MADISON, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Roughly two years ago, Democrats in the State Assembly chanted "shame" at their Republican colleagues after GOP representatives passed Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill in a hasty vote.
The bill, which would eventually become law, stripped most public worker unions of the right to collective bargain.
But while current Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos (R, Rochester) acknowledged Democrats and Republicans hold different visions for the state of Wisconsin, he added there's no reason the two sides should be hostile to one another.
"Over the last two years the discussion has no longer been civil. It's been more personal and coarse and that's not good regardless of what you believe in," Vos said.
In an olive branch of bipartisanship, Vos appointed two Democratic members of the Assembly to co-chair committees with a Republican colleague.
Rep. Jill Billings (D, La Crosse) will serve as a co-chair on the new Constitution and Ethics Committee – which Vos said in a previous statement is supposed to "find a bipartisan consensus when clarifying and amending the state's ethics laws."
"Good bipartisanship creates a better final product," Billings said. "The more people you bring to the table, the more opinions you can get and the more expertise on an issue that you can bring, the stronger your legislation is."
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said he's cautiously optimistic about the new, bipartisan tone.
"Hopefully (Republicans) will be true to their promise, because they control everything now," said Barca (D, Kenosha) of the GOP's majority in both the Senate and Assembly.
"I'm sure Representative Billings has already put forth a number of ideas she has for that committee," Barca said. "So that's a good first step-there's no question about it."
"But the real test will be, as we get into the session, whether or not any of the bills actually advance," the Minority Leader added.
Rep. Lee Nerison (R, Westby) who chairs the Assembly's Agricultural Committee, said he's confident his party will make a good faith effort to include Democrats in the Assembly's discussions.
"It's going to take time," Nerison said, "and you try not to think about what happened this last session and move forward."
"But it's always in the back of your mind," he said.
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