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Tip of the spear

Other states will eye Wisconsin fallout

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Tip of the spear
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The battle of Wisconsin ended abruptly on March 9 when state Senate Republicans-convinced that the Senate's Democratic members would remain out of state indefinitely (as they had for three weeks) to thwart a budget vote-amended the bill so they could vote without a super-majority quorum. It quickly passed. The bill restricts the collective bargaining power of most government-worker unions and ends the practice of forcing government workers to pay union dues. On March 10 amid shouts and chants from protesters at the capitol building and death threats reportedly arriving via email, the state Assembly also passed the bill, and Gov. Scott Walker pledged to sign it quickly.

State Senate Democrats seemed shocked. "In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller from Illinois. Republicans, pointing out that government workers in many other states and at the federal level do not have unlimited collective bargaining power, insisted the reform was necessary to implement urgent budget cuts.

Opponents promise to challenge the law in court, but Republicans say the bill will stand up: "Why would we leave ourselves open on that front?" said State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in a radio interview. "We did everything in a very methodical way." Political fallout may be the greater threat: Recall efforts are currently underway against 14 state senators-including eight Republicans who voted for the bill and six Democrats who fled the state to prevent the vote. Other states will be watching to see whether those senators survive and whether Walker can regain momentum after the standoff. "This is bigger than the budget repair," Fitzgerald said. "This is about unions nationwide. We're the tip of the spear."


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