Madison lawmakers consider bill restricting audio devices in buildings like Green Bay’s City Hall

Madison lawmakers step in
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 8:20 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Green Bay faces ongoing litigation and scrutiny from members of the common council - who say they weren’t told about the devices, prior to them being installed on the first and second floor hallways of City Hall.

The bill, which was introduced by two Republican lawmakers, would only target local and state government buildings. While it doesn’t ban audio recording devices, it does require a lot more public notice, of installed.

While audio recording devices have been disabled at Green Bay City Hall, pending the outcome of litigation, some lawmakers, including Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay), remain concerned.

“It is my hope with the legislation I’m introducing today along with Senator Eric Wimberger that we will finally be able to address this matter and ensure that not another single community in the State of Wisconsin will ever go down this path again,” Steffen said.

The bill proposed by Steffen would force a two-thirds vote of the governing body to authorize installation of audio surveillance - and renew that vote each year. During that process, information about the cost and location of those devices would need to be transparent. Signs would also have to be posted. Furthermore, audio would have to be stored for 240 days, instead of the 120 days, as required by law right now.

“Unlike in the city of Green Bay, where this was done without the knowledge both from a budgetary and disclosure perspective from the common council or citizens, under this law, that could no longer happen. There will be full disclosure on the financing, the installation, and authorization,” Steffen stated.

In a statement, Mayor Eric Genrich responded: “This is yet another example of MAGA Republicans weaponizing government and politicizing public security for their own partisan purposes. We’ll continue to ignore political gamesmanship and instead focus on the safety needs of the community and our employees as we aork with the common council to upgrade security systems and protocols within city facilities.”

Steffen says the bill will be assigned to the criminal justice and public safety committee, which he’s a member of. He’s still hoping for bi-partisan support.