After rendezvousing at a Best Western resort across the state line in Rockford, Ill., Wisconsin state senate Democrats have reportedly packed up their things and are on the run once again.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach tells 27 News that Democrats are leaving Rockford, Illinois right now. He would not say their destination.
They have been at the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center in Rockford.
Our sister station in Rockford, WREX spoke with lawmakers there. WREX reports one lawmaker said, “It’s kind of everyone for themselves."
A Rockford tea party activist caught two Wisconsin legislators on camera as they hit the road. When asked why they were not in Wisconsin doing their jobs, one of the lawmakers insisted that stalling the budget legislation was his job:
Gateway Pundit reports that a number of Rockford tea party members followed some Wisconsin lawmakers north from the Rockford hotel where they re-entered Wisconsin.
Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach phoned into WKOW Thursday evening from Illinois to say the Democrats would return to Wisconsin only if the governor delayed action on the budget measure to allow protests to continue.
The Senate is supposed to return to session Friday.
Who knows what will happen?
Democrats from the Wisconsin state legislature who fled the capitol to avoid a tough vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal have been found.
According to local NBC affiliate TMJ4, the lawmakers checked into the Best Western Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, Ill.
Wisconsin law enforcement officials have been searching for at least one Democratic senator to bring back to Madison for a quorum required to move forward with the fiscal measure, but every last Democrat boarded buses earlier Thursday and left the state.
With the Democrats hiding out just across the state line, the Senate's Sergeant at Arms remains unable to compel their attendance.
"For those looking for us, we are right here, standing with the people of Wisconsin," Democratic Senator Chris J. Larson tweeted late Thursday afternoon, apparently from Illinois.
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Gov. Walker encouraged Senate Democrats to return to Madison in order to carry out the job they're paid to do. "Out of respect for the institution of the Legislature and the democratic process, I am calling on Senate Democrats to show up to work today, debate legislation and cast their vote," Walker said.
"Their actions by leaving the state and hiding from voting are disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of public employees who showed up to work today and the millions of taxpayers they represent," he added.
So far, nine protesters demonstrating at the State Capitol have been arrested.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald adjourned the state Senate Thursday at 5 p.m. The Senate is expected to be called back into session Friday, but whether there will be an actionable quorum present remains unclear.
Speaking to the Washington Post via phone Thursday evening, Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson insisted he and his Democratic colleagues would not return to the legislature until the GOP takes the governor's proposed union regulations "off the table."
"Each of us is in a secure location," he told me, confirming that they were not all together but were monitoring events on the Web and on Twitter. Larson refused to say whether he and his fellow Dems had left the state, as some have speculated.
"We're going to be staying away until we hear that they are taking the right to organize seriously," Larson continued, referring to Republicans. "They're going after 50 years of history in one week. Until they take that off the table, it's a non-starter."
Larson said Dems are not worried about law enforcement pursuing them and dragging them back to the capitol. Though the current proposal exempts state police, he said that individual officers had privately expressed solidarity with the Dems' and public employees' cause.
"They understand the importance of workers banded together to protect workers rights," Larson said, characterizing his conversations with officers. "They understand why we're here."
Dems will not return, Larson vowed, "until the Republicans are prepared to listen to the effects of this bill on workers and what it will do to our state."