Wis. judge halts implementation of bargaining law

TODD RICHMOND - Associated Press
The Associated Press
Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette listens to Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar make her opening arguments at a hearing in front of Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, March 29, 2011. With Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration insisting a new law eliminating most of state workers' collective bargaining rights had gone into effect and other state and municipal leaders disputing that, many were looking to today's court hearing for some kind of clarity. (AP Photo/Michael P. King, Pool)
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Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette listens to Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar make her opening arguments at a hearing in front of Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, March 29, 2011. With Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration insisting a new law eliminating most of state workers' collective bargaining rights had gone into effect and other state and municipal leaders disputing that, many were looking to today's court hearing for some kind of clarity.

A Wisconsin judge on Tuesday barred state officials from any further implementation of a law that strips most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued an emergency injunction prohibiting enactment of the law earlier this month. But the Legislative Reference Bureau published the law anyway on Friday.

Publication is typically the last step before a law takes effect, but it's unclear if the bureau's action amounted to that; the law's supporters say it did, but opponents say the secretary of state had to designate a publication date.

Sumi stopped short of issuing a declaration saying the law was not in effect during a hearing Tuesday but said her earlier order had either been ignored or misunderstood. She said anyone who violates the new order would face sanctions.

State Department of Justice spokesman Steve Means said the agency believes the law was properly published and is in effect.

Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker, who wrote most of the collective bargaining law, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, Walker's top aide, issued a statement saying the agency will evaluate the judge's order.

"We will continue to confer with our legal counsel and have more information about how to move forward in the near future," Huebsch said.

The law requires most public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance. It also strips away their rights to collectively bargain for anything except wages.