Law enforcement officers are searching for Democratic senators boycotting a Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair plan Thursday in an attempt to bring the lawmakers to the floor to allow Republicans to move forward with action on the bill.
One Democratic senator said that he believed at least most of the members of his caucus are in another state.
Senate Democrats were leaving Madison to avoid participating in the vote on Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill, which has sparked four days of protests at the Capitol, an aide confirmed Thursday morning.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity, because she was not authorized to speak on behalf of her boss. Legislative assistants answering the phones at the offices of Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Middleton, Sen. Mark Miller of Monona and Sen. Fred Risser of Madison all insisted they knew nothing about the walkout.
However, at 11:30 a.m., when the session began — 30 minutes late — a roll call revealed that most if not all 14 Senate Democrats were absent. At 11:35, Republican Senate President Mike Ellis announced a "call of the house" to send police to force errant Democrats to return to the chamber.
"The Senate is now under a call of the house, and we will try to find the members who decided not to come to work today," Ellis said as loud protesters sought to disrupt the session.
The Senate then adjourned, lacking enough of its 33 senators to act. Twenty are required and there are just 19 Republican Senators.
Gov. Scott Walker's budget may contain a provision to split UW-Madison from the rest of the University of Wisconsin System.
UW-Madison's unique position within the UW System might be motivation for a split, said Noel Radomski, the director of the Wisconsin Center for Postsecondary Education. UW-Madison has a more extensive building program than other campuses — much of it funded through private sources — and as the flagship, it could raise tuition at higher rates than the rest of the UW System.
The UW System is made up of 13 four-year institutions and 13 two-year colleges, known as the UW Colleges.
It is governed by the UW Board of Regents, an 18-member board, of which all but two are appointed by the governor directly. Currently, all appointed members were put there by former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat.
Radomski said Walker also might be interested in appointing his own board to oversee UW-Madison.
"If you're Gov. Walker and you want some input on the university, this would be the way to go about it," he said.
Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and other mid-sized Wisconsin cities would have to restructure their transit systems or lose some $45 million in federal aid under a bill quickly moving through the state Legislature, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau warns.
The measure by Gov. Scott Walker would strip most union rights from most public employees. That could endanger federal aid for buses because U.S. law requires that collective bargaining rights remain in place to get federal funds, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Most Milwaukee-area bus systems, including the Milwaukee County Transit System, would not be affected, because they are operated by private companies under contract to local governments.
Other Wisconsin bus systems could save their federal transit aid by converting to the same structure, turning their workers into private employees whose unions would negotiate with transit management companies instead of with local governments, fiscal bureau analyst Al Runde said.
But because the local governments would pay the costs incurred by the management companies, they may not realize the savings that Walker is counting on in his budget repair bill, Runde said.