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Wisconsin judge again halts collective bargaining law

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Judge issues strong warning against trying again to put law into action
  • Law that curbs collective bargaining rights was published Friday
  • Judge who blocked law ordered it not be published by secretary of state
  • Bill supporters say legislative office could publish it

(CNN) -- Amid a debate over whether Wisconsin's new collective bargaining law had taken effect, a Wisconsin judge again put it on hold Tuesday and warned anyone against trying to implement it.

"Now that I've made my earlier order as clear as it possibly can be, I must state that those that act in willful and open defiance of a court order place not only themselves at peril of sanctions -- they also jeopardize the financial and governmental stability of the state of Wisconsin," said Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi.

Sumi may decide Friday whether the law will be allowed to stand -- at least for now.

The latest drama over the law started last Friday afternoon when the state's Legislative Reference Bureau published the controversial act that curbs the collective bargaining rights of most employees.

The legislature's website noted Saturday the publication of the law and cited these two points:

-- Sumi on March 18 halted enactment of the law and forbade Secretary of State Douglas La Follette from publishing the law.

-- Wisconsin law requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish every act within 10 days of its passage.

"There was no temporary restraining order on the Legislative Reference Bureau from publishing, only on the secretary of state," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told CNN affiliate WISN last week. "There was no reason that the (bureau) could not publish, and actually has an obligation to do that, as they did today (Friday)."

The state's Department of Justice, headed by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, issued a statement Friday saying that "no action by the Secretary of State is required by this section for the legislative reference bureau to publish an Act."

Sumi issued the injunction in response to a suit filed by a Democratic district attorney alleging that Republican legislators violated the state's open meetings law by calling a committee meeting to amend GOP Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill without providing the public 24-hour advance notice.

The amended bill, which had been stalled for weeks by 14 Democratic state senators who left Wisconsin to prevent a quorum -- and thus a vote on the measure -- then sailed to easy passage in both chambers of the Legislature.

In the appeal, Van Hollen argues that Sumi has no jurisdiction over state lawmakers or Wisconsin's secretary of state, all of whom have sovereign immunity. Sumi's order bars La Follette from publishing the new law.

The state's Department of Justice said Tuesday, "We have serious concerns about the court's decision to continue these proceedings under the current set of circumstances."

The public brouhaha over Walker's $137 million budget repair bill all but shut down the Wisconsin state Legislature for weeks. It also drew protesters by the tens of thousands, among them union supporters and public employees, who called the proposed measure an attack on workers.