We keep getting told by our friends on the right that Scott Walker has already “won” the confrontation in Wisconsin or that he’s “crossed the Rubicon.” Turns out the end-zone dancing was just a tad premature:
A Dane County judge has struck down Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation repealing most collective bargaining for public employees.
In a 33-page decision issued Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said she would freeze the legislation because GOP lawmakers on a committee broke the state’s open meetings law in passing it March 9....
In the decision, Sumi appeared to be bracing for an outcry from Republicans and supporters of the law, noting that judges are supposed to apply the law even if their decisions will be “controversial or unpopular.” Sumi writes that Ozanne showed by “clear and convincing evidence” that the open meetings law had been violated.
“This decision explains why it is necessary to void the legislative actions flowing from those violations,” wrote Sumi, who was appointed to the bench by former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson.
This does not mean that the Walker proposal has been defeated. It could go to the Supreme Court, which will decide in June whether to hear the case. But it’s still a big boost for Wisconsin Democrats and the recall effort.
Here’s why. It gives Democrats and labor a powerful new weapon to make the case that Wisconsin Republicans deserved to be recalled because they abused the power of their office. The argument Dems and labor are making is that the decision by Senate Republicans to jam the rollback of bargaining rights through is precisely the kind of conduct that justifies the extraordinary step of recalling them. Now a court has pronounced that they violated state law.
Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the labor-backed We Are Wisconsin, which is coordinating the recall push, emails me this:
Today’s decision is a huge repudiation of Scott Walker’s extreme power grab and the sleazy legislative tactics used by his allies in the Senate to ram through their attacks on Wisconsin’s working families in the dark of night. GOP senators who continue to blindly follow Scott Walker’s extreme agenda now have one last chance to abandon Walker’s rapidly-sinking ship or be held to account in the upcoming elections.
Second, and equally important, the court’s decision today raises the possiblity that Republicans may be forced to vote on their rollback of bargaining rights again. The budget needs to be wrapped up by the end of June, and Republicans have said that if the bargaining rights proposal is still tied up in court by then, they’ll vote on it again. The Wisconsin Supreme Court might not take the case, or could still be deliberating over it by then, meaning a second vote is very possible.
The key here is that the Republicans who are targets of the recall drive may now find themselves casting a vote for this proposal after the public has rendered a very clear verdict on it, and after a court has ruled that their earlier fealty to the unpopular Walker led them to trample ordinary democratic processes. Such a display of total deafness to public opinion would only reinforce impressions that these public officials have gone rogue and need to be dealt with by extraordinary means — and must be recalled.
UPDATE: In fact, the Supreme Court will decide in June whether to hear the case. I’ve edited the above to correct.