Published March 09, 2011
Bypassing Democrats hiding out in Illinois, Wisconsin Senate Republicans voted Wednesday night to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights.
Republicans voted 18-1 to pass the stripped-down budget bill in a hastily arranged meeting. None of the Senate Democrats were present.
The State Assembly is expected to vote on the bill Thursday.
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 so-called "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 split from the legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, and a special conference committee of state lawmakers approved that bill a short time later.
Wisconsin Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller said Wednesday Democrats will "join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government," but he refused to say when.
The lone Democrat present on the conference committee, Rep. Tony Barca, shouted that the surprise meeting was a violation of the state's open meetings law but Republicans voted over his objections. The Senate then convened within minutes and passed it without discussion or debate.
Spectators in the gallery screamed "You are cowards."
Before the sudden votes, Democratic Sens. Bob Jauch said if Republicans "chose to ram this bill through in this fashion, it will be to their political peril. They're changing the rules. They will inflame a very frustrated public."
Walker praised the legislative action.
"The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused," he said in a statement.
"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 the government," he said. "The action today will help ensure Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs."
State Senate Democratic Minority Leader Mark Miller issued a statement saying, "Tomorrow we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.