From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:
Unless something odd happens, the current state legislative session is over this week. Unless the Governor convenes a special session or the legislature calls for an extraordinary session, the legislators will go home this week and begin campaigning for the fall elections.
I started in this work nearly 17 years ago. That means I’ve endured 8 two-year sessions of our state legislature. You start thinking you’ve seen it all, especially after the 2011-2012 session when we had weeks of the state capitol being closed because of tens of thousands of protestors swarming the building. I really figured that would be the most bizarre session I—or anyone else, for that matter—would ever be involved with.
However, in my opinion, this legislative session tops even that session. Words I would use to describe this session include “incredible,” “unreal,” “disappointing,” and “maddening.”
The session began in early January 2013, following the 2012 fall elections. Governor Walker was beginning the third year of his four-year term. The Republicans had majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly.
Whichever party has the majority controls the respective house. That means Republican leadership has control in both the Assembly and the Senate. That majority determines the committee to which bills are assigned, has input on which bills get hearings and committee votes and certainly determines which bills get to the floor for a full vote on passage.
Frankly, to a large degree it’s fair to say the Republicans “own” state government right now in Wisconsin. If pro-family, pro-life, pro-liberty bills don’t get passed, it’s pretty safe to say Republicans didn’t want them passed.
And that is precisely why I find this legislative session the most frustrating of all the sessions I’ve been involved with. Unless something dramatic happens in the next couple of days, at least 3 solid pro-life bills will die in the Republican-controlled state senate. Assembly Bill 216 would keep taxpayers from having to pay for the abortions of state employees and would also provide a narrow religious exemption for churches and certain other religious organizations regarding health insurance. Right now, it is illegal for insurance companies in Wisconsin to sell health-insurance coverage that does not include a fully array of contraceptive drugs and devices, some of which cause early abortions. Assembly Bill 216 would permit insurance companies to write policies for churches and other religious organizations that do not cover contraceptives, if the church or organization wanted such a policy.
Assembly Bill 217 would ban sex-selective abortions—abortions sought simply based on the sex of the baby. Assembly Bill 206 authorizes the production and sale of a Choose Life Wisconsin specialty license plate. The proceeds from the sale of this plate would go to Wisconsin’s wonderful Pregnancy Resource Centers—places where women receive real help during crisis pregnancies—help that focuses on both the unborn baby and the health and well-being of the woman.
In addition, Republican Senators have killed a bill that would put a process in place for the development, adoption, and implementation of state model academic standards, a process that would prevent a repeat of the Common Core State Standards disaster we’re all living through right now.All four of these bills had solid support in both houses. In fact, the 3 pro-life bills all passed in the State Assembly. All that was necessary for them to become law was for the Senate to vote on them and send the bills to the governor.
Instead, all 4 bills are dead, in spite of ongoing, repeated, and aggressive efforts by outside groups to get them on the senate floor for a vote. Senate Republican leadership has blocked them, determining them to be unnecessary, unimportant, messy, divisive or something. We’ve heard all kinds of reasons for these bills dying. We’ve heard whining about its being an election year and insinuations that the Governor doesn’t want them and recently that the Senate leadership says they don’t have enough Republican votes to pass them.
What I know is in a session where any reasonable person would assume these bills would all pass, they have not passed. They remain buried in the Republican controlled Senate. And yes, that makes this session one of the most bizarre, if not the most bizarre, I’ve ever been part of. It’s maddening, frustrating, and downright reprehensible and inexcusable.