Wisconsin Republicans take no action on policing bills

Both houses gaveled in and adjourned the special session in 30 seconds.
Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 11:39 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature took no action in a special session called by the state’s Democratic governor to pass a package of bills on policing policies.

Republicans started the session and recessed in both the Senate and Assembly in less than 30 seconds, adjourning until Thursday, Sept. 3. That satisfied requirements of the law that they meet, even though almost no lawmakers were present.

It’s a tactic Republicans used in November when Gov. Tony Evers tried to force them to take action on gun control bills. The brief session came just over a week after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back.

State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said no Republicans came to the chambers Monday, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

“We have a responsibility to do our jobs, and we have done nothing since April and that wasn’t a whole lot. They promised to come back, do more with the COVID, but yet they did not do anything,” Hansen said.

Hansen and other senators said lawmakers need to take action now to deal with issues of police reform as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s just common sense things that we should be doing, chokeholds and background checks on police officers if they move from department to department,” Hansen explained.

State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) called the proceedings a “circus.”

“When people are ready to work, and not do it for this party or that party but do it for the people, I’m here,” she said.

In a statement released shortly after the session ended, Evers said it was “disappointing that there’s no sense of urgency from Republicans,” adding that they have had time to consider the merits of the bills.

On Friday, Fitzgerald said Friday that the Legislature will work through “dozens of proposals” in the coming months. In a statement Friday, Fitzgerald explained that, in addition to the legislation backed by the Evers Administration, Senator Senator Van Wanggaard (R-21st) has a set of bills targeting police transparency and community involvement.

The Republican Senate leader added that the task force formed by his counterpart in the Assembly, Speaker Robin Vos, will likely draft even more potential proposals.

“The people of Wisconsin don’t want another task force or more delays—they want action and results, and they want it today, not tomorrow or some day months down the road,” Evers added Monday. “We don’t have time to wait.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement that by adjourning the special session immediately, Republicans refused to address critical issues and failed to lead. ” It shouldn’t be too much to ask that the legislature at least hold public hearings on criminal justice reform proposals this year so that legislators can hear from Wisconsinites in a public forum,” Kaul said. “There’s no reason we should have to wait until 2021 for Republicans in the state legislature to resume doing their jobs.”

Democratic senators who attend the special session said they do not expect the legislature to take action on the bills anytime soon.

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