In light of a national debate regarding an NFL team’s use of a race-based mascot, the Assembly voted in favor of a bill that would create a stricter procedure before schools would need to change a race-based mascot, logo or nickname.
The bill passed 52-41 and is expected to go before the Senate later this session. All Democrats except one voted no, with the addition of Rep. Edward Brooks, R-Reedsburg, Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, and Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa. Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, who did not vote.
Bill author Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said the bill makes the current process of allowing one person to file a complaint with the Department of Public Instruction more fair by requiring a complainant to gather signatures from 10 percent of the school’s population.
Most Democrats speaking on the floor said they were disappointed in their colleagues for working to pass a “backwards” bill, and how such mascots, logos and nicknames affect the learning of all children, and specifically the self-esteem and self-worth of American Indian children.
Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said she could see her colleagues on the other side of the aisle rolling their eyes during her testimony.
“And you’re rolling your eyes, ‘It’s not a big deal,’ but what if your kid was the only mick in the whole place, the only Jew in the building,” Bewley said. “It’s about all of us and what we are willing to say yes to. You’re not saying it’s not a big deal, you’re saying it is okay to mock people, okay for children to be felt they’re being made fun of.”
The Assembly also passed a bill that would increase the speed limit to 70 mph on rural highways and interstates.
The mostly Republican-sponsored bill passed 63-32, with eight Democrats voting in favor of the bill and two Republicans voting against.
The eight Democrats who voted in favor of the bill include Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Ft. Atkinson, Rep. Robb Kahl, D-Monona, Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, Rep. Stephen Smith, D-Shell Lake, and Rep. Leon Young, D-Milwaukee.
Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, and Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, voted against the bill.