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The Nation

March 29, 2011

Fight over Wis. union law heads to court

MADISON, Wis. — With Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration insisting a new law eliminating most of state workers' collective bargaining rights had gone into effect and other state and municipal leaders disputing that, many were looking to a Tuesday court hearing for some kind of clarity.

The latest over the collective bargaining law began Friday when the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau published the law by posting it on a website, and Walker said that was all that was needed for it to take effect. Typically, a law goes into effect when it's published by the secretary of state, but Democrat Doug La Follette had been prevented from taking action by a temporary restraining order.

The state had appealed that restraining order, but on Monday, the Justice Department led by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked to withdraw its appeal and cancel the Tuesday hearing, saying the whole thing was moot now that the law had been published.

Walker's administration said it was moving to implement the law Republicans pushed through earlier this month despite massive protests that drew up to 85,000 people to the state Capitol and a boycott by Democratic state senators. Along with removing most of public employees' collective bargaining rights, the new law requires them to pay more for their health insurance and pensions, which amounts to an 8 percent pay cut.

Walker's top aide, Mike Huebsch, said the administration was preparing a computer program to take out the new deductions and stop the deduction of union dues on paychecks state workers will receive April 21. The Department of Administration would stop that work if a court determined the law didn't take effect Saturday, Huebsch added.

But La Follette, the head of the office that posted the law, the Madison city attorney and others maintained the law is not in effect until the secretary of state acts.

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