Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for March 9th, 2011

WI Senate Rs make questionable procedural move

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In Wisconsin, you are obligated to give 24 hours notice before calling a conference committee on any given bill, but the Senate Republicans did not do so today in order to, in advance, get the Assembly’s notice and bring the Assembly back to vote.  And they did it all within five minutes.

Why did they need to do this?  Well, Scott Walker knew he was losing the battle of public opinion, so he had the Senate Republicans strip the language regarding the public employee unions out of the “budget repair bill” — after saying for weeks this was a fiscal issue, now it apparently isn’t? — while the conference committee passed 4-0 (with lone Democrat, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, unable to vote as he pointed out this conference committee was a violation of Wisconsin law and statute as he wasn’t given 24 hours notice, nor was he given any idea of what, exactly, he was voting on as there wasn’t a bill summary as there usually is).

Here’s a story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that goes into most of the particulars (not speaking about Barca’s part in it, oddly enough; the Kenosha News doesn’t have anything yet, either, as of 7:02 PM CST):

Note that I witnessed this extraordinary event by watching WTMJ TV (channel 4 in Milwaukee, WI), and saw Barca’s comments for myself; if I can get a transcript of what Barca actually said, I will be glad to update this post and add his remarks.

Here’s part of the article, quoting Robert Dreps, a noted Wisconsin attorney:

Attorney Robert Dreps, an expert on the state open meetings law, said he did not believe the conference committee could meet with such short notice.

State law generally requires a 24-hour notice for public meetings, but can be called with just two hours notice when more notice is impossible or impractical, said Dreps, who has represented the Journal Sentinel in the past.

“I can’t imagine how they can meet that standard,” he said.

I’ve never seen this before in all my life; a conference committee called before a bill was passed?  With no bill summary?  No 24 hours notice?  Then the Senate passing the non-fiscal items (i.e., stripping the collective bargaining of unions) in an 18-1 vote in about two minutes (starting at 6:12 PM and ending at 6:14 PM)?  Only Dale Schultz, a Republican from Richland Center in western Wisconsin, voted no.

Note that by declaring this a non-fiscal measure, the quorum needed was lower — but that may not be a legal maneuver either.   As I get more information, I will add more and more to this blog in the days ahead.

How can anyone say this was clear, transparent, or “doing the people’s business” in any way, shape or form with a straight face?

More to the point — how does this help the “Republican 8” who are vulnerable to recall efforts this year?  How does this help the people of Wisconsin, period?

*** UPDATE THREE as of 11:43 P.M.:  Note that there is a Web site to help recall the “Republican 8” state Senators who are available to be recalled right now.  Those Senators are Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Dan Kapanke, Sheila Harsdorf, Robert Cowles, Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, and the most likely one to be recalled of them all, state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills (this is a suburb of Milwaukee which contains Marquette University).  At the moment the Web site sends everyone to an Act Blue page, so I have taken down the link . . . if that site goes back to a normal place, not taking people to Act Blue (I’m for Act Blue in general but not when I’m trying to go somewhere else), I’ll restore the link. ***

**** UPDATE FOUR:  The link has been restored to show staging directions — places and people to see to get recall petitions for the Republican 8, so here you go:


Right now, as of 7:11 p.m. CST, the protestors are back on the streets of Madison** and are furious.  This just shows, once again as if we hadn’t figured it out, how duplicitous Scott Walker and his cronies in the state Senate really are.

My best guess is that these Republicans really don’t think they’ll be recalled, or that those who aren’t yet vulnerable to recall believe next year things will have calmed down and that they’ll easily hold their offices.  But I have news — anyone who voted “yes” on this horrible thing in the Senate today will be recalled, whether this year or next.  (I think Dale Schultz is safe as he voted “no.”  The rest of the Senate R’s had best look out.)  Because this clearly was not what the voters of Wisconsin wanted, and if the Republicans really think this was the right thing to do, well, they’re going to have to pay for it with their careers.

As State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) put it,

“This is a travesty is what it is,”Larson said about the vote. “I can’t sit by and let them kill the middle class.”

Larson said Republicans will pay a political price for curtailing collective bargining for public-sector employees.

“Everyone who is party to this travesty is writing their political obituary,”Larson said.

Amen, brother!

** UPDATE **  Here’s an article from the Kenosha News that points out what Peter Barca actually did:

And here’s a statement from that article from state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Ashland, one of the “Wisconsin 14”:

Before the sudden votes, Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch said if Republicans “chose to ram this bill through in this fashion, it will be to their political peril. They’re changing the rules. They will inflame a very frustrated public.”

Once again, and with feeling — can I get an “Amen, brother” on that one, too?

** UPDATE TWO ***  Here’s something from Talking Points Memo about what Peter Barca attempted to do:

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) attempted to make a motion to delay the meeting or make amendments — and was not recognized for a motion by the chair, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Barca argued, over Fitzgerald’s attempts to say there would be no motions, that the conference committee violated the state’s open meetings law, which requires at least 24 hours notice before a government meeting, unless there is good cause to act more quickly.

Read more at:

** Note that in Kenosha, which is the southern-most city in Wisconsin that’s right next to the state line with Illinois, there was a protest march in favor of the “Wisconsin 14” Democratic Senators and the public employee unions, which drew 1200 people in the middle of a working day.  This tells you that people remain fired up about this issue and are not going to stop protesting, and that was before what Scott Walker (and his 45-minute meeting earlier today with Senate Rs) and his cronies did this evening.

The protests will continue until morale improves — and in this case, morale will only improve with every single last Republican being recalled, including Scott Walker.  So look for recall after recall this summer, and recalls again in January of 2012 until every Republican who approved of this gets recalled.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm