MADISON, Wis., March 29 (UPI) -- Wisconsin officials say a law stripping most public employees of collective bargaining rights is still in effect despite a judge's order not to enforce it.
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued the order after a daylong hearing Tuesday, noting state officials had ignored her order last week enjoining the state from enforcing the law.
"Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined," the judge said. "That is what I now want to make crystal clear."
Speaking outside the courtroom, Assistant Attorney General Steven Means said the law "absolutely" remains in effect, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said it was "just startling that the attorney general believes you should not follow court orders anymore," the newspaper reported.
Sumi said the restraining order would be in effect through Friday, when another hearing is scheduled for a legal challenge by the Dane County prosecutor, who argues state Republican lawmakers violated the Wisconsin Open Public Meetings Law when they passed the bill.
Despite the judge's initial order last week against enforcing the law, Republican lawmakers and officials in the administration of Gov. Scott Walker, also a Republican, had the state Legislative Reference Bureau publish the law Saturday, and the next day the state began charging state employees more for their healthcare and pension benefits and stopped deducting union dues from workers' paychecks.
A state appeals court Tuesday refused a request by state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to withdraw an appeal he filed last week questioning Sumi's order blocking the Wisconsin secretary of state from publishing the law, a requirement under Wisconsin law for a new law to take effect, the newspaper said. Van Hollen sought to withdraw his appeal after the Legislative Reference Bureau published the law.
Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch told reporters Monday the bill became law with publication by the Legislative Reference Bureau and the state is legally required to enforce it.
Thousands of public employees demonstrated against the bill, and 14 Democratic senators blocked its passage for weeks by fleeing to Illinois, although Republicans eventually came up with the legislative workaround whose legitimacy is being disputed in court.