MADISON, Wis (WSAU - Wheeler News) Wisconsin public school and local government employees were dealt a blow this morning by the State Supreme Court. On a 5-to-2 vote the justices threw out previous rulings from Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas -- who said that the Act-10 public union bargaining limits did not apply to local and school unions. It was among several lawsuits which challenged the constitutionality of Act-10, Governor Scott Walker's signature legislation from 2011 which banned collective bargaining except for pay raises at-or-above inflation.
Justice Michael Gableman wrote the lead opinion, which was also signed by Justices David Prosser, Pat Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. Justice Patrick Crooks concurred but wrote a separate opinion. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh-Bradley dissented.
The majority opinion says, in part, "No matter the limitations or burdens a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation. The First Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect."
Today's ruling was the final one pending in the state and federal courts -- and Republicans won them all. They can now claim full victory over preserving Act-10, as Walker and most G-O-P lawmakers run for re-election this fall.
After massive protests in 2011, Walker was put up for recall the following year over Act-10 -- and he became the first governor in U-S history to survive such an effort. Today's ruling could also put a feather in Walker's cap nationally, where conservatives regard him as a hero for taking on public unions. Therefore, today's ruling could be a boost to Walker's possible presidential bid for 2016.
Democratic challenger Mary Burke recently said she would try to restore many of the bargaining aspects of Act-10, while leaving the higher employee health and retirement contribution requirements in place.
In separate cases, the state's highest court also upheld Wisconsin's voter ID law and the state's same-sex domestic partner registry. Both of those issues have separate cases pending in federal court which could surpass today's rulings.