UPDATE: Public employee unions filed a lawsuit today to block implementation of the budget repair bill and sweeping changes to public sector unions and collective bargaining, according to this report on JSOnline.com.
The lawsuit filed by six unions, including AFL-CIO and WEAC, is posted on WisPolitics.com. The suit does not seek to overturn the increased health and pension contributions but does move to protect bargaining over all economic and non-economic working conditions for public employees.
In a blow to Wisconsin's public employee unions, the state Supreme Court late Tuesday that a committee of Republican lawmakers violated open meetings laws when they approved the budget repair bill that strips workers of most bargaining rights.
As of result of the ruling, all of the provisions of the bill will be put into place and previous rulings by Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi, who struck down the legislation, are overturned.
In its ruling Tuesday, the high court said the lower court "exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers...and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the act."
Furthermore, the justices wrote, the legislative conference committee that approved the budget repair bill in March and sent it to the full Legislature did not violate the state's open meetings law.
"The doors of the Senate parlor, where the joint committee on conference met, were open to the press and members of the public... Access was not denied," the court said in its opinion. "There is no constitutional requirement that the legislature provide access to as many members of the public as wish to attend meetings of the legislature or meetings of legislative committees."
Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers say the budget repair bill's provisions that require many pubic workers to pay more toward the cost of health insurance and pensions is a need to ease Wisconsin's budget crisis.
In a one-sentence statement Tuesday, the governor simply said: "The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again."
In a joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said the high court's ruling "wasn't much of a surprise."
“We’ve been saying since Day One that Republicans passed the budget repair bill correctly, so frankly this isn't much of a surprise. We followed the law when the bill was passed, simple as that," they said.
“We're finally headed in the right direction by balancing the budget and focusing on jobs, just like Republicans promised we would do," they added.
However, the ruling was quickly blasted by the SEIU State Council, a union that represents about 18,000 public employees in Wisconsin.
“The state Supreme Court has sided with Walker and the Republicans who unlawfully stole workers’ rights and put our state in an excessive economic crisis,” said Mike Thomas, SEIU Wisconsin State Council president.
Thomas added that the union's focus now will be to change the makeup of the Senate by attempting to recall six GOP incumbents.
“Although Wisconsin workers and their families are deeply ashamed and troubled by the court’s ruling, the fight is not over," he said. "Now more than ever Wisconsinites are committed to holding Walker and his allies accountable, and will continue to work hard to recall the six Republican senators.
"We are confident that workers and their families will once again be represented in the legislature by a pro-worker, pro-family Senate," he added.