The Republican-led Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill to bust public workers unions Thursday afternoon, after Republican state senators managed to bypass Senate Democrats who fled the state and pass the legislation Wednesday night.
The bill to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights was passed by a 53 to 42 vote in the Assembly and will now head to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s office.
Walker said he would sign the bill into law “as quickly as we can legally.”
In mid-February, 14 Democratic state senators left Wisconsin to avoid having to vote on the budget repair bill. There are 19 Republican senators, but the Senate needs a minimum of 20 members to be present to debate and vote on any bills that spend money.
While the 14 Democratic senators remained in Illinois, Republican state senators removed all references to spending from the bill and passed the proposal to limit public employees’ collective bargaining rights.
“The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused,” Gov. Walker said in a statement. “In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature’s action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform the government. The action today will help ensure Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs.”
One Republican senator, Sen. Dale Schultz, and Republican Assembly members Reps. Dean Kaufert, Lee Nerison, Dick Spanbauer and Travis Tranel voted against the bill.
“I think it’s akin to political hara-kiri,” Democratic state Sen. Bob Jauch told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think it’s political suicide.”
The Wisconsin Democratic Party has launched a campaign to recall key Republican state senators who have aligned themselves with the governor’s budget repair bill.
Under Wisconsin law, any elected official who has served at least one year of their current term can be recalled from office. Eight Republican senators are currently eligible to be recalled. Gov. Walker, who was inaugurated last January, will not be eligible for a recall until 2012.
“This is on the Republicans’ heads right now,” state Sen. Chris Larson (D) said. “If they decide to kill the middle class, it’s on them.”
“Everyone who is party to this travesty is writing their political obituary,” he added.
“In 30 minutes, 18 state Senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” Democratic Minority Leader Mark Miller said. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.”
“Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people,” the state senator continued. “Tomorrow we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.”
Updated March 10, 2011 at 5:10pm EST.