The Republicans stuck to their plan and ended debate on the voter ID bill precisely at 11 a.m., cutting off Dem Sen. Fred Risser's floor comments.
When the vote was finished, only five Dem votes were on the record and protesters in the gallery shouted "shame, shame, shame" at the Republicans, a refrain that has become familiar over the last few tumultuous months in Madison.
Some Dems didn't answer the the Chief Clerk's call for their vote, and the vote ended up 19-5, with Dem Sens. Tim Carpenter, Jon Erpenbach, Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch on record against the measure.
Erpenbach tried to halt the vote by calling for adjournment, but Senate President Mike Ellis said a roll call can't be interrupted.
Risser, the longest serving state legislator in the country, continued to voice his displeasure as the roll was being taken.
"You're out of order," Ellis shouted as he banged his gavel. "Take your seat and continue the roll call."
"In 50 years I've never had anyone cut me off," Risser said.
The bill requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to vote and outlaws straight party voting is on its way to Gov. Scott Walker.
The Senate passed the bill today on a 19-5 vote. The Republican majority limited debate today to one hour over the objection of Dems. The body debated amendments to the bill for more than nine hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"This bill has received a great deal of debate, not only in this body but around the state," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said, noting that it has been subject to public hearings and has already been passed by legislative committees and the Assembly.
"If I were the Republicans I would put a 30-second limit on debate because I wouldn't want to talk about this either," Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, said.
Democrats railed against the bill. Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, said the requirement will have a "chilling effect" on voters,
"This bill kills the spirit, kills the will and kills the resolve of an electorate that only wants to exercise its constitutional right to vote," Coggs said.
Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said today would be remembers "as they day democracy died."
But Sen. Frank Lasee, R-DePere, implied that Dems oppose the bill because they benefit from voter fraud.
"Who benefits from the abuse? I think those are good questions to ask," he said. "One fraudulent vote cancels out a single legal vote. The other side doesn't seem to care about that at all."
Senate Org this morning set an 11 a.m. vote on legislation to require voters to show an ID at the polls, giving the chamber an hour to debate final passage after a marathon session Tuesday on the bill.
Dems used a procedural motion to block a final vote early Wednesday, forcing the Senate to return this morning.
Dems on the committee objected to the time limit, saying it limited debate, and Minority Leader Mark Miller complained Tuesday's session was only on the amendments before the body, not the bill's substance.
But Republicans countered the chamber spent more than 12 hours on the bill Tuesday, allowing more than enough time for adequate debate on the legislation.
Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, said Dems could use today's hour to caucus, but anything they do counts toward the time limit.
Remaining tensions over the Dems' decision to flee the chamber in February over the collective bargaining bill flared up again.
Assistant Minority Leader Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, complained debate has only been limited twice in the past 16 years, while Miller said the move set a bad precedent.
That drew a rebuke from Ellis, who pointed out the Senate took the voter ID to third reading back in February, but Dems made the decision to flee the state and miss out on the debate. He said it was disengenuous to accuse Republicans of limiting the debate.
Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Dems' complaint about the rules and procedures was becoming tough to take considering their boycott in February.
"When it's convenient, you want to play by the rules," he said. "When it's not, you don't."
The motion, approved 3-2, allows for other motions on the bill following the vote. Ellis said after the meeting Republicans anticipate Dems will object to messaging their actions and the move will allow them to avoid that manuever.
As the Senate prepares to take a vote today on the controversial voter ID bill, there is a heavy police presence around the Senate chamber.
There are cops outside the antechamber where page staff have usually been posted. There is also a Capitol Police officer inside the chamber, and troopers in the gallery.
There are a handful of observers in the gallery so far. A handful of protesters were removed by police Tuesday, including a man who strolled onto the floor late in the night to register his displeasure with the voter ID proposal.
Senate President Mike Ellis adjourned the Senate early this morning after Dems tried adding a series of bills to Thursday's calendar.
After the Senate voted to reject a motion to add a bill addressing SeniorCare to the calendar, which includes the voter ID bill, a motion was made to add another Dem priority to Thursday's agenda. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald then made a motion to adjourn, and Ellis gaveled the session out.
"We should have it to the governor's desk by the end of the week," Fitzgerald said of the voter ID bill after the session.
Dems blocked a final vote early this morning on legislation to require voters to show an ID to cast a ballot.
