Last night, Wisconsin Senate Republicans abandoned any remaining pretenses that a bill stripping state workers of their collective bargaining rights has anything whatsoever to do with the state’s finances, and rammed the bill through the senate without any Democrats present. Yet even if Gov. Scott Walker (R) succeeds in signing this bill into law, Wisconsin voters have the power to ensure that his victory is short lived.
First, a broad coalition of these voters are circulating petitions to recall the eight GOP state senators who are currently eligible to be removed from office. If just three of these seats are flipped to the Democrats, the GOP will lose control of the state’s upper house.
Second, because Wisconsin law allows any elected official to be recalled after they have served one full year of their term in office, all remaining state legislators and Gov. Walker will be eligible for a recall election next January. If Wisconsin voters wage a successful campaign to fire the state’s anti-worker lawmakers, this bill could be repealed as soon as the snow starts to melt in spring of 2012.
Third, Wisconsin also has the power to ensure that no future lawmakers can repeat Walker’s assault on working familes:
Constitutional amendments. SECTION 1. Any amendment or amendments to this constitution may be proposed in either house of the legislature, and if the same shall be agreed to by a majority of the members elected to each of the two houses…and if, in the legislature so next chosen, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each house, then it shall be the duty of the legislature to submit such proposed amendment or amendments to the people in such manner and at such time as the legislature shall prescribe; and if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of the electors voting thereon, such amendment or amendments shall become part of the constitution
In other words, the Wisconsin Constitution can be amended in a three step process: 1) the current legislature must approve the amendment; 2) after the next election, the new legislature must approve the amendment; 3) the voters must ratify the amendment by a majority vote. Under this procedure, Wisconsin could amend its constitution to permanently protect working families as soon as 2013.
In Ohio, pro-worker lawmakers are already planning a ballot referendum to overrule an anti-worker bill that is moving forward in that state. Wisconsin law will require working families and their supporters to jump through a few more hoops to reverse Walker’s actions. Nevertheless, they unambiguously have the power to repeal Walker’s bill in 2012 and to ensure that similar bills can never become law again in 2013.