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Continuing Coverage: Penalties Against Democratic Wis. Senators Undone

By: Zac Schultz Email
By: Zac Schultz Email

UPDATED Tuesday, March 15, 2011 --- 2:40 p.m.

Democrats, Republicans make moves to work together'

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin state senators are starting to take steps to reconcile following the Democrats' decision to flee the state for three weeks to block passage of a bill taking away most collective bargaining rights for public workers.

On Tuesday Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he would rescind contempt orders placed against the Democrats when they were gone. That will allow Democrats to have their votes in committee action counted.

Fitzgerald says he's comfortable doing that after Democrats made assurances to him they won't flee the state again.

Also on Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen drafted a constitutional amendment that would lower the number of senators needed to vote on budget bills. Fitzgerald says he supports that idea, which would prevent lawmakers from fleeing the Capitol to block bills.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 15, 2011 --- 1:55 p.m.

Penalties against Democratic Wis. senators undone

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin's Democratic state senators will have votes they cast in committee counted and other penalties imposed against them will be rescinded after they returned to the state on Saturday.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Tuesday that assurances he received from Democrats that they will participate in future Senate sessions and votes allowed him to rescind finding the Democrats in contempt.

Fitzgerald on Monday said that Democrats would still not be allowed to have their committee votes counted since contempt votes in the Senate had not been rescinded.

But he said Tuesday their votes will be counted, no fines will be imposed, and other smaller steps taken to incite them to return will also be dropped.

The Democrats came back after the union rights bill they opposed passed.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 15, 2011 --- 8:10 a .m.

Majority leader says Democrats votes don't count

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Senate majority leader says votes by Democrats don't count in committee because they remain in contempt.

Republican Scott Fitzgerald says Democrats can attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation and even cast a vote, but those votes won't be recorded.

Fourteen Democrats fled to Illinois last month to avoid voting on a bill that ends most collective bargaining for the majority of state employees and were declared in contempt of the Senate. They returned to the Capitol Saturday.

Democratic Senator Bob Jauch tells the Journal Sentinel it doesn't matter because Gov. Scott Walker has signed the bill. Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse says Democrats will remain in contempt until they attend a session. None is scheduled this week.

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The Journal Sentinel report can be found at: http://bit.ly/eYB0qn

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, March 14, 2011 --- 11:55 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin's Secretary of State tells The Associated Press that he has decided not to publish a bill taking away public workers' collective bargaining rights until the latest day possible.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette said Monday that he decided to publish the law on March 25 in order to give schools and other local governments time to pass contract extensions between now and then.

La Follette says the law will take effect on March 26.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill on Friday and had asked La Follette to publish the law, the final step needed in order for it to take effect, on Monday. But La Follette says he saw no emergency that would necessitate him doing that.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 -- 5:34pm
By Zac Schultz
Twitter @zschultz15

Madison: Friday morning at 9:30 Governor Scott Walker signed his budget repair bill privately at the executive residence. He signed it as soon as it was legally ready, in between interviews.

The measure passed the Assembly Thursday following four weeks of protests. Walker has said if the bill hadn't passed, up to 1,500 state workers would be laid off. Walker officially rescinded those layoff notices today.

"To me I don't view this as a win. This is a tough decision," says Walker.

For nearly a month, Governor Walker insisted his budget repair bill needed to be passed without amendment, but Wednesday afternoon he met with Senate Republicans and agreed they should change course. "I went into the senate and said, this is a reasonable plan, it's a reasonable way to move forward."

That night the senate created a conference committee, removed fiscal items from the bill and passed it through the senate. It passed the Assembly on Friday.

Democrats claim the bill was rushed and the moves violated open meetings laws, but Walker says there was no need to wait any longer. "We heard time and time again from people was, just get this done."

Walker says he felt relief when signing the bill. "Relief in the sense that we were moving forward. There's no doubt about that. Watching this we set out to do this a month ago because we thought it was the right path."

Walker campaigned on balancing the budget and bringing 250,000 new jobs to the state but he knows this is likely the defining moment of his time as governor. "To the extent that people look back and say this was the day where they got control of the budget, this was the day when they put the power back in the hands of middle class taxpayers, certainly that's a legacy that I'm happy to have."

Governor Walker says he has no doubt support for this bill will increase over time, as the people impacted by it realize it wasn't as bad as it sounds and as the rest of the state realizes the positive economic impact.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 2:45 p.m.

