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2015-16 Legislature: Printable directory | Leadership rosters | New faces


Thursday, July 2, 2015

 5:33 PM 

Majority leader notices members Assembly will be in Wednesday and Thursday

The office of Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke has notified members they will be in Wednesday and Thursday.

Here's the text of the email:

The Assembly will be in session on Wednesday, July 8th and Thursday, July 9th.

A calendar will be distributed on Tuesday, July 7th.

It is our intention to convene earlier than the normal 1:00 start time on both days.
We will notify you of the actual start times as soon as possible.

Please keep Friday, July 10th open in the event it is needed to finish our work.


 7:51 PM 

Cops handcuff two protesters

There was a brief disturbance in the Senate gallery that resulted in two protesters being handcuffed.

A woman could be heard yelling "Get your hands off me!" in the gallery.

She could then be seen in the hallway outside the gallery, and police officers asked to see her ID. She refused saying, "This is so God damned ridiculous."

Another protester was filming with his cell phone when he was approached by officers and handcuffed as well.





 7:49 PM 

Variable rate loan bill headed to guv's desk

The Senate has signed off on legislation that would allow community banks to offer variable-rate loans.

Backers have argued federal banks already have that power, and the playing field should be leveled for those operating inside Wisconsin.

The bill passed on a voice vote.


 7:38 PM 

Senate approves abortion ban

The Senate signed off 19-14 along party lines on legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks along party lines.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, predicted the legislation would be overturned in the courts if signed into law, while Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, read a letter from a woman who 22 years ago had to travel to another state to get an abortion for a baby who was severely deformed, would likely die and the pregnancy posed a risk to her own life. The letter said the woman was given no information about abortion at the hospital, and had to seek out information at Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said bill was "shameful and insulting" and railed against the lack of exemptions for rape, incest or health of the mother.

"The last person who should be making choices for women and their doctors in anyone in this room," Taylor said.

But Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, rejected the argument it should be an option to terminate a pregnancy so late because the infant may have a birth defect.

"Can you in good conscience look the disability community in the eye and say their lives should have been snuffed out in utero because they were not perfect?" she asked.

Sen. Mary Lazich, the bill’s co-author, compared the Dems’ rhetoric to what was said when Congress banned partial-birth abortions more than a decade ago. She said critics then predicted women’s health would be compromised and some would die. But she said neither has happened.

She said the legislation was carefully crafted to prevent elective abortions at the time a child can feel pain.

“It’s a sad day when the Senate cannot stand united against the intentional infliction of pain on humans without a voice,” she said.


 6:22 PM 

Erpenbach amendment tabled

The Senate voted along party lines to table Erpenbach's amendment, which would add an exemption for the health of the mother in addition to the life of the mother.

Before the vote, several Democrats spoke, challenging the current wording of the bill and voicing support for the amendment.

Sens. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and Janice Ringhand, D-Evansville, shared stories of people who had to make the decision whether to terminate a late pregnancy due to complications.

Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said the original bill did not protect the life of the mother and that Lazich's amendment fails to protect the life and health of the mother.

Looking at roughly a dozen empty seats, Bewley said she was disappointed that Republicans did not want to hear testimony.

Lazich reiterated that fetuses at 20 weeks can feel pain.

She also responded to Erpenbach over him questioning the term "post-fertilization," saying it is an accepted term.

She said physicians can use reasonable medical judgement in determining whether an emergency exists that would allow the pregnancy to be terminated.

She said Erpenbach's amendment is broad and "would allow pain to be inflicted on children."

- By David Wise


 6:18 PM 

Assembly OKs ambulance bill


The Assembly concurred SB 182, the companion bill to AB 249, which would slightly loosen the licensing requirements for out-of-state ambulance providers.

The bill would exempt out-of-state ambulance providers from Wisconsin licensing if those companies make 10 or fewer trips in the state per year and if those trips originate and end in Wisconsin. An amendment to the bill added EMS and first responders to the exemption.

The bill cleared the Assembly’s Health Committee with a 9-3 vote. Opponents of the bill in committee argued that it makes more sense to create reciprocity agreements between states so the benefits the bill would bestow on, say, an Illinois company would be returned to a provider in Wisconsin working across the state line.

Opponents also questioned the decision to go with 10 trips, arguing it is an arbitrary number.


