Governor Scott Walker is no doubt pleased by twin victories for his legislative agenda in the Wisconsin supreme court on Thursday. His labor law limiting collective bargaining for most public-sector employees was upheld on a 5 to 4 vote. At the same time, the court ruled the state’s voter-ID law was constitutional in a pair of cases, with the vote being 4 to 3 in one case and 5 to 2 in the other case.
In the labor-law case, Justice Michael Gableman wrote, “collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation. The First Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect.” The law bars automatic union deductions from worker paychecks and requires annual elections to see if members want continued union representation. Governor Walker hailed the ruling, noting that his legislation “has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion.”
In the voter-ID case, the court tweaked the law by allowing people to obtain an ID without having to pay for copies of any documents needed to establish one’s identity. It rejected two challenges to the law: 1) an NAACP challenge that it limited the right to vote by requiring photo identification and 2) a League of Women Voters challenge that the law violated the state constitution by creating a new category of people who cannot vote — those who lack identification.
The voter-ID law still faces a challenge in federal court, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will no doubt find the Wisconsin rulings very edifying in coming to its own conclusions.