By a vote of 53 to 42 (with four Republicans voting against, and one Independent voting for), the Wisconsin assembly has passed Gov. Scott Walker’s bill to limit the ability of public-sector unions to use collective bargaining. The bill was brought to the floor of the assembly after a surprise vote in the state senate last night, which prompted protesters to swarm the Capitol and delay the start of the assembly session today.
Before action on the bill even began, the proceedings went from zero to farce in about 30 seconds, as Democrats demanded that Jesse Jackson be allowed to give the opening prayer. The debate on the assembly floor consisted mostly of Democrats raising procedural objections to the rapid manner in which the bill was passed in the Senate on Wednesday night. Prior to the vote, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald had received confirmation from three nonpartisan legislative attorneys that passage of the bill without a three-fifths quorum was within the senate rules.
During the nearly three hours of debate on the bill, Democrats raised several objections. They complained that the public was being “locked out” of the Capitol, and that even legislators were having trouble gaining entry. This is particularly ironic, as it is the pro-union protesters who stormed the Capitol, precipitating the lockdown that Democrats now bemoaned.
Democrats also complained that debate on the bill was being “cut short,” although there had been nearly 62 hours of debate on the bill on the assembly floor two weeks ago, and a 17-hour public hearing on the bill prior to the initial assembly vote. Democratic representative Mark Pocan said he felt like he was living in “Fitzwalkerstan” (which quickly became a trending topic on Twitter).
Governor Walker quickly lauded the assembly’s vote, saying, “Their action will save jobs, protect taxpayers, reform government, and help balance the budget.” Walker said he may sign the bill into law as early as tomorrow.
— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.