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Wisconsin Dem Senator Wants to Ban Tactic Used to Hold Up Budget Bill

4:43 PM, Mar 15, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Democrat Tim Cullen, one of the 14 Wisconsin state senators who fled to Illinois in order to prevent a vote on Scott Walker's budget repair bill, wants to make sure that the tactic he employed cannot be used in the future to hold up state business. The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

One of the Wisconsin 14 is working on a law that would prevent other lawmakers from stopping legislation by running away and hiding — a move that could be seen as an olive branch to angry members of the GOP.

Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, a key member of the Democratic senators who fled the state in a failed effort to stall Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, said Tuesday he was drafting a state constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to vote on and pass fiscal bills with a simple majority. The constitution requires each house to have three-fifths of all members present to vote on bills that have a fiscal impact.

“I was part of creating this divide,” Cullen tells the Journal. “I need to be part of fixing it.”

Cullen's move actually isn't that surprising. According to Republican senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, Cullen was one of three Democrats who opposed fleeing to Illinois, but got dragged along by his colleagues. Cullen also sought to end the standoff by negotiating with Republicans, but each time he thought he had reached a deal, his Democratic and union superiors nixed it.

[O]n February 28, senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald drove across southern Wisconsin to meet with two Democrats who wanted to explore a compromise, Bob Jauch and Tim Cullen. Fitzgerald says that the two had opposed the flight to Illinois in the first place and along with at least one other colleague wanted to find a way to return. They explored several options over hotcakes and sausage at a local McDonald’s. Fitzgerald left without a compromise but with what he believed was a commitment that the Democrats would soon be returning to Madison.

“I met ’em on a Monday,” Fitzgerald recalls. “They called me on a Tuesday saying they’d be in the chamber Wednesday morning. I called them on Wednesday morning to say, ‘Listen, I know you’re coming back, let me call the cops to give them a heads up that you’ll be back.’ And then Senator Cullen said, ‘Well, Fitz, what I told you the other day was true at the time I said it, but we’re not coming back.’ ”

More on final days of the Wisconsin standoff here.

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