Legislating for the people, not a party

Well, the Wisconsin Senate GOP has done its part to strip public sector unions (except police and firefighters) of their collective bargaining rights, passing an amended version of the “budget repair bill” 18-1. I don’t really have much to say about the details of the bill; you can read about that here (NYT), here (Trib), here (WSJ), here (Nat’l Review) …

It looks as though the bill itself is safe on technical grounds, because the purely “fiscal” provisions were removed (See Wis. State Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 8), though there is a chance it may’ve violated public notice provisions of Wisconsin’s open meeting law.

Regardless of whether or not you think that weakening unions is a necessary step in battling state budget deficits, it cannot be ignored that there is a very relevant political element to these proceedings: weakening the electoral clout of organized labor. Of the elements remaining in the bill, the only ones which strike me as directly affecting the budget deficit are the increases in employee contributions to their pensions and health care; forcing annual votes on union membership and curtailing collective bargaining have only a dubious (or even nonexistent) relationship to budget deficit reduction.

Jonathan Chait neatly sums up the larger implications of this type of legislating:

Obviously, Republicans think that crippling the Democratic Party is long-term is part of what they need to do to control state-level budgets. But I think the more likely result is simply that Democrats will pass a ball allowing collective bargaining among public employees as soon as they return to power. The ramifications of parties using their political power in order to try to cripple the opposing party are a lot deeper and more dangerous than Walker seems to be reckoning.

On the upside, since this section of the budget repair bill was removed (though probably only temporarily), the sale of Wisconsin’s state-owned power utilities to Koch Industries has been delayed!


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