Wis. gov. says support will grow for new law

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he is certain support will grow for the new law that eliminates nearly all collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The governor signed the measure Friday. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said he has "no doubt" that support will build as the government becomes more efficient. He said public employees would still have civil-service protections.

Walker spoke about the law even as dozens of protesters shouted outside his Capitol office in opposition to it. The proposal passed the state senate and Assembly earlier this week.

The governor also said he is confident the law will withstand legal challenges.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 10:00 a.m.

Wis. gov. officially cuts collective bargaining

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has officially taken away nearly all collective bargaining rights from the vast majority of the state's public employees.

Walker signed the bill to do so privately Friday morning. He planned an afternoon news conference in the Capitol.

The explosive measure passed the Assembly on Thursday following more than three weeks of protests that drew tens of thousands of people to the Capitol in opposition. The Senate cleared the way for passage with a surprise move Wednesday that allowed them to vote on the bill without 14 Democratic senators present.

Walker has said if the bill didn't pass up to 1,500 state workers could be laid off. He rescinded the layoff notices Friday morning.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 8:40 a.m.

Walker to sign collective bargaining bill Friday

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker will sign a bill that takes away most collective bargaining for state employees on Friday.

His spokesman Cullen Werwie says details about the signing will be released later.

The state Assembly passed the bill Thursday after the Senate approved it Wednesday without 14 AWOL Democrats. The vote in the Senate followed more than three weeks of dramatic protests that clogged the streets, hallways and meeting rooms of the Capitol.

Walker has notified public employee unions that he's rescinding notices he sent last week that could have resulted in 1,500 layoffs. Walker said the layoffs would not be necessary since the bill, which includes $30 million in concessions from state employees, had passed.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, March 11, 2011 --- 7:30 a.m.

From the Governor's Office:

Madison—Today Governor Walker directed the Department of Administration and the Office of State Employment Relations to rescind layoff notices because the budget repair bill passed the Legislature.

Along with this announcement Governor Walker released the following statement:

The Legislature helped us save 1,500 middle-class jobs by moving forward this week with the budget repair. The state will now be able to realize $30 million in savings to balance the budget and allow 1,500 state employees to keep their jobs. The reforms contained in this legislation, which require modest health care and pension contributions from all public employees, will help put Wisconsin on a path to fiscal sustainability.

While tough budget choices certainly still lie ahead, both state and local units of government will not have to do any mass layoffs or direct service reductions because of the reforms contained in the budget repair bill. Moving forward the hardworking, professional public sector employees who show up to work every day and do an excellent job will help ensure Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 4:25 p.m.

Walker: I'll sign collective bargaining bill fast

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he'll sign legislation to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers "as quickly as I can legally."

After the bill passed the Assembly Thursday afternoon, Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor would not sign it Thursday.

Walker spoke about the bill in West Allis before the Assembly began debate. It passed 53-42 with four Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition.

The Senate passed it Wednesday without the chamber's 14 AWOL Democrats.

The vote in the Senate followed a dramatic three-plus weeks that saw protesters clog the streets, hallways and meeting rooms of the Capitol in an attempt to stop the measure.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 3:48 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin lawmakers have voted to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from the state's public workers in one of the strongest blows to the power of unions in years.

The state's Assembly passed Republican Gov. Scott Walker's explosive proposal 53-42 Thursday. The state's Senate approved it the night before after using a procedural move to bypass its AWOL Democrats.

Walker says he'll sign the legislation as quickly as possible.

The vote brings a swift end to a standoff over union rights that has rocked Wisconsin and the nation. Tens of thousands of protesters have converged on the state's Capitol for weeks of demonstrations.

The implementation of Walker's proposal will be a key victory for Republicans who have targeted unions amid efforts to slash government spending.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Governor Walker Statement on Assembly Action:

Madison–Today Governor Walker released the following statement regarding the action taken by the Legislature:

I applaud all members of the Assembly for showing up, debating the legislation and participating in democracy. Their action will save jobs, protect taxpayers, reform government, and help balance the budget. Moving forward we will continue to focus on ensuring Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs.

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Speaker Fitzgerald Statement on Budget Repair Bill Passage:

Madison – Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) released the following statement after passage of the Budget Repair Bill:

“Today’s passage is a momentous step toward getting our state’s fiscal house in order. Local municipalities and school districts will now have the tools they need to deal with the pending budget crisis without widespread layoffs.

