Plenty of people were quick to denounce Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald for announcing that Senate Democrats would not be allowed to participate in recorded committee votes. But if you read the letter he sent, he was saying more specifically that the contempt order, which the Republicans passed in the dark days of the impasse over the anti-union bill, had not yet been revoked. This contempt order could only be lifted on the Senate floor by a vote, and the Senate isn’t due back in session in Wisconsin until April 5.
Well, today, perhaps because of this outcry, Republicans did revoke all associated penalties arising from the contempt resolution, in particular the $100-a-day fines Republicans imposed on Democrats for leaving the state. Furthermore, Fitzgerald said that Republicans would try to find a way for Democrats to get their voting rights back in committee before April 5, when the contempt order would be revoked.
(Fitzgerald) said he’s received assurances from Dems that they would not use the manuever going forward.
Ellis, R-Neenah, said the moves were part of a good-faith effort on the part of Republicans to move past the poisonous atmosphere of the past month. He acknowledged the recall efforts going on outside the building and the tension that remains there, but said there needs to be a sense of civility inside the chamber.
“It’s time to do what they’re doing in Japan,” Ellis said. “They‘re trying to cool off rods over there. It’s time we cool off a few here.”
In addition, Senate Org (essentially the Rules Committee) revoked the punitive actions taken against Democratic staffers during the standoff, including “limiting Dem staffers’ access to state copying machines, requiring the majority leader to approve Dem staff time sheets, and assigning Republicans to have supervision over Dem offices.”
So Fitzgerald and the Republicans want to move back to an equilibrium in the State Senate. But their actions have shattered that for good. There’s still a hearing challenging the anti-union bill and the process by which it passed scheduled for Friday. And the recall elections continue to move forward. Within a matter of months, Fitzgerald may not have the ability to enforce any fines or actions against his colleagues because he’ll find himself in the minority.