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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

 2:40 PM 

Senate approves rules

The state Senate approved its rules for the 2013-2014 session this afternoon on an 18-14 vote.

The resolution was changed slightly from the version unveiled Monday. GOP lawmakers removed a provision that would have allowed the Senate president, with the consent of the Senate Org chairman, to withdraw a proposal or appointment from committee.

The president had also needed the consent of the referring committee's chair in the last session. Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, raised concerns with that change yesterday.

Dems also sought to make a slew of other changes, including removing provisions dealing with behavior in the gallery.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said the previous gallery policy worked well in the last session and that "we had no problem removing people" -- before adding, "Granted, we needed a locksmith every once in a while."

"Where is it written that we only have the right to petition our government three times?" asked Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, referring to a provision that could lead to disruptive members of the public being banned from areas delegated to the Senate for the remainder of the session.

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said his concern was about law enforcement in the galleries, calling the removal of disruptive individuals during floor sessions "unacceptable."

"We have always been proud of the access that the public has to this building," Fitzgerald said.

"I think there's an acceptable level of reaction by this body to what we saw over the last two years."

Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, also sought to remove the penalties enacted last session when Democrats left the state to stall a vote on controversial collective bargaining changes.

"This harkens us back to some decisions that were made when we were a bitterly divided state," Larson said. "So why not move on?"

Fitzgerald said he was willing to discuss that provision with Larson, and that he was open to alternative ways to compel senators to attend floor sessions.

"A lot of this stuff was developed very quickly in response to the senators that left the state, and if there's a better way of bringing a member back to this body ... it needs to be part of the rules," Fitzgerald said.

"I understand why you did what you did," Erpenbach said to Republicans. "But we don't need to do that anymore."

All nine Dem-authored amendments offered were turned away.

Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, was absent from today's floor session. Erpenbach said during the debate that Jauch was in Hawaii for his daughter's wedding.

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