MADISON, Wis., June 14 (UPI) -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a split decision Tuesday, ruled a lower court judge was wrong to toss out a law limiting public sector collective bargaining.
On a 4-3 vote, the state's high court said Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi "usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin constitution grants exclusively to the Legislature" when she voided the new law pushed by Gov. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Writing for the dissenting jurists, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said the authors of the high court's order -- Justices Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman, along with concurring Justice David Prosser -- had failed to provide "a reasoned, transparent analysis" and included "numerous errors of law and fact."
The Legislature in March voted to eliminate most collective bargaining for nearly all public workers. But Sumi ruled a legislative conference committee violated the state's open meetings law in March when it convened to amend the bill, the Journal said. The lawmakers' gambit allowed the Republican-controlled Senate to get around a boycott by Senate Democrats.
"We've been saying since day one that Republicans passed the budget repair bill correctly, so frankly this isn't much of a surprise," state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said after the Supreme Court's decision was issued. "We followed the law when the bill was passed, simple as that."
Walker said the decision "provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again."
Assembly Democratic leader Peter Barca maintained the ruling gave a stamp of approval to legislative secrecy.
"The majority of the Supreme Court is essentially saying that the Legislature is above the law," Barca said. "It's now clear that unless the Constitution is amended, the Legislature is free to ignore any laws on the books. By this interpretation, the constitutional right of the people to know what its Legislature is doing has been significantly minimized."