Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Collective Bargaining Bill

Thursday, May 26, 2011, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Sumi struck down the hotly contested collective bargaining bill ruling that Republicans in the State Senate had violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law. Judge Sumi concluded that the Republicans violated the law because they did not give at least two hours notice to the public. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on June 6, 2011. Republicans hope the Supreme Court will overturn Judge Sumi’s ruling and reinstate the law.Supporters of the collective bargaining bill cite the Open Meetings Law Compliance Guide that states, “the open meetings law applies to the state Legislature, including the senate, assembly, and any committees or subunits of those bodies. Wis. Stat. § 19.87. The open meetings law…does not apply where it conflicts with a rule of the Legislature, senate, or assembly Wis. Stat. § 19.87(2).” Supporters of the bill argue that because Wisconsin Senate Rule 93(2) which instructs, “[n]o notice of hearing before a committee shall be required other than posting on the legislative bulletin board, and no bulletin of committee hearings shall be published,” conflicts with the open meetings law, and therefore trumps the open meetings law 2 hour notice requirement.

The State Senate does have the option of passing the bill again. However, this opens up the possibility that Senate Democrats will again flee, or that Republicans facing recall may be hesitant to pass this bill; the bill that gave rise to their recall.

Read Judge Sumi’s 33 page decision here.

This post was authored by Hamilton Consulting Group’s intern Lane Oling, a 2L at the University of Wisconsin Law School.