One of the foundations that makes our government work, be it at the local, state, or federal level is that the process for making laws must be uniform and fair. The reason for this is that if all the players understand the rules, and follow them accordingly regardless of the outcome, no one can claim they were not treated fairly. While there can be, and often are, extreme differences over policy directions there should never be a time when the process itself is shredded in order to favor one partisan group over the other.
During my time in government while working in the Wisconsin State Assembly I saw the process play out over and over. It is a most remarkable process, and one that has proven over time to work. Sometimes my side were the victors, and at other times we came up short. But I never recall when the process itself was the result of the anger among the players.
Until this past winter when the conservative Republican forces that seemingly can not play fair, or shoot straight attempted at every turn and bend in the road to ram down the throats of this state a bill to severely curtail collective bargaining rights for state workers and public employees.
It was jarring to me as I saw the shortened voting procedure in the Assembly when the Republican leadership did not even hold the roll open long enough to get all of their own votes tallied. The open meeting fiasco that led to the legal challenges were not only the last straw for most of my fellow citizens, but perhaps the worst political theatrics I have heard about in the Wisconsin Statehouse. Mind you, I have seen and followed my share of events over the decades. Nothing reeked as much as what the Republicans were doing to the process this winter.
Today, then, the only outcome that could take place happened.
A Dane County judge has struck down a law taking away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most state workers.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled on Thursday that Republican legislators violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law during the run up passing the controversial measure. She said that renders the law void.
In her ruling, Sumi said that there was “no conflicting Senate, Assembly or joint rule in effect on March 9, 2011, that would have excused compliance with the public notice requirement” of 24 hours notice. She went on to say, “The evidence also demonstrated a failure to obey even the two-hour notice allowed for good cause if 24-hour notice is impossible or impractical.”
It should be noted all along that Judge Sumi stated that all Governor Walker and his Republican allies needed to do was pass another collective bargaining bill, in a proper and legal way. That the GOP is nervous as hell about this route, and know the results that will follow is not the concern of the courts. That is a political matter that the people of this state will handle.
The process of government is important, and it is quite marvelous when looked at closely. It works as a system for passing bills and making laws. However, when it is tampered with and made to be the object of partisan chicanery it can become dangerous, and even force a judge to straighten it out.
Today the political process was the victor in Wisconsin thanks to Judge Sumi.