Tonight, Wisconsin Republicans attempted to circumvent their Democratic colleagues by offering a tricky rewrite to the controversial budget bill. You see, under the state's Senate rules, a quorum is needed to vote on any measures that involve spending money, which is why the state's Democratic senators fled the state in the first place —
to avoid meeting quorum. So Wisconsin's fed-up Republicans rewrote the bill, leaving off any parts that spent money but preserving the controversial provisions that strip public-employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled State Assembly Thursday morning, where it is expected to pass. Once that happens, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller said the Democrats who have been boycotting the Senate for the last three weeks would return.
But wait a second: Is this even legal?
According to the lone Democrat at the meeting, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, the vote violated the open-meeting law, which requires that public bodies give 24 hours notice before they meet. The conference committee met with two hours' notice.
But Governor Scott Walker counted it as a victory. "The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and 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." Adding insult to union-busting injury, the Senate also voted to fine Democrats $100 each for missing the day's session.
This will, of course, escalate the battle in an already tense fight. Protests that have already been intense will most likely only grow in strength and ferocity. And the Democrats say they'll work on recalling their Republican opponents. "We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republican senators who voted for this heinous bill," said Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. "And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall."
Senate advances collective bargaining changes; Democrats to return after Assembly vote [Milwaukee Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
What happened in Wisconsin tonight [Ezra Klein]