As if pending litigation and recall elections weren’t enough to choke Wisconsin’s government to a halt, state Republicans have decided to prolong the volatile Senate relations sparked by Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill and antagonized by the Democrats’ multi-week stay in Illinois.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald on March 14 issued a statement saying “Senate Democrats’ votes will not be reflected in the records of committee proceedings or the Senate journal.”
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, who since returning to the state has all but said Walker is the worst governor he has worked with in his 50-plus years in the Legislature, issued his own statement:
“Who does Senator Fitzgerald think he is? Just because his brother is the speaker of the Assembly and his best friend is the governor of Wisconsin does not give him the power to decide who can and cannot vote in the state Senate. His statement that Senate Democrats can no longer vote in committee is the height of arrogance. In my tenure in the Legislature, I have never seen any attempt to deny duly elected legislators their right to vote.”
The freshly reunited Senate is not off to a good start. And if such animosity remains between Republicans and Democrats, it does not bode well for this Legislature accomplishing much business on behalf of Wisconsin citizens.
Oh, sure, the Senate can pass one Walker initiative after another, given its Republican majority. But if lawmakers on both sides can’t find motivation to reach across the aisle and respect the offices they hold, Wisconsin could be in for a long two years of partisan hackery from those entrusted to lead.
— James Briggs is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter based in Milwaukee, Wisc., which is owned by The Dolan Company.