Tonight, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker passed a controversial law that will make it illegal for certain classes of public workers to bargain collectively on important issues like working conditions and benefits. Up until now, he and the state's GOP senators had been prevented from passing the law because they didn't have quorum—all 14 Democratic senators left the state so the bill couldn't be voted on.
But it turns out that that only works if the anti-union laws were being voted on as part of a larger fiscal package. Tonight, Wisconsin Republicans split the anti-union parts out into a separate piece of legislation. And, around 6:30 Central, they passed it—18-1. The only "nay" vote being GOP Senator Dale Schultz. (Who certainly deserves some nice notes in thanks for his bravery on this. I can't imagine that vote is going to be a career boost for him.) The new bill now goes to the legislature, where it's expected to be very quickly passed the Republican majority.
Dave Weigel at Slate says:
This is incoherent in a number of ways. First, Gov. Scott Walker's argument for not putting the collective bargaining and union dues/formation reforms on the negotiating table has been, since the beginning, that they were necessary for letting local governments balance their budgets. They are, technically, not "fiscal components" -- they just deal with huge sums of money. Second, Republicans punted on a voting reform bill two weeks ago because they did not want to split the fiscal portions of the bill -- funding for IDs, for those who couldn't afford them -- from the rest of it.
This is a desperation move. It's happening, say Democrats, before they read the new bill. Obviously, had Democrats not fled the state, the un-changed legislation would have passed last month. But this happens a day after e-mails from the governor's office floated the possibility -- which Democrats didn't quite buy -- of negotiation on the collective bargaining parts of the bill.
I'm hearing from friends in Madison tonight that people are flooding the Capitol building, even as the Senate session ended. If I hear more, I'll keep you updated.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's Democratic senators are on their way home, pledging to join the people of Wisconsin in taking back the government.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.