 6:06 PM 

Assembly approves mandatory-minimum bill

Violent felons who illegally possess firearms would face mandatory-minimum sentences under a bill that passed the Assembly on a voice vote.

The bill had bipartisan sponsorship.

AB 220 would change current law, which sets maximum penalties of $25,000 and 10 years in prison for people who have a gun when their criminal history prohibits such possession. That prohibition applies to those convicted of felonies, found not guilty by reason of mental disease or were judged delinquent for an act that would be a felony as an adult.

Under the bill, an individual who was convicted of a violent felony and then was found in possession of a gun would face at least three years of prison. If an individual convicted of a violent felony possessed a gun while committing violent felonies, that person would face a minimum of eight years in prison.

An amendment proposed by Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, would lift the mandatory minimums for violent felons who go five years without committing a new violent felony or violent misdemeanor.

The bill, which passed the Assembly’s Corrections Committee on a 6-3 party line vote, includes a sunset of July 1, 2020, to provide an opportunity to measure the bill’s effect on gun crimes in the state.


 5:38 PM 

Erpenbach offers amendment to add exemption for mother's health

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, offered an amendment to the 20-week abortion ban that in addition to the life of a mother, would add an exemption for a mother's health, which he said is just as important. 

He said that the present bill requires a woman to be "at death's door" to end a pregnancy after 20 weeks. 

"You act like there is just one life at stake here; there's two," he said, adding that a mother like has children and other responsibilities at home. 

He said the wording of the "life of the mother" language would resulting in doctors having to have lawyers on hand when deciding whether an emergency is serious enough to legally abort a fetus after 20 weeks. 

Erpenbach said no medical organizations in the state agrees fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. He said the bill would force people to have c-sections and to force abortions before 20 weeks. 

He also questioned the term "post-fertilization" in the bill, which he said is not a medical term and is not defined in the bill.

Erpenbach said the legislation has been rushed and is "full of holes" and "destined for court," which he said would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

"It will pass, it will go to court, and it will lose," he said.




 5:21 PM 

WEDC resolution fails

The Dems' resolution requesting WEDC documentation on certain loans failed on a 63-36 party line vote.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, agreed the agency should be held accountable but not in a way designed to score political points.

"Let's agree to stop making job creation and economic development in our state political," he said.

The resolution discussion used up all of the time allotted for AB 220, which sets mandatory-minimum sentences for violent felons found in possession of firearms.


 5:14 PM 

Senate debates 20-week abortion ban

Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling kicked off the abortion bill debate by accusing Republicans of bringing up the legislation to distract from negative headlines on the budget and state’s economy.

She also charged they were trying to interfere in the personal health decisions of women that should only be up to them and their doctors, not politicians.
“We should not force dangerous political ideologies on countless families across our state who face agonizing personal health care decisions,” Shilling said. “We should not prevent doctors from delivering the best possible health care, and we should not jeopardize the lives of women in our state.”

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, cited several studies suggesting fetuses at 20 weeks or earlier can feel pain. Due to this, she said, the state has a "rational, thoughtful and compelling" interest in regulating abortions after 20 weeks. Lazich said the bill is not about preventing abortions in the case of rape or incest, saying those abortions occur early on in the pregnancy. 

"This is about stopping late-term, elective abortions," Lazich said, comparing the bill to a ban on post-viability abortions and partial-birth abortions. 

She also read testimony from a doctor who handles troubled pregnancy who said that while he has had to terminate pregnancies early, in no case has he every had to deliberately kill a fetus in order to save the life of a mother. Lazich cited cases in which doctors had diagnosed unborn children with serious disorders who turned out to be healthy. She noted that even when children are born with deadly disorders, the hospice process gives families time to cope with the loss rather than the "cold" procedure of abortion. 

"We have a responsibility in this civilized society to protect children from pain," Lazich said.


 4:41 PM 

Senate back, approves Lazich amendment on abortion bill

The Senate is back and has approved via voice vote an amendment from bill co-author Sen. Mary Lazich.

Lazich's office said it would clarify doctors would be required to treat the medical emergency the mother was facing while simultaneously terminating the pregnancy in the method most likely to preserve the fetus’ life.

According to Lazich’s office, some lawyers in Leg Council interpreted the original language in the bill to prioritize the child. Lazich’s office disputed the interpretation, but proposed the amendment for clarity.


