Ed Schultz just had Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor on his radio show, and apparently Governor Walker and his GOP lackeys in the State Senate are continuing to harass and intimidate the Senators, who are still out of reach across the state line in Illinois. What's more, they are extending that intimidation and harassment to their staff members still at the Capitol, as well as their constituents by interfering with the Senators' ability to continue to work on constituent cases.
Governor Walker has continued to infringe upon Wisconsin protestors' First Amendment rights by closing off the Capitol building to all except those who have appointments with legislators, or other "official" business. This action is in violation of the Wisconsin State Constitution (Article I, §4 – ANNOT. The legislature cannot prohibit an individual from entering the capitol or its grounds. [59 Atty. Gen. 8.])
Word has it that a lawsuit has been filed in US District court against the state for violating this law of access to the building.
But the Governor and the WI GOP's strategy to get their way extends even beyond closing the People's Capitol Building, or pulling legislative dirty tricks such as a 1am vote that lasted only seconds. They have continued to harass and intimidate the 14 Democratic Senators, their staff members, and even their friends and fellow churchgoers to put as much pressure as possible on them to return.
While the Dem Senators of Wisconsin are indeed outside of the state, they are still continuing to do their jobs remotely, working in conjunction with their offices in the Capitol Building, and their staff members to serve their constituents. Contrary to what Gov. Walker would have you believe, they ARE doing their jobs, and not exactly kicking back with mai tais around the hotel pool.
But, the Governor and the GOP state legislators are doing everything in their power to even sabotage those efforts. Senator Lena Taylor listed a number of things that have been happening in recent days, but I have seen little to no media coverage of:
- The Governor has been withholding the Senators' paychecks, something that Sen. Taylor claims is illegal for them to do to any state worker.
- GOP Senator Fitzgerald will not allow the Dem 14 to authorize the paychecks of their own staff members who continue to work, but instead they must be authorized by Fitzgerald himself. No details yet on what staff members must do in order to obtain that authorization, but I'll update this if I get further information.
- They are now preventing the Dem 14's staff from using Capitol office equipment to such everyday things like printing and scanning documents needed in order to do work on constituent cases. They must instead have any of that done through the Clerk's office, who in turn CHARGES for those services back to each of the Senators' offices.
- Police Officers were dispatched to Sen. Taylor's church on Sunday morning before services, to question the parishoners as to the exact location and whereabouts of Senator Taylor and her colleagues.
The word "petty" doesn't seem base enough to describe these tactics or harassment and intimidation, and the Wisconsin members of the GOP and its Governor don't seem to care who gets hurt in the process whether its the Dem Senators, their hard working staff, or the constituents in the districts that these Senators represent in the State of Wisconsin.
I'll add more information as it becomes available. If you have additional information that seems relevant, please provide it in the comments below.
UPDATE 1: Per Zenbassoon's comment below, and also confirmed by Ed Schultz just now on-air, the AFL-CIO's blog is reportingthat they are now WELDING THE WINDOWS OF THE CAPITOL BUILDING SHUT in order to prevent workers from passing food in to those who are still left inside the Capitol building. AFL-CIO attorneys are collecting affidavits from those who witnessed this happening, and are pursuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent them from closing off the building.
Another commenter asked if this might constitute a fire hazard, and I'd welcome any comments on that from those familiar with fire safety requirements for public buildings.
UPDATE 2: To elaborate on Senator Taylor's comments regarding the GOP taking control of the Democratic Senators' staff member paychecks:
Madison -- Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is clamping down on absent Democrats by seeking to take control of whether or not their staffers get paid.
Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) would have to review and approve timesheets for Democratic staffers, under a proposal put before a legislative committee Monday morning. Previously, Democratic lawmakers had signed off on their staff's hours.
Democratic senators fled to Illinois earlier this month to block a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan repealing most union bargaining rights for public workers.
A ballot describing the changes went out Monday to the Senate committee that oversees activity in that body. An aide to Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) said that Miller and the other Democrat on the committee voted by fax from Illinois against the changes.
But Republicans have enough votes on the committee to pass the change over Democratic objections. A spokesman for Fitzgerald was not immediately available for comment Monday.
Senate staffers can start handing in their timesheets on Tuesday since it's the first day of March.
I wonder if that includes having to approve the timecards of all GOP staff members as well? There are fears that Senator Fitzgerald just may be using this to have the power to then fire particular staff members once he has control of their pay.
A cancer patient needing a colostomy bag change — a medical emergency — was denied access to the Capitol building holding the patient’s medication due to a surprise lockdown that has lasted for hours past the scheduled and well-publicized 8:00 AM doors-open time Monday morning.
This patient was kept outside for 80 minutes in the cold while Walker flexed his political muscle and ordered DOA to close the Capitol during normally-open daytime business hours in order to gradually muffle the overwhelming dissent of his proposed legislation, which denies health care to many of our most vulnerable citizens, including many children, and strips unionized workers of collective bargaining rights for which people have fought and died for decades.
If passed, this bill will directly cause the death of many people, including this patient, as the patient has explained for several days now over the People’s Microphone in the center of the Rotunda floor.
What Walker is doing is unconscionable and disgusting. On the ultimate ego trip, he’s cast himself as the first domino in a cascade of nationwide Koch and GOP-funded union busting that will assure permanent GOP dominance in elections due to unrestricted corporate spending (post Citizens United) being unopposed by the newly-politically-impotent unions.
Walker aims for nothing less than the subversion of the two-party system, of checks and balances, and the fundamental fabric of American democracy. He is a traitor to his state and his country and should resign in shame.
UPDATE 3: Apparently the "welding" of the windows is actually more that they are inserting large bolts into the window track on either side of the window, and then cutting off the heads of the bolts so that they cannot be removed without the use of something powerful enough to cut through the bolt itself.
Photos of one such window inside the capitol building are here:
Thanks to marigold for those!
UPDATE 4: Access to the Capitol Building is being limited even further, even for what had previously been allowed.
Monday, Feb 28:
~4:15PM: The Democrats are starting a public hearing at the Capitol. If you come for the hearing you will be escorted inside the building and back out. The information we have at this time is that you will not be allowed to stay after you speak at the hearing. We have also received a report that representatives are not being allowed to schedule meetings, as well as that no additional press and legal observers are being allowed in the building at this time.
Per Marigold's comment below, there's some more information regarding jurisdiction of the Capitol building, and the sealing of the windows. Unsurprisingly, they are currently saying the windows haven't been sealed, though the picture links posted above would seem to be in conflict with that assessement.
MFD Checking Modifications to Capitol Windows
The City of Madison Fire Department has received numerous calls, emails, and Facebook posts regarding rumors of windows at the Capitol being modified to reduce access.
The Department has no jurisdiction over occupancy at the Capitol because the Wisconsin State Legislature exempted the building some years ago.
The activities at the Capitol are been overseen by the Capitol Police, which is responsible for the protection of lives and property on Department of Administration (DOA) - managed properties.
The Fire Department is offering Capitol Police technical assistance on code questions.
In consultation with the Capitol Police, the Department has been advised that work on bathroom windows is being done to repair and/or replace pins that were previously in place on windows that are accessible to the public. No modifications are being made to windows in the office areas of Capitol staff.
Department personnel have been at the Capitol every day and were dispatched to check on rumors that the windows were being sealed and found no evidence that that was the case.