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Senator Erpenbach, what is your understanding of what the Republicans just did tonight?
ST. SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: Well, obviously, what they did is they certainly violated Open Meeting Laws in the state of Wisconsin, and what Representative Barca, the assembly Democratic leader, had in his hands was something from a Republican attorney general in the state of Wisconsin. So, odds are this probably will end up in court.
But in the meantime, what they did was they took out everything they said was non-fiscal, even though they"ve been saying the collective bargaining language was fiscal all along, which is why they didn"t do this early on. And they passed it in the course of a few seconds on the Senate floor.
So, you"re talking about five or six decades" worth of workers rights just stomped out in a matter of minutes in the state Senate. So, obviously, we"re very upset about this. We actually suggested that they kind of break up the non-fiscal stuff, which is what we suggested in the beginning, but they said they couldn"t with collective bargaining because it was fiscal. But, apparently, now, it"s not fiscal.
So, I got to believe they have a huge explanation when it comes to everybody in the state of Wisconsin. Obviously, they"ve been lying about this all along, and they need to be up front and honest as to why they did what they did.
Rachel, they never once did they say it was about union-busting. Never once said it was going after collective bargaining. They said it was about balancing the budget. Well, guess what? They still don"t have a balanced budget, but they did it anyway. So, their motives are real clear.
MADDOW: In terms of what you just said about this ending up in court--as you and other Democrats seek potential legal redress here, is your intent to roll this back, stop it, repeal what they have done, nullify it? What do you think you can do legally from this point forward?
ERPENBACH: Well, I obviously think attorneys are going to be looking at it right now, and I got to believe that if we don"t, somebody certainly will take the legislature to court over this if at all possible.
Again, we have Open Meeting Laws in the state of Wisconsin. We have them for a reason--reason being that we post it so people can know exactly what"s going on.
You heard what Representative Barca was saying at the table tonight. He hadn"t even seen the bill. He hasn"t been briefed. And all Senator Fitzgerald would say is you debated it, we"ve just taken stuff out.
Well, what stuff have you taken out? And why have you taken that stuff out?
Obviously, the questions weren"t answered. Senator Fitzgerald didn"t want to answer any questions. He called the roll and walked out of the room.
And couple minutes later, the bill is in the state assembly. And they"re going to be dealing with it tomorrow. So, obviously, lawyers are going to be taking a look at this. And my guess is it will end up in court.
MADDOW: In terms of this as a strategic maneuver. I describe it as a rabbit being pulled out of a hat--previously unidentified rabbit, previously unidentified hat.
MADDOW: Do you feel like they could have done this all along and they knew they could have done this all along, and they just decided to spring it on you? Or is what you"re saying is that this was an illegal action--they know it won"t stand and that"s why they didn"t do it until they were this desperate?
ERPENBACH: Well, it was illegal on the open meetings front. There"s no doubt about that. And yes, they pulled a rabbit out. But I"m not certain they pulled it out of their hat--let me be clear on that.
They could have done this from the very beginning. It was something we suggested because we had said that this is not a fiscal item. They insisted up and down the state of Wisconsin that it is, in fact, a fiscal item.
And then, obviously, they changed their mind at the last second, which obviously gets that whole trust issue between Governor Walker and the Senate Republicans. So, this might have been a legal way to go about it, had they gone for the proper channels when it comes to open meetings, and they didn"t do that.
MADDOW: In terms of what happens next--I know that there was some con stern agency that once it became clear that the Republicans were going to do this tonight, some Democrat senators may race back to try to stop this in some way.
Will the Democratic senators now still stay out of the state? Is there any consensus yet among you 14 as to what the appropriate steps are?
ERPENBACH: It"s good question. As it stands right now, we"re staying out of the state for one simple reason--we don"t trust the Senate Republicans. We tried to negotiate. We tried to reach out every single day.
We don"t trust Governor Walker. We tried to negotiate with him and tried to reach out every single day.
Obviously, what the Senate Republicans did tonight--we are all ashamed that they did it, the entire state of Wisconsin are ashamed of those actions tonight. But we"re not going to go back because there are still a lot of games they can play. If we were to go back before this passes the assembly or even before it becomes state law, for example, they could call us into special session which we are in now. They could call the house, they could lock us in, they could bring up the whole thing again, and reinsert the language all over and make us vote immediately.
So, again, it comes to an issue of trust, obviously, with the Senate Republicans. So, no, we"re going to sit tight here for awhile.
MADDOW: Are all 14 sitting going to sit tight? Is there unanimity among you 14 on this?
ERPENBACH: Yes, there is.
MADDOW: Wisconsin state senator, Democrat Jon Erpenbach--thanks for your time and helping us sort this out tonight. I imagine we will still be in touch in coming days.
ERPENBACH: All right. We"ll talk to you soon. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
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