12:52pm

Fri February 25, 2011
It's All Politics

State Budget Fights — February 25 Edition

Friday finds legislative stalemates in both Wisconsin and Indiana.

In an earlier post, I wrote of how Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly surprised Democrats by ending a marathon debate on legislation despised by organized labor through a lightning-quick vote shortly after midnight Friday.

While the budget-related bill passed the assembly, Democratic senators are still hanging out in Illinois, keeping the legislation from advancing there.

Gov. Scott Walker praised the assembly's action. From a statement issued by Walker's office:

After an unprecedented amount of debate, they continued to do their jobs by casting their votes. Republicans should be commended for their willingness to cast a vote that will fix this budget and future budgets.

Meanwhile, state police will be enforcing orders from statehouse officials to have protesters declutter the Capitol building. Apparently, protesters who have been camped out for nearly two weeks have not only been bringing in sleeping bags but crockpots. Yes, crockpots.

The Journal Sentinel reports that the protesters will get to stay but their creature comforts, such as they are, will have to go.

In Indiana, House Democrats have, like their fellow Democrats in Wisconsin's senate, are still outside their home state. And the Hoosiers' missing lawmakers refuse to say when they will return.

And at this point, it's unclear what would get them to return. The Democrats' main complaint in Indiana, as in Wisconsin, are about Republican-backed legislative proposals that Democrats say would weaken public-sector unions.

As the Indianapolis Star reports:

But the question on everyone's mind is what exactly will get them back? Typically, the exit strategy for a deadlock is compromise — but it's not clear what Republicans would be willing to give up, or what Democrats would be willing to swallow.

Given the Republicans' solid majority, it's reasonable to assume they will prevail on much of their agenda. But it also seems reasonable that it won't be their entire agenda — and that's where things could get interesting.

The Republicans already have relented on one piece of legislation Democrats called unacceptably anti-union and anti-worker: the so-called "right to work" bill.

"In many cases, that would have been enough," Gov. Mitch Daniels said. "I'm not sure why it isn't right now."

In Ohio where there is also a Republican-led effort to limit public union's bargaining power, a step needed to deal with their state's fiscal problems, GOP officials say, the end of the week finds both sides still far apart.

A controversial bill opposed by Democrats and union members could come up next week in the Ohio Senate next week.

Both sides continue to posture. An excerpt from the Columbus Dispatch:

"Without this reciprocal partnership through our collective-bargained agreement, collaboration and trust will be difficult at best, and an atmosphere of serious conflict would prevail," said Rhonda Johnson, president of the Columbus Education Association.

State Sen. Kevin Bacon doesn't buy it.

"Most people in the United States are not in unions. It doesn't take a union to have a good relationship with your boss," said the Minerva Park Republican, chairman of the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee, which is hearing the bill.

As for concerns of rolling back firefighter-safety measures, Bacon said, "Obviously, I don't think that's the case. The question is whether your (elected officials) will really let that happen."

Efforts by Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP lawmakers to roll back Ohio's 27-year-old collective-bargaining law have galvanized public-employee unions and their supporters. Organized events to decry the effort have been held across the state almost daily.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.