Deal struck to avoid late night Assembly debate

Lawmakers expected to vote on agreement

Published On: Jan 30 2013 02:41:28 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 10 2013 07:16:57 PM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

A bipartisan deal has been struck to avoid the Wisconsin state Assembly debating and taking votes in the middle of the night.

Party leaders announced the agreement Thursday before the full Assembly planned to vote on it.

The deal hinges on Republican and Democratic leaders agreeing before each day's debate how long they will take on each measure. That is not done currently and in recent years the Assembly has routinely gone deep into the night to vote and pass bills.

Republican Speaker Robin Vos said both sides agreed they wanted to eliminate all night sessions, saying that is not in the public interest.

"The goal would be if we set three hours of debate on a bill, that we stick within that timeline so the public knows approximately when the debate will happen and when the debate will end," Vos said. "We think that's better for citizens so they can watch democracy and better for the institution so we don't go late into the evening."

"Everything in the legislature is based on goodwill and trying to come together, and I think if we both continue this process of trying to listen to one another and put together reasonable calendars and time frames, I think democracy will be better served," said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.

As a test of the new procedure, both sides have agreed to limit Thursday's debate to no more than five hours.

Lawmakers said they would also agree to limit the number of contentious issues that would come up on each session day. They agreed to caucus before sessions so that they would begin at a scheduled time rather than meeting in party meetings for undetermined amounts of time.