If top Republican lawmakers move forward Tuesday with a plan to pass the state budget in "extraordinary session," it will be the first time lawmakers have used this speedy political maneuver to pass a budget in at least 80 years.
The state's Legislative Reference Bureau has records of every vote made by the Legislature since 1931.
Several budget adjustment bills were approved in a "special session" — a Legislative session that only can be called by the governor for a specific purpose — but senior analysts with the Legislative Reference Bureau could find no evidence of one being passed in an extraordinary session.
Assembly Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said at a press conference Monday that Assembly Republicans will put the collective bargaining bill back in the budget as an amendment by calling an extraordinary session if the State Supreme Court doesn't act before Tuesday afternoon. The bill would strip most collective bargaining rights from public workers.
“If need be, we are going to have to pass collective bargaining again because it is such an integral part of not having those services slashed and those people laid off,” Fitzgerald said.
During a normal legislative session, lawmakers must provide a 24-hour window between the time one house amends a bill, and the other takes it up. The only way this rule doesn't apply is if members bypass this rule by a two-thirds vote.
When in extraordinary session, an amended bill can move directly from one house to the other, bypassing the 24-hour waiting period.
That means if the Assembly does add the collective bargaining bill to the budget Tuesday, the budget bill would move immediately to the Senate.
"People have regular lives. They have jobs, they have kids," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. "How will the public follow what is happening?"
Lawmakers have until June 30 to pass the state budget, giving them nearly three more weeks to debate it, Barca said. Given this time frame, there is no reason the budget-approval process should or needs to be rushed through an extraordinary session, he said.
"The Republican strategy is indefensible in my judgment," Barca said. "It makes me suspicious. It makes me wonder what they are trying to hide from the public."
Supreme Court justices heard arguments last Monday on whether lawmakers in March passed the collective bargaining bill in accordance with the state's open records law. No time frame has been given for when the justices will reach a decision.
With the legal challenge pending, Republicans have declined to bring the collective barganing bill up for another vote, maintaining the court would find in their favor.
Now, with the Supreme Court failing to act as quickly as Republican lawmakers would have liked, Fitzgerald said the Legislature will go into "extraordinary" session to reintroduce the collective bargaining bill.
The speed with which bills can move through an extraordinary session seems to be at least one of motivations for Republicans mulling that route.
"We feel like we are under the gun," Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald's brother, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal. "We need to get this done."