Empower Wisconsin | July 22, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Did Gov. Tony Evers’ veto compromise security at the State Capitol?
It appears the damage from last month’s Capitol Square riots could have been minimized had he put his veto pen down.
Last year, the Democrat issued 78 line-item vetoes before signing the state’s biennial budget.
One of those provisions would have required the state Department of Administration to study the security and safety of the State Capitol and Capitol grounds “in consultation with the city of Madison Police Department.”
The budget item, included in the $84 billion budget passed by the Republican-led Legislature, required a report to be submitted to the governor and the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2020. The report was supposed to include recommendations for “ensuring safety and security” of “visitors to and employees who work in the building as well as for people attending and participating in events on and around the Capitol.”
In his veto message, Evers claimed he was protecting privacy.
“While I strongly support ensuring the safety of visitors and employees who come to the State Capitol, I object to releasing information about potential security vulnerabilities in a public report as it would negate the very efforts of this study,” the governor wrote.
“In addition, it is already the duty of the Division of Capitol Police to ensure the safety and security of all state employees, legislators and visitors to the State Capitol.”
The Capitol Police, as we now know, did a real bang-up job protecting state employees, legislators and visitors as officers cowered inside the Statehouse while the mob smashed the building’s windows, dragged down iconic statues and beat the hell out of a state senator.
“What Gov. Evers said to me is, he kept the Capitol Police inside the building, as the protesters were breaking out the windows, to protect the building,” state Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) told Empower Wisconsin.
Felzkowski said she spoke to the governor on Thursday, June 25, the day after the riots came to an end.
“He said, “Mary, we’d still be looking for the rioters today (on that Thursday) in the Capitol. They’d be hiding all over,’” Felzkowski said. “He was very proud of what he did and felt it was justified.”
Sources also have told Empower Wisconsin that Madison police were ordered to stand down and stay away from protesters carrying out their violent rampage, even as they firebombed Madison’s City-County Building.
The original motion creating the Capitol security study was submitted by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren, co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
Evers wasn’t interested.
“I am, therefore, vetoing this provision, but am directing the Division of Capitol Police to review and update, if necessary, its existing plans for the security and safety of the State Capitol, including input from the Madison Police Department,” he wrote at the time.
It’s not clear if Capitol Police have found it necessary to review and update its existing plans.