State senators find a way to pass the governor's union law—and beat the protesters—without the help of Democratic senators, who had fled the state.
In case you’ve not heard, the standoff that’s gripped Wisconsin for weeks appears to be nearing its end. Via some rather ethically questionable maneuvering, the state Republican lawmakers pushed through an unpopular bill that drastically depletes the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin’s union laborers, many of the most vocal of which have been teachers.
In order to prevent the passage of GOP Governor Scott Walker’s bill, on February 17, Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators left the state to block a quorum, the minimum number of legislators needed to pass bills. For days Republicans then sat on their hands while deciding what to do, with protestors raging constantly just outside the state capitol. On Wednesday evening, the GOP senators came up with a plan.
The rules of the Wisconsin Senate require a three-fifths quorum only for legislation that’s fiscal—in other words, legislation that deals with the spending of state money. So the Republican senators went through Walker’s budget law and stripped out all the pieces directly involving money. By doing so, they no longer needed the Democratic senators to be present in order to decimate the bargaining rights of unionized Wisconsinites. And that they did.
It was a sneaky trick, but an effective one. The bill will now go to the state’s Republican-led Assembly, where they’ll vote on it today. For their part, the absconded Democrats say they’re waiting to see what the Assembly does before they make any moves:
Democratic Sen. Fred Risser said the Democrats planned to meet at noon central time and see what action the Assembly takes before deciding exactly when to come back.
"I don't plan to go back today," Mr. Risser said. "The option is basically we return. I'm being honest with you when I say it depends on what the Assembly does."
Wisconsin teachers and other union employees are furious, of course. But it looks like they might come out stronger in the end. According to the New York Times’ Nate Silver, “there’s a general consensus—including in some polls sponsored by conservative groups—that the Republican position was unpopular.” That in mind, the state GOP’s unilateral actions may find them out of office in 2012. Maybe you’ll want to keep your fingers crossed.
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