In what many are calling an attempt to lure absent Wisconsin Senate Democrats out of hiding, the Committee on Transportation and Elections reconvened in executive session to pass the Wisconsin Voter ID Bill (SB-6) Tuesday.
Although Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton)-one of 14 missing Senate Democrats-called in requesting the "courtesy" to vote via telephone that has previously been extended to absent senators, committee chair Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) refused his request.
"We are under a call of the house," Lazich told Erpenbach. "If you refuse to grace us with your presence and continue to participate in unethical behavior, we refuse to extend our courtesy to you."
Accused by critics of disenfranchising certain voters, SB-6 would require voters to provide a valid ID to vote as soon as the upcoming spring elections.
Erpenbach's attempts to question the proposal were countered by Lazich's questions of when the senator would return to Madison.
Lazich offered Erpenbach the option of showing up "within a fashionable time," saying the committee would be willing to wait.
However, when pressed on when he would return, the Middleton senator replied, "I'll be there eventually."
"I will not wait for eventually," countered Lazich.
The exchange devolved into a heated back-and-forth between Chair Lazich and Sen. Erpenbach, accompanied by the occasional bout of snickering from a gallery clearly sympathetic to Democratic lawmakers.
Eventually, Lazich managed to shout down Erpenbach's continued protestations.
"If you choose not to be here to conduct business, how can you participate in house business?" she demanded.
The committee proceeded to vote unanimously in favor of SB-6, ignoring Sen. Erpenbach's repeated calls of "I vote 'no!'" and "I voted 'no,' did you get my vote?"
While Erpenbach warned Lazich she would be "remembered in the headlines" as impeding the democratic process, Lazich stayed firm.
"You are setting a precedent," she informed Erpenbach, later explaining that because there is no established procedure or law for this situation, the response came down to the chair's discretion.
In the meantime, the Wisconsin Voter ID Bill will go to the Senate floor, possibly as early as Thursday.