2018 | Week of January 22 | #1239
A year ago the Wisconsin state legislature was just beginning its two-year session. Republicans were elated. They had unprecedented majorities in both houses. Republicans in the Assembly held a 64-35 majority, and in the Senate, they enjoyed a 20-13 cushion.
Having the majority means having sufficient votes to pass what you want, and it also means chairing every committee and assuring that the composition of every committee includes a majority of the majority party. It means the leadership of both houses can put on the floor whatever bills they want and very comfortably pass them. Basically, you can pretty much do what you want.
At least that’s what strong majorities used to mean. And I guess in a very real sense, this current session that is quickly winding down has shown that the majority party has been doing pretty much what it wants—which in some areas, especially regarding pro-life bills, amounts to little or nothing.
Over the years, Republicans have learned it’s hard to win an election if you aren’t at least nominally pro-life. Most of the Republicans in our state Assembly and Senate ran in some way as pro-life candidates. But for at least some of them—and perhaps a growing number—being pro-life means something like this: “If I am absolutely forced to vote on a pro-life bill, then I will vote in favor. However, I will not champion pro-life bills. I will not bring the issues up in closed-door partisan meetings; and in fact, I may even speak against pro-life bills in those meetings, making sure I do my part to sway other legislators to join me in my efforts to kill pro-life measures. I won’t author any such bills and generally won’t even co-sponsor them, lest they taint my other issues that I’m far more passionate about.”
I’m not sure how else you explain that with just weeks to go in the session, not one pro-life measure has passed both houses. Only one pro-life bill has had an actual vote in either house. That’s reprehensible. Take the Heal Without Harm Initiative for example.
Though cosponsored by nearly a third of the Wisconsin Legislature, this two-bill package lingers in committee without action. The two-bill package authored by Sen. Terry Moulton and Rep. Joel Kleefisch would ban the sale and use of body parts from aborted babies and inform parents about the ability to donate their miscarried or stillborn child’s tissue, thereby ensuring fetal tissue research in Wisconsin continues without controversy.
Senate leadership delayed the most basic step in the process. They didn’t assign bill numbers or a committee for nearly 5 months, a step that usually takes a matter of days, at the most a week or two.
Even though the bills received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in early November, Republican Committee Chair Van Wanggaard has yet to hold a committee vote on the bills. Senator Wanggaard’s says he won’t schedule a committee vote until he knows for sure a majority of Senators will vote for the bill on the Senate floor.
This newly-announced standard by Chair Wanggaard is unprecedented, and exceptions to this new rule abound.
There are no legislative rules that require a bill to have sufficient votes within a chamber before it can be voted out of committee. Therefore, it’s pretty safe to say legislative leaders are responsible for the delay and perhaps ultimately the demise of the bills unless something happens very quickly.
In the Assembly, the bills went to two different committees. The bill dealing with banning the trade and use of the body parts of aborted babies went to the Criminal Justice committee chaired by Representative John Spiros. The bill dealing with informing parents that they can donate for research purposes the body of their stillborn or miscarried baby went to the Health Committee, chaired by Representative Joe Sanfelippo. Rep. Sanfelippo has held a public hearing and will most likely hold a committee vote. Rep.Spiros hasn’t yet even held a hearing on the bill in his committee.
With stunts like this, one wonders if it’s worth having such large majorities if just a few leaders can sabotage bills they don’t like. Perhaps we really need only 4 people in our state legislature: Assembly Speaker, Assembly Majority Leader and Senate President and Senate Majority leader. After all, they are the ones making all the decisions. Imagine how much time and money we’d save: short, uncomplicated election cycles and short legislative sessions.
For Wisconsin Family Council, this is Julaine Appling reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”