Wisconsin Assembly passes controversial labor bill
March 10th, 2011
04:49 PM ET

Wisconsin Assembly passes controversial labor bill

The Wisconsin state Assembly on Thursday afternoon passed a controversial bill that curtails most state workers’ collective bargaining rights, one day after state Senate Republicans used a technical procedure to get around the intentional absence of 14 Democrats and pass the measure in their chamber.

Throngs of people upset at the developments have been protesting on the grounds of the Capitol throughout the day.

The bill will reach Gov. Scott Walker's desk for final approval. The bill would, among other things, allow public workers to collectively negotiate wages only and bar unions from taking dues from public workers’ checks. Walker has argued the bill is necessary to help the state correct its deficits and avoid massive layoffs and property tax hikes.

Here is a running account of some of the latest developments:

5:02 p.m. ET: Detail on the vote: The Assembly passed the measure 53-42.

4:47 p.m. ET: The Assembly has passed the bill.

4:41 p.m. ET: The Assembly appears to be voting.

4:33 p.m. ET: Still debating the bill, Democrats in the state Assembly are arguing that the Senate's move to pass the measure yesterday was illegal in part because the bill still addresses fiscal matters.

Senate Republicans, before passing the measure yesterday, stripped the bill of appropriations so that they could vote for the bill without a quorum. This way, they could vote without the presence of the 14 Democrats who fled the state.

Assembly Democrats, however, are arguing that the measure still has changes in appropriations, inclduing a change in appropriations for a tax credit. 

4:22 p.m. ET: Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has received two death threats, Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse said. Both threats were e-mailed from the same address, according to Welhouse.

4:04 p.m. ET: Although Democratic state Sen. Jim Holperin apparently is returning to Wisconsin, one of his fellow Democrats in the state Senate, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, says she and other Senate Democrats are staying in Illinois. She says the matter of whether the Wisconsin Senate legally passed the measure last not hasn't been settled.

She said that because the legality of the Senate's move last night still has to be determined, she and other Senate Democrats still will stay away from Wisconsin because they don't want to be forced to appear in the Senate to deal with the measure.

Vinehout told CNN's Brooke Baldwin that she doesn't know where Holperin is, but she said that if he is on his way back to Wisconsin, he doesn't have the most current information. She added that the courts will need to decide whether yesterday's "legislative trickery" by Senate Republicans was legal.

3:58 p.m. ET: State Sen. Jim Holperin, one of the 14 state Senate Democrats who left the state last month in an attempt to prevent the Senate from voting on the measure, has told CNN he did so because the public needed time to digest what was being voted on, and because he thought a compromise was possible.

"The governor said he wanted to balance the budget, and we thought that could be done using the sacrifices of public workers who had agreed to concessions. We thought that could be done without taking workers' rights. Apparently we were wrong, based on the Senate's action last night," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

Holperin said he has left Illinois, where he and the other Democratic senators had been staying, and is on his way back to his district in Wisconsin.

3:32 p.m. ET: The Assembly is discussing the measure. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Democrat, has told fellow lawmakers that "the charade is up," saying the argument that the bill helps fix Wisconsin's budget is bogus.

"It doesn't fix the budget. All it does its take away workers' rights, forever," Barca said. "... Don't insult your constituents when you go home ... and tell them you repaired the budget, because you didn't repair the budget. All you did was trample on workers' rights" and Democracy."

3:04 p.m. ET: Regarding the possible recall elections that CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin mentioned below: Wisconsin residents who are angry about the saga of this measure - whether angry at Republicans for pushing it, or at the Democratic senators who fled the state last month in an attempt to avoid a vote - are talking about holding these to force some legislators out before their terms are up.

Toobin says these elections can be called by petition. Only legislators who have served at least a year would be eligible for a recall election, Toobin said. Polls suggest some recall elections would be close, Toobin said.

3:02 p.m. ET: Toobin notes that if the legislature's actions are found to have violated open-meetings law, the legislature - dominated by Republicans who want to pass the bill - will just pass it again. "The composition (of the legislature) is not going to change unless there are recall elections," Toobin said.

3 p.m. ET: Regarding whether Republican lawmakers are violating open-meetings law to push the bill through, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says its tough to tell, because there seem to be arguments for both sides. However, he says, this is more a political controversy than a legal controversy. "The courts will get involved, but ultimately the Wisconsin voters will decide" whether this bill will stay in effect (assuming the bill passes today).

- CNN's Ed Lavandera and the CNN Wire contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Jobs • Labor • Wisconsin
soundoff (498 Responses)
  1. Annomous

    Frank , I knew were a smart man , I second that WOOO HOOO

    March 10, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. parkmore

    Where is the DEMOCRACY?

