Friday, February 18, 2011

US: Runaway legislators in Democrat fightback

A quirky good news story from the US. Republicans in Wisconsin's Senate today asked the governor to send state troopers after the leader of 14 Democrats who vanished to stall Republican efforts to strip some public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

The runaway lawmakers fled Thursday, delighting tens of thousands of protesters who have descended on the state capitol. The photo shows two of them with a banner on the roof in support of the 14.

The background to all this is that Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, faced with a $3.6 billion budget deficit, intends to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state, county and local workers. The plan exempts police, firefighters and the state patrol.

Obama has called this "an assault on unions." According to NPR, the flight of the 14 has been hailed by many Democrats as a long-awaited sign that their party was fighting back against the Republican wave created by November's midterm election.

The Democrats’ vanishing act makes the senate inquorate.  It seems that Wisconsin's constitution says absent legislators can be compelled to appear but doesn't say how. It also bars police from arresting legislators while they're in session.

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