Assembly Speaker Robin Vos caused a stir on the political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” last week when he referred to three of his fellow Republican legislators as “terrorists” for their tactics in the recent budget process.
He was criticized by members of his party for his comments, with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald calling the remarks “beyond inappropriate” in a statement.
Vos later apologized for his words, but as host Mike Gousha pointed out on this week’s episode of the show, the “casual observer” might assume that there is lingering friction between the state Assembly and Senate.
“How real is that and how much does it threaten the legislative agenda?” Gousha asked Fitzgerald, a guest on the show.
Fitzgerald said there are always differences between the legislative bodies, but at the end of the day, the leaders are “cordial” and work things out.
“It never is as bad as it typically sounds, I think, when you read about some of the media accounts,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re okay, we’re in a good place, and I think (for) this fall agenda there's lot of things we’re working on together that ultimately will make it to the governor’s desk."
On the show, Fitzgerald outlined some of the items on that agenda, including legislation on crime prevention and mining, as well as finalizing the Foxconn deal.
He also denied that the three state senators targeted by Vos did anything wrong. After the Assembly passed the budget, Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said they would not vote to approve the budget without a guarantee that Walker would veto certain parts of it.
“I’ve disagreed with him on the idea that anybody held anybody hostage in this process. It’s as old as the Capitol,” Fitzgerald said. “After the budget passes either house, the process starts where you begin to lobby the governor.”
But he said that process could always be revisited.
“Listen, if we need more autonomy in each house, let’s change the rules,” he said.
Looking at the agenda for the state Legislature, FItzgerald was optimistic that a bill allowing sulfide mining in the state would move ahead, although he said the Senate was still working on securing the necessary votes. He said he believes sulfide mining can be done safely with new technological advances.
He also said that he expected several bills targeting chronic criminal offenders to move through both houses fairly quickly in the fall session. Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, have proposed a package of eight bills they named a “Crime Prevention Package.” The bills propose measures that include instituting mandatory minimums and lengthening incarceration time for juvenile offenders.
Fitzgerald also said that the Foxconn deal was “right on track,” although a vote by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. on the incentive package for the deal was delayed two weeks ago. Fitzgerald said that while there’s been what he called “a little bit of hand-wringing” asking why the deal wasn’t done by the original Sept. 30 deadline, WEDC is taking the time to ensure the deal is done right.
“I think it’s good we have both majority and minority members of the Legislature on WEDC asking tough questions,” he said.