That Wisconsin Conference Committee

by John Sides on March 9, 2011 · 10 comments

in Legislative Politics

Barry Pump:

My question is how can a conference committee report be valid without an appropriately constituted conference committee? Wisconsin legislature rules explicitly say that there has to be at least one member of the minority party from each chamber represented on a conference committee. And as we all know, all the Senate Democrats have been in exile in Illinois.

Here is Joint Rule 3 (1):

In all cases of disagreement between the senate and assembly on amendments, adopted by either house to a bill or joint resolution passed by the other house, a committee of conference consisting of 3 members from each house may be requested by either house, and the other house shall appoint a similar committee. At least one member from each house shall be a member of the minority party.

Like Barry, I’m no parliamentarian. I’m just throwing this out there for other views.

{ 10 comments }

Doug March 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I don’t know specifically about Wisconsin, but I worked in the Hawaii legislature for ten years where a simple majority can “suspend the rules” at any time. In fact, there was boilerplate language for such a motion at the beginning of debate about any/all bills up for third and/or final reading.

Jonathan March 9, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Can’t the House just vote on the bill directly without having to go to conference? This happened with the ACA right? The House voted…the Senate voted and the the House ratified the Senate bill.

Barry March 9, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Here’s the thing, Jonathan, the bill is considered a conference report: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/JR1AB11-CA1.pdf

I think you might be right about the other way of considering it, though.

And Senate Rule 91, Doug, says it’s a two-thirds requirement in Wisconsin. But it’s of the members present… They may have done that? It’s very confusing.

Doug March 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Barry, if the rules in Wisconsin only require a 2/3 vote of members PRESENT, then I can pretty much guarantee that they either suspended the rule or simply broke the rule knowing that, with no Democrats in the chamber, nobody would raise a procedural objection.

Tyson March 9, 2011 at 11:25 pm

The vote was 4-2 on party lines, so there were apparently two Democrats there. One was Assembly Minority Leader Barca. The other I guess in theory should have been a Dem from the senate, but yeah, I thought they were all out of state.
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/03/wisconsin-conference-committee-passes-new-stripped-down-anti-union-bill.php

Barry March 9, 2011 at 11:27 pm

The State Journal report I link to on my blog doesn’t describe a suspension vote prior to constituting the conference committee, which is when they would have needed to do it. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow in the Assembly.

Jonathan March 9, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I’m going to guess that Governor Walker defunded the Wisconsin State parlimentarian (if there ever was one!).

Jonathan March 9, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Update from Harry Brighouse at Crooked Timber:

The conference committee split the bill—so that the collective bargaining part of the bill is split from the budget part and, because the collective bargaining part is not, contrary to what Walker and the Republicans were saying till 4.19, a fiscal bill, it does not require a quorum in the Senate. Normal procedure would have the Senate and Assembly pass a bill, and only then go into conference committee. But this time, having split the bill in conference, the Senate took up the bill and passed it in the space of a minute with just one, Dale Schultz, voting against.

http://crookedtimber.org/2011/03/10/rally-capitol-11-am/

Barry March 10, 2011 at 12:07 am

I watched the video from the Senate where the bill was sent to conference, and it was done by unanimous consent. But as I note in my updated post, it’s unclear who was appointed to the conference committee and whether Joint Rule 3(1) was indeed violated.

Publius March 10, 2011 at 10:57 pm

The video of the proceedings actually makes it clear that Miller was appointed as democrat on the senate side to the conference committee.

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