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WI: Week in Review — Ruling brings Act 10 to the forefront … again

By   /   September 21, 2012  /   1 Comment

By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Just when you thought the furor over Act 10 collective bargaining changes had died down, Judge Juan Colas steps in.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Hundreds of protesters converged on the Wisconsin Capitol in 2011 protesting passage of Act 10, which reformed collective bargaining for unionized public sector workers.

Colas, from the Dane County Circuit Court, last Friday ruled that parts of Act 10 are unconstitutional, reigniting a battle that had largely slowed to a simmer and, potentially, throwing local budgets into turmoil.

So Act 10 once again dominated the political news this week, in between reports of new polls that show Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race has been turned on its head and President Barack Obama seems to be doing well in the state.

Impact of a ruling

Just more than a year ago, Madison Teachers Inc. (the Madison teachers’ union) and Public Employees Local 61 filed a lawsuit arguing that provisions of Act 10 were unconstitutional, in part, because the Act only capped union workers’ salary hikes, but not those of nonunion workers.

Last Friday, Colas agreed, saying the Act violates free speech, free association and equal representation rights guaranteed in the constitution.

That, in theory, enables public employee to negotiate contracts that include raises bigger than cost-of-living adjustments.

Dane County took swift action on that this week when the county board signed off a contact extension with five local unions that maintains much of what already was approved through 2014.

But the legal wrangling is far from over. There still is the appeals process, and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has asked Colas to stay the ruling so it won’t be in effect while higher courts consider the lawsuit.

Colas’ decision could take a few weeks.

Meanwhile, local governments are drawing up budgets without knowing, for sure, how to account for savings passed under Act 10 that might ultimately, now, be ruled unconstitutional.

Sue Schnorr, director of business services for the Fond du Lac School District, said it’s a game of wait-and-see.

“I don’t see anything we can do at this point. We’re just following the news and holding out to see what happens,” she said.

Oh, yes, elections are coming up

Not to be forgotten, the November elections that will decide which party controls Congress and the White House are less than seven weeks away.

That can be an eternity in politics, but Democrats got a string of good news this week to indicate that, as of this moment, their chances of keeping a Senate majority and the presidency are improving.

In Wisconsin, 2nd Congressional District Rep. Tammy Baldwin, has taken a nine-point lead against her GOP opponent, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, according to the Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday.

Her 50-41 lead among likely voters flips the results of the August poll, in which Thompson was ahead by nine points.

The Marquette poll also shows Obama leading GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 14 points, a big jump from the three-point lead Obama had a month earlier.

Marquette interviewed 601 likely voters. The margin of error was 4.1 percentage points.

Baldwin’s and Obama’s leads in the Marquette poll are significantly larger than in other recent polls, but the trend line for the Democrats, overall, has been positive.

A new Swing State Poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, the New York Times and CBS News shows the Senate race tied at 47 percent and Obama with a six-point lead in Wisconsin, 51-45.

And according to a new Fox News poll, Obama is ahead of Romney by seven points in Ohio and Virginia, and by five points in Florida.

Analysts say this has been one of Romney’s toughest weeks:

  • He was criticized for seemingly attacking the Obama administration’s foreign policy immediately after the Libya attack.
  • Politico then published a report alleging internal problems in the Romney campaign.
  • And then came the leaked video in which, speaking to donors, Romney characterized the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax as “dependent upon government,” saying they “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Worth repeating …

“We’re broke. We have no money.” – Tommy Thompson, explaining why his campaign has been low-key since he won the Aug. 14 GOP primary.

Contact Adshead at kadshead@wisconsinreporter.com

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  • PhilEngamer

    At the end of the day, this was a gross overreach by Judge Colas, which has little chance of standing up once it moves to the state Supreme Court (http://bit.ly/Q25kiu). All this ruling does is essentially waste more time and money as we wait for it to be inevitably overturned.