“In November, we ran on solving the state’s economic crisis by cutting spending and not raising taxes. That is exactly what we are doing today.

“The actions taken today by the State Assembly were in keeping with the rules of this body. Legislating is not always pretty but the minority party’s continual attempts to block Democracy demanded that we take the steps necessary to complete the people’s business.”

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Madison –Representative Kelda Helen Roys issued the following statement on Assembly Republicans’ passage of Scott Walker’s politically motivated bill stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights:

“In the last 24 hours, Wisconsin and the world witnessed a most egregious abuse of power in direct violation of the will of the people and the rule of law. Poll after poll has demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of Wisconsin voters oppose Governor Walker and his radical agenda, while his Republican cronies in the Legislature willfully ignore the sanctity of Wisconsin’s law requiring open meetings.

“As members of the Legislature, we all took oaths to support the state constitution. Article IV, Section 10 requires the doors of each house to be kept open. The constitution provides an exception only when the public welfare requires secrecy – yet the Republicans have kept the Capitol under lockdown for the better part of two weeks, in violation of court orders. Of course, this proposal itself is a direct attack on the public welfare – and it requires full transparency.

“After spending weeks falsely claiming that they need to eliminate the rights of middle class workers and give an unelected bureaucrat the power to ignore state statutes relating to health care to balance the budget, legislative Republicans have just sent Governor Walker a revised ‘Budget Repair Bill’ that, absurdly, contains no budgetary provisions. By approving this illegally-proposed amendment, Republicans can never claim that they were simply voting to pass a budget and ‘had to take the good with the bad.’ Each and every one of them will have to account for their choice to strip away workers’ rights, SeniorCare, BadgerCare, and Family Care to their constituents. Many will also be compelled to defend their actions in a court of law.

“I will continue to fight this abuse of power. My Assembly Democratic colleagues and I will not rest until the wrongs that Scott Walker and legislative Republicans have inflicted on the public and Wisconsin’s democracy are rectified.”

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 1:45 p.m.

Wis. Assembly takes up bargaining rights measure

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin lawmakers are again debating their governor's plan to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers ahead of a vote that's expected to pass the measure.

The state Assembly convened Thursday afternoon after being delayed by protests that prompted a temporary lockdown and security sweep.

Republicans who control the Assembly are expected to win easy approval of Gov. Scott Walker's explosive proposal and are standing by his assertion it's needed to balance the budget. Democrats insist the measure is little more than a political power play aimed at weakening unions.

The Assembly debate comes after Wisconsin Senate Republicans outmaneuvered their missing Democratic colleagues late Wednesday. They used a simple procedural move that allowed them to pass the proposal out of their chamber without any Democrats present.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 12:30 p.m.

Assembly speaker says union bill will pass

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald says a bill taking away collective bargaining rights from public workers will pass the Assembly on Thursday.

Fitzgerald says he believes Republicans are doing what they said they would do on the campaign trail. He says when Republicans took control of the Legislature and the governor's office voters wanted them to change the way government works.

Taking away collective bargaining rights was not a subject during the campaign, although Republicans frequently talked about cutting costs and making it easier for local governments to deal with reductions in state aid.

Tens of thousands of protesters have converged on the Capitol for three weeks to oppose the bill.

Fitzgerald says it's a tough vote, but it's the right thing because people "are sick of the status quo."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 11:15 a.m.

Walker: I'll sign collective bargaining bill fast

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he'll sign legislation to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers "as quickly as I can legally."

Walker spoke during a Thursday news conference in Milwaukee shortly before the state Assembly was scheduled to take up the measure. It's expected to be quickly approved.

The Senate passed it Wednesday without the chamber's 14 AWOL Democrats.

The vote in the Senate followed a dramatic three-plus weeks that saw protesters clog the streets, hallways and meeting rooms of the Capitol in an attempt to stop the measure.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 9:00 a.m.

Democrats assert law violation in Senate action

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Democrats claim Republicans violated the state open meetings law with a hastily convened meeting before the Senate passed a bill that takes away most collective bargaining rights from nearly all public workers.

State law requires at least 24 hours notice of a meeting, unless there is an emergency which allows for just two hours notice.

Wednesday's 6 p.m. meeting was noticed at 4:10 p.m. Senate Clerk Rob Marchant said under Senate rules, no notice was required other than posting it on the legislative bulletin board.

