Trying To End Late-Nights At The Capitol

Capitol dome lit up at night

Legislative leaders from both parties say they want to end the overnight sessions that have become a hallmark of the Wisconsin State Assembly, but they can’t agree on how to do it.Overnight sessions are treated as a given in the Assembly, but not every legislature operates that way.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca emerged from a closed door meeting Tuesday to tell reporters they were working on how they might limit late night sessions. Here’s Vos followed by Barca, “We shouldn’t be going in late at night where some vote’s taken at two or three or four o’clock in the morning without the ample opportunity for citizens to participate in a meaningful way. So I think we agree on that concept. (We fully agree on that concept.)We’re just trying to figure out a way to get us there in a way that addresses both of our concerns. (There’s a good bipartisan agreement, that we all want to go out of session before most normal Wisconsinites go to sleep at night.”

But Barca said they were worlds apart on how to get it done.

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Barca said the two parties were also at odds over Vos’ proposal for an Assembly dress code, “He wants us to wear a suit and tie. And I don’t have a problem with it, but I know some members are going to have a huge problem with that. (Well that’s one example, Peter brings up a good one. One example is we think having people as they do in the state Senate, we’d like to say if you go on the Assembly floor you wear a coat and tie.”

Agreement or not, Vos plans have the full Assembly vote on the rules changes Thursday.

Tuesday’s meeting may have tested the limits of the state’s open meetings law. Including Vos and Barca, a quorum of the Assembly Rules Committee met in private, which would have normally been forbidden.Both parties denied any violation of the law, saying they were not discussing committee business, but instead, a matter for the full Assembly.