A Wisconsin circuit court judge on Thursday voided a state law that would require pension contributions from most state and local employees as well as limit their collective bargaining rights, saying the legislation was passed in violation of state open-meetings requirements.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi didn’t rule on the merits of the law championed by first-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker. She said lawmakers could still pass the measure if they abide by public-notice rules.
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court on June 6 will hear arguments on whether it can take control of the case and, if warranted, dismiss it. Firefighters and police officers are exempt from the law.
“This case is an exemplar of values protected by the open meetings law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government and respect for rule of law,” Ms. Sumi wrote in her decision.
Ms. Sumi halted enforcement of the legislation on March 18 after the suit was filed by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, alleging the law was drafted in violation of the open meetings law. She later declared the law wasn’t in force.
Mr. Ozanne accused four Republican lawmakers of violating the law when they gathered on less than two hours’ notice to craft a legislative measure that was then passed by both houses and signed by Mr. Walker. In Thursday’s decision, Ms. Sumi said the legislature could have remedied the violation by holding another meeting at a public location and giving proper notice.
Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Mr. Walker, said in an e-mail that the governor’s office had no comment on the decision.
The three systems affected by the legislation are the $79.8 billion Wisconsin Retirement System, the $4.5 billion Milwaukee City Employes’ Retirement System and the $2.1 billion Milwaukee County Employees’ Retirement System.
Almost all contributions have previously been paid by government employers. In 2009, WRS contributions totaled $1.3 billion, including $16.4 million paid by employees.