Speaker Robin Vos has rejected a request from paralyzed Dem Rep. Jimmy Anderson to phone into Assembly committee hearings, writing in a letter he can’t change chamber rules via “fiat.”
The GOP leader said Thursday he continues to oppose giving members a call-in option.
Vos also knocked Anderson for taking his complaints about committee rules to the media, accusing him of “political grandstanding.”
Anderson, D-Fitchburg, fired back that Vos’ letter was “unnecessarily mean” and “offensive.”
Instead of a call-in option, the Rochester Republican told Anderson in a letter a videographer will be made available for committee hearings the Dem lawmaker can’t make. He also will discuss with the full GOP caucus allowing paper ballots for executive sessions.
Anderson said he still hoped to talk in person with Vos to discuss incorporating the Americans with Disabilities Act” into Assembly rules. If that effort is rebuffed, Anderson said he will likely sue to force the change.
“I don’t understand how he can sit there and say the ADA is something to be revered and something to be appreciated and then attack a disabled person who’s trying to use the ADA to do his job,” Anderson said.
The dustup began after Anderson complained publicly that Assembly rules prevent him from phoning into Assembly hearings and threatened to sue if the policy wasn’t changed. Anderson has separately filed a complaint with the Dane County DA accusing GOP leaders of breaking the state’s open meetings law by not giving proper notification of a vote in the December extraordinary session as the floor period turned into an all-nighter.
Vos initially responded by saying he opposes allowing lawmakers to call into meetings, adding he finds it offensive to witnesses who make their way to the Capitol to testify. He again stated his personal opposition to the option in Thursday’s letter.
Vos’ letter also included steps he says the Assembly took to accommodate Anderson, who was first elected in 2016. They include:
*purchasing a digital wireless microphone for $3,714 for Anderson during floor sessions;
*installing special voting equipment;
*allowing Anderson’s personal care worker access to the Capitol and the lawmaker’s computer even though she’s not a state employee;
*reimbursing Anderson’s staffer for cab fare every time he drove the lawmaker home.
Vos noted Anderson voted against allowing members to Skype and videoconference into committee hearings in 2017. He also complained Anderson chose to make his call-in request known through the media rather than human resources, the speaker’s office or the standing committees on which Anderson serves.
“This is an unfortunate way to communicate,” Vos wrote. “It calls into question your seriousness. Instead of resorting to political grandstanding, you could have called my personal cell phone at any time to discuss this matter.”
Anderson said he first took his request to Dem leadership ahead of this session’s negotiations on Assembly rules. Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit and the minority caucus chair, tweeted, “The idea that @SpeakerVos didn’t know@Rep_Jimmy wanted to be able to participate in some committee meetings by phone is nonsense. Our leadership conveyed that request to @SpeakerVos early this session in person and in writing. @SpeakerVos rejected our proposal.”
Read the Vos letter: