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Federal court strikes down parts of Wisconsin's collective bargaining law

BREAKING: A bad day for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.  First the recall election is officially approved.

BREAKING: A bad day for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.  First the recall election is officially approved.  Then this:

A federal court has struck down portions of Wisconsin's law curbing collective bargaining rights, saying dues can be automatically withdrawn and annual certification votes can't be required.

Today's ruling keeps the majority of the law pushed by Walker in place.  A coalition of unions filed the lawsuit last summer shortly after the law was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The lawsuit argued that the law violated the U.S. Constitution by taking away union rights to bargain, organize and associate and illegally discriminates among classes of public employees.

U.S. District Judge William Conley in an order today rejected the argument that the law violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. But he ordered that automatic dues withdrawal be reinstated no later than May 31. 

Earlier today,  the Wisconsin elections board voted to order a recall election of Walker after certifying that enough valid signatures had been submitted.

The Government Accountability Board voted 5-0 to order the recall, a move that has been expected for weeks given the large number of signatures gathered between November and January in response to his law curbing collective bargaining rights.  

Assuming a Democratic primary is necessary, it will be in just 39 days on May 8.  The actual recall vote then will be June 5, just 67 days away.

Three Democrats already have announced they are running and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom Walker defeated in 2010, has said he would announce his intentions before Tuesday.

Ed will talk about the situation in Wisconsin tonight on The Ed Show at 8pET on msnbc with Ruth Conniff, Political Editor for the Progressive magazine.