 4:41 PM 

Assembly takes up WEDC resolution

The Assembly has suspended rules, and Dems are discussing a resolution that WEDC provide information to the Legislature in the next seven days.

Dems are saying the resolution is a matter of fiscal responsibility. They want WEDC to provide full records of unsecured loans, those issued over concerns of underwriters and those for which documentation is incomplete or missing.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Priairie, said WEDC is "an unmitigated disaster."

"This resolution is simple," he said. "Let's get the information."

Discussion about the resolution is eating into the time allotted for AB 220 debate. That bill establishes mandatory-minimum sentences for violent felons found in possession of firearms. AB 220 has sponsors from both sides of the aisle.


 4:20 PM 

Assembly returns to military fraud bill

The Assembly returned to a bill that would make it a crime to falsely claim military service or honors.

The bill was concurred.

The Assembly already had passed a version of the bill, but the Senate amended it, adding Bronze Star to the list of falsely claimed medals that would lead to a class A misdemeanor. If a person makes the claim with the intent of aiding a crime, that person would be committing a class H felony.


 4:11 PM 

Assembly signs off on tweaks to election recount fees

The Assembly concurred on SB 96, which would tweak the rules and payments for election recounts.

SB 96 is a companion to AB 124.

Essentially, AB 124 would make it harder for someone to get an election recount free of charge.

Current law allows for no charges to a petitioner if the vote difference is less than 10 and 1,000 or fewer votes were cast or if the difference is 0.5 percent or less when more than 1,000 votes are cast.

The law also requires a $5 per ward recount cost if the difference in votes is at least 10 when fewer than 1,000 ballots are cast or between 0.5 and 2 percent if more than 1,000 votes are cast. The law requires the petitioner pay the full cost of a recount if the difference exceeds 2 percent when more than 1,000 votes are cast.

The bill would do away with the $5 category and tweak the thresholds so a recount free of charge would kick in only if there were fewer than 10 votes separating the winner and loser in an election in which 4,000 or fewer ballots were cast. Under any other circumstance, the petitioner would pay for the recount but would receive a refund if the recount overturns the election results.

The bill passed the Assembly’s Campaigns and Elections Committee with a 5-3 party line vote.


 4:08 PM 

Opioid prescription bill gets Assembly's OK

The Assembly concurred on SB 74, the companion bill to AB 96, which would let qualified optometrists prescribe controlled substances containing opioids.

Optometrists now can prescribe only schedule III, IV and V controlled substances, and they can do so only if they qualify under Department of Safety and Professional Services rules. The bill retains the DSPS qualification but expands the types of substances that can be prescribed.

AB 96 passed the Assembly’s Health Committee on an 8-3 vote.

Opponents in committee argued the bill reverses the actions of the Federal Drug Administration, which in August rescheduled opioids from a schedule III to a schedule II, meaning under optometrists no longer could prescribe those substances. The bill, opponents have said, makes it easier to abuse the drugs.

But bill backers have said optometrists had been able to prescribe the substances for about 25 years prior to the FDA change.


 3:50 PM 

Barca pushes Assembly WEDC resolution

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca failed in introducing a privileged resolution calling on WEDC to submit to the Legislature within seven days full records on certain agency loans.

Barca, D-Kenosha, said he has waited three weeks for WEDC officials to give him documents about a $500,000 unsecured loan to a Milwaukee construction owned by someone who had given the maximum campaign donation to Gov. Scott Walker, chair of the WEDC board.

"I would hope every member of this body would take our responsibilities seriously," Barca said.

The resolution would require the quasi-public agency submit records and documents on any unsecured WEDC loans, loans issued over concerns of underwriters and those for which underwriting is missing or not complete.

Barca said if there is a problem with one loan, there could be problems with others.

But the resolution was found not to be privileged, meaning it could not be introduced on the floor.


 3:29 PM 

Assembly clears bill letting active, off-duty, former officers carry guns in schools

The Assembly concurred on SB 70, the companion bill to AB 46, which would let off-duty and qualified former law enforcement officers carry firearms on or near school grounds.

Current law prohibits people from carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school but exempts law enforcement officers acting in their official capacity. The bill’s added exemptions restore the law as it existed prior to enactment of the 2011 Concealed Carry Act.

