‘Oh, Christmas Tree’: Decoration causes controversy in Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda

MADISON, Wis.– Wisconsin Republicans aren’t taking no for an answer this season.

Rep. Paul Tittl and Rep. Shae Sortwell set up a shorter-than-usual tree in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda this week, despite their permit request being denied by the Department of Administration.

Gov. Tony Evers decided not to put a tree in the building this year because it’s closed during the pandemic.

“The governor said no, but we decided we were going to put one up anyhow,” Tittl said in a YouTube video posted by Wisconsin Assembly Republicans.

Tittl told News 3 Now they want to bring joy to the hundreds of people still working in the building.

“It’s been over a 100 year tradition in the capitol and I know that with all the stuff that’s going on with COVID this year, we shouldn’t forget that tradition,” Tittl said.

Meanwhile, no is the only thing state democrats say they’re hearing from the other party.

“It’s frustrating for me, but its more frustrating for Wisconsinites,” Sen. Jon Erpenbach said.

Erpenbach blames republicans for not going into session since March.

“We can’t do anything until the republicans agree to go to the floor and debate issues and have votes on legislation,” Erpenbach said.

Erpenbach said unlike COVID-19 relief legislation, a tree won’t help the families who fell on hard times during the pandemic.

“Instead of debating whether or not a tree should be up right now, we should be on the senate floor debating legislation and we’re not,” Erpenbach said.

Evers had a similar response to the tree on a call with Department of Health Services.

“There’s a bit of irony there, too, can’t come to work to pass any bills around COVID-19, but by golly, we’ll put a tree up when no one’s looking,” Evers said. “Especially, when they didn’t get approval from the one committee that approves that.”

Tittl does agree that the tree is not a topic worth talking about.

“I think it’s silly,” Tittl said. “It is a tree just sitting there, not using any resources from the state.”

Tittl said he hopes possible COVID-19 relief legislation will help the state.

“My hope is that we can bring some relief to a lot of hardworking and unemployed people in the state of Wisconsin,” Tittl said. “This disease had a nasty toll on everyone.”

Tittl said he appealed DOA’s decision to deny the permit. He said the tree is not using any resources from the state and isn’t harmful to anyone.

DOA has not said whether it would remove the tree.