Wisconsin’s highest court upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial legislation on collective bargaining and Voter ID Thursday morning.
In a 5-2 ruling, the State Supreme Court ruled the 2011 legislation, Act 10, which affected public employees’ union rights, constitutional.
“These issues are always emotionally charged, especially in turbulent times, but perhaps nowhere are these topics more controversial or sensitive than in the State of Wisconsin,” the ruling said.
Act 10, passed to address the state’s budget deficit, resulted in a series of large Capitol protests in 2011 and was followed by a lawsuit against Walker.
According to the ruling, while public employees maintain the right to speak and petition openly and freely under the First Amendment, there is no obligation from the government to listen or respond with negotiation.
In a statement following the ruling, Walker said Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion.
However, Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement the ruling will negatively impact Wisconsin’s communities by preventing negotiations for fair wages and safe working conditions.
“Today’s anti-worker ruling was not surprising considering the partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court that, time and time again, has acted more like politicians in robes than as impartial arbiters of the law,” Larson said.
Additionally, the courts upheld the voter ID laws in a 4-3 decision.
The court’s ruling concluded that the State Legislature did not overstep its authority with the identification requirements.
Opponents of this legislation, including the League of Women Voter’s who filed the suit, claim the voter ID laws could hinder the votes of lower-income citizens, young voters and elderly voters, who are more likely to vote Democratic.
Nonetheless, the ruling said the “requirement to present photo identification is a reasonable regulation that could improve and modernize election procedures, safeguard voter confidence in the outcome of elections and deter voter fraud.”
The laws are still ineffective until federal courts make a decision, according to a statement from the League of Women Voters.
There are an estimated 300,000 registered Wisconsin citizens who do not possess one of the acceptable forms of identification implemented by this law, the statement said.
“We are disappointed that a majority of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices did not agree with the League of Women Voters or the growing numbers of federal judges who have recently found that strict voter ID laws are more likely to prevent thousands of qualified citizens from voting than to deter the extremely small number of potential illegal votes,” Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League said in the statement.
However, Walker said the Voter ID is a “common sense” reform, adding he looks forward to the federal court of appeals reaching the same decision.
The legitimacy of domestic partnerships in Wisconsin was also challenged today in court. While the court decided that domestic partnerships and marriage are not equal, it ruled that same-sex domestic partners have similar rights regardless of the federal court’s decision on the state’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
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