The fight officially began on Thursday when Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi froze Scott Walker’s union busting law, calling it a violation of Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law. The legislation, if enacted, would take away the collective bargaining rights for all public employees, except firefighters and police officers. The 34 page decision voided Walker’s power grab, saying that it “has no force or effect.”
The judge explains the reason for the decision;
An Open Meetings Law is not necessary to ensure openness in easy, noncontroversial matters where no one cares whether the meeting is open or not. Like the First Amendment which exists to protect unfavored speech, the Open Meetings Law exists to ensure open government in controversial matters.
The Open Meetings Law functions to ensure that these difficult matters are decided without bias or regard for issues such as race, gender or economic status, and with regard for the interests of the community. This requires, with very few exceptions, that government meetings be held in full view of the community.
In their rush to push through this piece of legislation, Republicans openly violated Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law, which requires that all meetings proceed after at least a 24 hour notice and be held in an open forum. You may recall that even during the meeting, Republicans were constantly warned by Democratic Representative Peter Barca, that they were violating the law, but they continued anyway:
BARCA: The opening meetings laws must be construed in favor of the fullness and –
REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN: Mr. Barca– Representative Barca.
REPUBLICAN: Call roll.
BARCA: No, no, listen. If there’s any doubt as to whether good cause exists, the governmental body should provide 24 hours’ notice. This is clearly a violation of the open meetings law. Now, if you shut the people down, it is improper to move forward with the open meetings law. You’re not allowing it. And that is why. Mr. chairman, this is a violation of law. This is not just a rule, it is the law. There must be –
REPUBLICAN CHARIMAN: You’re wrong.
BARCA: No, Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of the open meetings law. It requires 24 — at least 24 hours’ notice. Excuse me.
On March 18th, Judge Sumi placed a temporary hold on the implementation of Walker’s rushed bill. On Thursday, the bill was struck down. Walker is promising to take the case all the way to the Supreme court.
Republican Steven Means, executive assistant to the state’s Attorney General said, “Obviously, we’re disappointed in the ruling. We do think it reflects a number of legal errors, but it’s for the appellate courts at this point.”
Democrats on the other hand, are happy with the decision.”It’s what we were looking for,” said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.
Until the next round is played out in the higher courts, Americans and the middle class workers in Wisconsin can exhale. Democracy has won this round.