By PR Watch Admin on February 18, 2011

10:30 p.m. - Mary Bottari: WI Congressional Rep. Paul Ryan who was far from the protests in Washington this week, said disapprovingly that WI was beginning to look a lot like Cairo. Today, one person responded with a sign in 20 degree weather: "I thought Cairo would be warmer."

10:00 p.m. - ASSEMBLY'S ABRUPT ADJOURNMENT CAPS CHAOTIC DAY IN CAPITOL

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter gives a dramatic account of what happened on the Assembly floor today:

The Assembly teetered on the brink of chaos Friday evening but then adjourned peacefully after Republicans rescinded a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill that the GOP lawmakers took without Democrats present.

In the Wisconsin Assembly on Friday, Republican leaders had called lawmakers to the floor at 5 p.m. to take up Walker's bill to fix a budget shortfall by cutting public worker benefits and bargaining rights. But they began business just before that hour, when Democrats were not yet on the floor.

Democrats charged into the chamber and shouted to stop the action as Republican staff urged their leaders to "keep going, keep going." Republicans took the voice vote, putting the bill in a stage that prevented it from being amended in that house. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called the move an "illegal vote" and demanded that Republicans rescind it.

"Unbelievable!" Barca screamed. "Unprecedented! Un-American! Not in keeping with the values of the state! You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Minutes later, Republicans agreed to effectively cancel the vote by allowing the bill to return to a stage in which Democrats can offer amendments. Democrats may have dozens of them, and the debate on the bill - whenever it happens - is expected to take hours. The Assembly adjourned until Tuesday.

WALL STREET FRONT GROUP CLUB FOR GROWTH, DEFENDS WALKER BILL WITH NEW TV ADS, TRIES TO DIVIDE WI WORKER

9:45 p.m. - Almost as soon as Gov. Walker unveiled his radical budget proposal, the conservative political action committee Club for Growth went up on TV and Radio championing the proposal and bashing state workers leading many to believe that the proposal to end collective bargaining originated with prominent national republicans like Karl Rove. Politifact tackles the adds here and our own Anne Landman reports on the issue in her article The Koch Connection in Scott Walker's War on Working People.

9:45 p.m. - News reports indicate that Gov. Walker held a press conference at 5:00 p.m. today and rejected AFSCME leader Marty Beil's offer of concessions. Beil reiterated this offer at today's noon rally. This evening, Walker rejected any attempt at compromise repeatedly saying that the state "has no money and can't negotiate." Walker was newly elected in November, since then he has not sat down with any union in an attempt to negotiate a contract. As we reported last night, unions had already signaled their willingness to make concessions before the drama of the week began, but before any negotiations could take place, Walker announced his radical proposal to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin workers--rights workers have had in this state for 50 years.

9:30 p.m. - "Missing" WI Senator Lena Taylor said tonight on the Ed Schultz show on MSNBC that she thinks a quarter of a million people have visited the WI Capitol in the last 4 days.

Mark Miller Supports Workers8:30 p.m. - MISSING SENATORS OFFERED "SANCTUARY"

Mary Bottari: From outside the Capitol you could see that the offices of some of the "missing" 14 Democratic Senators were adorned with messages today. The Senators appear to be spending the weekend in Illinois. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that religious leaders in that state are offering the Wisconsin Democrats "sanctuary."

Religious leaders offer churches, homes as sanctuary for Democratic senators:

Religious leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin on Friday offered their congregations and homes as sanctuary for Democratic senators who walked out of the Legislature on Thursday to block a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The invitations, by a handful of churches and synagogues in Madison, Chicago and Glencoe, Ill., are the latest show of support by religious leaders whose faiths support worker rights on moral grounds.

"This is antithetical to all religious traditions," said Kim Bobo, executive director of Chicago-based Interfaith Worker Justice, which is coordinating the sanctuary effort.

Bobo said she's spent the week fielding calls from faith leaders around the country where similar efforts are under way.

"They are using the guise of a budget crisis to completely undermine workers' rights to organize," she said.

