MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, approving an explosive proposal that had rocked the state and unions nationwide after Republicans discovered a way to bypass the chamber’s missing Democrats.
All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair bill” – a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.
The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday separated from the legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, which spends no money, and a special committee of lawmakers from both the Senate and Assembly approved the bill a short time later.
The unexpected yet surprisingly simple procedural move ended a stalemate that had threatened to drag on indefinitely. Until Wednesday’s stunning vote, it appeared the standoff would persist until Democrats returned to Madison from their self-imposed exile.
“In 30 minutes, 18 state Senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller. “Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people.”
Miller said in an interview with The Associated Press there is nothing Democrats can do now to stop the bill: “It’s a done deal.”
Here’s more, via the Journal Sentinel:
Madison — The Senate – without Democrats present – abruptly voted Wednesday to eliminate almost all collective bargaining for most public workers.
The bill, which has sparked unprecedented protests and drawn international attention, now heads to the Assembly, which is to take it up at 11 a.m. Thursday. The Assembly, which like the Senate is controlled by Republicans, passed an almost identical version of the bill Feb. 25.
The new version passed the Senate 18-1 Wednesday night, with Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) casting the no vote. There was no debate
Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said Democrats who have been boycotting the Senate for three weeks would return to Wisconsin once the bill passes the Assembly, although he declined to be more specific.
From Feb. 17 until Wednesday, the Senate Democrats were able to block a vote on the bill because 20 senators were required to be present to vote for it. Republicans control the house 19-14.
Late Wednesday, a committee stripped fiscal elements from the bill that they said allowed them to pass it with a simple majority present. The most controversial parts of the bill remain intact.
That committee, formed just hours earlier, quickly approved the bill as the lone Democrat at the meeting screamed that Republicans were violating the state’s open meetings law.
The law requires most public bodies to give 24 hours notice before they meet. The conference committee met with about two hours notice.
“This is a violation of law! It’s not a rule!” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) bellowed.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) ignored Barca and ordered the role to be taken. Republicans voted for the measure as Barca continued to plead with them to stop the vote.
Republicans have not yet given an explanation of why they believe the committee could legally meet.
Minutes later, the Senate took up the bill and passed it without debate.
“Shame on you!” protesters cried from the galleries.
Is that the sound of a wahmbulance I hear?
Think I’m kidding? You can watch live the attempted mob rule as unionites angrily react to the Senate’s move.