Unnecessary Rush to Amend State Constitution  

 Partisan Politics Used to Control Wisconsin Courts

(MADISON) In an effort to rush a constitutional amendment to ballot by the spring election, Republican legislators on the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety demonstrated a complete disregard for the legislative process. “Today, we witnessed a complete overreach in the effort to gain control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court” said committee member Senator Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee).

Senate Joint Resolution 2, a measure which would change a nearly 125 year practice of selecting the state’s Chief Justice, received a hearing in the committee.  Initially expected to be heard next week, the public hearing and executive committee meeting were hastily moved to today. After the Republicans learned that this resolution needed to be passed prior to January 27 in order to appear on the ballot in the spring election, GOP leadership began to bulldoze this proposal though; an overreach by the majority, and a blatant disregard for the only power the minority party has, which is their voice.

“In providing the public and my colleagues with less than 25 hours’ notice, the committee chair sought to minimize the democratic process and showed indifference for legislative precedent” said Taylor.  “Rarely do you see such an effort to silence the public’s input or questions from committee members in the minority” she further stated.  In protest of the actions of the committee, Taylor and Senator Fred D. Risser (D-Madison) left the hearing.

“At the conclusion of the public hearing, I asked committee Chairman Wanggaard to delay the vote due to Senator Lasse’s absence, because they did not have a quorum if Senator Risser and I left. Instead of delaying the vote or using a paper ballot as Senate rules allow, Senator Wanggaard banged the gavel, Senator Risser and I proceeded to exit the hearing room, and clerk began calling the roll.”

“Senator Risser and I left today’s committee to make a point about how concerned we were with the bulldozing process, and the numerous attempts to silence or cut off minority member’s voices. Ultimately we returned to the committee room about five minutes later and voted against the proposal in protest, even though Senator Lasse had not returned to the committee. Out of respect for our state’s constitution and Chief Constitutional Officer, I expected a more balanced approach to such an historical and impactful proposal. The Committee has the votes to pass the amendment; there was not need to ram it down our throats.”