Wisconsinites like to gripe about their neighbors in Illinois, but with so many Illinois signs at the rallies, including "This is corruption: Trust me I am from Chicago," and with Chicago native Jessie Jackson Sr. speaking tonight at the latest rally, we are reminded that what we have in common is greater than what keeps us apart. (Except perhaps for football.)

Sen. Erpenbach Union Yes!!!8:10 p.m. - MORE ON THE DRAMA IN THE CAPITOL

Mary Bottari: Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) explained what happened on the Assembly floor this evening. At 3:00 p.m. Republican leadership called members of the Assembly to the floor at 5:00 p.m. At about 4:57 p.m. Republican legislators took to the Assembly floor and immediately started a series of votes on the Governor's budget even though the Democrats were still in caucus. Democrats rushed to the floor shouting objections. It was a bit chaotic there for a while but the Democrats succeeded in slowing things down. Pocan said "our Republican colleagues keep telling us that they are not hearing from their constituents on the bill. So we gathered up all the blue slips [slips citizen's use to register to testify], we organized them today by district -- it took us forever -- and then we started handing out stacks of them to each Republican legislator. They really didn't like that -- it helped them agreed to adjourn." Tens of thousands of people have visited the capitol in the past few days and the Assembly Democrats have held a continuous hearing, allowing thousands to testify.

8:00 p.m. - DON'T MISS OUT, SPEND A WEEKEND IN MADISON!

From the Wisconsin AFL-CIO: "Can you make it to Madison, Wis., this weekend? This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feel incredible energy and make a difference—don't miss out. Two rallies are confirmed in Madison for Saturday: one at 10:30 a.m., and another at 4:30 p.m.

If you can't make those, there are also other events throughout Wisconsin, and more events are being announced all the time. So it is very likely there will be protests on Saturday & Sunday. For regularly updated information on what's happening in Wisconsin this weekend, go to the Wisconsin AFSCME website.

7:23 p.m. - REVEREND JESSIE JACKSON SPEAKS OUT

Brendan Fischer reports: Calling Wisconsin's battle to maintain collective bargaining rights "a Dr. Martin Luther King moment," the Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke to an enthusiastic crowd. Rev. Jackson's call for action encompassed both collective bargaining rights and the broader challenges facing the middle class, including banksters, corporate power, and health care. Noting that "no bank is too big to fail," Rev. Jackson instead called on leaders to "bail out our schools, bail out our future."

"We are making school teachers scapegoats. But they aren't the ones who got us into the financial crisis. They aren't the ones foreclosing people's homes. They aren't the ones who got us into two wars."

Jackson led crowds to chant "workers have a right to be at the table. We build the homes, we cook the meals, we fight the wars. Save the children, save the families, save the workers."

"We will not surrender, we will not go away, we will keep hope alive."

7:01 p.m. - Steve Horn quotes Rev. Jessie Jackson: "Workers have a right to be at the table."

6:59 p.m. - Lisa Graves reports: MSNBC is reporting that "Gov. Scott Walker on Friday ruled out a compromise proposed by a key union to retain collective bargaining rights in exchange for public workers accepting benefit cuts. At a press conference, Walker said he could not consider the offer by the largest state workers union because it only covered some public employees and came late in the process."

Information Station6:00 p.m. - INFORMATION STATION INSIDE THE CAPITOL BUILDING

Erica Pelzek reports:

Amidst the bodies clad in red Badger sweatshirts, among the signs flailing in the protesting crowd, several block-lettered signs taped to the Wisconsin State Capitol's pillars jump out. "INFO HERE!" "Don't know where to go? Want to know about rallies? Stop here!"

The UW-Madison Teachers Assistant Association organized the rag-tag information booth Thursday night, using a table and recycled posters for signs to announce its existence. The Information Station sprung up at exactly the correct moment--two nights into the Madison protests, when everyone was low on sleep and accompanied by ever-crankier children.

"We have:

- Legal support cards

- Earplugs

- Toys and Crayons for kids," another sign reads. Smaller handbills inform protesters of their rights if arrested.

