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Wisconsin judge orders capitol building open to public

A Wisconsin circuit court judge extended an ex parte restraining order [petition and affidavits text, PDF] on Tuesday that the Wisconsin capitol building must be made open to the public during business hours, sought in light of recent protests that have caused officials to regulate entrance into the building. The Wisconsin State Employees Union Council 24 (WSUE) [advocacy website] filed the petition earlier in the day in reaction to Governor Scott Walker [official website] ordering the capitol building closed and removing protesters on Sunday. At that time, protesters had been occupying the premises for 14 days. The Department of Administration (DOA) [official website] released new regulations [press release] for admittance to the capitol building: opening one entrance open to the general public where visitors may be admitted one-by-one, creating a prohibition on sleeping bags and blankets and declaring an ability to limit the number of protesters. In response to the injunction, the DOA stated [press release] that they were in compliance with the order by allowing the capitol building open during normal business hours, despite restrictions. The hearing on the temporary injunction will continue Wednesday morning [Wisconsin State Journal report], with a final decision expected later that day.

Protests in Wisconsin have been in effect since February 15, when a committee on behalf of Walker released Senate Bill 11 [text, PDF] to address the state's $3.6 billion deficit. The bill would require state employees to contribute a percentage of their salaries to their pension and health care premiums, and would eliminate the ability of public employee union members to collectively negotiate anything but wage increase, which would be capped by the Consumer Price Index. These provisions incensed unions and their supporters, sparking the protests. The Wisconsin State Assembly [official website] passed the bill in a vote of 51-17. The bill has yet to be voted on in the Senate, due to the 14 Democrat senators relocating to Illinois as a form of protest. Without them, the Senate is only at 19 members, one short for a quorum, which is required to hold a vote on a fiscal bill. Walker continues to push for his budget proposal, speaking on it earlier today [transcript], and threatening to cut Democrat-approved portions out [press release] if Democrats do not return to vote.

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