If anyone is still wondering why the state Assembly is called the "lower house" of the Legislature, look no further than what one reporter called the "bizarre turn of events" when the GOP-led body apparently voted to override Governor Jim Doyle's veto of higher payments to nursing homes serving patients in the state's Medicaid program.
The Assembly's presiding officer, Republican Steve Freese, refused to allow Milwaukee Democrat Pedro Colon to cast his vote, which would have sustained the governor's veto. When the vote was being tallied, Colon was talking to Republican representatives in the Assembly parlor. When Colon returned from the parlor he was not allowed to register his vote, although it is the longstanding custom of the Assembly to record the votes of temporarily absent members. Meanwhile, the Republicans Colon was speaking to at the time he missed his vote had their votes recorded, meaning their seat mates pushed their voting buttons for them although they weren't physically present – a common practice that technically isn't allowed under Assembly rules.
When asked by reporters to explain his actions in the wake of all this childishness, Freese said it is not his responsibility to make sure people are in their seats and voting, and went on to say that at times in the past he hasn't called missing people in for votes because they had been mean to him.
The whole hullabaloo most likely will end up being academic, since overriding a veto requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature. It is considered highly improbable that the Senate will be able to muster a two-thirds majority to reverse the nursing home veto.
Just in case you're laboring under the mistaken impression that truth is stranger than fiction only in the Assembly, check out this and this about Senator Tom Reynolds, a Wauwatosa Republican who even right-wing radio talk show host Charlie Sykes calls a "nut job." Reynolds once proposed creating a private Autobahn next to I-94 where drivers could drive as fast as they want for a fee. Now he's one of three legislators working to end election-day voter registration, a longstanding tradition in Wisconsin that is widely credited for higher than average voter turnout in the state.
Then there's the revelation that an aide to another state senator made more than 200 calls during work hours on a state phone to a campaign worker for Menomonee Falls municipal candidates the aide supported. Phone records show that the aide to River Hills Republican Alberta Darling, Chris Slinker, also put in a call to an Appleton print shop that produced campaign materials for Menomonee Falls trustee candidates.
You'd think the fact that five of the most powerful politicians in Wisconsin face criminal trials for misusing state offices and taxpayer money in this same way would serve as a cautionary tale for staffers like Slinker, who now plans to challenge fellow Republican Sue Jeskewitz for the Assembly seat she currently holds in a 2006 GOP primary. Indeed, Slinker says "I would have to be a complete idiot to (do campaign work) from the office."
Like Forrest Gump's mama used to tell him, "stupid is as stupid does."