As has been the case virtually from the beginning, the Associated Press's Scott Bauer has been clearly unhappy with 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, commonly known even to the Wisconsin Supreme Court as the "Budget Repair Bill." Today, the court ruled that the law as enacted by the Badger State's legislature and signed by Governor Scott Walker can go into effect on July 1.
Looking back at what's available of Bauer's body of work on the matter during the past four months, his consistent mischaracterization of the bill's contents, saying that it would "eliminate collective bargaining" when it doesn't (shown here and here), is truly striking. What's even more striking (pun intended) is how he and his employer described the law in the report's headline and first sentence in at least one early version this evening:
Wisconsin's Polarizing Union Law To Take Effect
The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Republican Gov. Scott Walker a major victory on Tuesday, ruling that a polarizing union law could take effect that strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she said Republican lawmakers violated the state's open meetings statutes in the run-up to passage of the legislation and declared the law void.
The law, which eliminates most of public employees' collective bargaining rights and requires them to pay more for their health care and pensions, sparked weeks of protests when Walker introduced it in February. Tens of thousands of demonstrators occupied the state Capitol for weeks, thrusting Wisconsin to the forefront of a national debate over labor rights.
Walker claimed that the law was needed to help address the state's $3.6 billion budget shortfall and give local governments enough flexibility on labor costs to deal with deep cuts to state aid.
Democrats saw it as an attack on public employee unions, which usually back their party's candidates. Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to try to prevent a vote on the measure, but Republicans got around the maneuver by convening a special committee to remove fiscal elements from the bill and allow a Senate vote with fewer members present. Walker signed the plan into law two days later.
A later and longer version of the report (saved here at my web host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) at the AP's home site, now neutrally headlined "Court allows Wisconsin's union law to take effect," has Bauer's byline, as did the original it replaced.
Paragraph 16 of the later report directly contradicts Bauer's still-present early-paragraph assertion that Judge Sumi in Dane County "overstepped her bounds":
In vacating Sumi's ruling, the Supreme Court said she had "usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature."
Scott, this means that Sumi never had the authority to do what she did, not that she "overstepped." Specifically, the court said in Paragraph 9 of its ruling that Sumi's court had "exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers under Article IV, Section 1 and Section 17 of the Wisconsin Constitution, and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the Act." In other words, Sumi had as much authority to rule the Budget Repair bill void as an NCAA basketball referee in the stands at a pro football game has to come down onto the field and overrule NFL officials, i.e., none.
In the longer 7:06 p.m report, Bauer also writes that "The Supreme Court's ruling will likely be the precursor to an avalanche of lawsuits and legal challenges that couldn't be brought until the law took effect." While not underestimating the ability of the state's "progressives" to create mischief, this seems like an overstatement of the post-enactment situation, especially given that the Supreme Court would likely remain aligned at least 4-3 in challenges appearing before it (hey, if "objective reporter" Bauer can speculate and call his speculation "likely," so can I).
It's also telling that in an item concerning legal matters, Bauer "somehow" forgot to tell readers that the Democrats who fled the state in a vain attempt to prevent Wisconsin Act 10's passage acted illegally.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.