Wis. Dem Legislator: We Are No Longer At Hotel In Rockford — And Focus Should Be On The Issues

February 17, 2011 12:53 p.m.

Some of the missing Wisconsin Democratic state senators were located today — but only briefly. The local ABC affiliate in Milwaukee reported that some of the Dems were found at the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center, a hotel in Rockford, Illinois, just a short distance over the state line. But now, Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson tells TPMDC that they’ve left that location.

“I can say that some of us were there, but there’s nobody there anymore,” said Larson.

I then asked Larson why they left. “Well, it came out, a reporter stopped, and we heard that there were others on the way,” said Larson. “So we wanted to make sure the story is not so much about where we are, or where we’re going, but where Wisconsin is, and where Wisconsin is going.”

“We weren’t all there, we haven’t all been in the same location,” Larson also added. “We’re moving around.”

When asked whether the Dems ever checked into rooms at the hotel, Larson said that he could not speak for all his colleagues who were there, but he personally never checked in.Larson said the heart of the story should remain the prospect of state Republicans “getting rid of 50 years of worker rights in less than a week. That’s what the focus is. And that’s why we are out and moving. People want to focus on where people stopped. That’s besides the point. People are missing the fact that 50 years of history could be slipping away.”

The Democrats walked out of the state Senate earlier on Thursday, depriving it of the three-fifths majority needed for quorum on budget matters, in revolt against Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget and its anti-public union provisions. They appear to have gone even further in leaving the state itself, in order to avoid being forced back to the chamber.

Under Walker’s plan, as TPM has reported, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn’t rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index. Walker and state Republican leaders have said the plan to limit the collective bargaining rights of state employees is necessary to deal with the state’s budget shortfall.

According to the Associated Press: “The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.”

In the past week, the state Capitol has been deluged with protests, and some schools have closed as a result of teachers calling in sick en masse.

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