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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Prominent Democratic Assemblywoman Sandy Pasch Speaks Out

Republicans ‘Lied to Their Constituents’

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Arguing that the Republican-authored state budget was so bad it could not be fixed and that the Republican majority would not allow any of their amendments to get a fair hearing, let alone pass, the Democratic state representatives shocked their GOP colleagues last week by not offering any amendments before voting on the budget in the Assembly.

Will their risk pay off?

Assistant Minority Leader Sandy Pasch visited the Shepherd’s offices on Monday to discuss the Democrats’ strategy and why the budget is so bad for Wisconsin.

 

Shepherd: We all know that the majority party requires its members to pass the state budget without amending it once the bill comes to the floor. But the minority party typically offers amendments anyway, simply to make a point. So why did the Democrats decide not to offer any amendments last week?

Pasch: At the beginning of this session the Republicans changed the rules of the Assembly. We had some negotiations on what that would look like. They initially proposed that they would enforce these ten-minute rules for amendments and two-minute limits for individual speakers. But also at any time they could say, “OK, we’re done, we’re not going to take any more, we’re going to vote.” And they could just stop debate at any time. That seemed a bit draconian. The Speaker Pro Tem, Bill Kramer, would limit us to ten minutes per amendment and each speaker could talk for two minutes. So what happens is that, if you talk for more than two minutes, your microphone is turned off.

Shepherd: Did they keep those rules for budget amendments?

Pasch: With the budget they said we could have three minutes. They said they would be willing to negotiate [the ten-minute limit] if we would bundle amendments up. And in fact we bundled four groups up, one having to do with education, another on health care, one on taxes, one having to do with all of the special interest junk they threw in—payday lending and bail bonds and weird stuff.

So we had all of those set and we were ready to debate and we had people drafting amendments. There was a lot to draft, because things kept changing at the last minute.

But the week before, we were debating the abortion bills, the three God-awful bills. We had our members pour out their heart and soul. Mandy Wright [of Wausau] talking about being raped as a little girl. Stories they had never told. Sondy Pope [of Cross Plains] talking about miscarrying and she would have been forced to have an ultrasound of her dead fetus. Really cruel. And they [Republicans] are ideological and dogmatic and don’t want to engage, rarely debate and just push the button.

Our story seems to get lost in that whole thing. We can’t influence policy and they’re not listening to us.

So as the budget came down we were getting frustrated and we were also facing the reality that nothing we said was resonating.

We had all of our amendments drafted. By Tuesday, the budget kept changing. They called it a technical amendment but it was being drafted all day and we were briefed on it that evening. And the next day it was a different bill. There were some things that were in it the night before and some things that were added. It changed the budget enough that all of the amendments we drafted would have had to be redrafted.

Shepherd: So you decided not to offer any, knowing they didn’t have a chance.

Pasch: We said obviously the majority party isn’t going to listen to us. We aren’t going to be able to influence them here. Maybe we can influence them by going in to their districts and their communities. Let’s let one person deliver the message of why this was so awful. We elected Peter Barca, our leader, to do that. I thought he gave a very compelling argument about what he thought was bad about the budget. We voted on it. We had a press conference.

And we went around the state. We went to Chippewa Valley, Fox Valley, Door County, the Wausau area, Wisconsin Rapids, southwest Wisconsin, where many of my Republican colleagues had said that they would not support the voucher expansion. And they all voted for that budget.

We felt we were better able to get our message to the people and influence them that way. Maybe we will and maybe, now that they’ve been so shamed in their communities by what they did, they will write a letter to the governor asking him to veto some of this.

Some of those people took really bad votes. They lied to their constituents. They told their constituents they would not support the voucher expansion and they supported the voucher expansion. Their constituents should be very disappointed. They should fire them for misrepresenting them. We’re hoping that those constituents do that.

Shepherd: These policies that the Republicans are pushing—where are they coming from? We know that many of them are not being developed in Wisconsin.

Pasch: Some of them look very ALEC-like [the free market group American Legislative Exchange Council]. I’ve spoken to my colleagues and to a person nobody has said their constituents want bail bondsmen. No one has said they want to make things easier for payday lenders. People aren’t saying they want the voucher expansion. That is a special interest group that wants them.

People say they want access to health care, but we didn’t take the BadgerCare expansion. Instead we are taxing the people of Wisconsin more and covering fewer people. People said they wanted more money in public education. We’re not doing that.

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