Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen told a state appeals court that a state agency’s Internet posting of a contested law limiting public employee collective- bargaining rights has rendered moot litigation to block it.
Van Hollen, a Republican, said in a statement today he is also asking Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi to vacate a temporary restraining order she issued on March 18, preventing Secretary of State Doug La Follette from giving the measure full force and effect by printing notice of it in a state newspaper.
While Van Hollen had appealed Sumi’s ruling, the state’s Legislative Research Bureau, which wasn’t bound by that order, posted a copy of the legislation signed by Republican Governor Scott Walker on its website on March 25.
“Because the law is in force, the appeal, which was based on the harm caused by enjoining the legislative process, is moot,” Van Hollen said. The attorney general said his office had also asked Sumi to vacate her order for the same reason.
The legislation, championed by the first-term Republican governor, requires annual recertification votes for union representation and makes payment of union dues voluntary. The measure exempts firefighters and police officers.
Under the new law, state workers would contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries toward pensions and pay 12.6 percent of their health insurance costs. The legislation would generate $30 million in savings this fiscal year and $300 million in the following two years, the governor has said.
Attack on Workers
Democrats and organized labor called the bill an attack on workers. Opposition to the legislation sparked almost four weeks of mass protests around and inside the Capitol.
Acting on complaints by three public officials and a state employees’ union leader, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed suit arguing the legislation was created in violation of minimum notice requirements in the state’s open- meetings law.
Sumi’s March 18 temporary order was granted in response to Ozanne’s request. Wisconsin’s capital city, Madison, is also the Dane County seat.
The prosecutor didn’t immediately reply to e-mail and telephone requests for comment.
A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow on Ozanne’s request for a preliminary injunction that would block implementation of the challenged law until the legislators named as defendants are no longer in session and immune from being sued.
The prosecutor’s case is State of Wisconsin Ex Rel. Ozanne v. Fitzgerald, 11cv1244, Dane County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court (Madison). The appellate case is Ozanne v. Fitzgerald, 2011AP613-LV, Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District 4 (Madison).
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