State Budget Fights - Thursday, Feb. 24 Edition

Wisconsin protesters sleep in the state capitol's rotunda, early Thursday. i i

Wisconsin protesters sleep in the state capitol's rotunda, early Thursday. Andy Manis/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Andy Manis/AP
Wisconsin protesters sleep in the state capitol's rotunda, early Thursday.

Wisconsin protesters sleep in the state capitol's rotunda, early Thursday.

Andy Manis/AP

Here's our latest round-up of highlights from the state budget battles.

In Wisconsin, the Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald sent state troopers to the homes of the AWOL Democratic state senators hoping to surprise any who might have snuck back home, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The troopers returned empty handed.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin general assembly could move to a vote as soon as Thursday on the budget repair bill, getting past scores of proposed amendments and other delaying tactics Democrats in that chamber have used to stall legislation that would limit the collective bargaining rights of public unions in the state. The marathon debate has been going for nearly 48 hours as of this writing.

Also, MoveOn.org has called for protests at state capitols around the nation Saturday in solidarity with the Wisconsin demonstrators and it was scheduled to deliver Thursday to Walker a petition with thousands of signatures calling on the governor to stop.

On the other side, Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota Republican governor, had an online petition asking supporters to "stand with" the Wisconsin governor.

Walker's falling victim earlier in the week to a prank phone caller pretending to be billionaire GOP donor David Koch, was still drawing attention.

For instance, a Democratic lawmaker referred to it to jab at the governor.

The Journal Sentinel reported:

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) said Democrats had planned to debate as many as 225 amendments, in a strategy aimed at stalling final votes while protests to Walker's plan have engulfed the Capitol and dominated the news for more than a week.

Pocan said he had strong concerns about limiting debate and groused, "You can't dictate democracy."

In a jibe at Walker, Pocan said, "If you're a billionaire you have access to the governor - or if you are a fake billionaire."

In Ohio, senate Republicans retreated from an attempt to limit collective bargaining rights for state workers.

But according to the Columbus Dispatch, teachers would still be in a relatively weaker position because the bill would remove some pay increases and the right to strike from them.

In Indiana, the Republican House speaker delayed resuming the chamber's work until Monday when he hopes Democrats who fled the state, a la Wisconsin, will return.

Democrats were concerned about a "right to work" provision that Republicans were trying to push through that was opposed by unions representing state workers. Indiana's Republican governor has said it wasn't the right time for such a provision to be considered since Republicans didn't campaign on it last year.

Republican lawmakers have indicated a willingness to negotiate with Democrats but that it has to be in person at the statehouse, according to the Indy Star.

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