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Wisconsin Dems Who Hid Out In Illinois Can’t Vote

MADISON, Wis. (CBS) — The Democratic senators are back and Gov. Scott Walker’s budget plan has passed, but there is more trouble brewing now in Wisconsin.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says the 14 Democrats are still in contempt for leaving the state to forestall a vote on the budget, which included a controversial measure to strip collective bargaining rights from unionized public employees.

Thus, Fitzgerald says, the Democrats may attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation, and vote all they want, but their votes won’t count.

Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse says Democrats will remain in contempt until they attend a session. None is scheduled this week.

Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it doesn’t matter, because Walker has already signed the bill restricting unions.

Even though the Democrats hid out in Illinois to forestall a vote, the Republicans found a way to pass the bill restricting unions anyway.

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures on spending money. So the Republicans took all the spending measures out of the legislation, and the Senate passed the bill a short time later.

The state Assembly passed the bill soon afterward, and Walker signed it into law.

The Democratic senators argued that the Republican colleagues’ actions are illegal, and are challenging the new law in court.

Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette says he plans to publish the law on March 25. But Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, a Democrat, has filed a lawsuit to block publication and challenging the legality of the state Senate’s vote on the plan.

A court hearing is scheduled for Friday, but the issue is not expected to be settled anytime soon.

The new law forbids most government workers from collectively bargaining for wage increases beyond the rate of inflation. It also requires public workers to pay more toward their pensions and double their health insurance contribution, a combination equivalent to an 8 percent pay cut for the average worker.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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