TPM spoke Thursday with Wisconsin state Sen. Chris Larson, one of the 14 Democrats who have fled the state in order to block the budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union proposals, getting his reaction to another one of the Senate Republicans’ efforts to pressure the Dems into coming back: Reassigning their staffers to work under GOP state senators.
State Senate Republicans passed the measure Wednesday, as another retaliatory move against the absentee Dems. WisPolitics reported: “Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the change is not intended to allow the Republican members to direct the activities of the Dem staffers. He said it is merely to give the staffers a point of contact with a senator who is in the building if concerns arise.”
TPM got in touch with Dem. state Sen. Chris Larson, whose staff has been reassigned to Republican state Sen. Neal Kedzie. “Well it’s a pretty dangerous thing that they’re trying to do,” said Larson, who has spent the last two weeks in Illinois. “They’re basically putting different Senate districts that are independently elected by the constituents under the control of somebody who is not elected to represent that area. I don’t know if it’s that they’re going on a binge with the power grab here or what. But they’ve already trampled on freedom of speech — so why not take over people’s districts?”TPM asked Larson about Fitzgerald’s statement, that the change was intended merely to give staffers a point of contact in the building.
“I would be very interested in letting Sen. Fitzgerald know about a new technology called the cellular telephone,” Larson replied. “I thought he was aware of it. What it does, is it gives a senator the ability to keep in touch with his staff when he is not in that building. I would think he would know, this because most senators are not in the building on Mondays and Fridays, or days when we’re not in session.”
What communication has Larson had with his/Kedzie’s staffers, we asked?
“I told them to ignore that. I said, he is not the one that they work for. ” said Larson. “They are not shaken by this. They’re standing strong. And they are continuing to do the work of the 7th Senate district.”
Has Larson’s staff communicated any concern about losing their jobs?
“Look, they realize we’re in uncharted territory with the craziness the Republicans are throwing out there,” Larson replied. “And I talked to each of them, and they are strong on this. they understand that is a very real risk, but they also understand what is at risk for Wisconsin. So I’m very proud of them, I’m humbled to have a staff that understands what they do.”
Requests for comment by TPM to Sen. Kedzie’s office were not returned.