According to article IV, section 8, of the Wisconsin Constitution, each house of the Legislature has the power to “determine the rules of its own proceedings.” Under current Assembly rules, every proposed bill receives three separate readings.
A bill’s first reading is the formal announcement that a bill or other proposal has been introduced. After the first reading, proposals are generally referred to committee for the bill’s appropriate subject area. If the proposal receives a favorable vote from a majority of sitting members on the committee, it can be scheduled for a second reading.
During the second reading, a proposal is debated by the full Assembly and may be amended. The third reading is the point at which bills and other proposals come up for final discussion and possible passage. No amendments may be offered at this point.
However, per Assembly rules, with an objection to a third reading, the bill must receive a two-thirds majority vote in order to proceed or it will be delayed to a future floor period calendar date. Early on this session, the two-thirds rule has been used as a stall tactic which delayed passage of important legislation aimed at easing burdensome taxes and regulations on employers.
Because job growth is vital to Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker called for his second special session. The Back to Work Special Session builds from this year’s earlier special session – Open Wisconsin for Business. A special session modifies legislative rules. Assembly Rule 93(7) – All motions to advance a proposal to its third reading and all motions to message a proposal to the other house may be adopted by a majority of the members present and voting.
In other words, in a special session, the two-thirds majority requirement to proceed to third reading (if objection received) is changed to a simple majority vote. Thus, a small fraction of the minority party can not block a bill’s passage.
To further job growth, the Back to Work Wisconsin special session will be focusing on bills providing tax relief for economic development measures, improvement of the state’s transportation and infrastructure, as well as bills removing uncertainty in litigation.
Jobs have been the priority of just about everyone I’ve spoken with. A special session to continue moving a jobs agenda will focus the legislature’s attention away from partisan gamesmanship to where it belongs – on jobs.
Rep. Kevin Petersen represents Waupaca County in the state Assembly.