"AVOID MEDIA SPIN WITH A UNIFIED FRONT," advises one poster, listing below those words of wisdom the protesters' major media talking points:

  • The Budget Repair Bill will take away power from everyday workers and only allow corporations to have a voice.
  • The purpose of the Budget Repair Bill is to exploit workers and destroy the freedom of collective bargaining. The budget is not the issue; Walker is attempting to make political gains instead of creating jobs.
  • The right to negotiate both wages and benefits through a union is a fundamental underpinning of middle class livelihoods. Wisconsin's public workers are already under-compensated by 8.2% compared to their private sector counterparts; loss of bargaining rights would widen this gap.
  • The proposed bill would cut services across the state because Wisconsin's collective bargaining law helps stabilize services by promoting peace and mutual agreement between workers and government.

Low-Tech TwitterActive TAA member and UW-Madison sociology grad student Danny Spitzberg said he is ensuring the Information Station is staffed throughout the day for new arrivals, as well as coordinating UW-Madison undergraduate groups at the Capitol. Thousands more undergrads joined the protests today, both through the TAA's coordination and through a hundreds-strong march at noon from UW-Madison's Library Mall to the Capitol.

Over the click-clacking of 20-plus students Tweeting, Facebooking and YouTubing on laptops in the middle of the crowded TAA Capitol stakeout, Room 330 NE, Spitzberg emphasized that the protesters have no intention of petering out for the weekend. They intend to keep the Capitol open 24 hours, as it has been for the past three days.

"People want to come on the weekend. They have off work--they want to be here," he said. "The Dems wouldn't have fled the state if we hadn't been here, with this firm of a presence, holding down the fort."

DON'T FORGET TO WATCH ED SCHULTZ MSNBC TONIGHT BROADCASTING LIVE FROM MADISON AT 10 EST, 9 CST.

5:50 p.m. - DRAMA IN THE CAPITOL TONIGHT: REPUBLICANS TRY A FAST ONE

Mary Bottari reports that the Republicans in the Assembly tried to pull a fast one and brought the bill to the floor a few minutes before 5 o'clock when only one Democrat was on the floor. Democrats rushed from caucus to the floor and started shouting to be heard. After 15 minutes of chaos the Republicans backed down adjourning until Tuesday. None of thousands of people outside knew any of this was going on until democrats came out to the stage to announce that for now the people were winning. Assembly Democrats came running out, a little like a football team to the roar of the crowd to announce that the Republicans finally agreed to push back any floor action until next Tuesday. Minority leader in the Assembly, Rep. Peter Barca "They didn't just wake up a sleeping giant, they woke up the largest group of badgers ever assembled!" Score one for the protestors today.

4:51 p.m. - Breaking News: The Assembly is being called back in to session at 5:00 p.m.

4:38 p.m. - MADISON METRO COULD SEE BIG CHANGES

Madison could lose $45 million if Walker wins. From Channel 3000:

Madison's Metro bus system could see big changes under Gov. Scott Walker's union bill.

The city's transit system would have two options if the governor's bill passes -- either the system must be completely restructured, or lose $45 million in federal funding.

The situation came about because federal law requires collective bargaining rights on wages, pensions and working conditions for that aid. City officials say this detail is something that was overlooked by many.

"Well, we'd have to look at dramatic cutbacks in service. It's too early to say exactly what that means, but people love their bus services here in the city of Madison. They wouldn't vote for this. And again, it's something that I'm sure wasn't thought about when this bill was so hastily put together," said Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

Madison Metro officials couldn't be reached for comment.

4:17 p.m. - If you want to participate in these historic events but aren't sure how, we have resources available to help you. Call our office at 608-260-9713 or visit www.WEAC.org. Transportation is being organized statewide to help you get to Madison. If you are unable to travel, please consider rallying in your hometown. Activities have already been organized for people in the Sturgeon Bay and Milwaukee areas.

