Now this time at least, the onus is fully in the GOP camp since they hold unassailable majorities in both the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate. But apparently there was a 2013 agreement to limit the late night activity under the dome at the Capitol. Whoops…the 2018 Lame Duck sessions blew that all to hell!
The 2013 agreement
State Assembly leaders from both parties struck a deal in January 2013 to cut down on their body’s frequent and contentious overnight sessions, with time clocks installed to track the length of future floor speeches.
“We are going to stop all-night sessions; that is the reason we got together and made this agreement,” Vos said at a news conference with Democratic leaders.
“We think it’ll be the exception rather than the rule and maybe it won’t happen at all this session,” Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said of overnight sessions.
HUH! The 2018 Lame Duck Sessions (sounds like the name of a bootleg album by a 1970s punk band but I have been letting nostalgia creep in) proved to be anything except EXACTLY a late night session.
How it played out
The 2013 agreement had several specific provisions. Here’s a look at how they played out during the lame-duck session (sometimes referred to as an “extraordinary session.”)
In 2013, lawmakers said they would meet before each Assembly session to set time limits on debate for each bill. In 2018, there was no agreement for time limits for the special session.
In 2013, lawmakers vowed to strictly follow the scheduled start time. In the 2018 session, the start time was supposed to be 1 p.m., but lawmakers didn’t start until hours later.
In 2013, lawmakers planned to have private caucus meetings between the members of each party in advance. In 2018, they did do that, but also met in caucus after the official start time.
In 2013, the plan was to minimize the number of contentious bills on any session day and ensure a minimum of 30 minutes of debate on the final vote on each bill unless leaders of both parties agree otherwise. In 2018, lawmakers appeared to adhere to this, as there was no complaint from Democrats of debate getting cut off early.
In 2013, the aim of the new rules was to end debate by a “reasonable time” each session day, though there was no curfew set for debate as Democrats had sought.
In 2018, no one could claim the latest session ended at a “reasonable” time, since a 4 a.m. bill unveiling and a 8:20 a.m. vote are not reasonable hours.
LOL. So Politifact labelled this a Full Flop.
But this gets back to something we’ve discussed earlier about legislative sessions. There is absolutely no reason that legislative sessions should run well into the night. There is absolutely no reason that voting should occur at night or even at first light. There is absolutely no reason that legislative sessions should occur outside of normal business hours…and if they need to proceed later…why the legislative day shouldn’t end by 10 PM or earlier.
And there’s no reason that an evening session should start after 7 PM (and stop at the previously noted 10 PM).
And I realize legislative rules are the responsibility of the individual houses, but they should actually be rules and not ‘agreements’ and they should consider the legislative responsibilities to the residents and constituents of the State of Wisconsin. Unless of course you need to ‘hide’ something!