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Judge delays decision on union lawsuit (UPDATE)

Judge Maryann Sumi listens to arguments during a hearing on March 18 in Dane County Circuit Court in Madison. Sumi, on Wednesday, said she will make a decision in a day or two on another lawsuit challenging Gov. Scott Walkers collective bargaining law. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Mark Hoffman)

Judge Maryann Sumi listens to arguments during a hearing on March 18 in Dane County Circuit Court in Madison. Sumi, on Wednesday, said she will make a decision in a day or two on another lawsuit challenging Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining law. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Mark Hoffman)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An attorney for the state of Wisconsin argued Wednesday that a lawsuit challenging Gov. Scott Walker’s divisive collective bargaining law should be dismissed because it is not ripe given that the law has not yet taken effect.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said she would issue a written ruling in a day or two.

Sumi put the law on hold indefinitely earlier this month while she considers a separate lawsuit by the Dane County district attorney that alleges the Legislature violated the state open meetings law in the process of passing the bill last month.

The case argued Wednesday was filed by Democratic Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. She alleged both that lawmakers broke the open meetings law and violated the constitution by passing the bill without the proper quorum.

Republicans said they stripped spending items from the bill so it could pass with the lower quorum requirement while all 14 Senate Democrats were on the run in Illinois. Falk alleges spending items remained, requiring at least 20 senators to be present for the vote.

Attorney Joseph Olson, arguing Wednesday for the Department of Justice, said because the law has not yet taken effect per Sumi’s earlier decision, the constitutional violations alleged are not yet ripe for the court to consider.

In the other case, Sumi blocked Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law, the last step before it takes effect, while she considered whether there was an open meetings law violation.

Depending on the outcome of the other case, there may never be a law, Olson said. He also argued that because it is a political subdivision of the state, Dane County has no standing to bring the lawsuit.

But Falk’s attorney Marcia MacKenzie urged the judge to look at the larger issues at play.

“The underlying process that led to the enactment of (the law) violated basic constitutional principles,” MacKenzie said. “The people must be protected.”

The law in question takes away nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers and also forces state employees to contribute more toward their pension and health care benefits, amounting to an 8 percent pay cut. Those deductions were supposed to have started earlier this month but are on hold per Sumi’s earlier ruling.

The Walker administration is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to dismiss that lawsuit and undo the order putting the law on hold. The court has not said whether it will take the case or not.

Sumi gave attorneys until May 23 to make additional arguments in the case brought by the district attorney, delaying a decision for months. She said she would make a decision on whether to dismiss Falk’s lawsuit in a day or two.

Republican legislators passed the law in March despite a bitter standoff that resulted in 14 Senate Democrat fleeing to Illinois for three weeks and pro-union protests that drew as many as 85,000 people to the Capitol.

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