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Wisconsin lawmakers need a timeout

It’s a good thing the Wisconsin Legislature is set to hammer out the state budget. These lawmakers must get away from one another.

The sooner the Legislature puts the finishing touches on the budget, the sooner Senate and Assembly members can sip some lemonade (or any other desired beverage) in a backyard hammock. That’s about the only way they’ll be able to return to Madison in a few weeks and continue working on state business.

Well, either that, or they could engage in a therapeutic pillow fight at the Capitol.

Whatever the outlet for their legislative angst, lawmakers must refresh themselves so they can actually look each other in the eye again. That has seemed impossible in recent weeks.

The Joint Finance Committee’s meetings, for instance, have devolved into hours-long sniping matches between the Republicans and Democrats who serve on the budget-writing panel. The fighting continued Thursday, as the committee voted on a bill that would authorize the concealed carry of guns.

Following tense debate over the bill, Rep. Robin Vos, a committee co-chair, remarked, apropos of nothing, “It’s amazing what happens when you have recalls.”

Vos apparently was referring to the JFC’s four Republican members who are facing recall challenges this summer, but Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, called out Vos for the statement.

“I was trying to figure out what in the world you meant by, ‘It’s amazing what happens when there are recalls,'” Jauch said to Vos. “I didn’t know where that came from, I don’t know how it reflected the discussion. I happen to think the comments that were made were complimentary. I don’t think that there was any cynical plot to criticize members of the Republican Party. As juvenile as one of them is, I don’t think there was any attempt at all.”

Neither Vos nor Jauch clarified their statements regarding recall elections or an unnamed alleged juvenile Republican.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, also took shots at Vos as he called for a vote on the concealed-carry bill when she and her Democratic colleagues still had more to say. In the middle of the roll call, Taylor pleaded with Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, saying, “Sen. Alberta Darling, you should demand that the co-chair allows people to speak to a bill, because he wants to disrespect the institution. Don’t let him do it. I want to speak to the bill.”

Vos responded: “Why don’t we just take a moment …”

Taylor: “Why don’t you just give us an opportunity to speak?”

Vos: “Why don’t you let me talk?”

On it went, just like many previous meetings and hearings held during this legislative session. Some lawmakers seem beyond trying to mask their contempt for one another.

Thankfully, the state budget process is nearing its completion. When that’s finished, state lawmakers can enter timeout for a while.

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