CHICAGO (AP) — A federal appeals court in Chicago heard arguments Monday on the constitutionality of Wisconsin's law restricting collective bargaining by public employees — one of several related appeals working their way through the courts.

The hour-long hearing before a three-judge panel at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals focused on clauses that halt automatic withdrawal of union dues and require that unions hold elections annually to reconfirm their official status.

The Chicago hearing comes on the heels of a March 30 ruling by U.S. District Judge William Conley in the Western District of Wisconsin deeming both provisions illegal. He left the majority of the law untouched.

The 2011 law — a centerpiece of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's agenda — set off pitched political battles in Wisconsin and shined a national spotlight on the state. It focused attention on the question of public-sector unions, whether and how to rein them in.

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