On Friday, September 14, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas overturned many of the provisions of Act 10 relating to collective bargaining for local government and school district employees on constitutional, home rule and impairment of contract grounds. While the court left the legislation largely intact for state employees, the decision arguably returns local governments and school districts to pre-Act 10 days. Or does it?
The potential legal and financial implications of the decision are far-ranging and complex. While the Attorney General has indicated that the State will appeal and has sought a stay of the decision’s implementation pending appeal, there is a chance that the decision stands for at least a period of time pending resolution from the higher courts. If Judge Colas’ decision is interpreted to require counties to re-implement portions of prior collective bargaining agreements and/or bargain over decisions that have been made over the course of the last year, the financial consequences could be significant as the decision did not restore any of the cuts in state aid or otherwise relax levy limitations.
As with all matters this significant, counties need to take a considered and measured approach in responding to the decision. Decisions to engage in collective bargaining with general municipal employees on matters other than total base wage increases or to discontinue or change course from post-Act 10 programs should be made only after a county has fully evaluated the legal and financial implications. It is not legally accurate or fiscally possible to simply conclude that the decision mandates a return to pre-Act 10 status.