Photo essay: Wisconsin’s frenetic lame duck session

Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Bob Kinosian, from Wauwatosa, Wis., holds up a protest sign outside an extraordinary lame duck session of the Wisconsin Legislature on Dec. 4, 2018, at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. The Republican-authored bills stripped powers away from Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul, both Democrats. They included narrowing the state's window for early voting, giving lawmakers more influence over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., and barring Evers from halting efforts by the GOP to enact work requirements and requiring drug testing for certain benefit programs.

More from WCIJ

Follow Emily Hamer’s reporting from the Capitol on Twitter.

See more photos from the extraordinary session in our Flickr collection.

Dee J. Hall, WCIJ managing editor, writes that the controversial measures approved by the Legislature fit into a recent pattern of secretive, rushed maneuvers by state leaders in the most recent Your Right to Know column.

From Dec. 3 through the early morning of Dec. 5, 2018, members of the press, the public, and legislators bustled through the halls of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison as the Senate and Assembly held an extraordinary session to push through a series of fast-tracked bills before Gov. Scott Walker leaves office in January.

The bills represent sweeping efforts to shift power to the Legislature from the executive branch, limit early voting and enact major changes to road spending, agency oversight and public benefits. Critics say they were clearly aimed at stripping power from incoming Gov. Tony Evers and incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul, but Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the bills were little more than legislative “inside baseball.”

Center reporters Emily Hamer and Coburn Dukehart were at the Capitol during the lame duck session and present a snapshot of images and videos from those contentious few days.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Protesters hold up signs inside the Wisconsin State Capitol calling for Republican lawmakers to respect their votes, on Dec. 3.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

During the public hearing on the lame duck bills in the Wisconsin Legislature on Dec. 3, members of the public bang on the doors and chant to be let into the room. Police secured the doors, trying to control the crowd.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Members of the public occupy an overflow room during the Joint Finance Committee public hearing of the Wisconsin Legislature on Dec. 3.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairman Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, threatens to clear the room when members of the public start shouting during the public hearing on Dec. 3.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

A member of the public is escorted out by police for interrupting the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee public hearing on Dec. 3.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, speaks during a public hearing of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on Dec. 3. "This is unprecedented, what is happening here today," Taylor said.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Retired public school teacher Gail Milbrath, from Milwaukee, gives a thumbs down sign, in reaction to testimony given during a public hearing of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on Dec. 3.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Protesters gather on the Wisconsin State Capitol steps on Dec. 3, to oppose lame duck bills that would restrict early voting and limit the powers of Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul and Gov.-elect Tony Evers.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Protesters gather on the Wisconsin State Capitol steps on Dec. 3. As the protest went on, the Joint Finance Committee heard public testimony against the bills at a hearing inside the Capitol.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, addresses the crowd during the Dec. 3, protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Nile Ostenso, who used to work for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, testifies against lame duck bills during the Joint Finance Committee public hearing on Dec. 3. "We're going to have a new governor, but it's going to be (Assembly Speaker) Robin Vos," Ostenso said. He added that Republicans are "micro-managing the whole state."

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony, attended by Scott Walker, takes place on Dec. 4, at the Wisconsin State Capitol, while protesters hold up signs decrying the fast-tracked bills. Later that afternoon an extraordinary lame duck session of the legislature was held.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, is seen during the extraordinary session of the Wisconsin Legislature on Dec. 4, 2018. "This is a heck of a way to run a railroad," she said as Senate debate resumed at 5 a.m. after a seven-hour impasse. "This is embarrassing we're even here."

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, is seen in the Senate during the extraordinary session on Dec. 4, 2018. "Talking to senators over the weekend, a number of these items, you know, I still characterize them as inside baseball," he said.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, talks with his chief of staff, Katy Prange, during the extraordinary session of the Legislature.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Wisconsin Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, holds up the list of gubernatorial appointees the Republican leadership wanted to approve during the December 2018 lame duck session. He bemoaned the fact that Democrats had not been able to vet the appointees before the extraordinary session began.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

After waiting for more than three hours for the extraordinary Senate session to convene on Dec. 4, members of the public were cleared from the viewing gallery shortly after the session began by Wisconsin Senate President Roger Roth, who had twice warned them to stay silent. After Roth ordered the room cleared, people chanted and shouted in protest, prompting a temporary recess of the Senate.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, addresses the press on Dec. 4, 2018. The package of extraordinary session bills was passed in the early morning hours of Dec. 5.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Elaine Pridgen of Madison, center, sings protest songs along with the "Solidarity Singers" outside of the Wisconsin Senate on Dec. 4.

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