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Wisconsin lawmakers aren't the first to flee

Democratic state senators there have left the Capitol to stall a vote on union proposals. In 2003, Texas Democrats did the same to block a vote on a redistricting plan.

February 20, 2011|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • Competing protests signs are seen in Madison, Wis., where an estimated 65,000 protesters descended on the state Capitol.
Competing protests signs are seen in Madison, Wis., where an estimated… (Mira Oberman / AFP/Getty…)

The case of the missing Wisconsin lawmakers echoes a previous legislative walkout.

In May 2003, more than 50 Texas Democratic state lawmakers crossed state lines to block a vote on a GOP-backed redistricting plan.

Last week, all 14 Democratic state senators in Wisconsin left the Capitol to deny the GOP-controlled Senate a quorum to vote on a plan to slash collective bargaining rights for state workers. For part of Thursday, some stayed at a hotel and water park in Illinois.

For the Texans in 2003, the refuge of choice was a Holiday Inn Express in Oklahoma. Republican leaders sent state troopers and Texas Rangers after them without success.

State police even enlisted the help of the federal Department of Homeland Security. The legislators returned voluntarily after the deadline to vote on the plan in that session had passed.

Two months later, 11 Senate Democrats fled to New Mexico to block a second attempt to vote on the plan. This time, they remained in exile for more than a month.

The standoff ended when one Democrat defected and returned to Austin, giving the Senate the quorum it needed to vote on the plan, which passed.

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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