Assembly Republicans refuse to take up Sandy Hook resolution

The Cap Times, Jessie Opoien

Assembly Republicans refused to consider a resolution honoring the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting during its last regular session of the year — despite the fact that several of them were listed as co-sponsors.
Democrats tried to force a vote on the resolution, which was not scheduled to be taken up. The measure wasn't allowed to come forward, on a 53-39 vote. 
The resolution, which would designate Dec. 14 as a day of remembrance for the victims of the 2012 mass shooting, passed the Senate with unanimous support in September. All 33 state senators were listed as co-authors on the joint resolution, which Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, brought to the floor on Thursday night.
"I did not expect Republicans to choose to politicize this," Shankland said Friday. "This was meant to be a nonpartisan or bipartisan way to commemorate and honor those teachers and children."
Shankland said she and Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, wrote a letter to Assembly leaders three weeks ago asking why the resolution had not yet come to the floor, when it had first been introduced in June. Shankland said they received no response.
She then asked Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, to ask Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Majority Leader Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, to schedule a vote. 
"They said, in no uncertain terms, it would not be scheduled," Shankland said, adding that her only recourse was to bring the bill to the floor during the last scheduled session.
Seven Republicans who voted against taking up the resolution on Thursday night were listed as original co-sponsors when it was first introduced in June. Shankland and Taylor were the only legislators to speak about the measure.
"For them to politicize this — not only is it sickening, but I question their motives," Shankland said. "I think the Assembly Republicans chose to, once again, put their partisan, far-right extremism over the people of the state and the people they’re supposed to represent. It just shows how far they’re willing to go to push their ideology."
Partisan battles were waged throughout the session, which stretched into early Friday morning. A compromise on anti-abortion license plates was scrapped, and several changes to election laws were passed on tense party-line votes.
Reps. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, and Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, were the only two members of their party to support taking up the Sandy Hook resolution. Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, was the lone Democrat to vote against it. [Editor's note: The Cap Times received an email Saturday morning from Zepnick that read, in part: "Minutes after the vote, I realized I hit the wrong button and asked for my vote to be recorded as YES. It was a long night, of mostly voting NO, and as a human being, mistakes are made!"]
Shankland said a resolution in a previous session honoring the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing met no resistance, adding that the Assembly passes resolutions honoring fallen heroes, political heroes, awareness days and a host of other issues with little or no debate on a regular basis.
"I hope that's the worst I ever see in this body," the freshman legislator said.
Several Democratic legislators took to Twitter after the measure failed to make it to the floor.
"DEMS bring up SJR42, memorializing the victims of the Sandy Hook School Shootings; it fails on a party line vote," wrote Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.
"@RepShankland tries to take up a resolution honoring and remembering national tragedy but republicans won't let it happen," Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton tweeted.
Rep. Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee, posted a series of tweets: "Wait. A RESOLUTION to honor the victims of Sandy Hook FAILED. Take that in for a second. No law change, just honoring the lost lives," followed by, ".@RepShankland named EVERY victim, but it did not convince passage of the resolution."
"Heartless WI Assembly GOP refused to take up resolution honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. Senate passed unanimously. Cruel," wrote Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison.
Shankland also reacted on Twitter, with a statement posted in two tweets:
"I am stunned that majority Republicans have deliberately chosen to reject my resolution in honor of the children and teachers at Sandy Hook.
"I am shocked that this bipartisan resolution has become a casualty of the partisan extremism reflected in the majority caucus of this body."

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