As I mentioned earlier, the State Senate in Wisconsin plans to meet today, and take up items of a non-fiscal nature. Budget bills require a 3/5 quorum of the State Senate, but non-budget bills do not. So the Republican majority can operate on those bills if they so chose.
One Democratic State Senator is raising the alarm that this could be used to pass the stripping of collective bargaining rights for workers:
1 of the 14 Democratic state senators that fled Wisconsin rather than vote on a bill taking away collective bargaining rights says he fears Republicans may find a way to vote on a key part of the measure without them.
Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach told The Associated Press on Monday that Republicans could attempt to attach the part of the proposal taking away collective bargaining rights to an unrelated bill and pass it Tuesday.
This is definitely a concern. The Ohio bill that strips collective bargaining rights is non-fiscal in nature, for example. But sticking this in the budget repair bill provided cover for Republicans, giving them the opportunity to say that they were taking away worker rights because of fiscal concerns. I don’t think the GOP wants a standalone bill taking away people’s collective bargaining rights. It makes their action far too obvious. Nothing would start the recall petitions faster.
In addition, Gov. Walker specifically put out a statement this morning claiming that collective bargaining is a fiscal issue. That would certainly be brought up in the event of this end run, by Democrats and their parliamentarians alike, to prove that a 3/5 quorum would be needed. In fact, when State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said they wouldn’t end-run the collective bargaining bill, in the process he showed how difficult it would be to move forward on anything, given the broad way you can define “fiscal impact.”
Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said such a move would not happen, but Republicans plan to move ahead with regular Senate business. In addition to tomorrow’s calendar, that could mean public hearings on other legislation, and possibly a floor vote on a voter ID bill that Democrats don’t like.
“Just because they don’t want to participate, you can’t shut down the people’s work,” Fitzgerald said.
After it was pointed out the voter ID bill as proposed includes a fiscal aspect, Fitzgerald said there’s still discussions about what form the bill would take, and whether it would be altered so it could be brought up with just Republicans present.
Walker’s bluster about the fiscal impact of collective bargaining really restricts the GOP’s options here.
Meanwhile, Democratic leader in the State Senate Mark Miller said he could work with moderate Republicans on a compromise proposal. I don’t think Miller was supporting the compromise put on the table by Sen. Dale Schultz, as much as the principle of negotiation. Gov. Walker has rejected the first move toward that compromise, which would sunset the stripping of rights after two years. But if he does not have an alternative bill that can get majority support, that can change.
UPDATE: A bit more here.