UPDATE: Senate majority leader signs orders of contempt - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Senate majority leader signs orders of contempt


MADISON (WKOW) -- A 4:00 p.m. deadline for missing Senate Democrats has come and gone. Now, all 14 Senators are being held in contempt. Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says a constitutional crisis has compelled them to take this action.

Fitzgerald says, "At this point, we need to start protecting the institution and show we're serious about that. What we just did a couple minutes ago was a step in that direction."

Thursday morning, the Senate passed a resolution, finding the Senate Democrats guilty of contempt and disorderly behavior if they did not return to the Capitol by 4:00 p.m.

Fitzgerald says, "This gives the Senate authority, per the constitution, to compel the missing Senators to be in attendance."

At 4:00 p.m. Senate Republicans took the floor, once again, without Senate Democrats. Senator Fitzgerald signed the orders, putting law enforcement on notice to bring the Dems into custody.

Senator Fitzgerald says the trigger for all of this comes from Oconto County and a case regarding missing Senate Democrat Jim Holperin. Wednesday a judge said that Senator Holperin was in violation of Senate rule because he is not appropriately representing his constituents.

Fitzgerald says, "He (the judge) said listen, you're not functioning as a legislative body if there is no minority party there and the State Senate has the ability to make sure those members are compelled."

Republicans say this resolution isn't about the budget repair bill. They say it's about a constitutional crisis and setting a precedent to ensure this can't happen ever again.

Senate President Michael Ellis (R-Neenah) says, "This is a first and as a result we have a real crisis on our hands because anytime you don't like the budget, the minority can walk out, take off, we can't pass the state budget, so this action taken today by my good friends is setting a dangerous precedent."

The order to detain is essentially an arrest warrant, now, in effect 24/7. It will last until all 14 Senate Democrats return to the Senate floor and gives any law enforcement in Wisconsin the authority to arrest the Democratic Senators.

Fitzgerald says he knows the Senate Dems have been in Wisconsin. He and other GOP Senators hope this latest measure will compel these Democrats to return to the Capitol.

Ellis says, "I think if they're smart this will get them back, they don't need to be brought back, they will come back, they have a responsibility, each one of them represents close to 200,000 people."

Law enforcement are not allowed to cross the boarder into Illinois.

In fact, Fitzgerald says, if the Senate Dems stay in Illinois, they don't know what they will do. He says they cannot compel Illinois law enforcement to get involved because it then becomes an issue at the federal level.

Fitzgerald continues to reiterate that if and when the Democrats do return, the Republicans will happily meet them on the floor and vote on the budget repair bill.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald has signed orders of contempt against the 14 Senate Democrats who are currently out of state to avoid a vote on Gov. Walker's budget repair bill.

The orders allows the sergeant at arms to detain the missing senators and use police force if necessary.

The Senate Democrats say they don't have any plans to return.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach released the following statement this afternoon, "All fourteen of us remain in Illinois, very strong in our convictions. Issuing arrest warrants at 4 p.m. isn't going to solve the problem. This is a debate about protection of the middle class in Wisconsin; that is what the republicans should be focusing on."


MADISON (WKOW) -- State Senate Republicans passed a resolution that holds the 14 missing Senate Democrats in contempt. It requires them to return to the Senate chamber by 4:00 p.m., today.

If they do not return, the resolution passed by all 19 Republicans authorizes the Democrats can be taken into custody for being in contempt of the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said, "They have pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis."

This afternoon, Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said, "All fourteen of us remain in Illinois, very strong in our convictions."

After 4:00 p.m., the Sgt. At Arms can use any means necessary, with or without force and assistance from police, to bring the senators back. However they cannot cross state borders.

Sen. Erpenbach says, "Issuing arrest warrants at 4 p.m. isn't going to solve the problem."

The vote comes two weeks after the Democrats left, effectively delaying the vote on Gov. Scott Walker's proposal taking away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Fitzgerald said the action is legally different from an arrest, but "definitely a shift from asking them politely."

The resolution says the absent Democrats are determined to be guilty of contempt and disorderly content. It gives the sergeant at arms the authority to take any and all steps, with or without force and assistance from police, to bring the senators back.

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