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State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine
State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, center, walks away from the Assembly chamber to caucus after Republicans cut off debate and rapidly voted to pass a controversial budget repair bill at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., early Friday morning, Feb. 25, 2011. (AP Photo/M.P. King, Wisconsin State Journal)

MADISON - Rep. Cory Mason said he was given just about five seconds to vote on Gov. Scott Walker's state budget repair bill.

He didn't make it.

Mason, a Racine Democrat, was one of 28 state Assembly legislators who did not vote on the controversial bill that passed early Friday morning. Mason would have voted no, he said.

He was on the Assembly floor in his seat waiting for his turn to speak at 1:05 a.m. Friday when Republicans abruptly called a vote on the bill, he said.

"They opened and closed the roll so fast," Mason said. "It was unprecedented ... What happened last night was a real stain on our democracy."

Mason said he stood up and demanded to be called on by the speaker to talk, following the rules of the Assembly. In the period that Mason and other Democrats were asking to be called on, representatives were given the chance to push a green button for yes or a red button for no.

He said under legislative rules he and other Democrats should have been called on before it went to a final vote. But the vote was only open for about five seconds and Mason missed his chance, he said.

"I realize they might have been tired but they were in the midst of undoing 50 years of workers' rights in this state," Mason said. "They trampled on our rights to dissent. It's a really sad thing."

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said it was a quick vote. But there was nothing unethical about it, he said.

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"We debated for 60 hours," Vos said. "They refused to work with us to give us any sort of timeline... Once you hit 30-32 hours that is the longest debate we ever had."

He said he went around and talked to Democrats to try to get them to set a timeline, but they wouldn't provide one.

Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, said it is common practice to give members of the Assembly notice a vote will happen soon and then give them time to vote. But he didn't know of any rules violation that occurred with the brief vote.

He said in the minutes before the vote happened he noticed Republicans walking around talking to each other.

"Something wasn't right," he said.

So he stayed at his desk without getting up to stretch or go to the restroom. Then the vote happened quickly, but he was prepared.

The final Assembly vote on the governor's bill, which essentially eliminates collective bargaining for most public employees except police and firefighters, was 51 yes votes to 17 no votes, with 28 representatives not voting.

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, who represents Burlington, voted yes. Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, voted no.

 

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