The Wisconsin State Legislature is calling an extraordinary session next week to apparently fend off a statewide crisis. Something called Right To Work (at the expense of your co-workers) legislation demands that it be passed…oh…no…wait. This is an emergency? Isn’t that what extraordinary sessions are for?
But a couple of highlights on extraordinary sessions:
What is an extraordinary session?
In short, it’s a session with a specific focus. Both its rules and purposes differ some from those of a regular session. Extraordinary sessions…are called to take up one or more specific topics or bills. An extraordinary session can be called by the Legislature and does not need the governor’s approval.
How is an extraordinary session called?
One of three ways: 1) the direction of a majority of the members of the committee on organization in each chamber, 2) a joint resolution passed by a majority of elected membership in each chamber, 3) a joint petition of a majority of the members elected in each house.
What can happen in an extraordinary session?
Action can only be taken on the business “specified in the call by which it was authorized.” In a special session, the governor can only designate subject areas for the Legislature to discuss, but an extraordinary session can be called for specific bills.
If the extraordinary session is held before the conclusion of the final general floor period, lawmakers can also introduce new legislation or consider bills that have already been introduced.
The purpose of an extraordinary session can also be expanded and supplemented in order to act on other business.
What are the rules for an extraordinary session?
Extraordinary sessions expedite the legislative process and limit the amount of time allowed for debate. The rules differ slightly between the Assembly and Senate.
In both houses, notices for committee hearings aren’t required beyond posting online and on legislative bulletin boards. A schedule of committee activities doesn’t have to be published.
Proposals are referred to the day’s calendar and may be taken up immediately. A calendar doesn’t have to be provided.
Motions to postpone proposals are not allowed and, in almost all cases, motions to reconsider will be taken up immediately. A vote from a majority of present members is required to advance a proposal to a third reading or to message it to the other house.
Under Senate rules, any point of order must be decided within an hour.
So given the nature of the current legislature, they can simply decide that a certain bill is the single focus and they can limit debate and notification and just run with it? Doesn’t have to be an emergency or special circumstance?
And in this case, the Republicans can call an extraordinary session with a straight face over Right To Work? Unions are such an existential threat that we have to go to extraordinary measures to wrestle them to the ground?
Meanwhile true emergencies like the $283 million dollar deficit in the 2013-2015 budget remain undiscussed? And the billions of dollars in projected shortfalls in the 2015-2017 budget and the dozens of onerous actions it contains get back logged? This is truly the best use of the legislature’s time? Really? Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald can say that with a straight face?
No, actually it seems that the Republicans are as confused as I am:
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, discussed whether the bill should be taken up in regular session or extraordinary session and ultimately decided extraordinary session was the way to go.
“It just seemed to make sense to … stay focused on this bill, make this what is, I would say, a very simple calendar so that there’s no confusion about anything like any other bill or any other thing that we might take up,” Fitzgerald told reporters on Friday. “It literally will be the only thing on this calendar.”
Fitzgerald said his experience as the Senate leader has taught him, “when you have the votes, you go to the floor.”
It can’t possibly have anything to do with trying to short circuit dissent, discussion or giving the bill a proper hearing in public. Can it?
He (Senator Fitzgerald) also suggested the fast-track push was an attempt to head off a union-backed campaign to persuade Republican senators to oppose the bill.
Whoops, I stand corrected, Democracy Be Damned, let’s just continue to stink the place up.