Under the bill, a qualified law enforcement officer includes those who actively work for agencies outside of Wisconsin.

An amendment to the bill would let law enforcement officers carry firearms into schools even if they have posted gun prohibition signs.


 3:23 PM 

Assembly approves eliminating 48-hour wait on gun purchases

The Assembly concurred on SB 35, the companion bill to AB 49, which would eliminate the 48-hour waiting period for firearms purchases.

Under current law, firearms dealers must request the Department of Justice conduct a background check of people who want to purchase firearms. Then those dealers must wait 48 hours after receiving notice that DOJ received the request before handing over the weapon to the purchaser.

Under the bill, which passed the Assembly’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on an 8-4 party line vote, the dealer no longer would have to wait 48 hours after learning the purchaser is not prohibited from buying the weapon. But the bill also was amended to allow up to five days, rather than three under law, to conduct the background check.

Committee member Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said yesterday the bill raises concerns because quick access to guns without the wait period removes any cooling-off time in cases of domestic violence or suicide. The lack of the wait period, he said, also makes it easier to perform straw purchases, in which one person goes through the background check and then immediately sells the gun over to someone else.

On the floor today, Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, echoed Goyke's concerns about how those 48 hours could curb domestic violence.

"That could be enough time to mean the difference between life and death," she said.


 3:17 PM 

Senate approves allowing munis to post legal notices on their websites and one public place

The Senate approved via voice vote allowing municipalities to post legal notices on their websites and in one public place.

Currently, municipalities generally publish in a newspaper a legal notice likely to be viewed by those affected they meet certain requirements regarding timing and placement of the notices. They also must post the notice in at least three public places.

Under the bill, they could post the notice in one public place and publish the notice on the municipality's web site.

Editor's note: The post has been updated to remove an erroneous reference to posting notices in newspapers.



 3:11 PM 

Assembly digs into 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases

Dems are speaking out against SB 35, the companion bill to AB 49, which would eliminate the 48-hour waiting period for firearms purchases.

Rep. Leon Young, D-Milwaukee, said there have been more than 2,200 shootings in his city since 2012, and he does not want anything approved that would add to that number.

"I am very concerned about the direction we are going as a body," he said.

Several Dems have argued that eliminating the "cooling-off period" would make it easier to commit domestic violence crimes.

But Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, said the opposite is true, She told of a recent night when she went out to a local restaurant with her boys. She said someone called the restaurant looking for her,k and that person knew what she and her two boys were wearing.

Kerkman said she had not spoken to anyone, and the call made her change her plans for the night, call the police and go home. It also led her to take a concealed-carry class and shop for guns.

"I want to be able to protect myself and protect my family," she said.


 3:03 PM 

Senate backs new immunity from civil liability for placing buoys in waterways, equine-assisted therapy

The Senate approved legislation to create immunity from civil lawsuits for those involved in equine activities and placing buoys or other markets in waterways.

SB 110, which passed on a voice vote, would shield those who hold, or act under that person’s direction, a permit from the DNR to place buoys or markers to mark hazards in a waterway. That immunity would not extend to someone who acted intentionally to cause the damage or injury. 

Dems complained the bill was drafted in such a way that subcontractors of a lake association would also be immune from liability even if they acted negligently. They said that went beyond the original intent of the bill.

Current law provides immunity from civil liability to those who participate in equine activities if someone else is injured or killed. That protection is not extended to those who knowingly provide equine equipment they know or should have known was faulty, acts with wanton disregard, or intentionally causes injury or death. 

SB 126 would extend that immunity to equine-assisted therapy and was approved via voice vote.


 2:39 PM 

Senate approves bill allowing off-duty, former, out-of-state officers to carry guns in school zones

The Senate approved legislation to off-duty, former and out-of-state police officers from gun-free school zone laws if they meet certain requirements over Dem objections.

Some Dems suggested officers, for example, should have to check in with school administrators if they are on school property and carrying a concealed weapon and objected to applying the legislation to out-of-state officers. But those were rejected by Republicans, and the bill cleared 22-11.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, noted the last time he gave a speech at a school, he had to sign in, tell administrators why he was there and was ushered to the room.

“Here, this bill says if you have a gun, you don’t have to go through that rigmarole,” he said.

Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said that would defeat the purpose of the bill because others would know those who were armed were in the building. He said gun-free zones make schools “islands” and suggested things may have turned out differently in the Columbine school shooting 16 years ago if an armed officer would have been present.

“The bad guys don’t check in,” Wanggaard said. “They’re carrying guns to school every day.”

Officers would have to meet certain requirements to carry on school grounds. That includes, for example, an off-duty officer being authorized to carry a firearm and could not be subject to any disciplinary action by the agency that could result in suspension or loss of authority.

Editor's note: The original vote was 22-10 with Sen. Jon Erpenbach out of the room during the roll call. He received unanimous consent to be added as a no vote.


 2:32 PM 

Wood stove bill clears Assembly

A bill directing the DNR to not comply with the EPA’s newest wood stove regulations cleared the Assembly on a 63-35 vote.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, the EPA establishes regulations to limit air pollution and then delegates the implementation and enforcement authority to states. In March, the federal agency enacted new regulations for wood stoves.

The bill, though, would direct the DNR to stick with the previous wood stove regulations rather than adopting the EPA’s new rules.

Sam Hope, research assistant to bill author Rep. David Craig, R-Big Bend, said yesterday that if the bill passes, the EPA could find the state out of compliance and revoke its self-implementation permit for regulations. But, Hope said, Michigan and Missouri already have passed similar laws, and the EPA has not responded to those actions.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said on the floor that the state should not risk losing that authority.

"This bill just makes it so we lose control about keeping our air clean," she said.

AB 25 cleared the Assembly’s Environment and Forestry Committee with an 8-5 party line vote.


 2:26 PM 

First gun bill passes

A bill that establishes guidelines for the return of seized firearms to their owners cleared the Assembly on a voice vote.

Under AB 13, a person can apply for the return of a seized firearm, and the court must return it if one of these conditions is met: all charges connected with the seizure are dropped; six months have passed since the seizure and no charges have been filed; the person is found not guilty of the charges associated with the seizure; the person establishes no prior knowledge or consent relating to the crime that prompted the seizure; or the DA declines to file charges.

A sub amendment to the bill clarifies that there must be a hearing associated with the return of the property.

The Assembly’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee passed the bill 8-4 along party lines. Dems in the committee argued there is not a problem that needs to be solved and that it is unwise to remove the discretion of judges when deciding whether to return seized firearms.


 1:42 PM 

Senate approves appointment of Walker campaign chair's son to Board of Regents along party lines

The Senate voted along party lines to confirm the son of Gov. Scott Walker's campaign chair to the UW Board of Regents.

Dems raised concerns that Michael M. Grebe, the executive vice president and general counsel for HUSCO, did not have the university's best interests at heart, saying he supports a $250 million cut in state aid to the system while using the appointment to question a series of changes the guv proposed to things like tenure.

Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said putting more of Walker's friends and campaign donors on the board would weaken it.

"We need a Board of Regents that will stand up to Governor Walker," she said.

The appointment cleared the Senate 19-14. After the results were announced, a member of the gallery yelled, "That is an outrage! You’re killing Wisconsin."

President Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, asked to have the person removed.

The body also voted along party lines to confirm the re-appointment of Rodney Pasch to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. No senator stood to express opposition to the appointment, but a Shilling aide members "had concerns about his mishandling of issues important to Wisconsin families."

The other appointments cleared the Senate without opposition. That includes the re-appointment to the Board of Regents of Andrew Petersen, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, and and appointment of James Langnes, the new student appointee.


 11:20 AM 

Senate approves resolution honoring life of state trooper killed in line of duty, recesses for reception

The state Senate approved a resolution honoring the life of Wisconsin Trooper Trevor Casper, who was killed in March while trying to arrest a robbery suspect.

His family was on hand to receive the award, flanked by law enforcement officers, and the Senate gave them a standing ovation before recessing until 1 p.m.

There was a short reception planned for Casper's family in the Senate Parlor.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

 3:40 PM 

Testimony is done

Testimony is complete on Assembly and Senate bills that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

The meeting is adjourned. An exec on the proposal is scheduled for Thursday.


 3:06 PM 

Bill critic snaps at Vukmir

A woman who criticized the bill and those who support it had a sharp exchange with committee Char Sen. Leah Vukmir.

