The Wisconsin State Capitol is in Madison, Wis. (Scott Anderson, Patch Staff )

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MADISON, WI — Wisconsin legislators in the Republican-controlled state Assembly and Senate spent more than a half-hour on a resolution to rename the 2019 Holiday Tree, while only spending seconds on gun control measures that polling data suggests are favorable to most Wisconsin residents.

According to information provided to Patch by one Wisconsin state legislator, the Assembly on Tuesday spent 33 minutes and 44 seconds a resolution to change the name of the 2019 Holiday Tree to the Wisconsin State Christmas Tree.

The resolution was called after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers so-named this year’s decorated conifer that stands in the rotunda of the State Capitol building.

Some legislators, like State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) were incensed at the idea of even bringing the resolution up.

“Last week, we were forced to watch as Republicans gaveled in and out of Governor Evers’ Special Session on Gun Violence within fifteen seconds, with absolutely no substantive debate on popular, life-saving measures,” he said in a statement to Patch. “And then yesterday, Republicans literally dedicated a significant amount of legislative floor time to what we should call a tree? Seriously? Is this what the people of Wisconsin elected us to do?”

Others, like Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) took exception to watering down the name of a Christian symbol.

“The governor is playing politics with this, calling it a Holiday Tree. I think being offended would be having the governor going up to the Menorah that is typically displayed in the capital and put a sign in front of it calling it the Holiday candelabra,” he implored Tuesday. “Everybody knows it’s a Christmas tree. Just call it a Christmas tree.”

Here is video from Tuesday’s debate.

The debate over what to call the tree also carried on along religious lines. “Why can’t we respect what every Christian in the world calls it,” Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said during the debate.

Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) who is Jewish, said it’s about not excluding people. “I grew up in a world where it was made clear to me time and time again that I’m in the minority religion as a Jewish woman. That said, I know full when that what sits in the middle of this rotunda is a Christmas tree. I’m not offended that it’s there. I’m not bothered by its mere presence. I think it’s a lovely tradition,” she said. “When we try to officially name it, then it’s exclusive. It’s as though you’re saying, ‘Hey you non-Christian people, we are going to make sure that you and everyone knows that you don’t dare call it by any other name,’ and that is hurtful. Let’s be inclusive and be respectful.”

Wisconsin Gun Control Session Quashed

That figure dwarfs, by comparison, the total amount of effort and energy expended by the legislature just five days prior when Evers called for a special session to take up gun control measures.

Those measures included calling for expanded universal background checks and a second bill to create extreme risk protection orders — also called “red flag laws” for a gun owners judged to be a danger to themselves or others.

A recent Marquette University Law School poll found that at least 80 percent of state residents surveyed were in support of the legislation. Republican legislators publicly opposed the gun control measures.

At the time, Republicans came out strong in opposition of the bills. “Today in a partial answer to a reporter’s question Governor Evers revealed Democrats’ real agenda: taking away firearms that are lawfully owned, which is unacceptable. Wisconsin laws already say if you’re a felon, you lose your right to own a gun. With Governor Evers considering confiscating firearms from law-abiding citizens, it shows just how radical Democrats have become,” Assembly Leader Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) stood alone in the Senate chamber with no other lawmakers present. At just after 8 p.m. on Nov. 7, he gaveled-in the special session. After several seconds, he adjourned the session.

Critics pilloried the Republican-controlled State Senate, calling their efforts equivalent to asking state residents to go “jump in the lake.”

By one legislator’s account, the entire special session took 15 seconds.

The Resolution

Here is the full text of the resolution that was voted upon on Nov. 12

Whereas, the State of Wisconsin respects all religious and cultural customs and is desirous of properly naming the publicly displayed symbols of our state’s diverse holiday traditions out of respect for all traditions;

and Whereas, the decorated tree has been on display in the capitol rotunda annually during the Christmas holiday season since 1916 and has been traditionally referred to as a “Christmas tree”;

and Whereas, the Wisconsin legislature wishes to continue this tradition and join numerous other states and public institutions and millions of American families in celebrating the Christmas holiday season with a Christmas tree;

now, therefore, be it Resolved by the assembly, the senate concurring, That the decorated tree annually displayed in the capitol rotunda during the Christmas holiday season shall be known as the Wisconsin State Christmas Tree.


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