WheelerWeek – Special Orders of Business (Assembly)

As published by The Wheeler Report – 10/09/1973…


Assembly Republican leaders Tuesday called a press conference to announce opposition to a proposed new rule for the lower house which will be debated Wednesday morning.

The new rule is designed to make it easier for the Democratic leadership to special order bills. The rule is contained in a resolution (AR-57) introduced by Majority Leader Earl Tuesday morning. Resolutions dealing with rules are privileged, but must lay over for 24 hours. The proposal would increase the power of the Rules Committee to special order bills by limiting debate on the committee’s special order resolution to five minutes. The rule would allow only one vote on Rules resolutions, a vote on passage.

The Rules Committee, made up of eight Democrats and three Republican, was given special order power in January, but Democratic leaders did not try to exercise it until last week. Republican leaders then stiffly resisted adoption of every special order resolution submitted, and were eventually successful in defeating two of them. The new rule, if adopted would almost eliminate debate on the committee resolutions and the resolutions themselves contain limits on floor debate on the special order bills, although these limits have so far been loosely enforced.

Rep. Tommy Thompson (R-Elroy) said the Democratic leaders had “completely silenced the minority…and when you silence one, you silence 44,000 people.” Rep. John Alberts (R-Oconomowoc) said, “There will always be alternatives to legislation by demagoguery—and that’s what these rules are.” Rep. Joseph Tregoning (R-Shullsburg) said Speaker Anderson was acting “as a one-man dictator.”

Mr. Shabaz gently chided reporters for not publicizing Democratic efforts to “gag” the minority. If the GOP had tried similar methods when it controlled the house several years ago, “I’m sure the reaction of the media would have been such to run us right off the farm,” he said. Mr. Shabaz said he hoped to get 15 or 20 rank and file Democrats to join in a solid GOP vote against the new rule.

And Today …

Special ordering calendars continues to be a process used by the majority party to schedule legislation that has the potential to be controversial.

After the 2011-12 session Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Democratic Leader Peter Barca drafted and eventually signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was put into place in an effort to help both sides work together better, and to help prevent all night sessions. The MOU for the 2013-14 session was signed by the Speaker, Majority Leader, Speaker Pro Tempore, Assistant Majority Leader, Republican Caucus Chair, Minority Leader, Assistant Minority Leader, Democratic Caucus Chair and Democratic Vice-Caucus Chair. The MOU provided a structure under which leadership from both sides of the aisle were expected to provide amendments in a timely manner to the chief clerk’s office, have regular bipartisan leadership meetings, set timeframes for debates, and make an effort to limit the number of contentious bills on any one calendar. The 2015-16 MOU make the same base considerations, but added additional recommendations for committee notices and committee actions. The 2017-18 MOU, originally signed by Minority Leader Peter Barca, was not re-signed by Minority Leader Gordon Hintz. The 2017-18 MOU included all the previous session guidelines, but also added that leadership would meet every six months to discuss the “operation of the Assembly.”

While some have praised the MOU’s for their work to help prevent all-night Assembly sessions, others have said the minority has negotiated away any control over the process. Some have argued that the process has allowed for last minute tricks by the majority party to limit debate on bills by “running out the clock” on the overall debate time on bills.

Year Assembly Majority Special Order Resolutions
2017-18 Republican (Vos/Steineke) 6

(AR-11, 12, 23, 26, 27, 28)

2015-16 Republican (Vos/Steineke) 2

(AR-16, 29)

2013-14 Republican (Vos/Suder) 5

(AR-9, 10, 13, 25, 28)

2011-12 Republican (Fitzgerald/Suder) 10

AR-5, 9, 10, 12, 16, 18, 21, 22, 24, 25)

2009-10 Democrat (Sheridan/Nelson) 7

(AR-3, 8, 22, 23, 24, 26, 31)

2007-08 Republican (Huebsch/Fitzgerald) 4

(AR-12, 16, 17, 18)

2005-06 Republican (Gard/Huebsch) 14

(AR-4, 7, 9, 12, 18, 19, 38, 41, 42, 43, 45, 48, 49, 50, 51)

2003-04 Republican (Gard/Foti) 12

(AR-6, 3, 23, 25, 26, 29, 33, 34, 35)

2001-02 Republican (Jensen/Foti) 3

(AR-26, 40, 54)

1999-00 Republican (Jensen/Foti) 1


1997-98 Republican (Brancel/Foti) 1


1995-96 Republican (Prosser/Jensen) 1



*Data for sessions prior to 1995 was not readily available.