Republican leader Fitzgerald met with Democrat Cullen on ways to end senator boycott

Republican leader Fitzgerald met with Democrat Cullen on ways to end senator boycott

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Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald met quietly Monday with one of the 14 Senate Democrats to discuss ways to bring the boycotting senators back from Illinois.

The Democrats fled Feb. 17 to block a controversial bill that sparked two weeks of protests at the Capitol.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, met with Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, at a McDonald's in Kenosha on Monday morning, Cullen said. He said he presented a list of eight or nine proposed changes to Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, and Fitzgerald came back with a counter offer.

"It was something," Cullen said, "but it wasn't enough."

For his part, Fitzgerald said he believes some of the "Wisconsin 14" are growing weary of the protest. Democrats left Wisconsin to deny Republicans the required 20-member quorum to vote on fiscal bills.

"There's six, seven, eight, nine of them that are starting to say, ‘Listen, we're starting to look like we're out of touch with what's going on in Madison, and it's time to get back,' " he said. "I think some of them feel like they're boxed in and they can't come back to the Capitol right now."

But Cullen, who initiated the talks, said Democratic senators are united by their top priority — preserving key collective bargaining rights for employees.

"No one will go back and be the 20th vote," he said. "We'll go back as a group."

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Wisconsin residents are divided over whether they side with unions or Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the drama unfolding daily at the state Capitol, though a clear majority supports collective bargaining for public employees when asked more broadly about the topic, a new poll shows.

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