Parisi: 'These demonized public employees take care of our sick, elderly, and disabled.'
The announcement that Wisconsin's divisive collective bargaining law was declared null and void generated a flood of news releases, tweets and Facebook posts today -- some in support of, and some in opposition to Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi's 33-page ruling. The legal battle over the legislation, which eliminates most forms of collective bargaining for public employees -- except for police and firefighters -- is far from over, as the decision will likely be appealed and will start to be considered by the state Supreme Court on June 6.
While the decision itself does not weigh in on the legality of the law itself, it is seen as a victory to those who opposed Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to limit public employees' ability to engage in collective bargaining, and a setback to those who supported the legislation. Sumi ruled that Republican legislators violated Wisconsin's open meetings law when it passed the legislation on March 9.
"Today's decision by Judge Sumi restores Wisconsin's long tradition of open government," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) in a news release. "This ruling sets an important precedent that when the legislature meets, the people must have a seat at the table. This is a huge victory for Wisconsin democracy."
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi agreed in his own news release (PDF): "Judge Sumi's ruling is a victory for good government and protecting the very fabric that holds our democracy together ... These demonized public employees take care of our sick, elderly, and disabled. They rescue children from abusive and life-threatening situations, keep our roads clear during blizzards and put their own lives in danger to protect us. They should be thanked, not attacked."
"Today, the Court confirmed what Wisconsinites knew all along -- that the manner in which the ban on collective bargaining was rammed down our throats was a gross violation of Wisconsin law. Justice has finally prevailed for now," said Chris Taylor, state Assembly candidate for the 48th District in a news release.
Some supporters of the ruling were more cautious in their celebration.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in a statement that he was "pleased, but not surprised" by the ruling, adding that the city of Madison expects that the decision will be appealed.
Not all reactions to the ruling were positive.
"There's still a much larger separation-of-powers issue: whether one Madison judge can stand in the way of the other two democratically-elected branches of government. The Supreme Court is going to have the ultimate ruling, and they're still scheduled to hear the issue on June 6," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) in a statement. "Republicans are keeping the promises we made to balance the budget, hold the line on government spending, create jobs and improve the state's economy."
David VanderLeest, who is running a recall campaign against Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), released a statement saying the battle is being "fought in the wrong arena" because while Republicans control the Assembly and the Senate, "Democrats control the courts."
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) also released a statement opposing Sumi's ruling, as did Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch.
Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas expressed concern that the ruling "perpetuates uncertainty as local governments enter a critical period where we are developing our 2012 budgets."
Several organizations also voiced their opinions on the ruling.
"Fourteen state senators had vamoosed to Illinois, refusing to come back for a final vote. The committee meeting was televised statewide. And thousands of union thugs jammed the state Capitol, shouting 'Shame, shame' and beating on bongo drums while the committee met. It is a travesty of justice to characterize this meeting as somehow 'secret' and out of public view," said Maureen Martin, senior fellow for legal affairs with the Heartland Institute, in a news release.
Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell said the following in a news release: "It is our hope that, in the wake of this ruling, state lawmakers will back down and will not take another run at this divisive legislation. It is not in the best interest of students, schools or Wisconsin's future to take the voices of educators out of our classrooms. We've seen how this issue has polarized our state."
The Wisconsin AFL-CIO, AFT-Wisconsin (PDF) and the SEIU Wisconsin State Council also issued statements reflecting their support of Sumi's decision. AFT-Wisconsin President Bryan Kennedy referred to Wisconsin as a "bruised state" due to the divisive nature of the legislation.
Advocacy groups One Wisconsin Now and We Are Wisconsin also released statements in favor of the ruling, as did Reps. Donna Seidel (D-Wausau), Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison) and Brett Hulsey (PDF) (D-Madison) and Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona).
"Today we celebrate a victory for Wisconsin workers, but the fight to protect working families is far from over," said Mike Thomas, SEIU Wisconsin State Council president.