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Politics Last Updated: Mar 11th, 2011 - 15:30:48

Wisconsin Protests Fail to Stop Anti-Union Bill from Progressing
David Hope
Mar 10, 2011, 11:37

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Wisconsin protests continued on Thursday with some Democratic leaders being locked out of their offices - but the efforts appear, at least for today, to have produced no results for supporters of public union workers.

A bill stripping public employees of most collective bargaining rights moved to the Wisconsin Assembly Thursday for final approval.

Earlier, the Wisconsin Senate vote in favor of the controversial measure reignited protests at the Capitol.

Thousands of people poured into the Statehouse late Wednesday following the vote, which followed three weeks on the lam by Senate Democrats trying to prevent a quorum so that lawmakers could vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the renewed protests were nearly as passionate as those in the early days of the dispute, with demonstrators changing "Let us in," and, once inside, "Kill the bill" as they banged drums and blew horns.

Wisconsin Democrats scrambled early Thursday to delay or block final passage of the bill, which Republican senators passed 18-1 on short notice and without any debate after the provisions were removed from the budget bill.

Eliminating fiscal items from the bill meant the Senate no longer needed a quorum and could pass the bill with a simple majority of whoever was present.

Democratic House Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha called the Republican vote "outrageous" and a possible violation of Wisconsin's open-meeting law. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the vote was legal.

State law requires most public bodies to give 24 hours' notice before they meet. The Senate conference committee, which was created Wednesday afternoon and met shortly before the GOP senators voted, gave about two hours' notice before its meeting.

While the senators removed elements of Walker's bill that were technically related to appropriating funds, the measure still included several monetary changes, including charging public workers more for healthcare and pensions, which Republicans said would save the state $330 million through mid-2013.

Republicans did not explain how those provisions could remain in the bill with fewer than 20 senators voting, the Journal Sentinel reported.

"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin," said Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller of Monona, who fled to Illinois Feb. 17 to block the controversial vote from occurring. "Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten."

"The people of Wisconsin elected us to come to Madison and do a job," Fitzgerald said. "Just because the Senate Democrats won't do theirs doesn't mean we won't do ours."

The governor applauded passage of the bill as a "step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government."

The action "allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs," Walker said in a statement minutes after the vote.

The 14 Democrats in Illinois said they did not intend to return to Wisconsin Thursday.

Miller told the Journal Sentinel Republicans would likely face recalls after the vote.

"The people, I don't think, knew what they were getting when they voted last November, so there will be a do-over," Miller said.

Mike Tate, the leader of the state's Democratic Party, pledged to put "total focus" on "recalling the eligible Republican senators who voted for this heinous bill," The New York Times reported. He said voters can "also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall."

Source: UPI

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