Democrats defiant in the face of arrest - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Democrats defiant in the face of arrest


MADISON (WKOW) -- Vowing to stay united and away from a controversial vote at the state Capitol, absent senate Democrats showed no indication the threat of arrest would compel them to return to Wisconsin from hiding in Illinois.

In a statement, missing senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said Republican senate approval of the equivalent of arrests warrants on the fourteen absent senators was part of creating "a police state" in Wisconsin.

From an undisclosed location in Illinois, senate minority leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said threatening he and his colleagues with arrest "just not productive" and brought the two sides no closer to a solution to a continuing political stalemate over the state's budget crisis.

The senators disappeared two weeks ago to deny 19 senate Republicans a needed quorum of 20 senators to vote on Governor Walker's controversial budget repair bill and its inclusion of elimination of most collective bargaining rights for public employees.

At the state capitol offices of the missing senate democrats, staff members worked with the increased tension of the possibility their bosses could be arrested. 

"It raised the stakes, it raised the intensity of the situation," said Aaron Collins, aide to absent Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).

"Nothing's changed as far as the senators being in Illinois. Law enforcement cannot go get them in Illinois."

Missing Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) has told WKOW27 News he has crossed the state line to go to his home within minutes of the border to get clothes and provisions. With the new directive from Senate republicans, all Wisconsin law enforcement officers could act on this all-points bulletin if any of the 14 senators are observed in the state.

Assembly minority leader Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called the escalation "a bullying tactic," but also suggested the arrest threat could be made moot by continuing discussions between democrats and republicans over the stalled budget repair bill.

Barca said he met with Walker Friday. "For the first time, I think the governor seemed open to ideas."

In all previous public statements, Walker has said he's unbending on restricting collective bargaining rights. Walker has said the proposed changes are need to give school districts, towns and cities flexibility to lower labor costs to cope with a reduction of nearly a billion dollars in state aid.

On the possibility of compromise, Barca said Walker offered, " would take a win-win, there has to be a way that both sides get a win out of this."

Barca said any compromise would most likely involve actions outside of the budget repair bill.   Walker introduced his two-year budget plan earlier this week.

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