Does halting all-night debate make sense?

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Greg Peck
January 14, 2013

Even this didn’t come easily. After hours of debate last Tuesday, state Assembly leaders on Thursday signed a “memorandum of understanding” designed to eliminate all-night debates. It’s meant to set a new bipartisan tone for the 2013-14 session that began last week.

The memorandum includes several changes. The Rules Committee will set expected debate schedules and times for each measure. Leaders of both parties will limit the number of controversial bills up for discussion on any day. Time limits on speeches will be strictly enforced—two minutes about tabling a bill and 10 minutes total. A clock installed on the Assembly floor will track speaking times.

Other states, including Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, have enacted curfews to avoid debate raging past midnight. Wisconsin’s Legislature, however, might have set a state record in 2011 with a 61-hour nonstop scrum before passing Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for most public workers.

Is this memorandum a good step in the right direction? Are you confident our Assembly representatives can and will abide by these new rules? Some observers might argue that it’s good to let debate continue rather than cut it off at some arbitrary time before everyone has a chance to speak as long as they’d like.

We’ll share our perspective in our editorial Tuesday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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