4:11 p.m. - Mary Bottari reports that Majority Leader Scott Suder's office has sent out an e-mail announcing the Assembly will come to the floor at 5:00 p.m. today. "I don't think they are coming in to hear Jesse Jackson's convocation," says Bottari.

3:48 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports with photos from the student walk-out and march down State Street that took place earlier today.

Charlie Brown

Who's going to teach me how to Bucky?

I Prefer Walker Texas Ranger

Can you read this? Thank your teacher.

3:44 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the President of Americans for Prosperity President Tim Philips will be speaking at a Madison rally on Saturday, February 19.

3:42 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity has launched a new action campaign at We Stand with Walker

3:39 p.m. - THE KOCH CONNECTION IN SCOTT WALKER'S WAR ON WORKING PEOPLE

Anne Landman reports:

Wisconsin's embattled Governor Scott Walker took large donations from Koch Industries in the run-up to the 2010 election that swept him into office. OpenSecrets.org reports that Koch Industries donated a total of $43,000 in two separate contributions -- $15,000 on July 8, 2010 and another $28,000 on September 27, 2010 -- to the Friends of Scott Walker Political Action Committee (PAC), to help get Walker elected governor.

The Koch Industries' PAC also helped Walker through a now-familiar political maneuver that lets corporate donors avoid campaign finance limits. The Koch's PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which spent $65,000 to support Walker, along with a whopping $3.4 million on mailers and television ads attacking Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker beat Barrett by 5 points, thanks in part to Koch funding.

Walker has taken a total of more than $70,000 from gas and pipeline companies, and opposed a high speed rail project that would have reduced Wisconsin's dependence on oil. Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. operates a pipeline system that crosses Wisconsin, part of the nearly 4,000 miles of pipelines the company owns or operates, and the Koch's paper and wood products division, Georgia Pacific, has six facilities in Wisconsin. A Koch subsidiary, the C. Reiss Coal Company, has locations in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan. All of these business interests give the Kochs ample reason to attempt to influence Wisconsin politics.

THIS IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST WISCONSIN

More and more the events taking place in Wisconsin are seen as the front line in corporate interests' increasingly pitched war on middle-class and public sector workers. Corporate leaders see organized labor as the last real line of serious, grassroots resistance against a corporate takeover of the government. The gains made by labor unions provide a ceiling for the level of benefits and wages that the rest of the American workforce is able demand, which draws the ire of corporations that want to boost profits by driving down wages and benefits for workers. Walker is just one of a group of Koch-sponsored politicians who are helping the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch dismantle organized labor in the U.S.

The portrayal of events in Wisconsin as American workers' line in the sand against corporate power makes the situation even more compelling and underscores the importance of these events to workers across the country. Keep your browser on PRWatch as we continue to cover the events unfolding in Wisconsin.

3:36 p.m. - People are waiting for Jesse Jackson to speak at 5:00 p.m. Want to attend the rally but not sure how? Call our office at 608-260-9713 and ask to speak with Page or visit www.weac.org for more information.

3:27 p.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that Andrew Breitbart will be rallying to support Scott Walker.

3:00 p.m. - Mary Bottari sends these photos from inside the Capitol.

Wisconsin Capitol rotunda filled to capacity

We are WI forward

2:59 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that the protests have escalated as a huge wave of teachers roll in from Milwaukee. A sign reads: High speed rail would have gotten me here faster!

2:51 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that the TAA Union is providing an enormous amount of food for protestors, including crockpots full of penne and stew. They are also providing coffee, tea, earplugs, toys and crayons for kids. They are organized. And they have no intention of leaving or slowing down despite the weekend.

2:44 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that WKOW in Madison has a live stream of the Department of Revenue walk-out.

2:00 p.m. - WATCH VIDEOS ON TOP NEWS FROM WISCONSIN PROTESTS:

MSNBC TODAY show: Thousands protest Wis. 'anti-union' bill

CNN: Teachers under the budget ax

NBC15: Video and Interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson

NBC15:Helicopter Video Over The Capitol 2/18/2011

1:41 p.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that State Street is barricaded at Johnson Street. Madison Metro buses are rerouting due to the magnitude of the crowds of protestors.

