[JURIST] A Wisconsin judge on Friday struck down [opinion, PDF] a controversial law [text, PDF] that limits the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions. Juan Colas, a judge for the Dane County Circuit Court [official website], held [AP report] that the collective bargaining law, known as the Budget Repair Bill, violated union workers' rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association and equal protection under the US and Wisconsin constitutions. The Budget Repair Bill forces most state workers to pay more in health insurance and other benefits and compels unions to be recertified each year [Reuters report]. Reaction to the court's decision was mixed. State Assembly leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) [official website] called the decision a "huge victory for Wisconsin workers" [Milwaukee Journal Sentinal report]. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker [official website] said that while he was disappointed [press release] with the Circuit Court's ruling, he remained confident that the Budget Repair Bill will be upheld on appeal.
The Budget Repair Bill has been the subject of copious legal and political controversy since its passage in March 2011. In July the Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website] refused to reopen a case challenging the Budget Repair Bill because of a justice's refusal to recuse himself [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court's upholding of the Budget Repair Bill overruled a Dane County Circuit Court's decision [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] last year that struck down the law for violations of the open meetings rule. The law had previously been temporarily blocked [JURIST report] from publication and implementation by the same judge. The bill, which limits collective bargaining rights of state employees and requires them to contribute a percentage of their salaries to their health care and pensions, was signed into law [JURIST report] in March of last year.