Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Alberta Darling, from left, and Rep. John Nygren talk with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos before they announce a budget deal expanding private school vouchers statewide, cutting income taxes and raising funding for public schools on Wednesday in Madison.
In January, the state Legislature passed rules about behavior in the gallery to preserve decorum and respectability during meetings and hearings at the State Capitol.
During a Joint Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Joint Finance co-chair, scolded visitors and reminded them that they will be expected to follow rules and comport themselves in an orderly manner.
What he should have been doing is reining in all-night negotiating. Occasional outbursts from the gallery are preferable to the middle-of-the-night practice of approving important pieces of legislation, such as the 2013-15 budget.
The committee started about 11 a.m., voted on Medicaid and then recessed at about 2:50 p.m. Tuesday. It did not resume its hearing until about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday - 10 ½ hours later. It didn't wrap up its action until after 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Such marathon sessions dealing with issues of high public interest and importance should not be allowed to continue. As midnight approached, the committee co-chairs should have moved to continue the meeting the next day. And by the next day we don't mean 12:01 a.m. Restarting at 9 or 10 a.m. would have been reasonable.
The budget bill needs to be approved by July 1, but with Republicans holding an overwhelming majority in the Assembly and a comfortable edge in the Senate, the spending plan faces near rubber-stamp approval. It will pass in plenty of time. Another day spent on the bill would have been OK.
At the Joint Finance level, there is much discussion and dissent. This is where Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget is, for the most part, altered before being presented to the Assembly and Senate. Unfortunately, much of the debate was behind closed doors during the recess and in the middle of the night. It needs to be done in public and at a decent hour.
The Assembly in January approved a Memorandum of Understanding to end all-night legislative sessions. It's too bad that the Joint Finance Committee didn't do the same.