The Michigan Capitol is shown at twilight Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, in Lansing, Mich. Lawmakers continue work on budget bills that deal with a $2.8 billion shortfall before an Oct. 1 deadline. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Union workers watched in disbelief outside the Senate chamber, at times chanting so loudly they could be heard inside as that body shot down amendment after amendment to a bill they say strips them of their union rights.
"What's disgusting? Union Busting!" they chanted in anger.
"These are amendments that the public out here, the constituents, have been supporting and our elected representatives don't want to hear the voice of the people," said Doug Withey of Teamsters Local 580.
The bill in question would give broad new powers to emergency financial managers. Among the changes shot down: requiring the EFM to hold open meetings once a month and saying he or she can't make more money than the governor. The salary cap was defeated only by the Lt. Governor's tie breaking vote.
"You can debate the DHS workers' meager compensation then dole out taxpayer-funded salaries bigger than our governor's? I can't help but wonder maybe you're looking out for your next job after term limits," said Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, Democratic Leader.
"By limiting the salary I think we're taking an opportunity that removes very qualified people from coming in under very extreme conditions with the knowledge to turn the community around," said Sen. Phil Pavlov, a republican of St. Clair.
"The emergency superintendent in detroit making over $420,000 a year," said steelworker Pamela VanLue. "Where are they getting that money from?"
VanLue calls the whole thing ludacris -- and one Detroit senator made it clear he agrees.
"You want me to go back to my constituency Mr. President and tell them, don't worry, the state's got your back, don't worry, we'll take care of you? In the words of my great great grandfather, 'Is you crazy?'" said Senator Coleman Young II, a democrat from Detroit.
Eight amendments were adopted Wednesday, none of them proposed by Democrats. Some changes they included will make it so that the EFM could not touch police and firefighters' death benefits, the payment entitled to their families if they are killed in the line of duty, in a collective bargaining agreement. The senate also decided the EFM should not have a conflict of interest.
The bill was approved in a 26-12 party line vote.
Now it's up to the house to approve this version before it hits the governor's desk.
The governor did not commit today to signing it but has said he favors the package of bills.