The state Assembly opened debate Tuesday around noon on Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.
The floor session started with a bipartisan show of support for a resolution commending law enforcement for creating a peaceful and safe atmosphere around the Capitol over the past week. Thousands of people have filled the building and grounds each day to protest, while police from several agencies have stepped up to provide security.
That air of agreement quickly dissolved though, as Democrats launched into attacks against majority Republicans.
Democrats spent over an hour threatening a resolution to strip Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) of his leadership position. Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says such a move might be needed, following the events of last Friday when Republicans tried to advance the budget repair bill to a final vote before Democrats were on the floor. Barca accused Kramer of violating Assembly ruled four times in five minutes with the action, but said he would not call for a vote unless further rules violations occur.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) fired back, accusing Democrats of using stalling tactics to delay a vote on the bill. Fitzgerald says Republicans did the right thing and took the bill back to the amendable stage so the minority has an opportunity to offer amendments.
Fitzgerald responded to claims that Friday’s vote was an illegal action, pointing to the 14 Senate Democrats who remain outside of Wisconsin. Those Senators left the state last Thursday to prevent passage of the Governor’s bill.
The Assembly eventually moved on, taking up two proposed amendments to the bill. Both were tabled, but Democrats still have over 100 they plan to offer during the floor session.
Late in the afternoon, State Representative Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) expressed concerns that a bill with such a sweeping impact on the collective bargaining rights of public employees had not received a hearing before the Assembly’s Labor Committee. Kessler made a motion to refer the bill to committee, which resulted in over two hours of debate that was still ongoing as of 6 pm Tuesday evening.