Republicans Say They Won’t Show Up Monday to Vote on Police Reform Bills
Wisconsin residents have been marching and demanding police reform since the shooting of George Floyd May 25. The call for change amplified following the shooting of Kenosha resident, Jacob Blake, Sunday by an officer. (Photo by Jessica VanEgeren)

Special session will get a quick gavel and other bills to consider later, an “empty procedural gesture,” says Evers’ office.

The Republican leader of the Wisconsin State Senate said the special session Gov. Tony Evers called for in response to the shooting of an unarmed Black Kenosha resident by a police officer will begin Monday. 

It’s likely not much more than the opening gavel will happen that day, a possibility already under fire from the governor’s office. 

The catch is the package of police reform bills Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes want to see debated and passed will not immediately be discussed. 

A spokesperson for Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told the Associated Press the Senate will gavel in, but it won’t be a full session day. And Assembly Leader Robin Vos has given no indication the session will be gaveled into order in his chamber, a procedural move, to formally begin the special session. 

In a statement, Fitzgerald said that in addition to the series of bills Evers has asked the Legislature to consider, Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, has released a package of bills aimed at increasing transparency and community involvement into law enforcement.

“Combined with the newly-created Speaker’s Task Force on the topic, there will be dozens of proposals that the legislature will work through in the coming months,” Fitzgerald said.  

On Monday, a day after Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by Kenosha officers, Vos, R-Rochester, said he was creating a task force that, among other things, will focus on racial disparities. 

The governor’s office was quick to seize on the “coming months” timeframe as reason to cast doubt on the sincerity of Fitzgerald’s and Vos’s efforts at police reform.  

“This moment demands more than task forces or empty procedural gestures,” said Britt Cudaback, a spokesperson for the governor. “Wisconsinites deserve elected officials who will show up to work and lead on the challenges facing our state”

Fitzgerald said he would like to see legislation created that would enhance penalties for violence committed against police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. 

“The riots in Kenosha and Madison this week further demonstrated that first responders are performing their public service duties at great risk to their personal safety,” Fitzgerald said. “We look forward to a productive dialogue on how to improve law enforcement standards while at the same time ensuring police officers have the resources they need to keep our communities safe.” 

While Fitzgerald criticized the protesters, his statement made no mention of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old who was shot Sunday by the officer. Blake now is paralyzed from the waist down. His family said it will be a miracle if he ever walks again.