1:30 p.m. - Steve Horn reports: standing room ovation cheers for Firefighters for Labor. Blaring loud in here. Incredible energy.

12:45 p.m. - David Boecker from IBEW and State Veterans Board said, "You people have to remember that when a veteran returns home from war a public employee is there to greet him. When they need counseling for PTSD a public employee is there to speak to him. If they need therapy because they lost limbs, a public employee helps them out. When veterans make the ultimate sacrifice, a public employee helps the family with all their needs."

12:36 p.m. - Mary Bottari sends in photos from the field.

Negotiation Not Annihilation

Scott Walker - The Audacity of Dope

12:30 p.m. - NOON RALLY FEATURES LEADERS OF POLICE AND FIREFIGHTER UNIONS

Mary Bottari reports that two of the featured speakers at the noon rally were leaders of police and firefighter unions. Their presence was important because they were explicitly exempted from the collective bargaining provisions of the bill.

Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, said "I talked to a friend and a firefighter from out of state today and he said "My, there seems to be a lot going on in your state!" But then he told me a sad story. He said that one of their firefighters was in a hospital today in critical condition after suffering injuries from a house fire earlier this week. And he told me that when that firefighter went down he was transported by EMTs, public workers. And when he arrived at the hospital he was met by nurses, union workers. And when the ambulance went through the street, public employees blocked the street to let them get through. That is what we do. We stand together." Mahlon relayed the story to underscore the point that the firefighters and the police officers would not allow themselves to be treated differently than the other unions.

Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, made the same point. "Despite the best efforts of this Governor to divide the house of labor, we are here to say that the police and firefighters will stand with the workers."

12:20 p.m. - WI AFSCME PRESIDENT SPEAKS TO CROWDS FOR THE FIRST TIME

Mary Bottari reports that Marty Beil, head of the state employees' chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, took the stage for the very first time. Biel spoke briefly but to the point. "We have said all along that we are willing to sit down with this Governor. We are prepared to implement concessions to help bring the budget into balance because for us, it is not about $. No one every said I want to be a correctional officer to get rich. No one every said I want to be a teacher to buy a big house on the lake. We will make concessions, but we will not be denied our rights to collectively bargain. We will never -- under any circumstances -- give up our God-given right to join a real union."

Beil's union represents some 22,000 employees.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka12:15 p.m. - NOON RALLY REPORT

Mary Bottari reports from the rally, which is enormous, the biggest yet.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stepped up to the podium and said "Brothers and sisters, there is no place in the world I'd rather be today than right here in Wisconsin defending our civil rights. What you are doing is inspiring the people of Ohio to stand up and fight. It is inspiring the people of Indiana to stand up and fight. It is inspiring the people of Missouri and New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and all across the nation. This is the strongest movement yet; stronger than Governor Walker and his corporate backers.

Let's be clear about what is happening here: Governor Walker came in to office with a $120 million surplus. That didn't fit his vision so he gave the money away. $117 million in tax breaks to the rich. Now he comes back to us with his sorry puppy dog look to play the role of the brave fiscal soldier willing to make hard choices. You know and I know it's a crock. He did it to destroy to our collective bargaining rights and to pay back his cronies and CEOs. This is just what happens in Washington D.C. Tax cuts create deficits that create urgency to cut, cut, cut.

We have been playing this game for three years and we are not going to take it anymore. Governor Walker, you are asking too much and we won't give it to you and you can't take it away from us.

Governor Walker, I want to give you a piece of advice: Enough of the political games and vendetta politics. You are on the wrong side of history. The Wisconsin teachers did not cause the Wisconsin budget problems. Wisconsin nurses are not responsible for all that red ink. Road crews build highways, not deficits. You are targeting workers and that means you are targeting Wisconsin and you should stop it now.

12:18 p.m. - Steve Horn reports that Jesse Jackson is leading rounds of song in standing room only Capitol.

