Lawmakers gavel in for special session, take no votes on police reform

The Wisconsin State Legislature officially gaveled in for Gov. Tony Evers special session on police reform, but no votes were taken and only a handful of lawmakers showed up.

The State Assembly and Senate opened the session then recessed until Thursday. The move allows lawmakers to come back at a later date to take up legislation, but Republicans are not giving any indications if they will or when.

“The people of Wisconsin don’t want another task force or more delays—they want action and results, and they want it today, not tomorrow or some day months down the road," said Evers in a statement in response to the special session.

"It’s disappointing that there’s no sense of urgency from Republicans, and it’s a let down to all the people who are asking us to lead. We have been talking about these bills for months, and Republicans have had plenty of time to consider them on the merits."

A handful of Democratic lawmakers showed up at the capitol frustrated their Republican colleagues refused to take votes or show up.

"It was the opportunity to act, instead the gaveled in and they recessed," said Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewely. "One more opportunity to trick the people of Wisconsin in thinking they are going to act.”

Democrats have their own set of proposals, which is the basis of Evers' call for the special session. That package of bills includes the creation of a statewide use of force standard.

One of the bills would require the Wisconsin Department of Justice to release an annual report on use of force in the state. Another would ban the use of chokeholds while another would ban the use of no-knock warrants, something protesters in Madison have specifically demanded after police in Louisville shot and killed Breonna Taylor during such a raid.

The Republican proposals introduced by Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, would require police departments to make their use of force policies publicly available for review. It would also ban departments from disciplining employees who report use of force policy violations.

Wanggard has also proposed a bill that would cut state funding from cities and villages that cut their police budgets. The bill would reduce municipal aid by the same amount that the local government shifted away from its police department.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and other Republicans instead of taking votes intend to convene a task force on “racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies and standards.” 

“After the tragic events this past week, the best way forward is not through divisive and partisan politics but through bipartisan cooperation," said Vos in a statement.

"The Speaker’s Task Force is an opportunity to bring people together to find solutions."

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