Following more than nine hours of debate, Dems raised an objection to giving the bill a third reading so a final vote could be held. Following a 20-minute recess, Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, announced the chamber would return Thursday morning to take up the bill.
During the debate, Dems railed against the bill as unconstitutional, a poll tax and a blatant attempt to put up roadblocks to voters exercising their constitutional right.
Republicans largely ignored the volleys, instead opting to table one amendment after another without comment.
Republicans rejected Dem Jon Erpenbach’s motion to send the legislation back to committee.
During debate on the motion, which failed 19-13 along party lines, Erpenbach challenged Sen. Frank Lasee, R-DePere, to provide proof that fraud had occurred in Wisconsin elections.
His voice rising, Lasee responded that it’s impossible to prove whether voters are legal, where they live, if they’re in the country legally or if they have voted in two different places because of the current system, which does not require an ID at the polls.
“How do you prove that today? That is exactly why we are changing the law,” Lasee said.
Erpenbach, D-Middleton, countered Lasee couldn’t produce a single piece of paper supporting his claims, instead only able to tell the chamber that he thinks voter fraud is occurring.
“He thinks, therefore I legislate,” Erpenbach mocked. “That’s not why we’re elected.”
The Assembly voted 56-34 to concur on a Senate amendment to the administrative rules overhaul, clearing the way for the guv to sign the bill.
The Senate amendment requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to insert an annotation in the administrative code for any rule in which there's a declaratory judgment on its validity.
Dems used the debate to again push their GOP colleagues to reject the changes to the administrative rules that would give the guv final say in the process.
Warning that they were abdicating their authority to the guv, they also reminded Republicans that their party would not always have control of the East Wing.
“Maybe we should just let him be king," Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, said of the guv. "Since we’re not going to be taking any action and the governor’s going to be approving everything we do, why are we even here?”
But Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said the current process is not perfect. He said while on the Natural Resources Committee last session, the chair refused to hold hearings twice on rules promulgated by the agency, robbing lawmakers of their power to review them.
"That sounds an awful lot to me like an agency is making rules," he said.
Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Beloit, offered a joke amendment to highlight what he feels are the severe restrictions to voting rights in the voter ID bill.
"I am astounded that I am part of a state Senate that's about to do this," Cullen said of the GOP-backed bill. "I oppose this bill as strongly as I can."
Cullen's amendment, offered with tongue firmly in cheek, would have required voters to reside at their current address for at least 528 days, to be between 40 and 60 years old, and to own property and have a household income of $60,000 or more.
The amendment would have allowed individuals who are at least 23 years of age to vote if they are college graduates and employed in a full-time position for at least two years prior to the election. Also eligible to vote under Cullen's amendment would have been individuals who are at least 65 years old and spend at least two months each winter in the southern half of the United States.
Before pulling back the amendment, Cullen said supporters of the bill would like individuals like those described in his amendment to vote "because they are more like them."
Cullen asked that the amendment be pulled back "to avoid the possibility it might be adopted."
Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan and a co-author of the bill, finally rose to respond to the parade of Dem speakers on the substitute amendment.
Leibham said he appreciated legitimate questions and concerns on the bill from Dems, but ripped some members over "some of the accusations and misinformation" about the intent of the bill.
"They're baseless and they're insulting," Leibham said.
He said Republicans who support "reasonable changes" to the state's elections are not out of touch, but rather reflect a majority of voters in the state who've "lost confidence in our election system and our election processes over the last number of years."
He added that the vast majority of Wisconsinites already have a form of ID that would be allowed under the voter ID bill. And Leibham said Dems should consider supporting the bill since the free ID provided for those voters who can't afford a driver's license would also allow those Wisconsinites to "function in society."
"We've gone to great lengths to hear the concerns of groups or individuals who say they may be disenfranchised," Leibham said.
The Dems have spent the last hour blasting the voter ID bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller said the substitute amendment offered by the Dems "strips away provisions (in the GOP bill) that would rob legal voters of their right to vote by putting impediments in their way."
"Where did we when we were sworn into office gain the ability to take away someone's right to vote?" Sen. Jon Erpenbach asked.
Sen. Bob Jauch said the authors of the bill "have no regard for democracy and no respect for citizenship."
"Jim Crow move over, the Wisconsin Republicans have taken your place," Jauch said.