12:07 p.m. - Steve Horn sends these photos from the midst of the University march down State Street.

Bust Corps Not Unions

Walker, You Fancy Huh?!

12:01 p.m. - From Lisa Graves: Headed to the noon rally and, wow, more people around the Capitol than I've ever seen!

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt11:59 a.m. - WI AFL-CIO HEAD, PHIL NEUENFELDT, KICKS OFF NOON RALLY

Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, got the rally started with a chuckle and a soft "we're ba-ack"

11:51 a.m. - FIREFIGHTERS PLAY KEY ROLE IN PROTEST

Mary Bottari reports that Wisconsin firefighters have always been a big part of this fight because they were specifically exempt from the Governor's attempt to destroy collective bargaining. By exempting the firefighters and the police, the Governor proved the point that collective bargaining works to protect communities. Today the largest number of firefighters ever showed up at the Capitol, a crowd some 2,000 strong from across the state escorted by the traditional bagpipe brigade.

11:48 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports that students march down State Street chanting "What's disgusting? Union busting!"

Never Have So Few Ignored So Many

E Pluribus Union

11:36 a.m. - Wisconsin Democratic Senator Lena Taylor who walked out of the State Capitol on Thursday posted a message on her Facebook Page: "brb" (abbreviation for "be right back")

11:35 a.m. - Steve Horn reports that a teacher in Bristol, Wisconsin, could not make to the rally today, and instead participated in a walk-in this morning to the local K – 8 school.

11:33 a.m. - REVEREND JESSE JACKSON SR. JOINS PROTEST

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.Mary Bottari reports that she is arriving at the Capitol and sees a huge crowd that could be the biggest one yet. Walking down the street right now she sees Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. arriving. Many friends from the neighboring state of Illinois are joining us here and Reverend Jackson is no exception. Two time presidential candidate and civil rights hero, Jackson is no stranger to marching for worker rights. He is greeted by a roar of the crowd and now thousands of people are walking behind him in a route circling the Capitol building. The rally is set to begin at 12:00 noon.

11:26 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that TAA representatives are distributing talking points to those present at the University walk-out: there will be a clean-up of the Capitol facilitated by the protestors throughout today.

Student at UW's Library Mall11:22 a.m. - Steve Horn and Erica Pelzek report that there are hundreds of people on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus ready to march to the Capitol. The entire School of Education and many others are present, including children from area schools.

11:13 a.m. - WISCONSIN IS A BATTLEGROUND AGAINST THE BILLIONAIRE KOCHS' PLAN TO BREAK LABOR'S BACK

Alternet reports on the Koch Brothers connection to the Wisconsin worker battle:

The fact is, Walker is carrying out the wishes of his corporate master, David Koch, who calls the tune these days for Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is just one among many Wisconsin Republicans supported by Koch Industries -- run by David Koch and his brother, Charles -- and Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch. The Koch brothers are hell-bent on destroying the labor movement once and for all.

During his election campaign, Walker received the maximum $15,000 contribution from Koch Industries, according to Think Progress, and support worth untold hundreds of thousands from the Koch-funded astroturf group, Americans For Prosperity. AlterNet recently reported the role of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Americans For Prosperity in a vote-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress the votes of African-Americans and college students in Milwaukee. In 2008, Walker served as emcee for an awards ceremony held by Americans For Prosperity. There, he conferred the "Defender of the American Dream" award on Rep. Paul Ryan, now chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Read the full item here.

11:04 a.m. - WATCH "THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!" (Submitted by UW-Madison student Lisa Rosenblum):

10:04 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that rumors are circling that the State Patrol has been sent to Senator Miller's home; he is allegedly still absent.

9:59 a.m. - Mary Bottari reports that schools across Wisconsin are closed today.

9:57 a.m. - Lisa Graves reports that she is hearing in Madison that people are excited to hear Richard Trumka, President of the National AFL-CIO, speak at the 12:00 noon rally. And, there is buzz on Facebook that the Reverend Jesse Jackson will be speaking to the protesters today. Call our office at 608-260-9713 to find out how you can attend the rally.

