And contempt can lead to arrest. Or, being taken into custody.
Republicans in the state Senate ordered Democrats on Thursday to return to the chamber by 4 p.m. or be found in contempt of the Senate – a move that means Democrats could be taken into custody.
“We simply cannot have democracy be held hostage because the minority wants to prove a point,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).
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The state constitution says lawmakers can be compelled to attend legislative sessions, but does not spell out how that can be done. Questions have been raised about whether senators can be arrested when they haven’t committed crimes.
Democrats are out of the reach of Wisconsin law enforcement because they are camped out in Illinois and Fitzgerald said he would not consider seeking any sort of extradition from the other state. Fitzgerald, who met with two of the Democrats in Kenosha on Monday, said he believed some of the lawmakers were entering Wisconsin for other errands and going to their homes.
Fitzgerald said the resolution would allow the absent Democrats to be taken into custody, which he called “a legal difference from arrest.” He said that citizens who see absent Democrats in Wisconsin could report them to police.
It would only take one to make a quorum, which would allow the bill to be passed.