Inspired by Congressman Paul Ryan’s first speech as Speaker of the House of Representatives, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) on Tuesday called for a return to civility in his chamber.
The request comes after several recent Assembly floor periods that have seen emotions running high, which Vos said have resulted in several instances where members have crossed the line into personal attacks against other lawmakers. “I myself am guilty of this,” Vos admitted. “Last week I referred to another member’s amendment as stupid, and for that, I apologize.”
AUDIO: Speaker Robin Vos calls for more civility in Assembly (2:33)
Vos said the body should be doing everything it can to maintain civility, decorum, and respect for each other. He said that includes giving Democrats the ability to debate legislation, and the minority being willing in good faith. As part of an effort to offer a clean slate, the Rochester Republican offered to move a bill from Democrats to the Joint Finance Committee, in the hope that both sides could find common ground.
The offer came as Democrats were expected to make a pulling motion to bring the bill, which would set up a state authority to help Wisconsin residents refinance student loan debt, to the floor for a vote Tuesday. The minority responded with skepticism to the offer, with Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) questioning the intent behind it, comparing the offer to a situation in the Peanuts comic strips. “I don’t want to feel like Charlie Brown with the football, where Lucy puts it out there are says “honest, this time, if you try to kick the football, I won’t let it go”…and then, at the last minute, pulls it away…I don’t want to be duped or hoodwinked.”
An objection prevented Vos’ offer from moving ahead, and Democrats proceeded with their effort to bring the bill to the floor. Despite nearly an hour of impassioned debate, from both Democrats and Republicans, the push to take up the bill failed on a party-line vote.