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The seemingly endless saga pitting public service employees and their Democratic enablers against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has taken its latest turn. A coalition known as United Wisconsin, in coordination with the Democrat Party, has reportedly turned in petitions containing nearly one million signatures to the state’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) in an effort to oust the governor. The number far exceeds the total of 540,208 valid signatures, or 25 percent of all the votes cast in the 2010 election, required to engender a recall election. The petitioners also submitted approximately 305,000 more signatures than were needed to trigger a recall election against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and claimed they had sufficient numbers to force recall elections of four Republican state senators, including Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
The Governor remains unfazed. Furthermore, he put his finger on the petitioners’ primary agenda, one that was often obfuscated when the Republican-controlled state legislature voted to limit the power of government unions. While most of the media was focused on the limiting of collective bargaining for salary increases as the key sticking point between Democrats and Republicans, Walker’s success in getting the state out of the union dues-collecting business and the elimination of mandatory dues paid by union members are the most salient issues. “The real bottom line is, the national unions want their hands on the money,” Walker said in an interview with Fox News. “It’s all about the union money, it’s not about the workers’ money–they want those automatic dues, and they’ll spend just about anything to get that back.”
He went further. “The majority of people in this state put me in office to do what I said,” he added. “Interestingly enough, you have a recall election, normally you have a recall about someone who breaks their promises. We kept all of our promises and yet you’ve got a core group that are just sore about that.”
They’ve been sore for a long time. After Republicans were given control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature in the 2010 election, Democrat senators literally fled the state in an effort to prevent a vote from occurring. This was followed by boisterous, often ugly demonstrations at the capitol building in Madison. It was all for naught. A bill limiting the bargaining rights of state workers, increasing their contributions to their own health and pension plans, the elimination of mandatory dues, and the necessity of holding annual votes to remain unionized, was passed in an 18-1 vote in the senate on March 10th, and a 53-42 vote in the assembly on March 11th.
This effort was followed with an attempt to invalidate the law. On Thursday May 26th, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a stay against the results of the legislation, because Democrats contended Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law had been violated. Sumi probably should have recused herself because her son, Jacob Sinderbrand, was a former lead field manager with the AFL-CIO, and data manager for the SEIU State Council. Both groups have members who are government workers in Wisconsin. Yet in the end, it didn’t matter. In a 4-3 ruling on June 14th, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Sumi had “usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature” that the “legislature shall provide by law for the speedy publication of all laws.”
In anticipation of that ruling, efforts to alter the conservative tilt of the Wisconsin Supreme Court were undertaken. Incumbent Judge David Prosser was challenged by JoAnne Kloppenburg in a race for a seat on the high court. This effort also ended in failure as Prosser’s original margin of victory was 7,316 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast. The win was initially seen as controversial because Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus reported on April 7th that, in her initial count, she had omitted 14,315 votes from the city of Brookfield which she had failed to save on her computer. As result, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board became involved in the matter, releasing a report characterizing Nickolaus’s behavior as having “violated the laws and procedures for administering the count–but that her actions were not willful, criminal misconduct.”
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