Better than the filibuster?

To avoid a vote on a proposal to limit collective bargaining rights in the state of Wisconsin, 14 legislators have fled the state, to an undisclosed location. I am not sure if there is a precedent for this. The reason they crossed state lines was to dodge the Wisconsin police.

It turns out that "Republicans hold a 19-14 majority, but they need at least one Democrat to be present before voting."  The link is here and for the pointer I thank Brian Hooks.

Comments

They did this in Texas on a redistricting vote in 2003. Willie Nelson supplied the booze to the fugitive legislators bandanas and whiskey in support. I believe they went to Oklahoma.

I wonder whether there is any abandonment provision for their seats if they don't show up. It would be amusing if they were declared AWOL and held new elections or appointments for their seats.

Not a filibuster, but a fledabluster.

there's a famous story about abraham lincoln jumping out of a window from the illinois legislature, as part of a disappearing quorum.

The Republicans don't need one Democrat to be present to pass legislation by rule; the rule is that they need 20 Senators present to have a quorum.

14 down, 19 to go.

Glad to see the Republicans are consistent in their view that legislation is best done in a extremely partisan way, with Republicans ramming their agenda through, while attacking the Democrats for doing things by peeling off one or two Republicans from the Republicans who have gone on strike.

The public sector unions are human parasites.

Wow. It's a lot like workers going on strike. Gee, what does that remind me of...

James,

The irony of my comment must have escaped you.

I do not favor calling either human parasites because it does not advance the discussion. It does point out that negotiated rights should not be abrogated unilaterally, but rather by negotiation.

So, we both agree calling union employees or tenured faculty human parasites does not advance the discussion.

The cry lately has been tax the rich, they can afford it. And then we realize that "rich" is a relative term. As in teachers with all their benefits are richer than I am even though our paychecks are about the same. I predict that the unions will be surprised at how this comes out. And of course, they will never accept that they did this to themselves.

Colorado,

How did they do this to themselves? Unions have never signed any contract that management didn't agree to also.

What we can say is that as the middle class has no one to blame for their disappearance other than themselves and their willingness to let unions be busted.

Shanonit, unions and management are on the same side in this case. Therefore, they have only themselves to blame for the deals they sign.

I don't remember negotiating terms with either unions or professors.

Andrew, If Math doesn't give a damn, then the military must be parasite too. We increased military spending by 65% in real terms, excluding wars, since 2001.

"Deeply undemocratic"? Legislatures are undemocratic by definition. It's not as if the people are voting on these laws.

I thought those things only happened in banana republics. In 1993, in the Argentinean province of Corrientes, one of the members of the electoral college fled the province so as to avoid giving quorum -which would have meant electing one candidate from his own party (it was said he received US$1 million from the opposition). The source (in Spanish) is here: http://www.fcen.uba.ar/prensa/micro/1993/ms93.htm

Here's an excerpt: "El domingo 17 los electores del FE no concurrieron a la cita. No fueron los unicos. Ramon "Tabare" Bruzzo, elector y amigo dilecto del candidato radical Noel Breard, tampoco se presento a la cita. Despues de varias demoras y de ir a buscarlo a su casa se decidio pasar a un nuevo cuarto intermedio para el lunes 18. Los 11 electores pactitas mas los 2 radicales no alcanzaban a lograr el quorum. El lunes 18 el papelon ya no pudo ser obviado: Bruzzo habia huido de la provincia. Mientras el menemismo festejaba sin disimulo la derrota de la alianza radical pactista, Breard hacia un mea culpa y asumia la responsabilidad de lo sucedido: Bruzzo fue puesto como elector por el mismo y en la provincia empezaban a correr los rumores sobre cuanto habria sido el "incentivo" recibido por Bruzzo para no presentarse aduciendo "problemas de conciencia" mediante una grabacion dejada en una radio. La intervencion reconocia que habian "operado" sobre el elector radical pero no que hubiese habido "cometa". Es un radical de muchos a#os, argumentaban, no iba a aceptar un acuerdo con el Pacto sinonimo de corrupcion en la provincia."

Just a point of clarification: The teachers in Wisconsin do not bargain with the state. Collective bargaining occurs at the local level, where school boards and teachers meet to negotiate their wage and benefits package. We have some districts where teachers pay next to nothing for their health care, where in other districts they may pay 5% or more. The point is that compensation is controlled locally, and other than legislating rules for capping salary increases, the state does not play a role in negotiations.

The beauty of collective bargaining at the local level is that each city uses their property tax levy to determine how they want to compensate their teachers. If the citizens of the community feel teachers are overcompensated, they have the power to elect new school board members. Pretty simple stuff that has worked quite well for Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, what Governor Walker is doing isn't just limiting compensation for teachers, it is effectively removing the flexibility that local school districts have to create compensation packages that attract and retain the quality of educator that they want for their respective districts.

