At the end of a marathon Assembly floor session that stretched from Thursday morning to Friday evening and saw the passage of more than 50 bills as well as an attempted filibuster of a bill concerning Wisconsin technical colleges, tired lawmakers offered final remarks and speeches.
The Wisconsin legislative session came to a close Friday after a historic year of fierce partisan debate that saw controversial measures, including the passing of a bill removing collective bargaining rights from public employees. The session also saw the passing of bills and decisions that now face court challenges such as redistricting and a law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
“I’ll try to be brief because I don’t even know what I’m saying now,” Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said. “But I’ll tell you, for all you new folks here it goes really quick and it goes really fast, and although we have not agreed a lot on policy issues, and I’ve been known to poke the hornet’s nest every once in a while, I have the utmost respect for anybody who serves in this body.”
Fitzgerald also called the session “quite a wild ride” and offered to “have a beer, or a burger or lunch” with any legislator in the body.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said the legislative session over the past year has been tumultuous for all legislators. He thanked retiring Democratic members for their service.
“I’m sure on seven minutes of sleep, I’m not quite as articulate as I would like to be and probably not doing anything near the amount of justice you all deserve,” Barca said.
Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, in his final remarks, led the entire Assembly in a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.” Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, reenacted his first meeting with Jeff Fitzgerald and his brother Senate Majority Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, whom he thanked for being entertaining as well as helpful.
The Assembly adjourned after a 33-hour-long contentious final meeting. Much of the debate centered on a bill that would change the membership of Wisconsin technical college district boards.
Democrats proposed 70 amendments to the bill along with four substitute amendments and attempted to pull other bills from committees early Friday morning in an attempt to filibuster it, prompting Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, to predict the Assembly would be in session until Monday.
However, at 5 p.m. Friday, 31 hours after the session started, Barca asked all the amendments to the bill be returned to their coauthors, calling it the most “popular decision of the night.” Lawmakers applauded the decision and unanimously passed the bill, sending it to Gov. Scott Walker for signing.
He said the decision came after Republicans gave the Democrats assurances that would ensure continuity in the shift and that members of the board would represent the diversity of the community.
“We fought long and hard for that,” Barca said. “It’s been a long process.”
However, in the midst of introducing new resolutions and proposals, some bipartisanship occurred. On Friday morning, Kevin Peterson, R-Waupaca, motioned for Barca and Fitzgerald to purchase breakfast for the Legislature. Kramer turned down the motion but was overruled 68-19, and lawmakers celebrated the bipartisan decision with bagels.