State Sens. Tim Carpenter and Lena Taylor, both Milwaukee Democrats, were not allowed to speak Wednesday during the Senate's session to pass the COVID-19 relief bill. Senate President Roger Roth muted their feeds when they tried to speak, then skipped over them during roll-call voting. (Photos via Sen. Carpenter's office, WisEye)
State Sens. Tim Carpenter and Lena Taylor, both Milwaukee Democrats, were not allowed to speak Wednesday during the Senate's session to pass the COVID-19 relief bill. Senate President Roger Roth muted their feeds when they tried to speak, then skipped over them during roll-call voting. (Photos via Sen. Carpenter's office, WisEye)

State Sens. Lena Taylor and Tim Carpenter represent areas of Milwaukee with large minority populations.

When State Sens. Lena Taylor and Tim Carpenter, both Milwaukee Democrats, thought they finally had their time to talk during Wednesday’s historic virtual Senate session, they quickly discovered it would be the opposite.

Even though Taylor and Carpenter had previously requested time to talk, Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, promptly muted them as they tried to speak during roll-call voting on the COVID-19 relief bill. Then Roth skipped them over in voting after they — both still muted — did not immediately give answers. 

Senate President Roth Mutes Senators Asking To Speak During Relief Vote

Senate President Roger Roth didn't allow Sen. Lena Taylor or Sen. Tim Carpenter to speak then mutes them. Carpenter says he's been "ignored all day."Taylor had requested to speak earlier. She ended up being skipped due to technical difficulties.

Posted by UpNorthNews on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The bill, which will waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits but will also make it more difficult for a limited number of essential employees to get workers comp, passed 31-0 (there are 33 state Senators). Gov. Tony Evers signed it that afternoon, but Carpenter and Taylor remained furious.

“When I go back in session (after the pandemic), there’s going to be hell to pay,” Carpenter told UpNorthNews in a phone call. “It’s just absolutely, completely unacceptable.”

Both Carpenter and Taylor said they tried contacting Roth after the session ended, but he had not returned their calls. Neither said they think he will get back to them. Roth and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

“What I experienced today, when we should be locking arms, working together, they could have at least turned to me and said, ‘Senator, what can we do to help? What do you see down there?’” Taylor said, her voice trailing off in anger. 

Taylor represents Milwaukee’s north side, where coronavirus is ripping through the black community rapidly. Carpenter represents the south side, which has a large Latino population. 

“It’s not pretend for me,” Taylor said after listing several people she personally knows who have been infected with the virus. She said if she had been allowed to speak, she would have pleaded with Republican Senators to consider helping out Milwaukee’s inner-city more.

Carpenter also tried to attend the session in-person while wearing gloves and a mask, but he was not let in due to concerns over spreading coronavirus — something that smacked of hypocrisy to him after Republicans forced voters to the polls last week in the middle of a pandemic.

“They’re complete cowards if they think they can tell hundreds of thousands of voters that they have to go out to vote, but when it becomes time for state Senators, they think they have the privilege that they can be above everybody else,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said he is considering bringing forth a lawsuit to avoid letting Roth’s actions become precedent if another virtual Senate session is ever held.

“I refuse to allow them to do this,” he said. 

It is unclear if Carpenter and Taylor will be able to officially enter votes after the fact, but both said they would have voted for the bill.

Democrats have already said the bill does not go far enough or give Gov. Tony Evers enough emergency authority, and expressed hope that Republicans will let the Legislature reconvene to take up more bills as needed.