Wisconsin lawmakers to remain on the lam in Chicago

February 18, 2011

(WBEZ/Andrew Gill)
Wisconsin State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, of Middleton, Wisc.

Some Democratic state lawmakers from Wisconsin are hiding in Illinois to avoid a vote on a controversial bill, and Illinois Democrats are welcoming them with open arms.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, of Middleton, said he's been hunkered down at an undisclosed hotel in Chicago since Thursday, while 13 of his fellow Democrats are hiding out in other parts of the state. The crew reportedly rendezvoused at a resort in Rockford on Thursday.

They fled Madison to prevent a vote on a measure that would strip public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights. The move is being pushed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who says it will save the state money.

The drastic step was necessary in order to evade the Wisconsin State Patrol, which could compel the lawmakers to show up at the Capitol, thereby triggering a vote that would almost certainly result in passage of the bill, Erpenbach said.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn gave the political refugees a warm welcome on Friday.

"We want to assure the people of Wisconsin that we're their friends," Quinn said. "We're always available here in Illinois if they'd like to visit and stay a while until their governor comes to his senses."

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton praised his fellow Democrats from north of the border for delaying the vote.