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Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds Act 10, Photo ID and Domestic Partner registry

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MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the Act 10 public union bargaining restrictions.

On a 5-2 vote Thursday, 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.

Thursday'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 GOP 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.  

Thursday'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, the 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.

PHOTO ID RULING

Also Thursday, the State Supreme Court upheld Wisconsin's photo ID law for voting -- but it won't be reinstated unless the federal courts also give their blessing.

On a 5-2 vote, the state justices dismissed lower court decisions that threw out the voter ID requirement.

A pair of Dane County judges had ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, which contended that the 2011 ID requirement discouraged minorities, the elderly, and young people from voting.

Earlier this year, Federal Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that the ID 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 ID's in the August 12th partisan primaries -- and likely not in the November elections, either.

State Republicans say voters need to show ID's to prevent fraud.  Earlier court testimony indicated that 300,000 Wisconsinites don't have acceptable ID'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.

In reaction to both of those rulings, Governor Scott Walker said in a statement, "Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion. Today’s ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers. Voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our elections. People need to have confidence in our electoral process and to know their vote has been properly counted. We look forward to the same result from the federal court of appeals."

DOMESTIC PARTNER REGISTRY

The Supreme Court on Thursday also 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 2,300 couples which have applied.

When the GOP 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.

(Additional reporting by Wheeler News Service)

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