MADISON -- Wisconsin Assembly debate over the $73 billion, two-year spending plan was halted Wednesday afternoon, July 8th, and the Capitol had to be evacuated due to a 'credible bomb threat' to the building. Shortly after 5:30 p.m., Capitol police gave the 'all clear,' and debate resumed.
In all, the Capitol was closed for about an hour-and-a-half Wednesday. Not only did the bomb threat disrupt critical debate over the budget, it also threatened to stop the music at a summer concert outside the Capitol.
The Senate passed the two-year spending plan late Tuesday night, shortly before midnight.
The Assembly was debating Wednesday afternoon when...
"We got word from the Capitol police that there was a threat and the building had to be evacuated," Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) said.
Capitol police tell FOX6 News a "credible bomb threat" was made, prompting a full evacuation of not only the building, but the grounds surrounding the Capitol.
"I would assume it was some type of person who is sort of deranged. I can`t see anyone who would want to interfere with democracy," Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) said.
"All the people from the Capitol were coming out. We figured maybe there was a meeting that got over with," Jerry Rodefeld said.
Like hundreds of others, Rodefeld had staked out his spot on Capitol Square hours before a weekly concert was set to begin.
"A lot of things like that happen a lot of the time -- especially in Madison," Rodefeld said.
Bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in, and everyone was forced to move to the other side of the street. It prompted a sort of bipartisan bond in the process.
"Members of both parties took time to re-engage in social activities. A few of us had a beer together," Rep. Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee) said.
Still, many amendments to the budget were proposed by Assembly Democrats, including those impacting K-12 education and recycling grants, but they were rejected.
Republicans said Wednesday they were ready for a long night of debate.
"Our budget is incredibly important. It is going to pass tonight. We`re proud of what`s in the document," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.
Capitol police are releasing no further information about this threat as they continue to investigate.
The Assembly is prepared to debate the budget until at least 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Time is set aside Thursday and Friday if needed.
FOX6 News is learning more about why the Senate took up the budget first -- rather than the Assembly. According to one lawmaker, it's because Senator Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) had plane tickets to Mexico, and he didn't want to push the trip back.