Budget-Repair Bill: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been
Let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit the past four weeks.
It all started on a Friday in February.
Gov. Scott Walker unveiled his budget-repair bill on Feb. 11. Since then, we've seen massive demonstrations in Madison and across the state, Senate Democrats flee and the state thrust into the national spotlight as people across the country debate labor and union issues.
So how did we get here? Here's a timeline of the previous four weeks:
Feb. 11: Walker proposes bill.
Feb. 12-14: Unions, public workers begin to mobilize opposition to the bill.
Feb. 15: First day of large-scale protests at the Wisconsin Capitol.
Feb. 16: Protesters continue to flood the Capitol, and would for many days to come. The Madison School District cancels classes due to the high number of teachers calling in sick.
Feb 17: All 14 Senate Democrats leave Madison and go to Illinois to block passage of Walker's bill. Because 20 senators are needed for a quorum on any fiscal-related bill, Senate cannot take up budget-repair measure. Democrats would remain out of state for three weeks and counting. More school districts cancel classes as teachers head to Madison to protest. Situation picks up national media interest.
Feb. 18: Many schools are again closed; massive demonstrations at the Capitol continue.
Feb. 19: An estimated 68,000 people, including several thousand supporting Walker, descend on the Capitol for the biggest demonstration to date.
Feb. 20: Controversy erupts over doctors writing questionable sick notes.
Feb. 22: All school districts now back in session. Assembly begins debate on the bill. It would go on continually for three days and be the longest-running debate in the history of the chamber.
Feb. 23: The audio of a prank phone call between Walker and a blogger posing as conservative donor David Koch is released.
Feb. 25: Assembly abruptly votes on and passes the budget-repair bill at 1 a.m. despite protests of Democratic lawmakers. A chaotic scene ensues, with many Democrats chanting "Shame" at Republicans leaving the chamber. Labor uprisings spread to Ohio and Indiana.
Feb. 26: The biggest protests yet at the Capitol, with an estimated 70,000 people attending. Pro-union rallies are held throughout the country.
Feb. 28-March 1: Discussion about removing protesters from the Capitol and resuming normal business hours for the building begins.
March 1: Walker gives budget address, outlining steep cuts in education and aid to local governments.
March 3: Protesters who had occupied the Capitol agree to leave peacefully; Capitol closes for the first time since Feb. 15. Senate passes unanimous resolution finding missing Democrats in contempt; Dems can be arrested if they return to state.
March 4: Walker issues layoff warning notices to some state workers. Department of Administration backs away from its claim of $7.5 million worth of damage in the state Capitol. Some signs of Republicans and Democrats breaking the stalemate over the bill appear. Recall efforts pick up steam on legislators in both parties.
March 8: E-mails are released showing Walker is willing to compromise on some aspects of the bill.
March 9: Senate surprisingly passes bill without Democrats in attendance and with no debate. Before voting, a committee stripped some financial elements from the bill, a maneuver which Republicans said made it legal for a vote to occur, even though no Democrats were there. The central parts of the bill, taking away most collective-bargainning rights, remain. Sen. Dale Schultz is the only Republican to vote against it. Thousands storm the Capitol that night in protest. Earlier in the day, Republicans passed a resolution fining the missing Democrats $100 for missing the session.
March 10: After the Senate's changes, the bill goes back to the Assembly for approval. The Assembly votes 53-42 to pass the bill, the last hurdle cleared before it is sent to the governor's office. Walker says he'll sign the bill as soon as possible. The drama started earlier in the day when police heightened security and did not allow entry into the building, even to lawmakers. The Capitol was eventually opened about 11:30 a.m.