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 6:04 PM 

Rideshare bill clears Assembly

A bill that would create a statewide license for rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft passed the Assembly, 79-19.

Under the bill, a transportation network company can purchase a license to operate in the state. The state Department of Safety and Professional Services would oversee the licensing.

Drivers for the companies are not employees but instead pay the company a fee to be a part of the digital network. The state would not license the driver.

The companies are similar to taxis except drivers hail the rides through cellphone apps and cannot pay cash for the service. The drivers, under the bill, would not be classified in the same way as cab drivers.

Some Assembly Dems sought more regulations, such as vehicle inspections, to ensure consumer protection and put those drivers more in line with cab operators.

"This is just basic stuff," said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. "It's not that hard."

The bill would require background checks on drivers and insurance coverage.

Bill author Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said he has worked on the legislation for a year, and it is a response to the market.

"I think the biggest thing we need to remember is these companies aren't going anywhere," he said.


 5:33 PM 

Rideshare bill debate continues

The Assembly is continuing debate over a bill that would create a statewide license for rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft.

Republicans shot down multiple Dem amendments, such as one that called for the state to pay a portion of rideshare company licensing fees to communities where the businesses operate. 

Two amendments, proposed by Republicans, made the cut. The first related to how the rideshare companies would operate at airports, and the second dealt with, among other things, insurance payments for drivers.

The debate now has shifted to passage of the bill.


 3:19 PM 

Dems push anti-discrimination resolution

Assembly Republicans accused Dems of playing "gotcha" and politics today in introducing an anti-discrimination resolution.

The resolution stems from Indiana's so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law has led to claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation and religion.

Assembly Dems, in the resolution, sought agreement that Wisconsin leaders would not approve or endorse discrimination and would protect all civil rights. And in seeking that agreement, Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, went on the offensive, questioning multiple Republicans about whether they would bring forth legislation similar to that in Indiana.

"We can take comfort in the knowledge that that won't happen here, right?" Jorgensen said.

Several Republicans refused to respond to Jorgensen until Rep. Alvin Ott, R-Forest Junction, fired back, calling the resolution and Jorgensen's questioning "gamesmanship" and "immature." Ott said he does not know if Indiana-style legislation would appear in Wisconsin.

"But I do know you're making a mockery of the issue as you're presenting it today," he said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, also took issue with the resolution and the Dems' approach, particularly what he described as "listening to you berate individuals about introducing a bill."

Vos said the state constitution already protects religious freedoms.

"In the end, it's not going to happen in Wisconsin," Vos said.


 2:44 PM 

Assembly signs off on employee contracts

The Assembly unanimously approved contract agreements the Walker administration reached with the Wisconsin State Attorneys Association and Wisconsin State Building Trades Negotiating Committee.

Both contracts include 1 percent general wage adjustments with retroactive pay to June 29.

Most state employees got pay increases of 1 percent in 2013 and 2014, though the Walker administration is not proposing raises for the next two years.


 2:32 PM 

Assembly unanimous in supporting ag vehicle bill

The Assembly passed with a 99-0 vote a bill that would redefine the statutory weight and size limits for certain agricultural vehicles on highways.

The bill, which clarifies previously passed legislation, would expand increased weight limits for many of those vehicles and allow for more of them to receive no-fee permits for traveling on highways in certain circumstances. The bill also would eliminate width limits for many of the vehicles.

“It’s basically just a cleanup trailer bill,” AB 113 author Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, said before the floor session.


 2:30 PM 

Variable interest-rate bill clears Assembly

Lenders can make variable-rate loans with lower, discounted initial interest rates under a bill the Assembly passed via voice vote.

Current law imposes on variable-rate loans several requirements, including that if rate adjustments correspond to an index, that index must be approved. Those adjustments, under current law, must correspond to the index’s upward and downward changes, except in certain circumstances.

AB 24 grants lenders an additional circumstance during which they can break from an approved index. During the initial interest-rate period, under the bill, provisions of the current law do not apply.

Large, federally sanctioned banks already have that freedom, AB 24 author Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg, said prior to the floor session.

“This levels the playing field for small, community banks,” he said

The bill also eliminates the provision that interest-rate decreases may be limited only if interest-rate increases are limited at least to the same extent.


 2:26 PM 

Assembly passes financial institutions bill

The Assembly approved through voice vote a bill that would prevent people from filing lawsuits against banks, credit unions or savings and loans over financial transactions without having a signed agreement laying out terms of the deal.

The bill, AB 23, would require, among other things, a commitment for a loan or a delay in repayment from a financial institution be in writing, with an authorized signature and terms and conditions laid out, before someone could bring a lawsuit. The Assembly amended the bill by refining the types of institutions and making it clear that the change does not apply to the issuance of credit cards.

But Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, raised bill is a bad idea.

"It allows banks, financial institutions, to use predatory bait-and-switch tactics," he said.

But bill author Rep. David Craig, R-Big Bend, disagreed.

"There are a number of statutes at the federal and state levels that already govern and protect consumers," he said.

The bill does not apply to credit transactions that are subject to the Wisconsin Consumer Act.


 2:06 PM 

Microbeads bill closer to guv's desk

A microbeads prohibition bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote, clearing the way for the proposal to head to the governor’s office.

The bill would ban the manufacture of personal-care products containing microbeads beginning Dec. 31, 2017. It would ban the sale of those products beginning Dec. 31, 2018.

