Lawmakers ponder next move as capitol protest swells - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lawmakers ponder next move as capitol protest swells

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Republican lawmakers huddled behind closed doors, as hundreds of demonstrators inside and outside the state capitol continued to clamor for Governor Walker to abandon a plan to make drastic changes to public employee labor unions as a way to balance the state budget.

The legislature's joint committee on finance is scheduled to go into session sometime after 1 p.m. Wednesday, after hearing more than seventeen hours of public testimony on the proposal to require greater pension and health care contributions from public sector workers, and to strip public employee unions of much of their collective bargaining rights.

During an informal listening session staged by democratic lawmakers to accommodate dozens who did not have the chance to testify before the finance committee, Madison elementary school teacher Michele Hatchell said school children would be hurt by proposed labor changes affecting teachers.

Hatchell was one of dozens of Madison school teachers who called in sick to demonstrate the at capitol, effectively canceling class sessions district wide. Hatchell defended her actions, saying the civic participation was a teachable moment. Hatchell said some of her students were attending the listening session.

Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) told WKOW 27 News he believed some Republican state senators were open to push for modifying the labor components of the governor's budget repair bill.   But others who spoke to WKOW 27 News on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly said republican senators appeared united in making sure the bill passed the joint finance committee and then the senate without significant amendment.

As Walker conducted a news conference inside the governor's office to reinforce his proposal's ability to begin to address Wisconsin's budget deficit and avoid mass state employee layoffs, protesters jammed the nearby east wing hallway. Kept back by a team of police officers, their shouts of "recall Walker" echoed through the building.

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