Task force created as alternative to GOP-led Legislature meeting to pass Governor’s package of police reform bills.
A 32-member task force on racial disparities will meet for the first time Wednesday, roughly two months after its creation was announced by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos as an alternative to the Legislature taking any substantive action on bills to address racial injustices and police reform following the death of George Floyd and shooting of Jacob Blake.
Vos (R-Rochester) named Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) co-chairs of the task force in September. The three then interviewed more than 100 applicants before narrowing down the pool of candidates to two additional legislators and 28 community leaders. Vos announced the task force members last Wednesday.
“The membership represents a diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and geography of the state,” said Vos in a statement, adding, “We know that it’s through listening and learning from one another that Wisconsin can move forward together.”
Calls by the public in Wisconsin and across the country to address police brutality and ongoing violence against Black men and women reached record levels following Floyd’s death in May in Minneapolis.
A renewed call for lawmakers to meet and take action came after a Kenosha police officer shot Blake, a 29-year-old Kenosha resident and father, in the back seven times Aug. 23. Blake is Black, the officer is white.
Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes had introduced a package of police reform bills shortly after Floyd’s death. Evers then called a special session of the legislature to meet and discuss the bills following Blake’s shooting.
The failure of lawmakers to meet and debate the bills after Evers called a special session is a sign of the worsening political divide between Evers and the GOP-controlled legislature.
Evers has twice called a special session to address violence and police reform. He called the first session on gun reform last November. Republican lawmakers gaveled in and out without debating or voting on any bills.
Republicans gaveled in the second special session. Steineke told reporters in early September Republicans will not gavel out the session “in case the task force completes its work by the beginning of December.”
Steineke said the goal of the task force is to complete its work and present a package of bipartisan bills to lawmakers by the start of the next legislative session in January. He said members will likely meet every two or three weeks.
The task force will meet at 1 p.m., Wednesday, in Room 412 East at the Capitol. The meeting will be streamed on WisEye.
The members of the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities are as follows:
- Rep. Jim Steineke, Task Force Co-Chair
- Rep. Shelia Stubbs, Task Force Co-Chair
- Rep. Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee)
- Rep. Robert Wittke (R-Racine)
- Rev. Marcus Allen, Pastor, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Madison and U.S. Army Veteran
- Rev. Yao Yang, Pastor, The Cross Church, Wausau, Joseph Project Leader and Executive Director of The Gospel TLC
- Tehassi Hill, Chair, Oneida Nation
- Ricardo Diaz, retired former Executive Director, United Community Center, Milwaukee
- Rebecca Burrell, activist, entrepreneur, singer/songwriter
- Pastor Jerome Smith, Greater Praise Church of God In Christ, Milwaukee, Joseph Project Leader
- Marty Calderon, God Touch Ministry, Milwaukee
- Dr. Jeremiah Holiday, Chief Academic Officer, Milwaukee Public Schools
- Fred Royal, President, Milwaukee NAACP
- Keetra Burnette, Director, Stakeholder Engagement, United Way of Dane County and Urban League of Greater Madison
- Dr. Eve Hall, President and CEO, Milwaukee Urban League
- Ossie Kendrix, President and CEO, African-American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin
- Theresa Jones, VP for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, Children’s Wisconsin, Milwaukee
- Damond Boatwright, Regional President, SSM Health
- Linda Fair, Academic Advisor, Blackhawk Technical College
- Veronica King, Instructor, Gateway Technical College Instructor and former Department of Corrections social worker
- Ted Nietzke, CEO, CESA 6 and former West Bend School District Superintendent
- Tory Lowe, Co-founder and CEO, Justice of Wisconsin
- Pam Holmes, Retired Milwaukee Police Officer, President of the National Black Police Association-Wisconsin Chapter
- Tony Gonzalez, Founder and Co-Chair, Toward One Wausau
- Patrick Mitchell, Chief of Police, West Allis Police Department
- Danilo Cardenas, Secretary/Treasurer, Milwaukee Police Association
- Jim Palmer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Professional Police Association
- Nate Dreckman – Grant County Sheriff
- Pastor Dannie Evans, House of God Church, Janesville, and former probation and parole agent
- Steven Roux, Rice Lake Police Chief
- Wayne Strong, Retired Lieutenant, Madison Police Department
- Kalvin Barrett, Law Enforcement instructor, Madison College