With a package of bills to address policing standards at a standstill in the GOP-led Legislature, the leaders of a related bipartisan task force said legislation could reach the chamber floors by early next year if lawmakers adhere to an “aggressive” schedule.
Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison — who has been openly critical of Republican leaders for their lack of movement on legislation to address police practices and racial disparities — was appointed on Tuesday as co-chairwoman of the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparity. She joins fellow co-chairman and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Stubbs expressed frustration that Republicans have refused to take up discussion on a package of nine bills introduced earlier this year by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers that would ban no-knock warrants, mandate training on de-escalation techniques and create statewide standards on police use of force.
Evers ordered a special session be held last week after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Aug. 23, but Republicans have not held any formal discussion on the bills.
“We did not get the special session that we wanted, so here’s the next viable step,” Stubbs said. “Let’s be clear, we already know what the problems are, we already have bills in this Capitol that have been introduced for years. It’s coming to the table and everyone agreeing to move forward with a consensus. As you can now see we are stuck. The Democrats and the Republicans, we are stuck.”
“I want all these bills to have real criminal justice reform and in order to have reform, you have to have change,” Stubbs said. “This is about checking your politics at the door. I’m not going to waste my time to do something that’s not going to make a difference.”
Steineke, who said the special session called last week by Evers is expected to stay open, said the task force should begin meeting later this month or in early October, with the “fairly aggressive schedule of meeting every two to three weeks after that.” He said the plan is to have a bipartisan package of bills ready for the next legislative session, which begins in January. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, will have the final say on any legislation proposed by the task force.
“What you’re going to see is people actually coming together to talk about it,” Steineke said. “In the past, and with all due respect to Gov. Evers and the package of bills he released in June, he didn’t try to bring Democrats and Republicans together.”
In addition to Evers’ bills, which were crafted with input from the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus, the task force also will consider legislation unveiled last week by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
WPPA’s “Blueprint for Change” package includes establishing uniform policies on the use of force by officers, statewide de-escalation training requirements and creating uniform standards for school resource officers.
The proposal also would prohibit the use of chokeholds, except when such a measure is necessary to protect an officer’s life.
Other proposals by WPPA include increased oversight and accountability and an increase in state funding for crisis intervention grants.
Stubbs said the task force will be evenly split between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, but the largest share of the group will be made up of members of the community.
“In order to have a more robust and meaningful dialogue, for the first time a Speaker’s Task Force will include community members as well as legislators,” Vos said in a statement.
Community members wishing to apply to the task force can do so at SpeakersTaskForce@legis.wisconsin.gov.
“We will be more outnumbered by the community, which is a great thing,” Stubbs said. “Letting the community drive this conversation, I think, is critical.”
Photos: Kenosha begins to recover amid racial tensions
“We did not get the special session that we wanted, so here’s the next viable step.” State Rep. Sheila Stubbs, D-Madison
“We did not get the special session that we wanted, so here’s the next viable step."
State Rep. Sheila Stubbs, D-Madison