The state Assembly wrapped up its fall legislative session early Friday morning, after spending nearly 13 hours on the floor debating a series of highly contentious bills.
Lawmakers took to the floor around 1 p.m. on Thursday, and almost immediately fell into a two hour debate over a Democratic attempt to call for a vote on redistricting reform. Democrats used a procedural move to try to bring the bill to the floor, which was eventually rejected by Republicans. The chamber then spent the next several hours on a series of proposals that included constitutional amendments limiting the reasons to recall elected officials and changing the process for selecting the chief justice of the Supreme Court, along with bills that would create exemptions in the state’s stalled Voter ID law, restrict in-person absentee voting, and limit public access to land around a proposed iron ore mine. All of the bills passed on party line votes, with Democrats opposing them.
The partisan divide became even more apparent as the clock neared midnight, when majority Republicans abandoned a negotiated deal and brought up a bill that would create a “Choose Life” license plate motorists can purchase. Proceeds from the plate would go to fund a pro-life advocacy group. The vote prompted a long string of floor speeches from Democrats, many of them questioning the integrity of Republicans for going back on a deal regarding the debate.
When members attempted to question Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) on the decision, he declined to answer. State Representative Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee) had a heated exchange with Speaker Pro Tem Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), after Zepnick broke Assembly rules by referring to the speaker by name. Over August banging the gavel, the MIlwaukee Democrat said “I’m gonna ask Robin Vos, I’m gonna ask Bill Kramer, I’m gonna ask whoever I damn please to stand up and explain your behavior to the public of the state of Wisconsin.”
AUDIO: Rep. Josh Zepnick (1:07)
The exchange resulted in a tense atmosphere for the rest of the night, with Democrats continuing to vote against Republican bills. The fall session wrapped up shortly after 2 a.m. on Friday morning.
Lawmakers may be returning to the Capitol soon though. Governor Scott Walker on Thursday called a special session of the Legislature to deal with ongoing problems related to implementation of ObamaCare.