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Democratic Senators will be allowed to cast committee votes

Republicans leaders of the Wisconsin state Senate say they won't prevent their 14 Democratic colleagues from voting in committee. It's a step back from a stand Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald took Tuesday when he said Democrats were still in con...

Republicans leaders of the Wisconsin state Senate say they won't prevent their 14 Democratic colleagues from voting in committee. It's a step back from a stand Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald took Tuesday when he said Democrats were still in contempt.

Republicans voted to hold Senate Democrats in contempt while they were out of state holding up a vote on the governor's collective bargaining bill. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald insisted that until Democrats came back to attend a Senate session day, that contempt order still stood.

But because Republicans voted on the collective bargaining bill without Democrats and there were no session days scheduled until April, that contempt order stood to prevent Democrats from voting in several committees -- a possibility that had their members furious.

Yesterday, Fitzgerald said he'd received assurances from Democrats that they would not leave again. He said he expected Republicans would find a way to lift the contempt order.

"I think we have the ability to do that as soon as today, but it is something we have to work through."

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Fitzgerald had barely finished speaking when veteran Republican Sen. Mike Ellis, the Senate President, stepped forward to make a more forceful promise.

"As President of the Senate I'm not going to enforce the fines. As President of the Senate we are no longer going to hold them in contempt. They were in contempt at one point. The name of the game is moving this state forward."

Tensions among Senators could remain high in coming months as both sides prepare for what could be an historic wave of recall elections.

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