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Thursday, December 16, 2010

 10:36 AM 

Risser ends extraordinary session

Sen. Fred Risser this morning officially adjourned the extraordinary session pursuant to SJR 1.

Or as one Dem aide put in, "in technical terms it is done, done."

Risser last night held out the possibility that Dems might come back to the floor to take another run at the contracts. But he said this morning that "people felt the issues had been made."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

 10:43 PM 

Session tomorrow?

Senate President Fred Risser said today's session was adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow, and the bills containing the contracts are still in the Senate.

That means they could be brought back for reconsideration. On a tie vote, anyone can move reconsideration, he said.

"A lot can happen overnight," he said.

Still, Scott Fitzgerald's chief of staff John Hogan sent Republicans an e-mail late tonight telling them Sen. Mark Miller, the incoming Dem leader, and his chief of staff informed Fitzgerald's office that the chamber will not be on the floor tomorrow.

Still, Hogan warned Dems can pull the chamber back any day to take up the contracts.

 10:27 PM 

Decker has no regrets

Sen. Russ Decker had little comment as he exited the chamber tonight.

A rush of reporters and cameras followed the Weston Dem down to a first floor office.

"I have no regrets," Decker said when asked about how tonight's vote will affect his legacy.

Asked if he might run for the 7th CD, as was rumored earlier this year, Decker said, "You never know."

 9:48 PM 

Beil slams Decker

AFSCME Council 24 exec director Marty Beil, who is in the Capitol today to follow the vote on public employee contracts, had a very concise statement about his feelings on the outcome.

"Decker's a whore," he said.

 9:32 PM 

Hansen is new majority leader, Senate back in session

Senate Dems came out of their caucus with a new majority leader following a shocking vote that saw Russ Decker vote against public employee contracts.

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay and the assistant majority leader to this point, was installed as the majority leader.

Voting on the contracts has resumed, with the same outcome as before -- a 16-16 tie.

 8:35 PM 

Jauch shreds Decker

State Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, tore into fellow Dem Sen. Russ Decker after he voted against a contract for state employees, saying the decent thing for him to do would be to resign.

“I’ve seen a lot of selfish things done in this legislature. But I’ve never seen anything quite this selfish,” Jauch fumed after the vote. "And very frankly he has to look at himself in the mirror and I suspect he'll have a very hard time recognizing the person looking back. When you serve around here you hope to leave a legacy, something to remember you by. I sure wouldn't want to have his record defined by his performance tonight."

Jauch hinted Decker may be looking for a job in the Walker administration and accused him to sticking it to middle class workers and going against his history of being a champion of the working class.

"I can only conclude that there's 30 pounds of silver for his vote," he said. "The bottom line is no matter what his motive is he's sticking to a lot of middle class workers in this state who have given a great deal."

Jauch said Decker's vote was inconsistent with his record as a legislator.

"He has always been fighting for working families. And tonight he decides to stand up, get mad at Jim Doyle, take his anger out on public employees who have sacrificed by giving three percent of their salary, by paying more for health care benefits. Because he's mad at Jim Doyle? That sounds like a three-year-old who's pouting. Unfortunately we can't send him to the corner."

 8:17 PM 

Decker a no vote

Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, the Weston Dem defeated in the fall election, voted against state worker contracts.

Gov. Jim Doyle stopped work on high speed rail at the request of Gov.-elect Scott Walker, "recognizing that elections have consequences," Decker said.

Doyle and should have done the same with state contracts, he said.

Decker said the contracts should have been before the Legislature prior to the election.

"If these contracts had been brought to us before the election, as they should have been, this would have been an entirely different situation," he said.

"While I would obviously have rather seen a different outcome in the election ... the people of Wisconsin have spoken. They have said they want someone else making these decisions for them. There is no reason the next Legislature cannot take up these contracts.

"Now that the election has been held and the voters have spoken, I do not feel comfortable casting a vote in favor of these contracts."

Transcription of Decker's floor comments:

“In front of us today we have numerous labor contracts. But these contracts would not have been in front of us at this time except for the election results of Nov. 2. Some people lost in that election, including myself. Like it or not, state employees are going to have to negotiate four years of contracts with a new governor. Before I came to the Senate I negotiated contracts for bricklayers, and one of the worst things you could do is poke a stick in the eye of a new employer. Governor Doyle’s refused to call (the Legislature) into special session to approve contracts he negotiated despite a repeated request from many of you in this room. In 2002, former Governor McCallum made the same decision when he lost the election and held over contracts for a new governor and Legislature to act upon. If these contracts had been brought to us before the election, as they should have been, this would have been an entirely different situation. Let’s not forget right before the election Governor Doyle signed multi-million dollar contracts moving forward on high-speed rail. But within just a few days after the election, at the request of Governor-elect Walker, Governor Doyle stopped all state action on high-speed rail, recognizing that elections have consequences. While I would obviously like to have seen a different outcome in the election, both for myself and my Democratic colleagues, the people of Wisconsin have spoken and they have said they want someone else to make these decisions for them. There is no reason the next Legislature can not take up these contracts. Now that the election has been held and the voters have spoken, I do not feel comfortable casting a vote in favor of these contracts.”