But open meeting law attorney Robert Dreps says the Senate didn't show that there was an emergency allowing for the 24-hour notice to be ignored and even if that had been shown the two-hour requirement was violated.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 10, 2011 --- 8:20 a.m.

MADISON, WI… Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) released the following statement this morning:

“Don’t let their complete absence fool you; the Senate Democrats forced that vote yesterday. They forced it three weeks ago, when they abandoned their jobs and fled to Illinois for a long-term vacation.

“And today, they’re *shocked* that a decision was made without them in the room. Yesterday’s actions shouldn’t surprise anyone, much less any parent in Wisconsin. We know that sometimes, throwing a fit doesn’t get you what you want.

“Unfortunately for the Democrats, common sense is something Wisconsin is chock full of. Even the most stalwart protester, in the back of their mind, knows full well what would happen to them if they refused to show up to work for three weeks.

“So what did the Democrats do yesterday? They threw everything they could at the wall. They screamed that it was a violation of the Open Meetings Law, but the law says 100 percent otherwise – all rules followed. (Statute section 19.87 (2); Senate Rule 93.)

“Then they called it a dirty trick, something they would never do! Except the Democrats created the *exact same committee,* using the *exact same procedure,* last session when they were in charge. (Assembly Bill 75, June 24)

“They said it was wrong to use a procedural/tactical maneuver to vote, despite the fact that they’re using a procedural/tactical maneuver to avoid the vote in Illinois.

“Then the Fugitive Fourteen said they were coming back immediately. Then they said they weren’t coming back at all. Then they said they’ll come back once the Assembly passes the bill, once their ability participate has completely, officially expired. As if we needed any proof that they never intended to be a part of the process in the first place.

“It’s amazing what lengths some people will go to fight against some much-needed change. It’s like a child, throwing a tantrum, because they don’t like the taste of the medicine.

“But this change absolutely gets Wisconsin closer to a balanced budget, a greater balance between the public and private sectors, and most importantly, it prevents deep, real layoffs at both the state and the local levels.

“I was elected with a clear agenda: improve the economy and create jobs. Somehow, the union bullhorn has made people forget that this agenda – getting Wisconsin back on the right track – is what’s really at stake here.

“Whenever the Senate Democrats decide to return to Wisconsin, and to reality, I think one thing is clear: with this bill behind us, and with the next state budget ahead of us, they’re going to find the place a lot better than they left it.”

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 7:40 p.m.

Wis. Dems say AWOL lawmakers will return, but date/time unknown

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The leader of Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate says his caucus will return to the state, but he won't say when.

Senate Democrats fled the state nearly three weeks ago to block a vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

But Senate Republicans used a procedural move on Wednesday to pass the proposal without the Democrats present. The floor session lasted just minutes, and the state Assembly is scheduled to take up the measure on Thursday morning. That's the last step before it can go to Walker for his signature.

Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller of Monona says Democrats will "join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government," but he refused to say when.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 7:15 p.m.

Wis. Gov. Walker praises union rights vote

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is praising Republicans in the state Senate who have voted to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Republicans cast the quick vote Wednesday after discovering 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 so-called "budget repair bill" -- a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.

Walker says the Democrats were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused.

Walker said: "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."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 6:33 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have voted to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers after discovering 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 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.

The move set up a vote in the Senate, which voted mere moments later.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Senator Mark Miller Statement on Senate action today:

Miller Statement on
Senate action today:

“In thirty minutes, 18 State Senators undid fifty years of civil rights in Wisconsin.

“Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.

“Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people.

“We will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.”

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Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald Statement on Senate Action

MADISON, WI… After nearly a month of debate on the budget repair bill, nearly three weeks of childish stunts and delay tactics from the Democrats, the longest public hearing in state history and the longest Assembly debate in state history, the Senate met tonight to pass the non-fiscal items in the Budget Repair Bill. Sen. Fitzgerald released the following statement:

“Before the election, the Democrats promised “adult leadership” in Madison. Then a month and a half into session, the Senate Democrats fled the state instead of doing their job.

“In doing so, they have tarnished the very institution of the Wisconsin state Senate. This is unacceptable.

“This afternoon, following a week and a half of line-by-line negotiation, Sen. Miller sent me a letter that offered three options: 1) keep collective bargaining as is with no changes, 2) take our counter-offer, which would keep collective bargaining as is with no changes, 3) or stop talking altogether.

