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.
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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.