The Wisconsin state Assembly has passed Gov. Scott Walker's bill to roll back the rights of public employee unions, capping off a month of protest and controversy that has gripped the state. The bill now heads to Walker for his signature.
The final vote count
was 53-42. It followed Wednesday night's passage in the Senate, and the surprise maneuver that Republicans had undertaken to move ahead on the anti-union provisions on their own. The GOP prepared a new bill that stripped out clearly fiscal elements, allowing them to move ahead without need for a three-fifths quorum required to vote on budget bills -- though Democrats have argued that the bill still contains fiscal elements, and they could potentially challenge it on that basis.
In Thursday's Assembly session -- which was delayed due to a security lockdown of the Capitol
-- the Democrats, clad in specially printed orange T-shirts that declared their labor solidarity, delivered many speeches and lodged many motions, in part to register their protest and in part to delay the vote. By contrast, only a few Republicans spoke, speaking of their concerns about maintaining the state's finances, making hard choices and avoiding layoffs by relieving the financial pressures on local governments.
A new series of battles in the state now seems all but assured. Democrats have pledged to recall the Republican members of the state Senate who are eligible, under the state law requiring at least one year of a term to be completed, and then to go after Walker next year.
Walker has released this statement:
"I applaud all members of the Assembly for showing up, debating the legislation and participating in democracy," Walker said. "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."
When asked for comment, the state Democratic Party sent us this statement from chairman Mike Tate:
It is a shameful day for Wisconsin. Ultimately, our working families will have their day and Scott walker's victory will ring as hollow as his pledges to their wellbeing. Today, the Koch Brothers can pop some champagne. But know that our total focus now is on recall.
The Democratic National Committee has released a statement from chairman Tim Kaine. Key quote:
"The decision by Governor Scott Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature to use procedural gimmicks and a straight partisan vote to press on with legislation that would take away collective bargaining rights held by Wisconsin public employees for over 50 years is contrary to the state's political traditions, is punitive in nature, and does nothing to address the budget issues that he and his fellow Republicans claimed were at the heart of this legislative dispute."