MADISON, Wis. A Wisconsin judge on Thursday did what thousands of pro-union protesters and boycotting Democratic lawmakers couldn't, halting Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plans at least temporarily to cut most public workers' pay and strip them of most of their union rights.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a declaration stating in no uncertain terms that the collective bargaining law that led to weeks of large protests at the state Capitol had not taken effect, contradicting Republican arguments that it had because a state office published it online. Hours later, Walker said his administration would comply, despite misgivings about the order.
"In my mind it's not a matter of if the law goes back (into effect), it's just a matter of when," Walker said.
Democrats and union leaders said Sumi's declaration showed the arrogance that Walker and his allies, including top aide, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, have shown in trying to push through the polarizing law.
"Mr. Walker and Mr. Huebsch chose to ignore her warning that they were jeopardizing the finances and stability of state government, apparently believing they are above the law. This morning with her added order she has taken away their last excuse," Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca said.
Republicans had bulldozed through every attempt to stop the law, including the ear-splitting protests, the Senate Democrats' attempt to prevent a vote by fleeing the state, and an earlier order from Sumi meant to stop its implementation while she considered a challenge to its legitimacy. But Sumi's declaration on Thursday put Walker and his legislative allies on the defensive, leaving them to decide between waiting for the legal challenge to be resolved and trying to pass the measure again.
The Republican leaders of the Senate and Assembly have said they don't plan to try passing the bill again after the Legislature resumes its session on Tuesday, but in a saga that has already included several strange twists, a change of heart wouldn't be surprising.