New members of the state Legislature sworn in

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New members of the state Legislature sworn in

Premiere Date: 
January 10, 2013

The 101st session of the State Legislature officially began Monday.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Man:

Raise your right hand and repeat after me.  

Zac Schultz:

Every two years, the legislature starts a new session with the inauguration, a day of oaths and handshakes and pledges to work together in a bipartisan fashion.

Peter Barca:

Hopefully past wounds can be healed to some degree, and hopefully we can move forward in a bipartisan manner.

Robin Vos:

Hopefully we can leave to contentious issues of the past behind us, and instead focus on the things that will really move Wisconsin forward.

Zac Schultz:

But it never takes long for the antagonistic nature of politics to shine through the thin veneer of bipartisanship. It started Monday even before the swearing in, when Democrats brought up the Republican-controlled redistricting process which resulted in election maps favoring Republican candidates. Last November Republicans won a solid 18 to 15 majority in the senate, and an overwhelming 60 to 39 majority in the assembly. But Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson says because Democratic candidates received more total votes than Republicans candidates, the Republicans don't have a real mandate from the people.

Chris Larson:

But it's a gerrymandered mandate. It doesn't have the total support of the people of Wisconsin behind it.

Scott Fitzgerald:

That criticism that somehow we gerrymandered the map to keep the majority I think is-- is just not valid.

Zac Schultz:

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says the results of the recalls and the general election speak for themselves.

Robin Vos:

That's just a way to make a mountain out of a molehill in a way that is absolutely unimportant as to how the process is going to go. Republicans are in charge of the assembly, Republicans are in charge of the senate, and Governor Walker was reelected.

Zac Schultz:

Democrats aren't the only ones upset with what happened in the last session.

In reaction to the numerous protestors who disrupted proceedings from the gallery, Republicans in the assembly passed rules Thursday that would lead to a two-year ban from the gallery for repeated violations of the rules, actions like using a recording device, or carrying a sign, or outbursts.

Robin Vos:

During the course of the last two years far too many observers became participants. So we are going to change the rules to once again to give every citizen the chance to observe, but when they choose to participate against our rules there are going to be consequences. The first time they'll be escorted off for the day, the second time they’ll be escorted off for that floor period and the third time they’re not going to be allowed back for the entire session.

Zac Schultz:

But the rules also ban a newspaper, or using a phone or wearing a hat.

Fred Kessler:

If a veteran group wants to come here and they want to wear their hats that show that they're in the VFW or in the American Legion, they ought to be able to do that.

Zac Schultz:

The resolution also enforces a dress code on the floor, in response to when the Democrats wore orange t-shirts for days on end. Violators would not recognized to speak. While all Democrats opposed those measures, they did agree on a memorandum of understanding that will end the all-night debates. The agreement will require the leaders to work together to set a start time for debate. Gone are the days when both parties would caucus in private all afternoon.

Man:

The gentleman from the 12th. Two minutes on tabling.

Zac Schultz:

Also, leadership will set a time limit for debate on each bill. And a new clock will enforce time limits on the debate of amendments.

Robin Vos:

The whole point is that we want to make sure that we are open to the public, so we are going to stop all-night sessions. That is the reason that we sat down and made this agreement.

Peter Barca:

The most important thing we're doing today, in respect to the rules, as the speaker started with, is we should not be here doing the people's work at 2:00 in the morning.

Zac Schultz:

Leaders from both parties spent two days negotiating this compromise, and they hope that sets the standard for the rest of the session.

The first real chance for bipartisanship on a controversial issue will come on the mining bill. Both sides claim they want to update the regulations on iron ore mining. Democrats wouldn't support the bill that failed to pass the senate last session, but Republicans are not committing to any big changes this time around.

Scott Fitzgerald:

The overall review of the bill has been productive already in some of the smaller changes and the technical changes that we've seen. And then there will be some bigger public policy decisions made as we, kind of, move through the process.

Peter Barca:

You know, I think we need to take a broad look at this and find out a way that, you know, you could get Democrats and Republicans in a broad manner to support this, and since that's what they want their first bill to be, well, I guess we'll see that first test really soon in the session.

Zac Schultz:

Republicans expect the mining bill to be introduced in the next couple weeks with the public hearing to follow. Senator Fitzgerald says he hopes it will become law by March.


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