“With that letter, I realized that we’re dealing with someone who is stalling indefinitely, and doesn’t have a plan or an intention to return. His idea of compromise is “give me everything I want,” and the only negotiating he’s doing is through the media.

“Enough is enough.

“The people of Wisconsin elected us to do a job. They elected us to stand up to the broken status quo, stop the constant expansion of government, balance the budget, create jobs and improve the economy. The longer the Democrats keep up this childish stunt, the longer the majority can’t act on our agenda.

“Tonight, the Senate will be passing the items in the budget repair bill that we can, with the 19 members who actually DO show up and do their jobs. Those items include the long-overdue reform of collective bargaining needed to help local governments absorb these budget cuts, and the 12 percent health care premium and 5 percent pension contribution.

“We have confirmed with the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Reference Bureau that every item in tonight’s bill follows the letter of the law.

“The people of Wisconsin elected us to come to Madison and do a job. Just because the Senate Democrats won’t do theirs, doesn’t mean we won’t do ours.”

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Governor Walker Statement on Legislative Action

Madison–Today Governor Walker released the following statement regarding the action taken by the Legislature:

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. The action today will help ensure Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs.

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Statement on Scott Walker and Republicans' Despicable, Extreme, Anti-Democratic Activities

by Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

"Senate Republicans have exercised the nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking Wisconsin’s working families in the dark of night. Walker and the Republicans acted in violation of state open meetings laws, and tonight’s events have demonstrated they will do or say anything to pass their extreme agenda that attacks Wisconsin’s working families.

Tonight’s trampling of the democratic process in Wisconsin shows that Scott Walker and the Republicans have been lying throughout this entire process and we have been telling the truth – that NONE of the provisions that attacked workers’ rights had anything to do with the budget.

Losing badly in the court of public opinion and failing to break the Democratic Senators’ principled stand, Scott Walker and the GOP have eviscerated both the letter and the spirit of the law and our democratic process to ram through their payback to their deep-pocketed friends. In the most deplorable manner possible, Republicans rigged a vote that stripped
hundreds of thousands of hardworking teachers, nurses, EMTs and others of their rights.

Scott Walker and the Republicans’ ideological war on the middle class and working families is now indisputable, and their willingness to shred 50 years of labor peace, bipartisanship, and Wisconsin’s democratic process to pass a bill that 74% of Wisconsinites oppose is beyond reprehensible and possibly criminal."

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 5:50 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Two Democratic state senators say they think Republicans plan to pass parts of Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to take away collective bargaining rights from public workers without them.

Senate Republican leaders weren't saying why they hastily created a conference committee that's meeting later Wednesday night.

All 14 Senate Democrats have left the state to prevent quorum on the bill. It takes at least 20 senators to take up any budget bill.

But not all parts of Walker's proposal are budget-related.

Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch says he thinks Republicans plan to "ram through" parts of the bill that take away collective bargaining rights but that don't cost any money. Sen. Jon Erpenbach says he thinks they will do anything they can to weaken public unions with or without Democrats there.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 4:45 p.m.

Democrats fear Republicans plan to pass bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Two Democratic state senators say they think Republicans plan to pass parts of Gov. Scott Walker's proposal that take away collective bargaining rights from public workers without them.

Senate Republican leaders weren't saying why they hastily created a conference committee that's meeting later Wednesday night.

All 14 Senate Democrats left the state to prevent quorum on the bill. It takes at least 20 senators to take up any budget bill.

But not all parts of the proposal are budget-related.

Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch says he thinks Republicans plan to "ram through" parts of the bill that take away collective bargaining rights but that don't cost any money. Sen. Jon Erpenbach says he thinks they will do anything they can to bust up public unions with or without Democrats there.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 4:30 p.m.

Senate convening conference committee on bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republicans in control of the Wisconsin state Senate have created a conference committee to consider Gov. Scott Walker's proposal that takes away collective bargaining rights from public workers.

The Senate convened unexpectedly around 4 p.m. Wednesday to create the committee, which planned to meet for the first time at 6 p.m.

It was unclear what the committee would do.

Typically a conference committee is only convened when two different versions of a bill have passed the Senate and Assembly and the two sides can't reach agreement.

However, the bill in question that passed the Assembly was in the Senate in the same form. It was stalled in the Senate after all 14 Senate Democrats fled the state and denied a quorum.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 3:30 p.m.

Wis. Democratic leader calls for compromise

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Senate Democrats on the run in Illinois are calling on Republican Gov. Scott Walker to resume talks with them to compromise on a collective bargaining bill.