To this point, Republicans have not responded.
The Dems have 18 simple amendments on the calendar in addition to their sub amendment.
UPDATE: 4:42 p.m. -- Noting that only five GOP members were in their seat to hear Jauch's "impassioned remarks," Erpenbach does a call of the house, which compels senators in the Capitol building to come back to the chamber.
Republicans seemed to smirk at the irony of Dems using the tactic, when it was the Dems who failed to answer calls of the house when they fled to Illinois to avoid a vote on the budget repair bill.
After passing a bill to include hydroelectric power under the state's renewable portfolio standard by a 21-11 margin, the Senate is now onto legislation that would lift a DNR rule for municipal water supplies.
The voter ID proposal has been moved to the foot of the calendar.
The Senate has passed the first consideration of a constitutional amendment to create a firewall around transportation funds. The first consideration of the joint resolution passed with bipartisan support on a 26-6 vote.
Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, is absent today after giving birth to a daughter on Sunday.
The constitutional amendment must be passed by both houses of the Legislature in two consecutive sessions and approved by voters to become law.
Sen. Randy Hopper, a lead author of the legislation, said the constitutional amendment will protect the fund from "both political parties" who have used the fund to plug budget holes.
"Raids on the transportation fund have been all-too-easy for a fall back for past administrations," Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, said.
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said the amendment is "a good deal for the highway lobby."
I don't think we need to constitutionally segregate highway funds," he said.
Risser said the amendment takes away legislative prerogative over budgeting.
"Don't you trust this body to do what's best with the state's money?" he asked.
A handful of people have been removed from the Senate gallery, although there was no sign of protest.
The individuals were apparently seated in the area above the press seating area. Protesters were also removed from the chamber during a session last week.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach stood to ask why the people were being removed.
"There haven't been any protests," Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the actions were preceded by conversations with Capitol Police, some going back all the way to February. Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said there have been "a number of circumstances" of individuals involved with law enforcement for actions in the building.
"It is a law enforcement decision made by law enforcement," Fitzgerald said.
Senate President Mike Ellis angrily told Erpenbach, "It is my job to prevent what happened in here last week from happening again."
He said he did not direct the removal of the individuals, and would find out why they were taken from the gallery after the session.
"A handful of people are not going to deny 5.5 million their constitutional right to have a deliberative body not be interrupted," Ellis said.
Supreme Court Justice David Prosser has led three new legislators in the oath of office: Reps. Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, Dave Craig, R-Vernon, and Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska. The new members have now taken their respective seats in the chamber.
The Assembly and Senate will be on the floor today.
The Assembly calendar includes legislation to end a state program collecting data on traffic stops to look for possible racial profiling, ending the earned early release program and protecting the state transpo fund through a constitutional amendment.
The Assembly passed the voter ID bill on a 60-35 vote. Dem Reps. Peg Krusick and Tony Staskunas joined 57 Republicans and independent Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer in voting for the bill.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill on Tuesday.
Democrats introduced more than 50 amendments, all of which failed. The body debated the bill for more than six hours.
As the bill was passed, a few onlookers in the gallery began shouting their displeasure. The gallery was less than half full, with some familiar faces in the crowd from protests inside the building over the last week.
"Welcome to Wisconsin, Jim Crow," yelled one man who was escorted out by Capitol Police.
Others began to holler their disapproval as the session was adjourned, shouting their now-familiar "shame" chant.
"Remember this face," yelled one young man as he was being ushered out. "I personally will make sure every one of you are running very contested," he yelled.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said victims of voter fraud are getting forgotten by Dems in the debate over this bill.
Fitzgerald told a story about a elderly Romanian immigrant who testified at a committee hearing years ago who said she went to the polls to vote only to be told by the election clerk that she had already voted.
"Someone had stolen her identity," Fitzgerald said.
"I know you all want to act like this doesn't happen. It happens," Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said. "That is a travesty to have your vote stolen from you."
Fitzgerald said a voter ID requirement is popular with Wisconsin residents, calling it "an 80 percent issue."
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, who was at the same committee hearing years ago said he remembered it differently. He recalled that a student came to the committee hearing claiming to vote twice, but a thorough investigation found the claim to be a lie.
He said a poll official testified at the hearing that the Romanian woman's identity theft was clerical error, "a loose pencil and someone accidentally checked someone's name off."
