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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

One Year Ago

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If historians and political scientists could describe one moment as the portent of the 2011 Wisconsin political environment, it had to be what happened one year ago this week.
 
The then-outgoing majority of Assembly Democrats — as lame a duck as the term could ever possibly apply — sprung Chippewa Falls Assemblyman Jeff Wood from his jail cell, so he could be the decisive vote in a mad rush by state public employee unions to have new contracts approved by outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle before incoming Gov. Scott Walker could be sworn in.
 
At the time he was freed temporarily from his jail confines. Wood was serving time in a Marathon County Jail after multiple convictions for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance. The surrealism of the moment definitely helped bring new meaning to the phrase “work release.”
 
The vote was a last grasp at power for a party voted out of office in record numbers in the November 2010 elections. The power grab came to a dead end, however, when former Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, himself defeated on Election Day, ended up torpedoing the contracts by being the deciding vote against the new contracts.
 
For this act worthy of a “Profiles in Courage” Award, Decker was removed as leader by his caucus and publicly called a “whore” in a tantrum by Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents some of Wisconsin's unionized public employees.

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