Considering the immense amount of opposition Gov. Scott Walker has faced regarding his controversial collective bargaining rights bill, it should come as no surprise that enacting the bill into law would be an equally torturous journey. That is exactly what is happening.
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the bill, leading many to believe this bill will not become law until the Supreme Court rules on it. Matters became even more complicated on Tuesday, when Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi reiterated her court order prohibiting Secretary of State Doug LaFollette from publishing the law. Sumi threatened a court order sanction against anyone who disobeyed her, but the Legislative Reference Bureau had already published the law on their website last week. Sumi must decide if Republican leaders violated state laws during debate about the law, and now she must rule on whether the bill actually became a law.
All this is going on while an appeals court has already asked the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the bill. And the chaos is further exacerbated if you place the whole situation inside a frame that consists of Walker and his GOP allies in combat with Democrats and all of the state’s furious public workers.
So what does it all mean, Basil?
Rather than ruling on whether this law has indeed been enacted, Judge Sumi took a hard lined stance against further publication, which is nice and all, but fails to elucidate what the hell is actually going on.
So is it a law or not? No one really knows, and it seems as if Sumi is more concerned with publication and her power than addressing the underlying issue at hand. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is it not a judge’s job to clear up misunderstandings about the law, or better yet, to elucidate what is and is not law, and then make a firm, crystal-clear statement about it?
Although the jury is still out, it seems Sumi may have dropped the ball on this one. While the courts are squabbling over what is and what is not, the Walker administration has used this ambiguity as a loophole to effect the payroll changes implied in this bill. Those changes will impact public employees’ April 21 paychecks.
The law will defer money from public paychecks to help pay for rising health care costs and pensions while ridding public payrolls of union fee deductions. When all is said and done, union workers will realize an approximate 8-percent loss in pay, which is substantial for working class families in these economic times. Many of these working class families live paycheck to paycheck.
Not surprisingly, Walker’s corner has garnered criticism for proceeding bullishly by continuing ahead as if the law was in place. Many have perceived that such actions intimate a general disregard for Wisconsin jurisprudence, and that Walker is trying to get his bill signed into law the very same way he pressed the bill at the Capitol.
This may be unequivocally true. Walker has yet to champion the posterity of the legal process. It would not be wise to hold one’s breath until he does; however, the angle his administration is taking is a smart one, whether one agrees with it or not. Walker is exploiting the courts’ incompetence and adroitly accomplishing what he set out to do – save $330 million for the state through worker contributions.
The parties involved can make neither heads nor tails of this murky situation and we cannot look to our leaders for civil negotiation because they are paralyzed by political polarization. Walker is sticking with his power play by effecting these changes in such an unprecedented way, but considering what he faced to sign this bill over in the first place, the angle he is now taking makes perfect sense.
UW Political Science professor Charles Franklin said these strategies may frame Walker as arrogant. Walker, it’s safe to say, probably enjoys the look. UW law professor Howard Schweber adds, if the state begins deducting money from workers’ checks in April, then Walker will definitely be in contempt of court. Amazingly, it seems appearing arrogant and bullish, as well as legally in contempt, may be preferable to running the risk of getting this bill thrown out and starting from scratch – it is unlikely Walker is prepared to deal with another 85,000 protesters banging at his front door telling him to go to hell.
Dennis O’Reilly (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in economics.