Thursday, May 26, 2011

Judge Sumi strikes down anti-worker bill

Bill passed in illegal manner, violated open meetings law

Judge Maryann Sumi ruled yesterday that the budget repair bill rushed in March through the Republican-controlled state legislature was passed in an illegal manner, violating open meetings law meant to keep the people of Wisconsin informed about legislation up for debate. Her ruling invalidates the law, which was signed by Gov. Walker earlier this year but never implemented.

The controversial bill included provisions that removed collective bargaining rights of state and local workers, a move that Walker has even admitted while under oath saves the state absolutely nothing in terms of the budget.

Before claims of judicial “activism” dominate the right-wing critics of this ruling, let’s examine the issue of this law very carefully, for the facts are very clear. The legislative committee that approved the bill alerted the public less than two hours before they held the meeting. Even under emergency circumstances, the public has the right to be informed at least two hours ahead of time when a piece of legislation is up for discussion. But the passage of this bill wasn’t an emergency -- which means the public was entitled to notice 24 hours ahead of time.

Judge Sumi’s decision to strike down Walker’s anti-worker bill is consistent in keeping with the rule of law. The law itself was an abomination -- indeed, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites came to Madison to show their dissatisfaction with the law. But despite our ill-feelings towards the bill, it would have still been law had it been passed properly. In this case, our personal feelings on the law (whether supportive or against it) don’t matter -- the law itself was passed in an illegal way, violating the trust of the people of Wisconsin who expect better from their legislative representatives. Anyone who argues differently overlooks long-established rules that were put in place to ensure the people are better able to understand and keep up with proposals in the legislature.

This terrible law was invalidated for the right reasons. If we ignore the rule of law, if we go about passing legislation in this manner, we do a terrible disservice to the people of Wisconsin. Judge Sumi’s ruling preserves our tradition of openness within our lawmaking.

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