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State Supreme Court upholds Act 10, voter ID law, domestic partner registry

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news Ellsworth, 54011
Pierce County Herald
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Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Wisconsin public school and local government employees were dealt a blow this morning by the State Supreme Court.  On a 5-to-2 vote, the justices threw out previous rulings from Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas -- who said that the Act-10 public union bargaining limits did not apply to local and school unions.  It was among several lawsuits which challenged the constitutionality of Act-10, Governor Scott Walker's signature legislation from 2011 which banned collective bargaining except for pay raises at-or-above inflation.  Today's ruling was the final one pending in the state and federal courts -- and Republicans won them all.  They can now claim full victory over preserving Act-10, as Walker and most G-O-P lawmakers run for re-election this fall.  After massive protests in 2011, Walker was put up for recall the following year over Act-10 -- and he became the first governor in U-S history to survive such an effort.  Today's ruling could also put a feather in Walker's cap nationally, where conservatives regard him as a hero for taking on public unions.  Therefore, today's ruling could be a boost to Walker's possible presidential bid for 2016.   Democratic challenger Mary Burke recently said she would try to restore many of the bargaining aspects of Act-10, while leaving the higher employee health and retirement contribution requirements in place.

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The State Supreme Court has upheld Wisconsin's photo I-D law for voting -- but it won't be reinstated unless the federal courts also give their blessing.  On a 5-to-2 vote, the state justices this morning dismissed lower court decisions that threw out the voter I-D requirement.  A pair of Dane County judges had ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters and the N-Double-A-C-P, which contended that the 2011 I-D requirement discouraged minorities, the elderly, and young people from voting.  Earlier this year, Federal Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that the I-D law violated both the U-S Constitution and the national Voting Rights Act.  State Attorney General J-B Van Hollen has appealed that decision -- but experts believe it will be awhile before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago makes its ruling.  As a result, voters will not need to show I-D's in the August 12th partisan primaries -- and likely not in the November elections, either.  State Republicans say voters need to show I-D's to prevent fraud.  Earlier court testimony indicated that 300-thousand Wisconsinites don't have acceptable I-D's under the law.  The state's two U-S attorneys and two Justice Department civil rights lawyers say that's enough evidence to prove that the law disenfranchises certain groups.

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Also this morning, the Supreme Court upheld the state's domestic partner registry which gives same-sex couples about 40-percent of the legal benefits of married couples.  It was a defeat for the Wisconsin Family Action group, which tried unsuccessfully to get the justices to strike down the registry just before it came into existence in 2009.  The group bypassed the lower courts, saying the registry went against the state's previous constitutional ban on gay marriage.  The justices told Family Action to get in line and follow the normal procedure -- which it did.  Former Governor Jim Doyle and his majority Democrats at the time said the registry provides fairness for gay couples.  It provides things like hospital visitation rights and various end-of-life decisions to about 23-hundred couples which have applied.  When the G-O-P took over in 2011, it took the pro-family side -- and the Fair Wisconsin group intervened to defend the registry.  Now, the registry's future might be a moot point, if the federal courts eventually throw out the state's ban on gay marriage.  Federal Judge Barbara Crabb tossed it out in June, and the state's now appealing that move.

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