"We have one of the most clean election systems, without doubt, in the country," Pocan said.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said he will support legislation aimed at curbing voter fraud. But he said this bill is like "using a sledgehammer to put a simple tack in the wall."
During Fitzgerald's comments, a young man in the gallery shouted something and ran out. Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer has already twice warned those in the gallery not to make any outward displays of support or opposition.
So far, the Assembly has dispensed with 29 of the 50 amendments in the queue.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca asked Republicans to pay attention to Dem amendments as debate started on the voter ID bill, saying the legislation would add a wide range of new impediments to voting.
“Push those red buttons once in a while. Show some independence,” Barca, D-Kenosha, said. “We can make this a better bill; at least a constitutional bill.”
He said passing the bill without amendments would only ensure lawmakers would end up in court. He said Republicans should also be open to changes that would decrease the fiscal burden on the state.
Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, added that he never thought he would have to debate the right to vote in the Wisconsin Legislature.
“It’s a sad day,” Turner said, arguing the bill would disproportionately affect individuals of color, senior citizens and students.
Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said the bill should not be a partisan issue because it is about protecting voter integrity.
“We are trying to make it more difficult to cheat,” Suder said.
Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greenfield, said the bill has been in the Legislature in one form or another for a decade. Stone, an author of the bill, said the ID requirement is long overdue and citizens have been calling for safeguards in the election system.
“They expect us to have a system that protects the right to vote,” Stone said.
UPDATE: 5:18 p.m. -- A Dem motion to send the bill back to committee failed 37-57 party-line vote. There are more than 30 amendments on the board to be taken up.
UPDATE: 5:32 p.m. -- The Assembly is informal awaiting a ruling of the chair.
Rep. Tony Staskunas, D-West Allis, charged that the substitute amendment to the bill is non-germane. He said it expands the scope of the original bill by creating whole new sections of law, for instance the elimination of straight party voting.
"The is the mother of all non-germane-ness," said Staskunas, a former Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore.
Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, is working on a ruling.
UPDATE: 5:44 p.m. Citing Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, Kramer deferred a ruling Staskunas' point of order until the body works through the simple amendments.
UPDATE: 6:10 p.m. -- The Assembly is on amendment number five of 41.
AA 5 is proposed by Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempeleau. It amends the bill to require each county have at least one DMV center open for business each Saturday and at least until 9 p.m. one other day each week. It also requires the DMV centers to be open until 9 p.m. each weekday of the week preceding an election, the week of an election, and the week after an election. It also requires that service priority be given to those who are seeking an ID for an election.
"Rural Wisconsin really takes it in the shorts on this one," Danou said.
Stone said access to DMVs is a concern, but he pointed out that Dem Gov. Jim Doyle cut back on the DMV centers in the last budget. He said the issue of access will be addressed in the budget.
The Senate recessed for 15 minutes after protesters in one of balconies interrupted the proceedings with a series of chants.
During a discussion about a joint resolution, the protesters suddenly stood and began chanting "Voter rights are under attacks. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!" and "People's rights are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!"
Pounding the gavel for order, Senate President Mike Ellis ordered the chamber recessed for 15 minutes.
The protesters began chanting, "Shame!" at lawmakers as they were escorted out.
Then then began circling the second floor of the Capitol, continuing to chant as Capitol Police showed up outside the Senate chamber.
UPDATE: 1:36 p.m. -- Sergeant at Arms Ted Blazel said the galleries remain open for the session, but staff is now funneling the public through one door for better crowd control.
The Assembly will be back at it today with what is expected to be another long debate on voter ID.
GOP leaders also added the telecom deregulation bill to a special session calendar for today.
After Dems objecting to several bills for third reading last night, GOP leaders added them to today’s calendar and made all of the legislation on the docket a special order.
The calendar also includes a constitutional amendment to create a rainy day fund and legislation to allow retailers to offer a discount on merchandise that’s equal to the state and local sales taxes on the item.
The Assembly has passed AB 92, which would lift the enrollment cap on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and expand the program to private schools within the Milwaukee County, rather than limiting it to the city.
The bill went through on a 57-36 vote. Dems railed on the bill as an attack on both the city of Milwaukee and on public education as a whole.
