization based in Chicago. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site at or call 312/377-4000.