It has been nearly a week since Republican Speaker Robin Vos sent Fitchburg Democratic Representative Jimmy Anderson, who is paralyzed, a letter saying he has been denied the right to call in to Assembly committee meetings.
Anderson told WTMJ's John Mercure Wednesday on Wisconsin's Afternoon News that he will reach out again to the Speaker, who has refused to communicate with Anderson since the letter on Thursday. Anderson will also look to his fellow Assembly members for assistance.
“Right now, I'm being excluded,” Anderson said to Mercure.
“We're going to be reaching out (Thursday), in fact, to ask the rest of my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly to encourage Speaker Vos to listen to the spirit of the ADA and provide these accommodations. We're hoping with our colleagues' pressure, we'll be able to get Speaker Vos to finally allow for these accommodations.”
Anderson also explained that Democratic members of the Assembly have given their support, and so have registered Republicans and conservatives who are not part of the Assembly. However, the GOP in the Assembly has been silent to him about this issue.
“I haven't heard from any of my Republican colleagues. My Democratic colleagues have all been really supportive, and I hate that this issue has been made partisan by the fact that, I think, Speaker Vos has maybe encouraged his colleagues to not say anything. I don't know, but it's been really sad not to hear from them.”
Vos tells Anderson that he can't change the Assembly meeting rule “by fiat” and the full Assembly would have to vote. However, Vos reiterated his opposition to allowing lawmakers to phone into committee meetings, a practice that's not allowed in many other state legislatures but that the Wisconsin Senate does permit.
The Speaker has told Anderson he can watch videotaped committee meetings, but that does not allow him the same right able-bodied members of the Assembly have to communicate their thoughts about particular legislation being proposed.
“We're short-changing the people of Wisconsin by not allowing me to be able to participate in these hearings,” said Anderson.
“Not only that, but imagine how my constituents feel. They want me there. They elected me to be there, to be their representative, to be their voice.”
If the Speaker does not respond and reconsider, Anderson says legal action may be his next step.
“I'm really hoping that (Thursday), putting my Republican and Democratic colleagues, having them put their name on the line, that maybe we can get Speaker Vos to do the right thing. If he doesn't, probably next week, we'll look at filing a lawsuit. If there are any proceeds that come from the ADA lawsuit, they will all go to disability rights organizations.”
WTMJ's John Mercure has reached out to Speaker Vos on each weekday for more than a week since the story came out. Speaker Vos has refused to respond on the matter.