They removed the fiscal parts of the bill which meant that they didn’t need at least 20 members present to pass the legislation.
Capping a dramatic turn of events, the Wisconsin state Senate on Wednesday night passed a new, stripped-down “budget repair bill” — which now excludes all the fiscal elements of the original budget repair bill, and simply includes the original’s provisions to roll back the collective bargaining and organizational rights of Wisconsin’s public employee unions.
With all 14 Democrats absent, having fled the state weeks ago in order to block the three-fifths budget quorum, the bill passed by an 18-1 margin, with only moderate Republican Dale Schultz voting no.
And from Slate:
This is incoherent in a number of ways. First, Gov. Scott Walker’s argument for not putting the collective bargaining and union dues/formation reforms on the negotiating table has been, since the beginning, that they were necessary for letting local governments balance their budgets. They are, technically, not “fiscal components” — they just deal with huge sums of money. Second, Republicans punted on a voting reform bill two weeks ago because they did not want to split the fiscal portions of the bill — funding for IDs, for those who couldn’t afford them — from the rest of it.
This is a desperation move. It’s happening, say Democrats, before they read the new bill. Obviously, had Democrats not fled the state, the un-changed legislation would have passed last month. But this happens a day after e-mails from the governor’s office floated the possibility — which Democrats didn’t quite buy — of negotiation on the collective bargaining parts of the bill.