Wisconsin court blocks anti-union bill (for now)

WISCONSIN COURT BLOCKS ANTI-UNION BILL (FOR NOW)…. About two weeks ago, under procedurally awkward circumstances, Wisconsin Republicans rammed through Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union-busting proposal. Almost immediately, critics argued, among other things, that the process violated the state’s open-meeting laws.

Today, a Wisconsin judge, at least for now, agreed.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order Friday, barring the publication of Gov. Scott Walker’s law that would sharply curtail collective bargaining for public employees.

Sumi’s order will prevent Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law — and allowing it to take effect — until she can rule on the merits of the case. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne is seeking to block the law because he says a legislative committee violated the state’s open meetings law in passing the measure, which Walker signed on Friday.

Sumi said Ozanne was likely to succeed on the merits.

“It seems to me the public policy behind effective enforcement of the open meeting law is so strong that it does outweigh the interest, at least at this time, which may exist in favor of sustaining the validity of the (law),” she said.

The measure did not literally become law when Walker put his signature on it. The anti-union bill still needed to be published by the Wisconsin Secretary of State’s office, which today was blocked from doing so. In other words, for right now, the measure is not state law, and the judge appears likely to conclude that the process was, in fact, illegitimate.

For critics of the effort, that’s the good news. The bad news is, the ruling is based on procedural concerns — Republicans were supposed to jump through certain hoops in order to pass the legislation properly. Apparently, they didn’t.

But they still can. If the legal process plays out, and the courts all agree that GOP officials violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law, Republicans will very likely start over, jump through the right procedural hoops, and simply do all of this again.

Of course, if/when that happens, will we also see a replay of the protests and quorum avoidance from Democrats, workers, and their allies? That seems fairly likely.

For now, however, the legal process will continue. Judge Sumi will hear arguments in earnest, and her ruling will likely be appealed.

In the meantime, CNN’s Erick Erickson has argued, “If the judge in Wisconsin wants to play, the GOP should impeach her and up the ante.”

And the effort to take the right seriously is dealt another setback.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.