Skip to comments.Senate decorum crumbles (Wisconsin State Senate - Dems Gone Wild)
Posted on 10/24/2003 3:41:24 PM PDT by Indy Pendance
Republican leaders of the state Senate ordered two Democratic members to write letters of apology Thursday, a day after the pair angrily disrupted a vote on a controversial school-choice provision.
The squabble, which some feared might come to blows, also prompted Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer, R-West Bend, to invoke a rarely used rule limiting debate on future issues to two comments of no more than five minutes each.
That provoked another storm of protest by Democrats, bringing legislative activity to a crawl and pushing off until today a vote on a closely watched bill to end Wisconsin's 130-year ban on carrying concealed weapons.
After a brief cooling-off period, lawmakers took up the school choice bill again Thursday. But when Republicans ended debate after about two hours, Democrats retaliated by invoking another rare procedure to delay voting on other bills.
The meltdown started late Wednesday as legislators were debating an amendment to a bill to expand Milwaukee's private school choice program. The amendment, by Sen. Gwendolynne Moore, D-Milwaukee, addressed eligibility for the program.
Moore, who had spoken nine times on an earlier amendment, rose to address the amendment a second time just as Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, moved to reject the provision.
Sen. Bob Welch, R-Redgranite, who was filling in as Senate president, then ordered the chief clerk to begin calling the roll. Moore began shouting down the vote in a riotous outburst lasting several minutes, according to a tape of the incident.
"I got the floor," Moore said at one point. "How dare you cut me off in the middle of debate on my amendment."
Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, then came to Moore's defense, also shouting at Welch to recognize her. Because their microphones had been cut off, most of what the two said was unclear.
Carpenter then rushed to the front of the chamber, grabbed the clerk's microphone and tossed it at Panzer.
The two were ushered off the floor and, after the body voted to expunge the incident from the official record, offered guarded apologies. The Senate adjourned for the day shortly afterward.
At a special meeting of the Senate leadership Thursday, Panzer pushed through a resolution ordering the two to issue a written apology. Panzer, whose father, Frank Panzer, served as Senate president pro tempore for 18 of his 38 years in the Legislature, said the outburst was unbefitting the decorous chamber.
Senators rejected calls to censor the two, a more severe penalty.
"The Senate failed last night. They failed badly," Panzer said. "I am simply not willing under my watch as majority leader to allow this kind of activity to continue.
"The dignity of this institution was trashed."
Senate Minority Leader Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said Carpenter and Moore regretted their actions. But he said the resolution unfairly singled out the two Democrats. Erpenbach said Welch was equally to blame for turning his back on Moore and refusing to recognize her.
"Rules were broken yesterday. There's no doubt about that," Erpenbach said. "But they were broken by more than just two members and by members of both sides of the aisle."
Carpenter and Moore continued to temper their apologies Thursday, saying they were being made scapegoats for their opposition to school choice.
In a letter to Assistant Chief Clerk Donna Doyle, Carpenter said members of both parties broke the Senate rules. "For being one of them, I extend my sincere and heartfelt apology to the Senate."
In a nearly identical letter, Moore expressed "sincere regrets" and repeated remarks she'd made the night before.
"I was raised by parents who taught me Christian charity and taught me to behave and I am not proud when I am disruptive in the body."
In comments later, Moore said Welch went to the podium "with the express intent of disrespecting me" and asked for her own letter of apology.
Moore insisted the only rule she broke was stepping away from her desk while the roll was being called.
"I don't owe them an apology for asserting my rights to speak on the floor of the state Senate," Moore said. "I'm elected. I know they don't think I ought to be here, but I am."
Misleading title. This story contains no nudity or gratuitous lesbian scenes :-)
I sumbit that these were insufficient forms of apology.
Seppuku, on the other hand...
They never go that far on the floor.
They save that for when they causcus...
Definition: What Democrats do to the American tax-payer.
I second the suggestion, sir!
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