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The Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin Assembly Passes Collective Bargaining Bill

Mary Spicuzza

SHAME! Jenny Grether and Robert Hoffman of Madison, Wisconsin shout "shame" toward legislators deliberating a controversial budget bill in the Assembly room of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin Thursday, March 10, 2011. Demonstrations at the capitol have intensified as House members gathered to vote on an amended version of Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill. The bill, which passed the state Senate earlier, largely strips public employees of bargaining rights. (John Hart/State Journal)

There was shouting, screaming, and chants of "Shame!"

And that was just among the members of the state Assembly.

The controversial budget repair bill passed the Assembly 53-42 after a chaotic morning at the state Capitol, which involved protesters being dragged away from the entrances to the Assembly chamber leading up to the 11 a.m. floor session.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourselves," Rep. Tamara Grigsby said after Republicans insisted the bill would pass Thursday. "And I swear I don't understand how you walk out of this building with your heads up."

The bill, which effectively strips collective bargaining rights from nearly all public workers in Wisconsin and makes sweeping changes to Medicaid programs, now heads to the desk of Gov. Scott Walker for his signature. It passed the state Senate on Wednesday night with none of the 14 Senate Democrats present.

The Democratic senators fled to Illinois more than three weeks ago in an effort to deny the Senate a 20-member quorum for fiscal bills and stop its passage. But in a series of parliamentary moves late Wednesday, the GOP said they'd stripped fiscal components of the bill and could pass it without the Democrats.

But several Assembly Democrats challenged that, saying the bill still had numerous fiscal components.

They warned Republicans that the world is watching, and accused them of violating open meetings laws and failing to follow a court order lifting restrictions on access to the Capitol.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said the current situation in Wisconsin was like legislating under "junta rules."

But Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the GOP's actions would show bravery.

"It will show to people in Wisconsin and throughout the country that we are not afraid to make hard decisions," Vos said.

In the moments before the vote, protesters' shouts grew louder and chants of "Kill the bill!" echoed through the chamber.

But that was nothing compared to the eruption as the votes were counted. At that moment, the entire Capitol seemed to erupt.

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