 8:05 PM 

Erpenbach says Walker has put state employees in the crossfire

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, said state employees are caught in a partisan crossfire, and he pointed the finger at Gov.-elect Scott Walker for putting them there.

"The reason we're here tonight is very simple," Erpenbach said. "The number one state employee has painted a target on the backs of every state employee."

"He has made it his mission to go after public employees. It's an easy thing to do. They're in season right now."

 7:48 PM 

Sen. Fitzgerald: Contracts process "stinks to high heaven"

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he's voted for every contract in his career, but this time the process for getting to a vote "stinks to high heaven."

He said it was known a year ago that the contracts were languishing, and now with a Republican governor and GOP legislative majorities waiting in the wings, the agreements were pulled together hastily with lawmakers not knowing their true impact.

"It's about process, it's about forcing something through in the last few weeks that I'm going to vote no on contracts for the first time in my legislative career," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald, who will take over as majority leader next session, said the flaws with the process will be lost after what occurred in the Assembly.

"No matter what comments I make, the story will be the Democrats in the Assembly drove up and pulled a member of the Assembly out of jail and drove him to Madison and allowed him to be the deciding vote," Fitzgerald said. "That's going to be the lede tomorrow. And that's sad."

Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said Fitzgerald's vote against these contracts is ironic because he's voted for contracts in the past in which employees get pay increases, but now he's voting against contracts in which employees are taking pay cuts and contributing more for their benefits.

"Public employees have a real reason to wonder why they're being singled out as a scapegoat at a time when they're giving back," he said.

 7:10 PM 

Wood refuses questions

Rep. Jeff Wood, the independent lawmaker from Chippewa Falls who cast the pivotal vote to pass state worker contracts, refused to answer questions from reporters following the session.

A herd of about 20 media waited outside the Assembly for Wood to exit chamber. He then led them on a chase down two flights of stairs into an office on the ground floor of the Capitol as reporters tried to ask him about his vote, and how he got to the Capitol today.

His answers consisted of terse statements like, "I'm not going to talk to you."

Wood is serving a jail sentence in Chippewa County for a drunken driving conviction. He has Huber privileges.

 6:48 PM 

Assembly approves all state worker contracts

All 17 contracts up for consideration were passed by the Assembly today, all but one by a 48-47 margin that hinged on a deciding vote by independent Rep. Jeff Wood.

One contract, for some state health care workers, passed 49-46. Dem Rep. Peggy Krusick of Milwaukee voted for that contract after opposing all of the others.

The show now moves to the Senate, which will convene at 7:30 p.m.

 6:26 PM 

Wood deciding vote in Assembly

Independent state Rep. Jeff Wood was the deciding vote as the Assembly passed the first of 17 state contracts up for consideration today.

Wood is serving a jail sentence with Huber privileges in Chippewa County for a drunken driving conviction. He was released today to attend the session.

Wood, who was a Republican before turning independent before the 2008 election, did not seek re-election last fall.

Dem Peg Krusick voted no on the contract, the only Dem to vote against it. Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, a former Dem who switched to independent before the election, also voted no.

Dem Rep. Mark Radcliffe is absent.

See the roll call.

 5:44 PM 

Assembly session begins

The Assembly debate has begun on state employee contracts.

Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbottsford, said it was unfortunate that Democrats are pushing through public sector contracts at a time when 235,000 workers statewide are out of work.

"It's too bad we're here today to only vote on contracts for public employees," he said.

"Where's the extraordinary session for the private folks out there who are struggling to get by?"

He said the contracts were moving too quickly, before the public, or lawmakers, know what exactly they contain.

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said Dems pushed through 50 economic development initiatives in this session.

"Every day was a special day to try to deal with people who lost jobs," he said.

Responding to Suder, he said lawmakers have a duty to vote on state worker contracts.

"We don't approve contracts for (private sector) people," he said. "This is our job."

Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said Dems would likely make national news for the lengths they went to in order to get the votes to pass the contracts, a reference to Rep. Jeff Wood, I-Chippewa Falls, who is serving jail time with Huber privileges for a drunk driving conviction but is here for the vote.

