The leader of the Wisconsin Assembly says he takes the needs of people with disabilities seriously, but he has questions about a possible ADA lawsuit from a disabled Democratic lawmaker. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos smacked down state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, Thursday in a hand delivered letter to Anderson’s office.

Anderson told several TV stations this week that he’s considering a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act because Vos will not allow him to call in to Assembly hearings or committee meetings. 

Vos said in the letter that he’s still not heard from Anderson personally. 

“Even though you have not directly made your most recent request for phone access to human resources with the Speaker’s Office, or any of the Assembly standing committees that you serve on, we have received your request via various news outlets,” Vos’ letter stated. “This is an unfortunate way to communicate. It calls in question your seriousness. Instead of resorting to political grandstanding, you could have called my personal cell phone at anytime to discuss this matter.”

Anderson is paralyzed from the waist down. He has said that late night meetings, hearings called on short notice, and meetings where he has to travel are all very difficult for him to attend in person. 

Vos said he is aware of Anderson’s needs, and met with him in 2017 when Anderson was first elected to address those needs. 

Vos’ letter points to the $3,717 microphone that the Assembly bought for Anderson, the reimbursement for Anderson’s aid to get him home each night, and accommodation the Assembly made so that Anderson can vote and take part in floor debate. 

Vos offered to provide a videographer for the meetings that Anderson cannot attend, and said he may ask lawmakers to allow Anderson to vote by paper ballot when he cannot be present in person. 

“As Speaker, I cannot change the rules for standing committees by fiat; the full Assembly must approve the changes,” Vos wrote.

Vos has said since Anderson’s first TV interview that he wants lawmakers to attend hearings and meetings in person as a sign of respect.

The Wisconsin Senate allows senators to call in for meetings. Vos said he’s not a fan of that. 

“I have always been disappointed when I walk into a Senate hearing to see the chairperson surrounded by only phones,” Vos said near the close of his two page letter.  

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.

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