Protesters disrupted budget debate on the floor of the state Senate today, just as the lone Republican planning to vote against the measure was preparing to state his opposition. “I thought the Senator from the 19th (Senate President Mike Ellis) was kidding me earlier, when he said he was going to find a way to make certain I didn’t get any remarks in today,” joked Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center).
A group of eight protesters, who were among several people chanting “focus on jobs, not on vaginas,” were arrested by Capitol Police. The chant was an apparent reference to a controversial bill approved by the Legislature last week, which requires women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound first. The protesters were arrested after trying to rush on to the Senate floor, and a spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration said they would be charged with disorderly conduct.
AUDIO: Senate debate disrupted (4:20)
Schultz, once he was able to speak, supported a Democratic amendment which would have stripped policy items from the spending plan. Policy items in this budget include school choice expansion, lifting Milwaukee’s residency requirement, allowing commercial bail bondsmen to operate in Wisconsin, and designating a state pastry.
“There are policy items in this budget that I might be willing to support,” said Schultz. “I enjoy a good Kringle as much as the next person . . . but it doesn’t belong in the budget.”
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) noted that policy items always make it into the budget. “The idea that we’re all somehow pure on this, and that everybody in the majority and the minority are someday going to craft a budget that’s not going to include some policy, I think is just ridiculous,” Fitzgerald said. “The hypocrisy of this body is just sometimes overwhelming.”
The amendment – the second offered by Democrats – was rejected by a 17-16 vote with Schultz joining Democrats to support it. Democrats have numerous other amendments they will offer as debate continues.