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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

GOP rams anti-union bill through Wis. Senate

End run around Democratic senators who left state to prevent passage

MADISON, Wis. — Republicans pushed a provision stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights through the state Senate Wednesday evening after finding a way to bypass the chamber's missing Democrats.

Republican senators separated the provision from Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget bill, removing the requirement that 20 senators be present for a vote on the anti-union measure.

The vote in the Senate was 18-1. Sen. Dale Schultz was the sole no vote. No Democrats were present.

Spectators in the gallery screamed at the Republicans on the floor, "You are cowards."

All 14 Democrats had left the state for Illinois nearly three weeks ago to prevent passage of the overall budget bill, because it contained the anti-union measure.

The Senate is split 19-14 with Republicans in the majority. Because the union provision was part of a budget bill, Republicans in the Senate needed at least 20 senators present for a quorum.

By separating out the anti-union measure, Republicans did not need 20 senators to allow a vote on that piece.

"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin," Democratic Sen. Mark Miller said in a statement. "Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten."

Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said on msnbc cable TV's "The Rachel Maddow Show" that the Democrats would not return to the state yet, fearing the action was a GOP trick.

Walker said in a statement: "The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused. In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature's action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government."

Newsvine vote: Political price to pay in Wis.?
Other political news of note Senate strikes down GOP, Dem budget bills
The Senate has rejected two competing bills to fund the government until the end of the fiscal year, with 11 lawmakers who caucus with Democrats breaking with their party.

Before the Senate floor vote, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald read the bill to a hastily created joint conference committee. Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, objected, saying the committee's meeting was in violation of the state's open meetings law. But over Barca's strenuous objections, Fitzgerald went ahead with the vote, which was seen live on the WisconsinEye public affairs cable network, and the measure was approved.

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