UPDATE: Senate Republicans take up voter ID, can't vote - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Senate Republicans take up voter ID, can't vote


MADISON (WKOW) -- Senate Republicans unexpectedly took the floor several hours before their scheduled session.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald issued another call of the house sending law enforcement to the missing Democratic Senators homes but, once again, they came up empty handed.

For the third day in a row, the Senate took the floor without Senate Democrats and once again their absence stalled legislation on a controversial bill. Once again the State Senate has hit a road block, unable to make final passage on a bill because of fiscal element in the bill and the 14 missing Democrats.

Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says, "Why are they not participating? Why are they tearing apart the Senate rule book?"

Thursday the Senate took up the controversial voter ID bill. It requires voters to show photo ID at the polls. It's something Republicans say will cut down on voter fraud, but a piece of legislation the Democrats have long opposed.

Senator Fitzgerald says, "Now we are beyond the amendable stage again so they will not be able to amend this bill. They will not be able to argue those arguments on something that has politically been very high profiled at the Capitol for some time now."

The Republicans could have taken out the fiscal element of the bill and passed it without any Democrats, but Senator Joe Leibham of Sheboygan says it was safer to keep the bill together and wait for Democrats.

Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan) says, "If we removed the fiscal aspect providing free ID's it could have opened up that question of not allowing individuals to get free ID's so on that constitutional concern we smartly agreed it wasn't smart to take it to a final vote."

It's that same fiscal element that has stalled Governor Walker's budget repair bill in the Senate. The majority leader once again has said their party stands rock solid and will pass the legislation as soon a Democrats return.

Senator Fitzgerald says, "The idea that Senator Miller and Democrats are engaged in negotiation with Governor Walker is preposterous. It's not happening. They can keep saying that but it's just not happening, hasn't happened, won't happen. We need to get this bill passed so we can move on."

Senator Liebham says the Senate needs to take up action on the voter ID bill within the next couple of weeks in order to give clerks enough time to prepare for the changes before the spring election in April.

The Republicans did pass a technical substitute amendment Thursday. It's a grace period through the end of the year meaning voters without ID at the April elections will not be turned away.

They will instead be given a document explaining changes to the law and that photo ID will be required in any election after 2012.

The Senate will be back in session once again Friday at 11 a.m. There are no controversial pieces of legislation on the agenda. The Senate Majority Leader says as far as issuing another early morning Call of the House they will take it day by day.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The Senate session has begun, after a Call of the House had troopers looking for Senate Democrats this morning.

The state Senate sergeant at arms says the State Patrol went to several Senate Democrats homes but left after finding no one.

The troopers were sent to find the 14 Senate Democrats who left town eight days ago to stall voting on Republican Gov. Walker's budget repair bill.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's press aide says the troopers did not go to every house but several homes and nobody was home. They're still hoping Senate Democrats will come back.

Fitzgerald's press aide tells 27 News the reason for the 7 a.m. Call of the House was because they were hearing reports Senate Democrats were sleeping in their own beds at night and leaving before the Call of the House to go back out of the state. Some Dems had said they stopped home on the weekend to pick up a change of clothes.

Sen. Taylor, a Democrat from Milwaukee, told a news outlet she had been home a couple times to check in with her kids.

Police can not arrest senators but Fitzgerald says he hoped the lawmakers would feel compelled to return if police showed up at their doors, according to the Associated Press.

Later this morning, the Senate took up the voter ID bill. Sen. Liebham, a Republican from Sheboygan, says requiring voters to show an ID is a reasonable requirement and doesn't impact the vast majority of people.

Republicans hoped the voter ID bill might bring Senate Democrats back but they're staying away. The Senate adopted a technical substitute amendment to voter ID. There would be a testing "grace period" starting from now until 2012, so no voter without an ID will be turned away from polls during the grace period.

Sen. Fitzgerald says because there is a fiscal element in the voter ID bill, they can't vote on it without 20 people on the floor. There are 19 Republicans. Senate Democrats have lost the right to make amendments to voter ID.

Sen. Liebham says it was more constitutionally safe to leave the fiscal part in the voter ID bill. Liebham says they need to pass this within a couple of weeks to give poll workers enough time to prepare.

Sen. Lazich says they hope to use April election as educational opportunity to warn people to changes in law but the Democrats have to return.

The Senate did easily passed a declaration to make January 26 as Bob Uecker Day.

Colby Robertson will have the latest on this developing story on air, online and on the go.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Officers from the Wisconsin State Patrol have been dispatched by a call of the house at 7:00 a.m. today to find Democratic State Senators within the state. According to an Associated Press report, this is in an effort to force them back into session.

The State Senate's schedule said they were not due to begin today's session until 11:00 a.m. Thursday.

All fourteen Democrats in the chamber have been missing since leaving the state for Illinois to avoid voting on Scott Walker's budget repair bill.

Police cannot arrest members, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he hopes one or more of them will feel compelled to come back with a police officer at their front door.

Republicans only need one Democrat to return and take his or her seat at the chamber in order to have a quorum in order to vote on the budget bill, or any other bill involving spending.

In the meantime, the Wisconsin State Assembly continues their marathon session as of 7:30 a.m. debating more than a hundred amendments to Walker's budget repair bill. 

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