Legislature returns with little on agenda (UPDATE)
By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Legislature returned to work Tuesday to a light agenda and a new makeup, with two Democrats who defeated Republican incumbents in recall elections this summer taking their seats.
They eased into their new jobs.
The Senate didn’t take up any bills and it was not expected to be in session again until October. The Assembly’s meeting Tuesday was its only planned working day until mid-October, leading Democrats to accuse Republican leaders of not doing enough to create jobs and improve the economy.
“What we are doing is woefully inadequate,” said Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca on the floor of the Assembly, urging Republicans to take up some Democratic-backed jobs bills sooner than in October.
Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said some of the bills will pass and urged Democrats to work with Republicans.
“Jobs is our main focus too,” he said.
The Assembly, with no discussion, did pass 65-32 a bill that moves Wisconsin’s presidential primary from late February to the first Tuesday in April. The measure previously cleared the Senate and is part of a move by the national Democratic and Republican parties to avoid front-loading state primaries.
Under the change, Wisconsin’s primary next year would be April 3, the same day as the spring election.
Iowa is scheduled to hold its caucuses on Feb. 6, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 14, the Nevada caucus on Feb. 18, the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28 and Super Tuesday on March 6. Wisconsin’s primary will fall roughly in the middle of the pack. The bill now heads to Gov. Scott Walker, who supports it.
The Senate adjourned minutes after it began Tuesday for a reception to welcome two new Democratic lawmakers — Jessica King of Oshkosh and Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse.
They defeated Republican incumbents Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke in recall elections this summer that were prompted by anger over a Republican-backed law to curb union rights.
The recalls, which were the largest single attempt ever to oust sitting U.S. lawmakers, left Republicans with a narrow 17-16 majority, but it will be a few more weeks before it will be seen how the new Senate operates.
Despite the slim agenda in the Senate and Assembly, the energy level in the Capitol was high as conservative tea party supporters hung “Don’t Tread On Me” banners in the rotunda during the daily noon sing-a-long organized by opponents of Walker and his collective bargaining changes.
With Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs watching, the singers proceeded with their songs unimpeded by the tea party backers. After the singing, some on both sides argued with one another, but the crowds dissipated with no apparent conflict.
There were no arrests following the noontime gathering, but later five people who were using cameras in the Assembly parlor were carried or escorted out by police after they refused to leave. At least two citations were issued, said Department of Administration spokeswoman Carla Vigue.
The disruption led to Democratic state Rep. Mark Radcliffe of Black River Falls proposing that the Assembly rules be suspended to allow for videotaping in the gallery. That failed on a 60-37 vote.
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