Don't Worry - Act 10 Will Be Just Fine
Let's not bury the lead. Don't worry, Act 10 will be just fine.
Late last Friday, a first-term Dane County Judge issued a decision striking down a large portion of Act 10. Act 10 is, of course, the landmark legislation that limited the collective bargaining rights of various categories of public employees.
Governor Walker bemoaned the decision stating: "The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5th. Now, they are ready to move on. Sadly, a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backward and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the Legislature and the Governor." State Representative Robin Vos also decried the judicial activism of "a judge living in the fantasy world of Dane County ...".
I don't know anything about the Judge in question. Having read his opinion in its entirety though, I do think it is extremely unlikely to withstand appellate review.
For reasons that we'll discuss in detail on Monday's radio show, the decision strikes me as being extremely "Sumi-esque". That is, very result oriented with a couple of huge leaps based more on faith than on legal precedent.
Just like the implementation of Act 10 was delayed by the ruling of Judge Maryann Sumi (subsequently overruled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court), my sense is that Friday's decision will ultimately turn out to be nothing more than yet another Dane County speed bump on Wisconsin's road to fiscal sanity.
One thing does need to happen immediately however. The decision absolutely must be stayed pending appeal.
Maybe I'm wrong and Act 10 will ultimately be declared unconstitutional. Until the case is decided by a higher court though, it would be completely ridiculous to expect local municipalities to have to suddenly have to turn the clock back two years.
Seriously, how can a municipality be expected to begin bargaining with unions (that may or may not still exist) over issues that they may or may not be subject to collective bargaining? Talk about playing havoc with the budgeting process. Talk about chaos.
Through an accident of geography, the Act 10 cases (like the Voter ID cases) continue to be heard first in the Dane County Circuit Courts. At some point, this may inspire the Legislature to want to consider whether venue options for matters like this should be expanded. After all, why should cases of statewide import be the exclusive province of judges in Dane County as opposed to Walworth County or Brown County or the other 69 Wisconsin counties.
That's a discussion for another day though.
For now, don't worry. My best guess is that Act 10 will be just fine.