Republicans and Democrats in the state Assembly have reached a deal aimed at avoiding late-night sessions. But they could not agree on setting new rules for visitors in the Assembly gallery, which were passed over objections from Democrats on Thursday during the first floor debate of the new session.

The galleries were a major source of conflict during the 2011 protests over collective bargaining. Some opponents of the changes pushed by Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans locked themselves to the railings with bike locks while others shouted at lawmakers. Numerous observers were escorted out of the galleries by security.

The new gallery rules, which passed on a 59-37 vote, with just one Democrat joining Republicans, codify numerous restrictions on gallery visitors that had been previously used in practice and establish steps by which visitors could be banned.

The new bipartisan agreement to prevent the Assembly from doing its work in the dark of night was outlined in a "memorandum of understanding," signed by Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester; Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha; and other GOP and Democratic leaders.

The memorandum, meant to set a new bipartisan tone for the 2013-14 session, did not set a specific curfew for floor sessions, but said, "Our goal this session is to finish debate at a reasonable time."

And it detailed a number of changes aimed at achieving that goal, including having the Rules Committee meet to set expected debate schedules and times for each measure, the majority and minority leaders limiting the number of contentious bills on any one session day, and strictly enforcing existing time limits on speeches. The limits say lawmakers may speak for two minutes about tabling a bill and a total of 10 minutes.

A clock has been installed on the floor to track speaking times.

The time limit deal passed its first test on Thursday, when the Assembly debated, then voted on other new rules in just about three hours, well within the five hours allotted. They adjourned before 3 p.m.

Debate heated up over new rules for visitors in the Assembly galleries. Those rules were introduced by Vos and Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford.

The new Assembly rules say visitors may not use "audio or video devices to record, photograph, film, videotape, or in any way depict the proceedings on or about the assembly floor." And Assembly visitors are prohibited from using cellphones or pagers, reading newspapers or other printed materials, eating food or drinking beverages, displaying signs or placards, carrying bags or briefcases, or wearing hats.

The new rules also say that anyone who engages in "a prohibited action" may be removed from the galleries and not be allowed back in for 24 hours. For a second violation during a two-year session, that person would be barred from the galleries until the next regularly scheduled floor period, and for a third violation the person would not be allowed back for the remainder of the legislative session.

Democrats warned that the new Republican rules would infringe on free speech.

"Something you seem to forget, the First Amendment is as important as the Second," Barca said.

Vos said the rules were aimed at bringing more decorum to the galleries.

"The goal of having the gallery there is to allow any citizen to observe, but unfortunately during the course of the last two years, far too many observers became participants," Vos said. "When they choose to participate against our rules, there are going to be consequences."

The new Assembly rules also say lawmakers must meet dress codes, including coats and ties for male lawmakers and appropriate dress for female lawmakers. Those in violation would not be allowed to participate in debate, but coats and ties will be available for those who don't meet the code, Vos said.

State Government Reporter for Wisconsin State Journal

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(31) comments

JBANK
JBANK

What? No more legislators in ugly t-shirts. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Phil E Buster
Phil E Buster

Wisconsin is 'Open for Business!' We just don't want you to know what type of business we are talking about. (maniacal laugh)

Bigcactus
Bigcactus

Let's see Rep. Barca once served in the U.S. House of Rep. which had rules for visitors in the galleries which bans some of the things they want to do in the Assembly chamber. Our U.S. Congress doesn't allow the kind of behaviors being banned by the Assembly. So what's good for Congress should be good for Wisconsin. Stop with the free speech whining.

witness2012
witness2012

Bigcactus, the US capitol doesn't allow guns to be brought into the visitor's chambers, either. Would you agree then that the Wisconsin state assembly rules should also ban guns?

Currently, guns are allowed, but books are not.

AngryDeuce
AngryDeuce

'The new Assembly rules say visitors may not use "audio or video devices to record, photograph, film, videotape, or in any way depict the proceedings on or about the assembly floor."'

Aw, what's the matter, guys? Afraid someone might get some hard evidence of the BS going on in our Assembly? Afraid someone might be held accountable for their actions if the general public got wind of it.

Dress code is one thing, but if these guys aren't prepared to govern 'on the record', then they shouldn't be in that chamber in the first place. The Assembly isn't a secret club, it belongs to the PEOPLE of this state, and anything that goes on there is anyone's business, END OF STORY.

So disgusted by this crap, you have no idea...what a bunch of toddlers.

AllAmerican11B
AllAmerican11B

AngryDeuce,
What a bunch of partisan smearing crap!!

Do you know that you sound like a whining little toddler complaining because someone took your little toys away? Whip out a freaking pencil and paper, listen with your own ears, and take notes. I'd agree with you if they were locking the doors and not letting people in at all, short of that, get a life!