The woman told the committee that the bill does not help people avoid pain, nor, she said, does taking money away from Planned Parenthood or many other things the GOP-led Legislature has done.

Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, interrupted the speaker to ask if her testimony was about the bill. The woman shot back that it was, that she had three minutes to speak and that she intended to use it.

"I would remind you," the woman told Vukmir, "that I pay your salary, madam."

The woman drew a round of applause at the end of her testimony, prompting Vukmir to caution people about the "outbursts."


 2:52 PM 

Rape victim testifies against bill

A woman who said her first sexual encounter was when she was drugged and raped said women deserve the right to decide whether to have an abortion, even if that's after 20 weeks.

She said that rape led to a pregnancy and abortion. She now has children and grandchildren, she said, and wants to be sure they will have the same freedom to choose that she did.

"I deserved the right to terminate that pregnancy," she said.


 2:09 PM 

Baby announcement

Rep. Paul Tittl's daughter just had her third child.

Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, stopped the hearing on banning abortions after 20 weeks to make the announcement.

Tittl, R-Manitowoc, got a round of applause.


 12:16 PM 

WI Medical Society opposes bill

Dr. Tosha Wetterneck, speaking on behalf of the Wisconsin Medical Society, challenged the bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

"We can't allow this to happen," she said. "It's not acceptable."

She said abortions are performed after 20 weeks when there are severe fetal abnormalities, which are easiest to spot near the 20-week mark. If the bill passes, she said, doctors would be hamstrung.

"It lowers the quality of care we can provide to women in the state," she said.

Wetterneck also said babies do not feel pain at 20 weeks, despite studies bill backers have cited that say otherwise.

"Individual physicians can have individual opinions," she said, adding that peer-reviewed medical literature supports her claim.

Committee members Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, disagreed. Kremer once again cited reports that claim there is pain at 20 weeks.








 12:04 PM 

Bill to get exec Thursday

Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, confirmed the bill banning abortions after 20 weeks will get an exec Thursday and could reach the Senate floor next week.


 11:42 AM 

Erpenbach, Lazich spar

Frustration rose as Sen. Jon Erpenbach repeatedly asked Sen. Mary Lazich to say which life is more important in a medical emergency, the mother's or the baby's.

The Middleton Dem was trying to illustrate the legal risks for doctors and the choices they would have to make under the bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. "Medical emergencies" are not defined in the bill, though it allows an exception for abortions performed after 20 weeks in those situations.

But Lazich, R-New Berlin, would not pick between the mother and baby.

"It's reasonable medical judgment in a specific situation," she said.

Erpenbach's frustration was obvious.

"I just want a simple answer," he said, "and I can't get it."


 11:18 AM 

Dems question authors on medical emergency

Committee Dems are questioning the bill's authors about what constitutes a medical emergency.

The bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks includes an exception for women who are experiencing a medical emergency. It also would assess penalties up to $10,000 and 3 1/2 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks, unless there is a "medical emergency."

Committee member Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said it should stand to reason that the bill would define "medical emergencies."

"Is there a certain percentage risk that we need to hit?" she said.

Bill author Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said decisions about medical emergencies will be determined by doctors. But she confirmed that those doctors could face fines or prison.

"There are penalties if a physician uses unreasonable medical judgments," Lazich said.

 


 10:38 AM 

Lazich, Kremer focus on pain

Sen. Mary Lazich and Rep. Jesse Kremer are arguing that their Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is simply a way for society to act responsibly.

Both pointed to documentation that shows unborn children experience pain at 20 weeks.

"The bill seeks to protect babies from the pain of late-term abortion procedures," Kremer said.


 10:13 AM 

There's the gavel

The Senate and Assembly Health committees have started a public hearing on several bills, including those that would prevent abortions after 20 weeks has started.

The room is packed for testimony on those bills, AB 237 and SB 179. But first up is a hearing on AB 249, which would provide a licensing exemption for certain out-of-state ambulance service providers.


 10:04 AM 

Advocates of 20-week abortion ban state case

Doctors, parents and lawmakers today spoke in favor of a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Each speaker emphasized that unborn children can feel pain at 20 weeks and that the goal of the bill is to prevent abortions at a point when unborn children can suffer.

"This is something that a civilized society has a responsibility to do," said Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin. Lazich is the author of the Senate version of the bill.

