MADISON – The Republican and Democrat who will lead a task force on racial disparities promised Tuesday to reach compromise on issues that have long divided the two parties.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called a special session on policing for last week, but Republicans who control the Legislature quickly shut it down. Instead, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester established a task force to look at the justice system and racial disparities.
The task force will be run by Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison.
“As you can see now, we are stuck,” Stubbs said at a news conference Tuesday. “The Democrats and Republicans, we are stuck. Our governor did the best he could with the authority he had and right now this is what we have. And I’m willing as a Democrat to come to the table and move forward.”
The task force will meet every two or three weeks starting at the end of September, with a goal of having legislation that the Assembly can take up in January, Steineke said. He said the task force would allow lawmakers to reach consensus.
“That’s how we show not only the state but the nation that government isn’t completely broken, that Republicans and Democrats can still work together on the big issues of the day,” he said.
Others, including religious leaders and representatives of nonprofit groups, will be named to the task force later this month by Vos.
Evers called the special session after Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, who is white, shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, seven times in the back. The shooting sparked days of arson, window-smashing and looting in Kenosha.
Evers has recommended nine bills written by the Legislative Black Caucus, which includes Stubbs. The package includes measures that would ban police chokeholds, ban no-knock warrants, make it harder for officers with spotty personnel records to move from one agency to another and make it easier for people to sue those who call 911 without a good reason.
Steineke said the task force would review that legislation along with bills by Sen. Van Wanggaard, a Racine Republican and retired police officer. Wanggaard has proposed having police shootings investigated in a way similar to how the National Transportation Safety Board reviews plane crashes. Another bill by Wanggaard would cut state aid to cities that reduce their police budgets.
The task force will also look at recommendations from the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
That police union in a report last week backed a number of proposals, including ones that would ban police chokeholds in most cases; require police training on de-escalation techniques; give officers whistleblower protections when they report violations of use-of-force policies; create a grant program to expand the use of police body cameras; put more members on the police and fire commissions for Milwaukee and Madison; compile and track information about officer discipline; increase penalties for rioting; allow people to sue those who unnecessarily call the police; increase penalties for intentionally filing false police reports; increase funding for crisis intervention programs; and study how well those intervention programs work.
Those who want to serve on the Assembly task force can email SpeakersTaskForce@legis.wisconsin.gov. Applications are being accepted until Sept. 18.
Contact Patrick Marley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.