After clearing the Assembly earlier in the evening, contracts for state workers seemed ready to pass their final test in the Senate Wednesday night. Then Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Wausau) shocked fellow Democrats by voting against the first of the two-year agreements.
Speaking from the floor, Decker said there is no reason the next Legislature can’t vote on these contracts. He said the outcome of the recent election, in which Decker lost his Senate race, shows voters want someone else to handle these decisions.
Decker proceeded to vote no on the first of the 17 contracts, resulting in a 16-16 split. Democrats immediately went into caucus, after which state Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) emerged as the new Majority Leader.
Hansen says it was the caucus’ decision to remove “the best friend I’ve had in the Legislature.” He says members felt they had to send a message to state workers that they really care about them and will stand up for them.
Lawmakers returned to floor and proceeded to deadlock on the remaining contracts, each failing on a 16-16 vote. Democratic State Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) also voted against them.
Reporters followed Decker to his office as he left the floor, but the Senator offered few answers as to why he went against the contracts. Decker would only say that he had no regrets about his decision.
State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) was among many Democrats shocked and outraged by Decker’s votes. Jauch called it the “most disgusting behavior by any public official” that he’s seen in 28 years. He says Decker misled the caucus, misled the unions, misled the public and will leave the Legislature with the legacy of “being a loser.”
The Senate left the floor Wednesday night without adjourning the extraordinary session. That means lawmakers could still return to the floor in order to reconsider the failed votes. However, it’s unclear at this time if that attempt will be made.