    March 10, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Catholic MOM and Wife

      Same place it was when the Dem's forced that Health Care down the Rep throat. 🙂

      March 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pointless1

    I see a full on strike happening and crippling WI in the coming days...

    March 10, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ken

    Democracy is finally conquering the Democrat corruption of organized labor! If we can cut off the bribes maybe our cities and states can become economically viable. As for the US? We need to cut off Obama's funds! The Chicago Way has moved lots of drug money to Washington. Our open borders fund the liberal desire for cocaine and the Democrat wallets!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. matt

    You should be thanking the unions for paying all you ass kisser's taxes

    March 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Quiet1

    I hope this is only the beginning for our once Great Nation.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Our forfathers wore tight boy jeans back in the day, we are only reverting back to our roots. Emos were quite popular during the Revolutionary War.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Stetmore

    Why not bring private sectors workers back up instead of bringing public sector workers down? The whole budget crisis in America (including the one manufactured by Walker) could be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy few who have so much. But supposedly we need to keep their taxes down because they will create jobs? That worked out really well under Bush, didn't it?

    March 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • perl_jammer

      Forbes recently published a list of the 400 wealthiest Americans and their net worths. Not their annual incomes, mind you, but their total net worths. If you add it all up, you will find that it wouldn't even cover this year's Federal budget deficit. Raising the top marginal tax rate on their yearly incomes would, of course, yield far less. If you think that raising taxes on the rich would solve this country's fiscal problems, you're living in a fantasy world.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Derek

    I am proud of Governor Walker and what he is trying to achieve. Taxpayer money should not be bargained over. I should have a right in how my taxpayer money is spent, and that is why we have elected officials, who we choose to determine salaries and overall compensation packages. The unions should not be able to dictate, and put silly thoughts in their members. All you left wing whack jobs think the greed is exclusive to the richest people in America, open your eyes. The unions are equally as greedy, and they convince people to strike, picket non-union companies, and all this is done to increase their revenue stream. Do your job, do it well, and you will be rewarded!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • no_astroturf

      More astroturf.


      March 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. matt

    If every union work took a day off it would shut this country

    March 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brian

    Funny how people take their jobs for granted, and feel they have a right to work, and not a privilege..... freaking world.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sean

    YAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!! GO GO GO REPUBLICANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |

    Do you think our democracy is a showcase to the world?
    I do not think so. Our so called democracy and freedom is very shining and gold plated from the outside but if you make a biopsy, you will be surprised to see nothing else than badly cancer; being run by the capitalists billionaires and millionaires, good for them only,and above all full of loop holes, less for common people but too many for the rich. Only special interests can have their says and they have ways to achieve their goals. Also once you are elected partly by the people but mostly by the lobbies and goons, you will not be able to carry out what you want or what you promised but what the special interests want. Poor and middle class are crying day and nights but no one has time or ears to hear their cry. Leader like OBAMA also is helpless to get any thing done, even though he agreed under duress to pay more than 750 billion dollar to the 1% rich goons in their tax cuts!!!!! DO WE NEED OTHER REVOLUTION? JOIN LIBYANS, YEMENIS AND SUDANESE!!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GodLovesRealAmericans


    March 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. WDrad

    IIf only these protestors showed as much energy with their jobs in educating the children of Wisconsin maybe America wouldn't be falling behind third world countries. Thank you liberals. Another nail in the coffin all thanks to "progress"..right.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • daffydobroo

      It just hit me. I don't think that these protesters are state employees at all. How the heck can the take the time off from work to go to these protests in the middle of the day. I always wonder how protesters can travel all over the place protesting. Shouldn't they be working and if unemployed, as so many hard working Americans are, then shouldn't they be looking for a job? Teachers are in school and police and fireman are protecting the citizens. So who the hell are they?

      March 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaptObvious

      Ummmm... simple fact, Wisconsin has some of the best public education in the country. A little research goes a long way.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Determined

    The unwillingness of the labor groups to give concessions when the economy is so bad is unreasonable. What they (labor unions) are saying "We demand high wages, retirement, insurance not attainable-we don't care that there is no money-you gotta pull it out of the money treees-or wait for it to fall from the sky-whatever-we DEMAND our rights at the cost of the people of Wisconson. How are the legislatures to make a budget work when no one wants to give up anything. I think the governor had great courage-laying off people when there is no money to pay them is not a republican thing-it is a money thing. I'm so tired of legislatures who kick the can down the road and let the budget fail.

    March 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim B

      Except the unions have agreed to all of Walker's fiscal proposals regarding paying more for healthcare and putting more into pension funds. Do the world a favor and stop watching Fox News.

      March 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
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