When a Dane County judge blocked the anti-collective bargaining bill from taking force on Friday, it bought much-needed time for labor's supporters in Wisconsin.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi, in a temporary restraining order, ruled that the Republican legislature likely violated the state open meetings law when it railroaded the bill through committee on March 9.
"We here in Wisconsin own our government," Judge Sumi said. "We own it in the sense that we are entitled to free and open access to government meetings."
The open meetings law requires 24-hour notice of legislative meetings, except in times of emergency. No such notice was given for this bill.
"This was something that would and did catch the public unaware," Sumi said. It "ended up being a closed session."
Sumi scheduled another hearing on the case for March 29.
The Republicans are appealing the decision.
They could decide to do a do-over and play according to the rules and pass the identical bill (or the one that includes drastic cuts in take-home pay for public sector workers). But that would require more raucous hearings, which could embarrass them again.
And if they proceed in the courts, time may be on labor's side.
There's an election on April 5 for a state supreme court seat. The court now tilts rightward, by a 4-3 margin. Labor is hoping challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg beats Republican David Prosser to add a check on Republican power.
Then there are the recalls of Republican state senators. Signatures are already being collected, and the recall elections may happen within a couple of months.
If three Republican senators are ousted, then that chamber flips to the Democratic side, and the Walker assault could be thwarted.
So labor is now seeing how long it can hold its breath.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Wisconsin Teacher in Apparent Suicide, "Distraught" Over Walker's Cuts."
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