Wisconsin Deals Blows to Civil Rights, Wins for Gov. Scott Walker

Source: Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Source: Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Liberals in Wisconsin were hit with a double-whammy this week when the state’s supreme court upheld an anti-collective bargaining law and a law requiring voters to have photo identification to cast a ballot. But how much of a win are these laws for a governor eyeing a presidential bid? 

One of the laws that the supreme court upheld was a part of the 2011 Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. The bill, which was passed to address a $3.6 billion deficit, included a section that restricted collective bargaining for most public workers to wages – taking away the right to collectively bargain over pensions and health care.

The bill also required public unions to recertify every year and doesn’t allow unions to take automatic dues from public employee paychecks. Since the bill’s first introduction, public employee unions, who have a long history in the state (Wisconsin was the first U.S. state to provide collective bargaining rights to public employees in 1959), have been fighting back.

The decision is a win for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who first proposed the bill in 2011. When it first passed three years ago, a public outcry led to a recall election for some Republican senators and the governor himself. The recall initially brought national attention to Walker, who is now speculated to be a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016 — so much so that he wrote a campaign book, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge, to maintain the spotlight.

But Walker’s reputation took some flak recently — from more than unions — in relation to that law when court documents were released in which Wisconsin prosecutors alleged Walker participated in a “criminal scheme” to coordinate fundraising in response to the efforts to recall him and some Republican state senators.

“The investigation focuses on a wide-ranging scheme to coordinate activities of several organizations with various candidate committees to thwart attempts to recall Wisconsin Senate and Gubernatorial candidates,” special prosecutor Francis Schmitz wrote. The investigation was stalled when the Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the top political spenders in the state, won a lawsuit against the prosecutors on the grounds that it was unfairly targeted by subpoenas, causing an infringement upon its First Amendment rights. Walker has denied these allegations, and no charges have been filed.

While that could definitely damage the governor’s image in regards to 2016, he also saw a second victory in the supreme court’s upholding of the voter ID law, which was introduced in 2012, but has not been in effect as a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional in April.

“Voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our elections,” Walker said in a statement. “People need to have confidence in our electoral process and to know their vote has been properly counted.”

It’s speculated by Democrats that such a law will favor Republican candidates like the governor, as it may disproportionately affect low income and minority voters, who are more likely to vote for Democrats.

Both these rulings may affect Walker’s bid for a second term (and any subsequent presidential bid). He is currently in a close race with Madison School Board member Mary Burke (D) — with Walker at 47 percent and Burke at 46.3 percent.

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