She made a point of saying that the bill has been mischaracterized as preventing abortions in cases of incest and rape. But those abortions generally happen much earlier in a pregnancy, she said, and the bill would not affect those abortions.

Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, said he wrote the Assembly version of the bill because, as a father, war veteran and EMT, he wants to prevent suffering.

"I feel I have an emotional attachment," he said, "and I want to help people."


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

 5:20 PM 

Standalone or budget?

Committee Chairman Andre Jacque said after the exec that Gov. Scott Walker's announcement that he would sign prevailing wage repeal legislation is a potential "game-changer."

The De Pere Republican said he expects there soon will be a GOP caucus discussion about whether AB 32 is headed to the budget or if it will be standalone legislation.

"We'll see what takes place with a rapidly evolving issue," Jacque said.



 5:13 PM 

Prevailing wage repeal clears committee

The Assembly's Labor Committee approved AB 32 with a 5-4 vote.

Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, joined committee Dems in opposing the bill, which would repeal the state, local and highway prevailing wage.

Committee member Rep. John Kulp, R-Stratford, caused a moment of tension by pausing before voting in favor of the bill. Kulp had said earlier he was not looking forward to the vote.


 5:07 PM 

Sinicki speaks again, Kuglitsch groans

Rep. Christine Sinicki is speaking for the second time against repeal of prevailing, prompting a groan from Rep. Mike Kuglitsch.

The groan followed Chairman Andre Jacque announcing that all three Dems on the committee wanted to comment.

Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, called out Kuglitsch on the groan. The New Berlin Republican said it was his stomach.


 4:52 PM 

Kulp a reluctant yes vote for repeal

Committee member Bob Kulp, a co-sponsor of AB 32, said he is not excited about the upcoming vote but that he will side with repeal.

"Frankly, this is a vote I would rather not take today," the Stratford Republican said.

Kulp, a roofing contractor, said he has heard mixed reactions to repeal from construction companies in his district. He said full passage of repeal will disrupt the construction industry for years until the market corrects itself.

If it doesn't pass, Kulp said, he hopes there could be discussion about "meaningful reform."

"I'm going to make enemies," he said, "buy a vote one way or another."


 4:44 PM 

Spiros intends to vote against repeal

GOP committee member Rep. John Spiros announced he will vote against repeal of prevailing wage.

Spiros, of Marshfield, said repeal is just not a top issue in his district.

"My vote's going to be no," Spiros said, "because I'm looking at it from a reform standpoint rather than a repeal standpoint."


 4:40 PM 

Jacque defends call for repeal

Committee Chairman Andre Jacque, responding to Dem criticisms of AB 32, defended the push for repeal of prevailing wage.

"Prevailing wage, as it exists now," the De Pere Republican said, "is not something we would create now."

Jacque said prevailing wage has been an important topic for him for years, going back to his days in local government in Green Bay and Brown County.

"This is something that I have heard a lot about from my constituents," he said.

Jacque was responding to Rep. Christine Sinicki, who criticized Jacque for giving only 24 hours notice of the hearing and exec. She said the quick turnaround for the bill is designed to get it into the budget.

"I'm actually amazed at the amount of people who did get wind of it," Sinicki said.


 1:55 PM 

Testimony nears the halfway point

The Assembly Labor Committee is nearing the halfway point of testimony.

Terry McGowan, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, is testifying against repeal of prevailing wage.


 11:52 AM 

Spokeswoman: Walker would sign full repeal of prevailing wage

Gov. Scott Walker, who has been taking criticism from conservatives for not being more engaged in the fight over prevailing wage, would sign a full repeal, a spokeswoman said today.

The announcement comes on the heels of an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that proclaimed Walker "has been silent as he contemplates a White House run" and "Wisconsin Republicans have been losing their reform momentum" since Walker's first term. The editorial was also critical of Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

"Governor Walker has been working with members of the Legislature for weeks on the issue of prevailing wage and would sign a full repeal," spokeswoman Laurel Patrick wrote in an email. "This is one of a number of important issues that he is working with legislators on for the budget."


 11:44 AM 

Construction exec defends prevailing wage

The president of a Menomonee Falls-based construction company is defending the state's prevailing wage, saying it pays for training and helps him find workers who will stick with the company.

Brian Mitchell, president of Choice Construction Companies Inc., said his company is union primarily because of the training. That training, he said, is paid for at least partially through prevailing wages.

