March 10, 2011- Wisconsin State Senator Bob Jauch, a senior Democrat, says that what he is witnessing feels like “a coup.”
Marty Beil, the head of the AFSCME Council 24, the state’s largest public employee union, said Wisconsin had been turned into “a banana republic.”
And thousands of Wisconsinites, men and women, adults and their children, public employees and private-sector workers, have poured into the state Capitol in Madison, shouting: “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
There were 7,000 people outside the Capitol at some points during night, and thousands inside.
At the close of one of the most remarkable days in American political history, a state once regarded as among the most enlightened and progressive in the nation finds itself ruled by rogue Republican operatives whose disregard for rules – and the popular will – is so extreme that the longest serving legislator in the nation, Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser, a Madison Democrat, says: “They have not just bent the law. They have broken it.”
Risser is right. After weeks of intense debate inside and outside the Capitol, and at a point when most Wisconsinites thought a compromise was in the offering, Republican legislative leaders suddenly announced that they would pass the most draconian components of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill – including a move to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
They could not do so passing the bill as Walker proposed it. Because Walker’s measure was a budget bill, that would have required a quorum and no quorum could be achieved because of the absence of 14 Democratic senators – who fled to Illinois in order to establish a negotiating position to change the bill.
So the Republican stripped out the supposedly “non-economic” components of the bill, including the assault on collective bargaining, and passed them in a form that did not require the quorum.
They did so without hearings, without debate and without following the state’s open meetings laws.
They did so in less than two hours, without even notifying key Democrats.
They did so over the objections of Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Kenosha Democrat, who repeatedly explained to members of the legislative Conference Committee that moved the bill to passage: “Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law.”
Barca's point was well taken.
But the Republicans did not listen, or care. They literally walked out of the meeting as they spoke.