Mary Bottari is the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy’s Real Economy Project and editor of the www.BanksterUSA.org site for bank busting activists.
Today, Wisconsin Judge Maryann Sumi ruled Governor Scott Walker's "budget repair bill," which would eviscerate collective bargaining rights for most public workers in the state, "null and void."
Sumi ruled that lawmakers clearly violated the state's open meetings law in their rush to pass the bill at the height of the capitol protests and that the public interest in the enforcement of the state's open records law outweighed the public interest in sustaining legislative action.
Back in March, the Walker "budget repair bill" was stuck in limbo because 14 Democratic Senators left the state to prevent action on the bill. For fiscal bills, a supermajority is needed for final passage. On March 9, Republican lawmakers -- led by Scott Fitzgerald in the Senate and Jeff Fitzgerald in the Assembly -- pulled a fast one. They stripped the bill of fiscal items and hastily convened a Joint Conference Committee to vote on the legislation. Rather than meeting in a standard committee room, the conference committee jammed into the tiny, ornate Senate Parlor with a dozen or so members of the media and a few members of the public.
Because less than two hours notice was given, the "Wisconsin 14" were still out of state and could not make it back in time. Facebook and Twitter ensured that thousands rushed to the capitol building, but they could not get in due to the restrictive door access implemented by the Republicans.
The only Democrat assigned to the committee who could attend was Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), who famously stood in the tense Senate Parlor calmly reading a legal memo from the current Republican Attorney General advising legislators to grant 24 hours notice before important meetings.
In the dramatic footage that was played on national television, Barca repeats over and over, "this meeting is in violation of the open meetings law," while in the background you can clearly hear the chants of "shame, shame, shame" from the crowds gathering under the Senate Parlor window. While many were livid, some were quietly in tears in complete disbelief that they were locked out of the building during a vote that would affect the lives and livelihoods of 300,000 workers across the state. It was the single most dramatic day of the Wisconsin protests.
Today, Barca was proved right.
"Today's decision by Judge Sumi restores Wisconsin's long tradition of open government. This ruling sets an important precedent that when the Legislature meets, the people must have a seat at the table. This is a huge victory for Wisconsin democracy," said Barca. Sumi ruled the evidence was "clear and convincing" that a conference committee failed to comply with the law which requires 24 hours notice of meetings. She said that they had not even provided the two hours notice, which is sometimes acceptable in emergencies.
"This case is the exemplar of values protected by the Open Meetings Law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government, and respect for the rule of law," Sumi wrote. "It is not the court's business to determine whether 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 is good public policy or bad public policy; that is the business of the Legislature. It is this court's responsibility, however, to apply the rule of law to the facts before it."
Predictably, the Fitzgerald brothers did not take the ruling humbly. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said in a statement: "Act 10 was passed and signed into law in accordance with the rules of the state legislature. I remain confident that the Wisconsin State Supreme Court will rule accordingly and Act 10 will become law."
Apparently, the Fitzgerald brothers are waiting on their friends on the Supreme Court to get them out of the situation they are in rather than properly passing the bill a second time. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that they simply no longer have the votes. Six Republican Senators face recall elections this summer. A second vote might fan the flames of an already angry populace who is ready and willing to replace Governor Walker, according to polls released earlier in the week. Voters say that if the election were held today, they would pick former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold over Walker by a 52-32 margin.
With one third of the Wisconsin Senate up for recall and with the first elections scheduled for July 12, it is certain that there are many more dramatic days ahead in this battle for the future of Wisconsin.
January 28th, 2014
In the State of the Union address tonight, President Obama is going to call for a national minimum wage of $10.10. Then in their response ...
January 21st, 2014
My New Year's Day op-ed in the New York Times seems to have kickstarted a discussion about how to make Obamacare better. I hope you ...
December 18th, 2013
This morning it was announced by the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board that my first film, 'Roger & Me', has been ...
December 14th, 2013
[View the story "Michael Moore Tweets on Eve of Newtown Anniversay" on Storify]
November 9th, 2013
Click here for this week's full schedule for the State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay in Traverse City, Michigan. The day has arrived. For ...
September 10th, 2013
[View the story "John Kerry's Accidental Diplomacy" on Storify]
July 30th, 2013
Today Bradley Manning was convicted on 20 of 22 counts, including violating the Espionage Act, releasing classified information and disobeying orders. That's the bad news. ...
September 11th, 2010
OpenMike 9/11/10 Michael Moore's daily blog I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero. I want it built on ...
December 14th, 2010
Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that ...
May 12th, 2011
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we're not like them. We're Americans. We roll different." – Michael Moore in ...
November 22nd, 2011
This past weekend I participated in a four-hour meeting of Occupy Wall Street activists whose job it is to come up with the vision and ...
September 22nd, 2011
I encourage everyone I know to never travel to Georgia, never buy anything made in Georgia, to never do business in Georgia. I will ask ...
December 16th, 2010
Dear Swedish Government: Hi there -- or as you all say, Hallå! You know, all of us here in the U.S. love your country. Your ...
November 2nd, 2010
This letter contains (almost) no criticisms of how the Democrats have brought this day of reckoning upon themselves. That -- and where to go from ...