Wis. GOP Bypasses Dems on Collective Bargaining

Union worker Dan Burke, center, of Janesville, Wis., uses a bucket to drum after loosing his voice during protests at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, over the governor's proposed budget. Protests to the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers are in their 11th day at the Capitol. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate have voted to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers after discovering a way to bypass the chamber's missing Democrats.

All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker's so-called "budget repair bill" -- a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday split from the legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, and a special conference committee of state lawmakers approved that bill a short time later.

The move set up a vote in the Senate, which voted mere moments later.