Is the news about Wisconsin Democratic Senators being forced to leave the state accurate?
February 21, 2011 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Is the news about Wisconsin Democratic Senators being forced to leave the state accurate?

"Democratic state senators in Wisconsin have been forced to flee the state to stop Gov. Walker's radical attack on nurses, teachers and public employees. Now, Gov. Walker has ordered state police to hunt them down. Show solidarity with the 14 Wisconsin state senators by giving them your support." This was sent to me by Credo Action.
posted by Non-Prophet to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you're asking if they were really "forced" to leave Wisconsin, they were not. It was more like, "We are left with no other choice but to run away so we don't have to vote on this!"
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:30 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my understanding, they weren't "forced" to leave, but leaving was the only way they could prevent the bill from being passed. The Republicans control the senate 19-14, so in a normal vote, they could pass it. However, quorum for the state is 20 votes, so if none of the Dems are present, the Republicans cannot pass anything (they're 1 vote short of a quorum).
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Report: Wis. Dem State Senators Leave State To Block Budget Quorum

Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor (D) says "BRB" on her Facebook
posted by karmaportrait at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

They were forced as in that was the only thing they could do to stop the bill from being passed. They left the state voluntarily.
posted by patrad at 9:32 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

The wording is misleading. They've left the state to prevent the Wisconsin state senate from being able to hold a quorum — without the minimum number of Democrats, the Governor and the Republican majority can't pass anything, including the union-decapitating legislation they are seeking to implement. Framing it as 'being forced' is semantically unclear, but they are free to return to the state any time they wish. The hope is that in preventing legislative business from being pursued, they can force some sort of compromise on the issue.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 9:33 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

It is my understanding that the reason they have left the state rather than simply not showing up to vote is that the Wisconsin State Police have been dispatched to arrest them and bring them to the legislative session. Outside of Wisconsin the state police have no jurisdiction.
posted by enn at 9:35 AM on February 21, 2011

Because they could be compelled to attend they had no other choice if they wanted to stop the bill.

So, yes, they were forced - they had no other choice if they wanted to achieve their goal.

My state Senator is Fred Risser. He won 80% of the vote in the last election. He'll do even better after this.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:41 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

While it is accurate that they have left the state by choice, also consider the kind of pressure that has led to them remaining out of the state.

Yes, they did send state troopers after at least one senator. He had returned home for one night, but left before the troopers got there.

Two other intriguing notes:
1) According to the article, "the Wisconsin Constitution prohibits police from arresting legislators while they’re in session, but [Senate Majority Leader Scott] Fitzgerald says he wanted to send a message to Miller to bring his caucus back."

2) Fitzgerald, eh? As in Scott Fitzgerald (Senate Majority Leader), his brother Jeff (Assembly Speaker) and, oh yeah, their father Steve, who was appointed head of the State Patrol just last week. Hmmm... State Patrol, you say?
posted by Madamina at 9:42 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here's an article from a Milwaukee paper:

So, from the point of view of legislators hiding out in Illinois, they're definitely safe there, as Wisconsin has no jurisdiction across the state line. If they're somewhere in Wisconsin but not in the Capitol, it's kind of murky, as no one has actually tried this sort of thing in Wisconsin before.

For the OP, it depends on what "forced" means. Saying "forced" makes it somewhat pejorative, as it's not the case that they were exiled and are in mortal danger if they were to set foot in the state. A better statement may be that political tactics have led them to be somewhere far beyond their Governor's reach.
posted by chengjih at 9:51 AM on February 21, 2011

Texas did the same thing in 1979 (the Killer Bees) and in 2003 (the Killer Ds), to avoid a quorum on a redistricting vote. They went to Oklahoma, and later to New Mexico -- nobody chased them out of the state. Here's how Molly Ivins described it when it happened here in 2003:
The latest flap is over a congressional redistricting map that is so bad it's actually funny. Of course, the thing was passed without public hearings, because as Rep. Joe Crabb explained, "The rest of us would have a very difficult time if we were out in an area — other than Austin or other English-speaking areas — to be able to have committee hearings or to be able to converse with people that did not speak English." Sometimes you have to wonder what planet these people are from.

That was the proverbial straw for the Democrats, 53 of whom left the state or went into hiding Sunday to break the quorum, thus bringing legislative business to a halt. They've already been dubbed the Killer D's, after the tradition of the Killer Bees in 1979. Believe me, stopping the legislature from functioning at this point is high public service.
posted by Houstonian at 10:11 AM on February 21, 2011

People pretty much have it, just a little nuance left: The republicans have a regular quorum, but budgetary matters require an even larger presence. There needs to be 20 senators. There are 19 Republicans (and I'm pretty sure there where only 17 republicans in attendance the day the Democratic senators went on the lam).

"Forced" is a word-in-play. You could argue that the Democratic senators felt that this was the only maneuver left to them to at least momentarily put the brakes on, and so felt "forced" to do so, and they may have been "forced" to cross the State line, otherwise facing arrest, and compelled under real force to appear at the Senate.

I honestly think they where originally going to remain away for a few days, as a sort of symbolic protest. But now, both Walker and the Senators have painted themselves into a corner, and both will loose serious credibility if they give in.
posted by edgeways at 11:51 AM on February 21, 2011

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