Fitzgerald said votes like this are why voters are fed up with Dems and why they were tossed out in favor of Republicans in the November elections.

Rep. Marlin Schneider, the Wisconsin Rapids Dem who was defeated in November after 40 years in the Assembly, called Republicans hypocritical because they are public employees who enjoy taxpayer-paid health care and retirement benefits and draw a paycheck from state government.

"Unions negotiated those benefits that you now enjoy," he said.

Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, said he takes issue with how public employees have been treated in this process. He said the contract proposals include $100 million in health care savings for the state, but the fact is lost as the debate has been taken over by "hyperbole and demagoguery."

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said union workers in the private sector have agreed to concessions much larger than those laid on state employees in these contracts. He said Republicans are trying to "create more equity between public employees and the private sector."

 3:34 PM 

Risser says Assembly will go first

Senate President Fred Risser said the Senate intends to wait for the Assembly to act first on state worker contracts.

Risser added, "That strategy can always change. But that's where it is right now."

Risser said the Senate intends to vote today.

 2:24 PM 

Some missing Dems, Wood on the way, but Barca unsure he has votes

Five Dems and independent Jeff Wood weren't here for the open of today's extraordinary session in the Assembly, but most are accounted for and on their way to the Capitol, a Dem leader said.

Absent from the roll call were Wood and Reps. Joe Parisi, Gordon Hintz, David Cullen, Mark Radcliffe, and Mary Hubler.

All the Republican members were present. The Assembly gaveled in shortly after 1:30 p.m. before going to partisan caucus.

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said Parisi, Hintz, Cullen and Hubler were en route to Madison. He said he wasn't completely certain if Radcliffe would be here to vote.

Wood, who was arrested three times within a year on suspicion of driving under the influence, is being driven to Madison by a private citizen, Barca said.

Barca, who will take over as minority leader next year, said he wasn't sure if Dems have the votes to pass the contracts.

 11:56 AM 

JCOER approves contracts

State union worker contracts are now headed to the full Legislature for votes.

The Joint Committee on Employment Relations this morning approved 16 contracts and recommended passage, setting up votes later today in the Senate and Assembly.

Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, said the agreements contain $103 million in concessions from workers, including furlough days and increased worker contributions for pensions and health care.

"I think when you reach an agreement, it's time to move forward," Miller said.

But Republicans say the contracts are being rushed through by Dems before Republicans take control of both legislative houses and the governor's office in January.

Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said his caucus members have yet to be briefed on the contracts, which he says cover more than 1,200 pages.

"This is why people don't trust government anymore," he said. "People are losing faith in the process and there's no transparency any more."

But Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said details of the changes have been available for days, and the changes made to existing agreements cover only about 20 pages, which should be easy enough for lawmakers to digest.

Pocan accused Republicans of planning to "raid" the state compensation fund to "give it to the people you offered tax breaks to during the election."

He said Republicans were trying to make state employees the scapegoats for state government's fiscal problems.

Fitzgerald countered that the unions could have ratified the agreements months ago, but they "rolled the dice" on the election, hoping Dems would prevail and offer them a better deal.

"Republicans were swept in because of deals like this," he said.

 10:58 AM 

Decker shrugs off talk he didn't want to come back

Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker today laughed off talk that he was reluctant to call an extraordinary session to vote on state worker contracts.

"It was just a matter of getting the ducks in a row," said Decker, D-Weston, following a caucus this morning.

Senate President Fred Risser and others said yesterday that they were having difficulty reaching Decker to get him to approve the session. Decker said he was "up in Taylor County. There's very limited cell phone reception."

Risser even raised the possibility yesterday or replacing Decker as leader in "the extreme case" in an effort to get a vote on the contracts.

Decker was coy on whether there are enough Senate votes to pass the contracts.

"We're going to put 'em up and see what happens," he said.

 10:54 AM 

Olsen in California

At least one member of the Senate likely won't be on the floor today.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, is in California for what his office said was a long planned family vacation and did not plan to come back today for the session.

 9:47 AM 

Senate Org approves extraordinary session on employee contracts

Senate Org this morning approved via paper ballot coming to the floor at 11 a.m. to take up the state employee contracts.

The Assembly is also expected to meet today on the deals.

It is expected Senate President Fred Risser will gavel in the Senate at 11 a.m. before recessing so the Joint Committee on Employment Relations can make a recommendation on the deals.

Republicans from both houses are expected to be briefed on the bills before the Legislature goes to the floor for a vote.

UPDATE: Assembly Org will reconvene at 10:45 a.m. to authorize an extraordinary session for 11 a.m. today.

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