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MADISON, Wis. -The Senate passed the right-to-work bill 17-15 after eight hours of debate Wednesday night.

The measure now heads to the state Assembly, which plans to take it up next week. Gov. Scott Walker has said he will sign it into law.

Democrats argue right-to-work would be bad for workers, wasn't wanted by businesses and would hurt the state's economy.

“We don’t know what the cost will be to taxpayers, because this bill has been rushed so fast we haven’t had a chance to stop and look and study and analyze the budget hole this bill will create,” Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D- La Crosse, said.

Republican supporters say it will give workers the freedom to decide whether to pay union dues and will attract more business to the state.

“There will be no more important jobs bill in this chamber over the next two years than the bill before us today,” Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Majority Leader, said.

All Republicans voted for the measure except Sen. Jerry Petrowski, of Marathon. He says he's not convinced it will be beneficial.

Democrats offered seven amendments on everything from increasing the minimum wage to delaying when the bill would take effect. All seven amendments failed.

About a dozen protesters who spoke out during the debate in the state Senate over the right-to-work bill were removed by police Wednesday afternoon.

Cullen Werwie, communications director for the Department of Administration, said Wednesday that four arrests were made but declined to discuss details.

The disruptions came Wednesday during the opening comments on the bill by its lead sponsor Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

Some in the gallery are listening to the debate with tape over their mouths.

Dozens of protesters also occupied an area outside the Senate chamber to demonstrate against the right-to-work bill. The number of protesters dwindled from the estimated 2,000 who gathered over the noon hour for a rally to a group that partly filled out the second floor hallway near the chamber.

The Senate voted on the bill after a shortened public hearing Tuesday that sent dozens of people waiting to speak into a rage.

Sen. Steve Nass, chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, reported Wednesday that 1,751 people had testified or registered against the right-to-work bill at Tuesday's hearing. Only 25 people were on the record as backing it.

Nass cut the hearing about 40 minutes short out of fear union members planned to disrupt a vote. The panel then hastily voted 3-1 along party lines to advance the bill to the full Senate.

Around 2,000 people rallied against the right-to-work bill Tuesday, which was a scene that brought up familiar memories to the 2011 protests against Act 10.


Senate passes right-to-work bill 17-15

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