Patrick, I understand that the gov will be submitting his budget next week. Do you think his collective bargaining proposal before he announces his budget Is precursor to cutting local government assistance. Local government will claim they will have to raise property taxes, and he will argue they can cut teacher and janitor salaries. Delay by the dems could upset this strategy of timing.

Betting markets have:

Michigan: 3-2

Minnesota: 5-2

to fall next.

It's not like Wisconsin has a Vaclav Havel -- or even a Karel Capek.

Bill - Regarding Dems strategy: I am normally not one for theatrics, but given how little we know about the other items in the budget, I suppose it is an effective strategy. The flood of protesters and national media that continue to stream into Madison probably buys them some time too.

Regarding the demonstrations, it is worth noting that we are experiencing unseasonably warm (40-50 degrees) weather this week. After suffering through below zero temps the prior week, I've been pondering the role weather plays in history. A convincing argument could be made that sub-zero temperatures this week would have the potential to dramatically alter how events have played out at the capital.

Seconding Patrick. Wisconsin was deficit neutral when walker took office, according to Wisconsin's CBO-equivilent. Then:

1) Cut taxes, in a state with an already below-average tax burden for upper income and businesses, thus creating a deficit
2) Use this new "budget crisis" as an excuse to eliminate public sector union's bargaining rights, because "he just knows" the unions wont agree to the "necessary" cuts to plug the hole in the budget that he created.

Brilliant! If your goal is an ideological attack on unions. Not so brilliant, if you consider it amounts to chopping 10% in take home pay away from the 5% of residents who are publicly employed, in the middle of an aggregate-demand driven economic rut.

I was calling for cutting defense before the median voter.

Aren't public employee unions kind of an odd thing? The 'good' thing about unions and compensation is that they take the surplus from stockholders, right? But the 'good' thing about public services is the stockholders and customers are taxpayers.

Jason (the commenter) - I think you overstate the role tax rates play in businesses choosing to relocate. I don't see much evidence of businesses hopscotching the country or even neighboring states in search of low tax rates. I think what is more common is states targeting a desirable company with a specific tax incentive package. We saw this play out in Wisconsin recently with Harley Davidson. Wisconsin also saw this play out with train manufacturer Talgo, who appears to be leaving the state after the Governor turned down federal money for high-speed rail.

'There seem to be a lot of Keynesians here, finding fault with Wisconsin for cutting spending during an "economic rut". But how does that work at the state level?'

States have to balance their budgets, unlike the Federal government that can run deficits. Some states have used gimmicks to balance (sale and leasebacks of property for one), but these evwentuially run out.

I love the idea that if Wisconsin wants to pay its teachers less, they should just elect different people to their school committees.

In point of fact, Wisconsin just elected a Republican legislature so that they could pay their teachers less. And the teachers are telling the people, and more importantly their children, to f#ck off.

As if this would be any different at the local level.

We're dealing with thugs here, and we're going to have to do it at every level, nationwide. Hats off to Walker and Wisconsin for getting the ball rolling. It's very clear what the public unions, and their purchased Democrats, care about. It sure as hell isn't kids.

Here's a Bloomberg story reporting that local police, firefighters and state troopers are exempt from the collective bargaining limitations: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-14/wisconsi...

Who can give a legitimate economic (budgetary) reason for this exception?

I can't wait until the next election:

We're the Wisconsin Democrat Party. When the going gets tough, we go drinking in Illinois.

Who negotiated these deals? The politicians made an unholy alliance with the unions in the 1990s to spend and spend. In return unions supported politicians. When times were good, nobody noticed. Now, the chickens have come home to roost. We realize that these deals are unsustainable. Something must be done. The unions want to raise taxes. The taxpayers are saying Wait a Minute. We didn't OK these deals. The politicians did. These are too expensive.

An example, school contracts are negotiated by administrators who were probably teachers. School boards are notoriously incompetent and don't know how to negotiate contracts. So they abdicate to the administrators. Also, many school board members are spouses and friends of many teachers. They give the taxpayers money away. The system doesn't work. Schools and other public services should be outsourced. Do away with personnel issues and benefit issues. Let people who know how to run businesses deal with labor.

@Dirk:

Michigan is actually fine. People have been saving up and planning for this day for a while. Nobody would have expected this out of Wisconsin. But Michigan, yeah.

Patrick is correct to emphasize the power struggle between state and local government. I live in Madison and it is beginning to resemble the Paris Commune of 1870 a little--no violence as yet, but if collective bargaining is gutted I don't think Walker will be able to live in the Governor's Mansion anymore.

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