Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker threatens imminent layoffs; live ammo found outside of capitol
With negotiations over the state budget and union rights still stalled in Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker said today he could start sending out layoff notices to state workers tomorrow, the Associated Press reports.
The governor has warned that he'll lay off thousands of public employees if the Wisconsin legislature doesn't pass his so-called "budget repair bill," intended to help close the state's budget shortfall. The legislation would, among other things, scale back public workers' benefits, as well as their collective bargaining rights. Unions have agreed to scaling back their benefits but argue that restricting collective bargaining rights won't impact the budget.
Democrats in the state Senate fled Wisconsin about two weeks ago, to deprive the legislative body of the quorum needed to hold a vote on Walker's bill. All the while, protests have raged on in Wisconsin, national groups have jumped into the fray, and recall efforts against both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have begun.
With the Democratic state senators still absent, Walker told the AP that he'll have to start issuing layoff notices on Friday, so that the state will achieve the savings he anticipated under the passage of his bill. The layoffs would go into effect in 31 days and could be revoked later.
Walker told the AP he's not conceding on the issue of collective bargaining rights but could compromise on other issues. The governor told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today that he was waiting to learn the details of a possible concession the Democratic senators were offering.
Meanwhile, Republican state senators were pulling out all the stops to try and compel their Democratic counterparts to come back to work. They passed a resolution today calling for the Democrats to be arrested if they did not return to the capitol by 4 p.m.
"I'm hopeful by 4 o'clock a Democrat senator or all 14 Democrat senators will be in the chamber and we'll be allowed to move forward," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said, Wispolitics.com reports. That didn't happen, however.
While the Democrats could not be arrested out of state, Fitzgerald reportedly said he's confident the Democrats have been returning occasionally to Wisconsin.
Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson told the Journal Sentinel that the Democratic senators would "most likely" not return today. He also said he questioned the wisdom of the resolution.
"I just think it makes them look like bullies, look more divisive, than they have been already," Larson said.
Last week, in another attempt to lure back the Democrats, Republicans in the state senate voted to require members to pick up their paychecks in person on the Senate floor.
With discussions over the legislation stalled, protests outside of the capitol have continued. The state has strictly limited entrance into the capitol, however, engendering some anger among protesters and a legal challenge from unions.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling argued in court this morning in favor of strict security and limited access, testifying that 41 rounds of ammunition were found around the capitol this morning, the Journal Sentinel reports. The bullets, all long .22 caliber, were found outside of three different entrances to the capitol building.
"I don't like to see live ammunition when I see significant crowds," Riseling said in court. "The presence of that doesn't thrill me."
Union attorney Peggy Lautenschlager said in court that the ammunition was not a good enough reason to keep the capitol closed, the AP reports.
"For all we know somebody planted them there -- we don't know if it was a protester," she said.
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