Assembly Democrats are raising concerns that an early morning vote approving the budget repair bill may have been illegal. Republicans suddenly ended over 60 hours of debate Friday morning on the bill, which strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights, while several lawmakers were still waiting to speak.
Democrats say Assembly rules should have required a vote to end debate early. Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says that did not happen, and that could mean the vote was illegal. Barca says Democrats will be reviewing tapes of the final minutes of the session very closely and will explore every option available to them.
Democrats had employed a wide range of tactics to draw out debate over the past three days. Republicans rejected several dozen amendments from the minority, tabling nearly 100 at one point on Thursday evening after the debate had passed the 50 hour mark.
Late in the debate, the minority followed through with an earlier threat to try and have Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) removed from his position. Democrats based the move on what they claimed were repeated violations of Assembly rules by Kramer in how certain procedural votes were handled. The effort failed.
The vote on the bill and adjournment of the session happened in less than a minute, and came as a surprise to many in the Assembly at the time. However, Republicans had been showing increasing frustrations with Democrats during the last few hours of the debate, offering some indication they could make a procedural move to end the marathon session.
Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) questioned Democrats about how long they planned to stall a vote. He said it was “astounding” that some claimed Republicans were trying to stifle debate, calling it “poppycock.”
Just minutes before the vote on passage, Kramer fielded a question from Democrats about how many lawmakers were waiting to speak and if they would all be allowed to make remarks. Kramer only said he could not guarantee that would happen, and pointed out that many of the comments were ones that had already been repeated several times.
When the vote came, it happened so quickly that many lawmakers were not even on the floor at the time. Several Democrats and a handful of Republicans did not even get to cast a vote on the bill. State Representative Donna Seidel (D-Wausau) called the action “appalling.”