So disgusted by this crap, you have no idea...what a bunch of whinny little gadget toddlers!!

Barb10242
Barb10242

AllAmerican - last session they wouldn't allow even pencils and paper - has that changed?

witness2012
witness2012

No, Barb, they won't allow pens, paper, books, newspapers, or texting on your cell phone. But, you can bring in guns.

Barb10242
Barb10242

I'm with you, angry - if they don't want the people to know what they're doing they shouldn't be doing it!

number6
number6

So I guess I can read something in the gallery as long as its handwritten. Fair enough.

witness2012
witness2012

No, you can't. No books, newspaper, or cell phone use is allowed. All you are allowed to do is to observe.

robertsthc
robertsthc

Ties were invented by the same person who invented high heels. Absolutely no redeeming factor at all. DRESS CODES! My God we have work to do.

robertsthc
robertsthc

If you went to any workplace in the state and caused a disturbance you would be asked to leave...it that didn't work you would be arrested. Why not the Capital. This argument that it's our house is just stupid...try doing the same thing at the State owned student union.

koala
koala

Banning of audio- and video-taping is NOT the Assembly protecting itself against disruptive behavior, it's ass-covering, pure and simple. It's a way to prevent the broader world, outside a few dozen people in the gallery, from seeing what is actually being said and done, and by whom. To me, it is completely indefensible.

powmda
powmda

I think the purpose of the visitor gallery is for citizens to observe. Not demonstrate. If you want to take notes, get a press pass! The purpose of the gallery is not to disrupt the business on the floor. and that is why the nutso Left is upset!.

AngryDeuce
AngryDeuce

"The purpose of the gallery is not to disrupt the business on the floor."

Yeah, that's why they banned recording devices, because of the "disruption". SUUUUUUURE it is.

God, do you even hear how stupid that sounds, or are you so far up your own behind that you can't hear anything but the sound of your own hysterical breathing?

Phil E Buster
Phil E Buster

"get a press pass" What a rediculous comment. Without recordings of the actual events, everything is heresay. Unless you either know shorthand or have a photographic memory, it is impossilbe to catch everything that is going on. I have to agree with both AngryDeuce and koala (see a few posts above this one)...These snakes-in-the-grass are just trying to get away with the same stuff they were the last two years without people who cannot attend that days assembly from knowing about it.

pow - thank you for serving our country, but your blogs are some of the looniest I have ever read!

misterz
misterz

But guns in the gallery are just fine. No one should be intimidated or threatened by that, right? And up is down and black is white in Wisconsin now.

Barb10242
Barb10242

Don't wear a hat, but you can carry a gun - sheesh!

Oshbgosh
Oshbgosh

Heckling from the gallery is not protected free speech in Washington DC. Heckling results in instant removal from the Congressional and Senate galleries. Why should WI allow a few to restrict the actions of elected representatives in legislative session? This is a democratic republic, not a banana republic.

witness2012
witness2012

We're not talking about heckling or being disruptive that really would have bipartisan approval. We're talking about not being allowed to have a notebook, to text on a cell phone, or to hold a newspaper.

How is that NOT overkill?

Tpartywarrior
Tpartywarrior

I bet Democrats had no objections to that wacko that bike locked her head to the railing in the gallery. Jeeeeeezzzzzzz.........................

Blatant
Blatant

Skippe - Apparently you have selective recall or did not read the article on line yesterday:

"A man who admitted to phoning in dozens of bomb threats to the state Democratic Party headquarters in Madison early last year was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation".

Lionhear
Lionhear

What did the woman teacher/day care person get for threatening to shoot republican senators in their faces, and in their families faces.

skippie
skippie

Don't be so hard on the lefty elected officials. If they hear you speak out against them they will threaten you with death! Such tolerant people.

Barb10242
Barb10242

skippie, I don't think even YOU believe what you just said

Word
Word

Glad to see that everyone is focused on jobs and the economy.

GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN
GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN

Why are having rules of engagement, propriety in dress and behavior and an understanding that what you're doing is an important job, representing something bigger than yourself anathma to the liberal mind ?

It seems that having traditions and showing respect are an imposition to the post-modern liberal DemonRat.


Like Brando when asked, "What are you rebeling against?" , they answer, "I dunno, whadya' got?"

These neo-radicals are a bunch of rude, obtuse, mean-spirited contrarians posing as legislators.

If we get the government we deserve, why do I feel we deserve better.

Woofda !!!

Lionhear
Lionhear

I guess the dems enjoy the threat of potential violence that an unruly crowd brings to the chamber. Just another form of progressive intimidation.

witness2012
witness2012

The Democrats aren't the party pushing to allow concealed guns in the gallery- speaking of potential violence.

eclectic
eclectic

I wonder if Barca thinks fleeing to Illinois is "the nuclear option", or would it just give him heartburn?

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