If the Legislature passes AB 32 and repeals prevailing wage, Mitchell said, apprentice rates will go down. On top of that, he said, he will have a harder time finding people who are willing to put down roots in a community.

"We seem to be hell-bent on lowering wages," Mitchell said, "and that isn't going to help me attract employees."


 10:49 AM 

Dems question ABC president

Dems are questioning the president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, which commissioned a study prevailing wage repeal proponents use as justification for their position.

That Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance study found, among other things, flaws in the way the state calculates prevailing wages. It also suggested state and local governments could save millions on public projects if prevailing wages more accurately reflected market rates, particularly in northern and rural parts of Wisconsin.

"We believe Wisconsin's system of determining prevailing wage is fundamentally flawed," ABC President John Mielke said during testimony.

Labor Committee Dems pointed out several times that ABC commissioned the study, and Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, said such studies tend to lean toward those who pay for them.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, compared the Taxpayers Alliance report to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo that showed, according to Mason, prevailing wage repeal would have "indeterminate or no state or local effect." Mason questioned why an association that represents businesses would support a bill that would drive down wages and the availability of laborers.

He also called Mielke's viewpoint a "deeply flawed assumption of cost saving, which Fiscal Bureau won't verify."

Mielke said he supports taxpayers paying market rates and that prevailing wages are inflated versions of those rates. He said his organization, which represents many nonunion companies, has been fighting prevailing wage laws for at least 20 years.

"We believe repealing prevailing wage is better for the taxpayer," Mielke said, citing anomalies and instances when unskilled workers make more under prevailing wage laws than skilled employees.



 9:38 AM 

Hutton, Vukmir kick off the testimony

The authors of companion bills calling for full repeal of prevailing wage are first up with testimony.

Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, and Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, are testifying in defense of AB 32 and SB 49. The Senate version of the bill failed to clear a committee earlier this month.

Both authors, citing various studies, are emphasizing the potential to save millions of dollars if prevailing wage is repealed. Vukmir called the state law an "enormous unfunded mandate from state government.

"The issue of prevailing wage is crucial to the fiscal health of local and state governments," she said.

Hutton said prevailing wage discriminates against construction companies that cannot afford to pay an "artificial market rate" on public projects.

"With this legislation," he said, "Wisconsin will join 19 other states free of prevailing wage laws."


 9:27 AM 

Dems question support for bill

The hearing began with Dems questioning whether there is backing in the GOP caucus for full repeal of the state's prevailing wage.

"It's my understanding," said Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, "there is not support to pass full repeal."

And if there isn't support, she said, then a daylong public hearing amounts to a waste of time.

But committee Chairman Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, disagreed.

"I do believe there is support for this," he said, "otherwise I would not be bringing it forward."

Both Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, have said they do not have the votes for full repeal.


 9:07 AM 

Here we go

The Assembly's Labor Committee is calling roll for a public hearing on full repeal of the state's prevailing wage.

The hearing room is packed.


 9:00 AM 

Dems blast push for prevailing wage repeal

Assembly Dems today slammed Labor Committee Republicans for "ramming through" a bill that would repeal the state's prevailing wage.

GOP members of the committee, the Dems said, gave only 24 hours notice on the day after a holiday that there would be a public hearing on repeal, showing that the only goal is to force the bill through in time for inclusion in the budget this week.

"This is about cramming a very controversial bill through as fast as possible," said committee member Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.

He later added that there has been no talk of a substitute amendment that would change the law rather than repeal it.

"This is not a committee that seems set on deliberation," Mason said.

And the timing of the bill could not be worse for the state's middle class, said Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha.

"Now we've got a new idea," he said, "and the new idea is to lower the wages of workers in Wisconsin."

The Labor Committee was scheduled to start a hearing on AB 32 at 9 a.m. The bill would repeal Wisconsin's state, local and highway prevailing wage laws. The committee is scheduled to exec the bill today immediately after the hearing.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

 9:00 AM 

Assembly committee to take up prevailing wage repeal

A bill calling for repeal of the state's prevailing wage will get a public hearing and executive session in the Assembly's Labor Committee tomorrow.

The hearing on AB 32 will kick off at 9 a.m. with the exec to follow. Depending on the number of speakers, the committee chairman could place a time limit on testimony.


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