Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Not able to wait for the self-exiled Democratic senators to return to Wisconsin--which was looking to happen sooner rather than later--senate Republicans apparently dusted off their rulebooks and figured out how to pass the anti-public union measures without the Democrats. The Republicans removed any provisions related to appropriations from the bill, which also removed the 20-senator quorum requirement for such provisions. This occurred over objections from the Democratic Assembly leader that the state open meetings law had been violated. After that, the Senate (18-1) passed the bill. Next stop is the State Assembly and then Governor, both of which will no doubt approve the bill.
It's a little surprising it took them this long to figure out they could do this or, if they were aware of the option, finally use it. Given that it looked like the Democrats would come back fairly soon (although this wasn't certain), this move seems to open themselves up to more criticism. On the other hand, such moves are inside baseball and most of the public attention is focused on the end result more than how they got there. What remains to be seen is the aftermath to all this. Will more state limits of public collective bargaining become the norm? Will the recent events cause a backlash and help rejuvenate labor in some way? How will changes in the economy and the next election affect things? Only time will tell.
UPDATE: Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight examines some of these questions in a recent post. It's good to see that he's on this issue because as more polling data becomes available, he'll be able to do more of the great statistical analysis that he's known for.