MADISON (WKOW) -- A secret meeting at the Wisconsin-Illinois border between the senate's top Republican and several absent Democrats failed to convince any of the Democrats to return to the state capitol, but the Republican leader predicted a return could be soon.
Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he met with the Democrats Monday in Kenosha. Fitzgerald said they talked for two hours as Fitzgerald explored ways to help them "find a way back to the capitol."
Fitzgerald declined to identify who he spoke with, other than to note the meeting did not include Senate minority leader Mark Miller (D-Monona).
Fitzgerald said the conversation convinced him some senators "have had it" with being in Illinois to avoid voting on Governor Walker's controversial budget repair bill and its virtual elimination of collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Fitzgerald said he offered no concessions on the bill's language to lure them back. The bill passed the state Assembly after a marathon, sixty-one hour session.
Republican senator Mike Ellis said if a vote on the bill was held now, 18 of the 19 Republican senators would support it, enough for passage if the Senate had a quorum to allow the vote. That quorum requires 20 senators, meaning just one of the 14 Democrats who fled the state nearly two weeks ago would need to be present.
Ellis also testily refuted a report in the Wisconsin State Journal that suggested he sabotaged a chance for the senate to achieve the needed quorum. The newspaper reported Ellis spoke twice with democratic Sen. Tim Cullen on the day Democrats left the state and warned Cullen to stay away from the capitol.
"Absolutely, I don't recall that all," Ellis told WKOW27 News.
Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), reached in Illinois by WISN-TV, refuted Fitzgerald's claims of breaks in democratic solidarity over the issue of whether to return to Wisconsin.