What, I ask myself, would I be tempted to do in current circumstances were I Governor of the state of Wisconsin?
My answer is straightforward. I would be inclined to play hardball. To begin with, I would not give an inch. The struggle in Wisconsin is less about Scott Walker’s proposal with regard to contributions to pensions and healthcare insurance than about the capacity of the public-sector unions in the future to enforce their will on the Badger State first at the ballot box and then in contract negotiations. By shutting down the schools, the teachers’ unions have demonstrated their power – and, if the people of Wisconsin are to be masters in their own house, that power must now be broken. So I would stand my ground and call their bluff. I would wait for the delinquents in the state senate to return from their self-imposed exile in Illinois. In their absence, there will be no budget; and, in the absence of a budget, the salaries of those in the public-sector unions will in due course go unpaid. Scott Walker holds all the cards.
In the meantime, I would have a lawyer on my staff review the contracts binding those who teach in the Badger State’s public schools. There is no doubt provision in these contracts – explicit or implicit – for sick leave. My bet is that to be awarded sick leave one must, indeed, be ill and that the school can ask for proof. My further bet is that, in the absence of proof, the delinquent can be dismissed for breach of contract. That is what would be done with regard to workers in the private sector who lied to their employer in such a case, and that is where I would start.
Some of the teachers will no doubt be able to supply notes from medical doctors testifying to illness on their part. There have been reports that in attendance at the rallies at the state capitol in Madison were medical doctors handing out such notes promiscuously to all and sundry. The local schools should collect these notes and sort them. Should a certain physician be discovered to be a supplier to one and all, there should be a malpractice investigation and the errant physician should be removed from the roles of those licensed to practice medicine in the Badger State.
Finally, there is the question of the state senators who are playing hookey. As I have learned from reading the ChicagoBoyz blog, there is provision within the constitution of the state of Wisconsin for a recall of legislators. Article XIII, Section 12 stipulates that “The qualified electors of the state of any congressional, judicial or legislative district or of a county may petition for the recall of any incumbent elective officer after the first year of the term for which the incumbent was elected.” This leaves some state senators temporarily exempt from recall, but those elected in 2008 (a Democratic year) are already vulnerable, and State Senator Jim Holperin (D-The Tilted Kilt), who won his seat in a squeaker with 51% of the vote that year, is in the latter group. All it takes to force a recall election is a petition signed by voters in his district equal in number to one-quarter of those in the district who voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election. The Tea Party should put Holperin and those of his colleagues who were elected through this ordeal. If the Republicans pick up only one of these seats, they will themselves make up a quorum in the state senate.
The longer this pot boils, the better. American voters tend to have short memories. But the Cheeseheads of Wisconsin will remember in 2012 what happened in 2011. Even more to the point, what happens in Wisconsin will go a long way towards determining what takes place in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Without these states – all of which he won in 2008 – Barack Obama cannot be re-elected President.
UPDATE: It looks as if the physicians handing out doctor's excuses come from the University of Wisconsin in Madison's Department of Family Medicine. In an interview, Dr. Kathy Oriel, who is Director of the Madison Residency Program has gone public about what they are doing. Read this entire post: http://punditpress.blogspot.com/2011/02/university-of-wisconsin-department-of.html. There is trouble a-brewin'.