Anyone who has spent time at the state Capitol has probably wondered whether lawmakers work efficiently. And by "wondered," we mean "doubted."
With the motions, the rhetoric and the dense parliamentary rules, the state Legislature can seem an obtuse body concerned more with theatrics than solutions. Cynical, you say? Perhaps.
But whenever the naive idealist inside of us here at OTC threatens to sneak out, something happens to return it to its inner drum circle.
The most recent example occurred Tuesday night, when the state Assembly stayed up all night debating a proposal to remove race as a qualifying factor in awarding some higher educational grants.
During hours of emotional debate, there were fiery words and accusations of racism. And, of course, someone read the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legendary "I Have a Dream" speech.
It seemed like everyone on the floor agreed this was a big deal — from the Democrats trying to kill the proposal to the amendment's author Rep. Peggy Krusick, D-Milwaukee, and her GOP backers. A lot was at stake, they said.
The problem? Race has not been used as a factor for receiving grants for more than a year. The change was made while Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle was in office under a settlement agreement from a 2006 civil rights complaint.
That's right. The Assembly spent all night fighting to change a law that policy already had changed. Now, some people will say both sides emerged from the scuffle with egg on their faces, but we prefer to think of it as one of the few times there was at least some bipartisanship.
Hopefully the Assembly will learn from this mistake and never again fight over bills in the middle of the night, when no experts are around to tell them whether such debate will actually change policy.
Speaking of eggs ...
He is the Eggman
Early this week, Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, publicly criticized a bill introduced by a fellow Republican and vowed to vote against it if it got to the floor. The ill-fated bill would have made the new, GOP-friendly district maps effective this month — just in time for impending recalls — rather than November 2012. The following night, it seems somebody decided to target his first-floor Capitol office with eggs, splattering the exterior marble and leaving shells on the balcony. With the incident taking place so close to Halloween, we're thankful that at least no TP was involved.
Charles Franklin, UW-Madison political science professor and go-to source on the temperature of the state electorate, is heading to Milwaukee for a one-year stint as a visiting professor at Marquette University. Franklin will direct the Marquette Law School Poll, which will be among the most intensive in the state, checking the state's pulse on local and national issues at least once a month.