"This program is not meant to be a free private education," Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, said. She said choices between MPS, open enrollment and voucher schools already exist for students in the city.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said the bill was taking the program too far beyond its original scope, adding that its net effect would be to take money out of legislators' local districts and send it to private schools in Milwaukee.
"I don't know why you would even consider supporting this," Barca said.
Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, ripped Dem arguments that the bill would undermine public education, saying the debate is the same on every bill that has to do with the Choice program.
"I can't figure out what you're afraid of," Fitzgerald said.
"MPS is broken. It's broken. We wouldn't be in this situation if it was flourishing."
The Assembly is now in recess while the Rules Committee meets.
Assembly Democrats used a procedural move to block a bill to allow Milwaukee to sell or lease city-owned school property over objections from Dems that Republicans were ignoring the will of local officials.
The bill passed the Senate earlier today, but in the Assembly the Democrats objected to the third reading of the bill, stalling it to a later session day.
The Assembly has passed AB 23, which would, unless mandated by federal law, end a DNR requirement that municipal water systems be continuously disinfected.
The bill passed 58-35. Lawmakers backed an amendment by bill author Eric Severson, R-Star Prairie, before turning away 21 Dem amendments.
Dems charged that the law meant the state was walking away from its commitment to provide clean drinking water to the public, listing a wide range of potential water-borne illnesses they said could result from reducing water standards.
"We put this new standard in place to protect Wisconsin citizens," said Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine. "We're now rolling back those standards to go down to the lowest common denominator."
Republicans countered that the DNR requirements are an unnecessary burden on communities with already strong water standards.
"Why don't you want these communities to make their own choice on this?" asked Severson.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca started off the floor session with a speech railing on the scheduled bills, saying the debate promised to be "fascinating."
"Once again, you took the most extreme path on everything from voucher schools to wind energy to clean water," the Kenosha Dem said.
He said the school choice proposals both on the floor and in the budget would erode financial and academic accountability in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, before charging that Republicans' proposal to withdraw a rule on wind energy directly targets some of the most productive companies in Wisconsin.
"If I were you, I would quit rubber stamping this agenda," Barca said.
The Senate voted to send a bill repealing wind power generation siting rules back to the Senate Organization Committee.
The rules, promulgated by the Public Service Commission, took effect on March 1.
Dems opposed referring the bill back to committee. Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, urged the body to take up the bill today and vote it down. He said that would send a signal to the wind energy industry that the legislature is in support of it.
But Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, said the bill is being sent back for further discussion. He said windmills are harmful to adjacent property owners, and wind energy drives up costs for ratepayers.
A quorum call has started in the Assembly, with a series of resolutions on the agenda first -- highlighted by a commemoration of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Bartz of Waterloo, who died during military service in Afghanistan in May 2010.
Lawmakers are expected to go into caucus following the resolutions.
For the first time since the protests gripped the Capitol in February, lawmakers are meeting in the Senate today without a heavy police presence.
During the height of the protests, the hallways outside the Senate chamber were guarded by state police, and the public was not allowed near the doors. The public was allowed to view the proceedings from the gallery above with several officers posted there as well.
Today, there are no officers in the chamber or patrolling outside. As usual, there are several Sergeant at Arms staffers in the chamber and manning the tables at the doors to the Senate vestibule to ensure only lawmakers and staffers are allowed in.
Sergeant at Arms Ted Blazel said Capitol Police will have a presence today in the building with both houses in. But there was no specific request for officers to guard the chamber today.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca charged this morning that this week's scheduled Assembly votes show Republicans are "hearing footsteps" in the aftermath of special election results in the 94th AD last week.
"People are tired of the attack on the middle class, and it is coming through loud and clear," Barca, D-Kenosha, said at a press conference ahead of the Assembly session.
He ripped proposed bills on wind energy and municipal water supplies, highlighting today's session as a "parade of voucher school giveaways."
Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, called out four GOP lawmakers in particular -- Keith Ripp of Lodi, Howard Marklein of Spring Green, Travis Tranel of Cuba City and John Klenke of Green Bay -- over thousands in campaign and independent expenditures from school choice groups.
"They are going whole-scale along with this right-wing agenda to privatize public education," Roys said.
Dems also ripped the voter ID bill scheduled for a vote tomorrow, with Roys saying it will cost $8 million to implement and millions more in legal costs to defend "the harshest attack on voters of any state in the country."