Majority Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate have passed a measure that would kick visitors out of the Senate's public gallery if they repeatedly disrupt the chamber. Republicans also retained a power that came under the spotlight during a tumultuous standoff last session.
The “three strikes, you're out” provision mirrors a similar rule just passed by Assembly Republicans. It would ban people from the public galleries for the remainder of a legislative session if they violate the rules three times. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said it was in response to repeated disruptions in the gallery last session. “I think there's an acceptable level of reaction by this body to what we saw over the last two years.”
Like the Assembly's rule, the version passed by the Senate would ban people from holding signs in the gallery. Alma Democratic Senator Kathleen Vinehout suggested the ban violated the Constitution. “Where is it written that we only have the right to petition our government three times?”
Unlike the Assembly's rules, the Senate's won't allow concealed handguns in the public gallery but they will allow them on the Senate floor.
Republicans left in place a rule that lets the Majority Leader “compel the attendance” of missing Senators by sending police to their homes or withholding paychecks. It's a power Fitzgerald used last session when Democrats left the state to stall a vote on Governor Walker's budget repair bill. Fitzgerald said that option needed to stay. “Because if you don't have something in place, I think what we learned is that eventually you don't have quorum, and if you don't have quorum, you're not functioning.”
But Democrats said keeping that power in place flew in the face of bipartisanship. The rules passed on party line votes.