The stage is set for a series of debates in the state Assembly that could keep lawmakers working through the night. The chamber is scheduled to hold its final floor period of the year today, and Republicans have brought forward a calendar that includes several contentious bills that are expected to draw fierce attacks from minority Democrats.
The bills include changes to election laws limiting early voting hours and revisions to the state’s voter ID requirement to help deal with court challenges that have kept it from being enforced. Other measures include the creation of a “Choose Life” license plate that drivers could purchase, and constitutional amendments that would limit recalls of elected officials and change the process for selecting the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) says the agenda is full of bills aimed at satisfying special interests “on the extreme ends of the political spectrum,” and that do nothing to address the economic problems the state continues to face. Democratic leaders in the Assembly are expected to spend several hours debating many of the bills up for a vote on Thursday, which will likely push the session into the early morning hours of Friday.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) says the bills up for a vote are all issues Republicans have been working on for quite some time though. He says the proposed voter ID changes, which would allow voters who can’t afford an photo ID or lack the documents to get one to still be able to vote in an election, helps deal with legal challenges to the 2011 law that have kept it from being enforced. He says their bill would help make sure the law will be in the place for the 2014 gubernatorial election and that the election is fair.
Likely adding to today’s debate is an expected push to call for a vote on legislation that would reform the state’s redistricting process. Democrats want to move the state away from its current system of having the Legislature redraw district boundaries every ten years. Instead, a non-partisan panel would create the maps. Speaker Vos says there are no plans to allow for a vote on the bill, since he believes the current system of redistricting is constitutional and there’s no reason to make a change.
The Assembly session is scheduled to start at around 1pm Thursday.