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Wisconsin Sends State Troopers After Absent Senators
February 24, 2011

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The legislative impasse in Wisconsin over proposed legislation that would limit the power of labor unions has escalated, with state troopers being dispatched to the homes of Democratic state senators in an effort to bring them back to the capitol for a vote on the bills.

Troopers reported that none of the 14 senators were at their residences. They have been staying, for the most part, in a neighboring state, avoiding a vote on the contentious legislation; and because Republicans, although they control the Senate, do not have enough members to force a vote, the impasse continues.

The state House, meanwhile, is nearing a vote on the bills, after Democrats there tried to attach a large number of amendments in order to postpone the vote. Both parties in the House have reached an agreement of sorts, and a vote is expected soon. The Senate, though, would not be able to vote until at least some Democrats return to the capitol.

Protesters in Madison, the state capital, continued to gather in the thousands to protest the proposed bills, which would limit unions' ability to negotiate on behalf of workers for salaries and benefits. Republicans say that the bills are needed in order to confront a mounting budget deficit and to avoid layoffs. Democrats say that the bills go too far in weakening workers' rights.

The Wisconsin situation has gone one for more than a week. Other states are confronting similar issues.

Democrats in nearby Indiana have emulated their Wisconsin counterparts and left the state rather than take part in a vote that they would lose. As in Wisconsin, the Indiana GOP does not have a quorum and so cannot force a vote. As a result, one key part of the Republican proposal has been derailed.

Thousands of protesters have gathered in Columbus, Ohio's capital, to protest what they see as anti-union legislation introduced by Republicans in that state. The Ohio GOP has a more solid hold on its state houses and could probably force a vote that it would win; the current bill, however, is still with a Senate committee.

One state that has reported a similar bill passing a key committee is Oklahoma, where a House committee has approved a bill that would remove collective bargaining rights (the ability of workers to negotiate together, as a large group) from city workers in the state's 13 largest cities.

Other cities that have similar bills pending:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia


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