Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

We may not need the Democrats to pass the union bargaining rights part of the bill

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Marquette University Law School Professor Rick Esenberg offers the suggestion that Republicans just pass the portion of the bill that only applies to union bargaining rights. Then the Republicans might only need 17 members of the Senate in attendance.

The Wisconsin Constitution, however, only requires that three-fifths of each chamber to be in attendance for “any law which imposes, continues or renews a tax, or creates a debt or charge, or makes, continues or renews an appropriation of public or trust money, or releases, discharges or commutes a claim or demand of the state.”

So if Republicans included non-fiscal, but still controversial provisions, in a separate bill — including, potentially, the provisions regarding collective bargaining — legally they’d only need 17 senators for a vote to be held, Esenberg said. That means Republicans could vote without a single Democrat being present, he said.

“I don’t know that the Republicans would do that, and they still wouldn’t be able to pass the fiscal provisions that they want,” he said.

Among the fiscal requests: Starting April 1, state employees would have to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to cover pension costs, and more than double their contributions toward their health insurance plans.

Democrats could always make the case that the collective bargaining proposals meet the three-fifths requirement because those provisions address how state workers can bargain for salaries and benefits.

If that’s the case, the GOP would need the presence of Democratic senators.

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