The Wisconsin Senate passed its biennial budget bill along party lines late Thursday night, amidst shouts of "I want my democracy back!" from the gallery and repeated commotions from a small group of protesters outside the chambers.
Four months after Gov. Scott Walker first proposed his controversial "budget repair" bill, the huge Capitol crowds and attending national media spotlight were gone, and the bill passed without seeing the massive turnout of protesters anticipated by the Dept. of Administration. Unlike those earlier, larger protests, though, arrests and citations were commonplace Thursday, with Capitol Police reporting 16 throughout the day, with eight in afternoon and another eight in the evening.
The arrests started early in the day when a pair of protesters used bike locks and chained themselves to the Senate gallery railing. In the evening, a group of 30-40 protestors passed through the security checkpoint upon entering the Capitol, chanting "Whose house? Our house!" and "This is what police state looks like!" as law enforcement officials converged on the entryway.
Although most protesters quietly entered the gallery to watch Senate proceedings, others planted themselves outside the chamber's doors, chanting loudly and sometimes profanely at legislators, as well as at officers guarding the chamber. While the small group caused some commotion, the Capitol was close to empty by the time the Senate vote came down at 10 p.m.
In the "extraordinary session," Senate Democrats generally offered similar amendments and criticisms of the Republican budget as offered by their counterparts in the Assembly, including amendment packages to restore education funding and reduce health care cuts.
"We're broke," argued Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). "But we can give tax breaks to corporations. Corporations don't need help -- the people of Wisconsin do."
Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) retorted: "Do we really want our state perceived to be anti-jobs, anti-corporations? That we don't want to create and develop and maintain jobs? ... Who do you think provides the jobs?"
In a now-familiar pattern, Democrats offered numerous amendments throughout the nine-hour debate, all of which were tabled by Senate Republicans. Among these was a final amendment that would reverse the provisions stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees in the "budget repair" bill upheld by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
"I couldn't get you to stand up for education," chastised Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). "I couldn't get you to stand up for local justice. I couldn't get you to stand up for children. ... but I encourage you to stand up for workers' rights!"
Republicans dismissed the collective bargaining amendment without debate.
Now that the budget is passed, organizers at the Walkerville tent city say they will likely depart, adding that the next step is to focus their energy on recall efforts of six Republican senators.
Gov. Walker said in a statement he plans to sign the budget before June 30, taking two weeks to review the bill and potentially use his line-item veto power.