Democratic Minority Leader Mark Miller sent Walker and the GOP leaders of the Senate and Assembly a letter Wednesday accusing the governor of keeping the lines of communication closed even though possible deals are available.

Democratic Sens. Bob Jauch and Tim Cullen had been working with Walker's administration on a possible deal as recently as Sunday. Jauch says Walker should be willing to compromise instead of forcing Senate Republicans to "run through a gauntlet" and vote for the original bill that takes away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie says the lines of communication remain open.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 1:45 p.m.

The following letter was sent by Sen. Mark Miller to Governor Walker, Majority Leader Fitzgerald and Speaker Fitzgerald:

Dear Governor Walker, Majority Leader Fitzgerald and Speaker Fitzgerald:

After three weeks of discussions, debate and unprecedented input on proposed budget adjustment legislation, the people have clearly said they want us to reach a negotiated settlement that protects worker rights. It appears there are now three options before us.

With an agreement between all parties, the bill currently before the Senate could be amended. Limited, preliminary discussions have occurred and, as you know, the Senate Democratic caucus would support modifications that restore collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin workers.

Yesterday, Assembly and Senate Democrats offered a clean slate bill that resolves our fiscal issues and accepts the economic concessions workers have offered to make. Taking up this bill would allow everyone to move forward without anyone having to take back votes or cross lines in the sand.

Or, despite overwhelming public support for a negotiated settlement that preserves worker rights, you could keep lines of communication closed.

We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible to discuss our options to move Wisconsin forward.

Sincerely,

State Senator Mark Miller
Senate Democratic Leader

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 1:20 p.m.

Bradley, Kohl centers may be used for hearings

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Public hearings on Gov. Scott Walker's two-year budget plan that cuts public schools by about $900 million may be held at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee and the Kohl Center in Madison.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Wednesday those two venues are being considered as locations for a couple of the four or five hearings planned by the Legislature's budget-writing committee.

No official meeting dates or places have been announced by the Joint Finance Committee for its hearings on Walker's bill.

Interest in the budget is very high since it comes on the heels of Walker's plan taking away collective bargaining rights from public workers. The bill remains in limbo as 14 Senate Democrats remain out of state to prevent a vote.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 11:30 a.m.

Senate votes to start imposing fines on Democrats

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators who fled the state nearly three weeks ago now face $100 fines for each session day they miss.

Republicans in the Senate approved resolutions starting the fines on Wednesday without discussion.

Democrats left the state on Feb. 17 to avoid voting on a bill taking away most collective bargaining rights for nearly all public workers.

On Tuesday Gov. Scott Walker's office released e-mails that showed areas where he would be willing to compromise, including allowing bargaining over wages with no limits and expanding other areas that could be part of negotiations.

Democrats have not accepted the offer and senators who were part of the talks with Walker have said the deal doesn't go far enough.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, March 9, 2011 --- 6:30 a.m.

Wis. gov. floats union compromise, but no deal yet

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Two of the 14 Wisconsin Senate Democrats who fled to Illinois to avoid a vote that would cut bargaining rights for public workers say they're willing to keep talking with Republican Gov. Scott Walker about a compromise that might bring them back.

Bob Jauch and Tim Cullen say Walker's latest compromise doesn't go far enough. It was detailed in e-mails released Tuesday by Walker's office.

Walker has proposed eliminating most union rights for government employees. His compromise would keep in place. Workers would still be able to bargain their salary without limit and also could negotiate mandatory overtime, performance bonuses and hazardous duty pay.

The e-mails show that Jauch had wanted even more items to be subject to bargaining, including sick leave and vacation pay.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 9, 2011 --- 2:45 p.m.

Walker releases e-mails showing talks over bill
NOTE: To read these e-mails, click on the link above marked "Emails Exchanges."

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker's office has released e-mails showing discussions top members of his staff had with Senate Democrats in Illinois about possible changes to a bill taking away collective bargaining rights from public workers.

The bill as Walker proposed it would take away all collective bargaining rights, except over salary increases no greater than inflation, for nearly all public workers. The Democrats fled the state to prevent a vote on passage.

Since then at least a couple of the Democratic senators have been in discussions with Walker's office about possible changes.

The e-mails show that as recently as Sunday night Walker's office put together a list of possible changes that included no limit on bargaining over salary and expanding what other economic issues could be subject to bargaining.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved


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