9:52 a.m. - Erica Pelzek reports that Senator Fitzgerald calls the state Capitol building a "powder keg" and says that he told Senator Miller that his staff and others should not be operating with this in here.

I don't mind paying but leave the unions alone9:39 a.m. - Brendan Fischer reports in with photos from Thursday's rallies.

9:00 a.m. - FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18 NEWS ROUNDUP

The Ed Schultz Show reports live from Madison

The Capital Times, Campus Connection: Key Republican will fight Walker's UW plan: University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin and Wisconsin State Governor Scott Walker have been talking behind the scenes for a month now about Martin's proposed New Badger Partnership, in which UW-Madison would become more autonomous from the state, purchasing its own resources, constructing its own buildings with private funding and paying workers outside the state process. Of course, tuition hikes would be necessary. State Rep. Steve Nass (R-La Grange) plans to introduce legislation that would cap at four percent the amount tuition and most mandatory fees can be raised for those attending the state's public colleges and universities. Nass says he believes tuition hikes at UW are unconscionable and will take whatever means necessary to avoid them.

WisPolitics.com, Budget Blog: Assembly, Senate to take another shot at budget repair bill Friday

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Democrats flee state to avoid vote on budget bill: State Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), confirmed Thursday that Democrats were boycotting Senate action on the bill to block quorum and keep the measure from passing. Because 20 senators of the 33-member house must be present to pass a fiscal bill, the body's 19 Republicans are not enough to pass the budget repair bill. As Democratic Wisconsin senators hid out in Rockford, Illinois, yesterday to prevent the State Senate from reaching quorum, Republican Senators expressed some discomfort regarding Governor Walker's budget repair bill. Ultimately, though, Sen. Luther Olson (R-Ripon), said he will "probably vote for it" on the Senate floor. Protesters blocked the front entrance to the Senate chamber, banging loudly on the door as Senate convened. Air horns, drum circles and angry chants abounded in the echoing Capitol lobby, and at least 9 arrests were made on the third straight day of peaceful, nonviolent protesting.

The New York Times, Politics of Wisconsin Labor Fight Spread to Washington

The Washington Post, Obama joins Wisconsin's budget battle, opposing Republican anti-union bill: Front page, banner headline news in Washington -- Obama and the Democratic Party are on board to help prevent union-busting. Besides mobilizing opposition to Walker's budget-repair bill, the Democratic Party has also organized additional demonstrations in Indiana and Ohio, other states facing the trimming of their collective bargaining rights and benefits.

Wall Street Journal, front page story Union Fight Heats Up: Absent Teachers March; Wisconsin Democrats Flee to Halt Vote

8:30 a.m. - The Wisconsin State Journal School officials: Anticipated education cuts could be 'devastating':

School officials fear anticipated cuts to K-12 education in Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal next week could have a "devastating" effect on public education — from up to 85 teacher layoffs in Janesville to a $17.5 million hole in Madison's K-12 budget.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards warned members this week that Walker is likely to announce a $900 million cut in general state school aids over two years to help close a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and prevent districts from raising property taxes to cover the losses.

7:15 a.m. - Madison's best radio show, "Sly in the Morning" on WDTY is broadcasting 6-10 a.m. this morning with protestors and politicians. You can tune in at 1670 AM or on-line at WTDY.

7:00 a.m. - Friday - It is a cold, crisp, clear day here in Madison. Wisconsin is on the front page of newspapers across the nation and on every major broadcast news channel. Schools are still closed this morning across the state. There will be a massive rally today at noon at the Capitol with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Because the Joint Finance Committee voted on the Senate version of the budget bill on Wednesday night, there can be no vote in the Assembly. The Joint Finance Committee would have to regroup to vote on the Assembly version of the bill in order for there to be floor action in the Assembly today. So as of this morning, the 14 Democratic Senators are still missing, and the bill is still bottled up as protesters planned.


Wisconsin Protests photo gallery

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