Senate Republicans in Wisconsin passed a bill Wednesday evening that strips the state’s public employees of much of their collective-bargaining power after figuring out a way to approve the measure without the input of Democrats who fled the state three weeks ago.
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The provision, which was one of the most contentious portions of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill”, passed once Republican lawmakers discovered the non-fiscal nature of the measure allowed it to be extracted from the rest of the bill and voted upon without the need for the missing Democrats to be present. Until this point, all 14 of the chamber's Democrats had succeeded in preventing a vote on the bill by fleeing to Illinois.
The Republican-controlled state Assembly is expected to vote on the bill Thursday.
Gov. Walker issued a statement of support following the legislature's actions:
"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."
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the move came in spite of the "childish stunts and delay tactics" displayed by the state's missing Democrats.
"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."
The move infuriated Democratic lawmakers, with Sen. Minority Leader Mark Miller issuing the following statement:
"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten."