MADISON (WKOW/AP) -- Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have voted to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers after discovering a way to bypass the chamber's missing Democrats.
All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to close a $137 million budget shortfall.
A special conference committee of state lawmakers approved that bill. The move set up a vote in the Senate, which voted mere moments later. The modified bill passed 18-1. Republican Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center was the lone "no" vote.
Democratic Rep. Barca says the move was in violation of the state's open meeting laws.
Gov. Walker released the following statement on the legislative action, "The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused. In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature's action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government. The action today will help ensure Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs."
Thousands of people are crowded around the Capitol. Police closed the building around 7:30 p.m. and are directing people out, saying the building must close when no legislative sessions, hearings, or other public meetings are going on inside after business hours. 27 News crews say hundreds of people remain in the Capitol, as of 8:30 p.m.
The Assembly is expected to vote on the measure Thursday morning in special session.
Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller of Monona says Democrats will "join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government," but wouldn't say when. In a statement Wednesday night, Miller said, "We will not be back tomorrow."
Democratic Senator Chris Larson tells 27 News' he's returning to Wisconsin from Illinois to see if the Senate Republican's meeting is a "trick."
Republican Senators are meeting in committee tonight to discuss Gov. Scott Walker's proposal that takes away most collective bargaining rights from most public workers.
Republicans are looking at taking fiscal elements out of the Walker's budget repair bill, in order to pass portions of Walker's proposal without Democrats present.
MADISON (WKOW/AP) -- Republican Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald has called a conference committee meeting for Wednesday night.
The committee's considering Gov. Scott Walker's proposal that takes away most collective bargaining rights from most public workers.
The Senate convened unexpectedly around 4 p.m. Wednesday to create the committee, which planned to meet for the first time at 6 p.m.
Fitzgerald would not say what they plan to do at their meeting.
Typically, a conference committee is only convened when two different versions of a bill have passed the Senate and Assembly and the two sides can't reach agreement.
However, the bill in question that passed the Assembly was in the Senate in the same form. It was stalled in the Senate after all 14 Senate Democrats fled the state and denied a quorum.
Senate Democrats in Illinois tell 27 News they will not be returning to Wisconsin tonight.
Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch tells the Associated Press, he thinks Republicans plan to "ram through" parts of the bill that take away collective bargaining rights but that don't cost any money. Sen. Jon Erpenbach says he thinks they will do anything they can to bust up public unions with or without Democrats there.