“We set a timeline that works for everyone,” AB 15 co-author Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, said prior to the floor session. The Assembly took up the companion SB 15 during the floor session.

Microbeads are small, nonbiodegradable, plastic particles that are used to give products, such as dental merchandise, an abrasive quality. But they can slip through sewerage district filters and into waterways, raising concerns about pollution and threats to wildlife.

“It’s not often easy to do the right thing environmentally like we are doing today,” AB 15 co-author Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, said before the floor session.


 1:53 PM 

Stolen Valor bill clears Assembly

A bill that would make it illegal to falsely claim military service or honors for personal gain cleared the Assembly on a voice vote.

“This bill really is about protecting those who have protected us,” AB 114 author Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, said prior to the floor session.

Under the bill, a person who makes the false claim is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. The crime becomes a class H felony if the claim is used to commit or aid another crime.

Steffen said a former U.S. Marine in the FBI brought the problem to his attention because federal courts were struggling to process cases that involved such claims.


 12:57 PM 

Transportation advocates call for rejection of Uber bill unless significant changes

Ahead of today's debate on the bill, a coalition of transportation advocates today called on lawmakers to reject legislation that would create a statewide license for rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The Wisconsin Coordinated Transportation Cooperative, led by longtime lobbyist Gary Goyke, argued the bill gives special treatment to companies such as Uber and Lyft while questioning whether the benefits backers claim -- such as increased service options in rural areas -- will come to fruition.

Under the bill, the Department of Safety and Professional Services would oversee the industry, which often operates through smart phone applications that are used to arrange rides. Companies would have to meet certain safety standards, including things like insurance requirements and a zero tolerance policy for drivers using alcohol or other intoxicants while logged into the ridesharing network.

Goyke questioned why oversight was given to DSPS, which the guv wants to merge with another agency, rather than the Department of Transportation. He also the rideshare companies did not face the same requirements as traditional taxi and limousine services for things like insurance and urged lawmakers to take out a provision that would pre-empt local ordinances regulating the industries.

"If rules are the same for all transportation companies in the state regardless of your trendy application, then yes," Goyke said when asked if any changes could be made that would win the group's support.


 3:46 PM 

Assembly passes remedial-classes bill

Despite opposition from Dems, the Assembly cleared a bill that would provide more tracking of high schools whose graduates need to take remedial classes.

AB 56 would require state high school students who take placement tests for the University of Wisconsin System include the names of their schools. The UW System then would be required to submit those high school names to the Legislature to identify the schools of students who must take remedial English and math courses.

"I'm, quite frankly, shocked the information isn't out there already," bill author Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown, said.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said identifying schools is not the solution. Rather, she said, the state budget, rather than cutting aid to schools, should invest in them.

"We should all agree there has to be a better, more efficient way," she said.

An amendment to the bill would require the information also go to the Department of Public Instruction and the relevant school boards.





 3:31 PM 

Red Tape Review bill passes Assembly

A bill that would expedite the process to repeal rules an agency no longer has the authority to promulgate cleared the Assembly despite a push by Dems to narrow the scope.

The bill would give more authority to the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, rather than the Legislature, to approve agency requests to repeal rules. Dems, however, cautioned that the Legislature should not relinquish so much power.

"My fear is what we're doing is taking ourselves out of the process," Rep. Robb Kahl, D-Monona, said, adding that he served on JCRAR.

But bill author Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, said the Legislature still maintains necessary control.

"The legislative component is not reduced," she said.





 2:45 PM 

Vos says he backs UW authority with innovation

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said prior to today's Assembly session that he consistently has supported more authority for the University of Wisconsin System.

Vos was responding to reports that Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, had characterized as on life support a budget proposal to shift authority from the Legislature to the UW System. That shift, according to the proposed budget, would be in exchange for a $300 million cut to the system.

Vos said, though, that he wants to make sure the system uses that authority for innovation rather than just keeping things the same. He said that shift in authority is under review and that he wants to "make sure UW knows what its goals are."

Nygren later said that he agrees with Vos' expectations of a shift in authority.

"The status quo is not what we had in mind," Nygren said.


 1:58 PM 

Speed-limit bill clears Assembly

A proposal to give the Wisconsin Department of Transportation authority to increase the speed limit to 70 mph on freeways and expressways cleared the Assembly.

The increase would not apply until WisDOT posts notification of the change.

The bill, AB 27, passed 76-22 and was sent to the Senate.


 1:40 PM 

Dems target two GOP bills in floor session

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and Rep. Dana Wachs said prior to the floor session today that their primary concerns are AB 56 and AB 80.

AB 56 would require state high school students who take placement tests for the University of Wisconsin System include the names of their schools. The UW System then would be required to submit those high school names to the Legislature to identify the schools of students who must take remedial English and math courses.

"It was beyond us why the Legislature is getting the information and no one else," said Wachs, D-Eau Claire.

But Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown, said prior to the session that an amendment proposed by Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, had been accepted. That amendment, Jagler said, would require the high school names go to standing committees in the Legislature, the Department of Public Instruction and school boards.

AB 80 would create an expedited procedure for agencies to repeal a rule they determine they no longer have the authority to promulgate because of the repeal or amendment of a law.

Barca said Dems do not oppose such a procedure for truly obsolete rules but question why the bill would go further to rules that are deemed unnecessary. He said he wonders who would decide what rules are necessary.


 1:36 PM 

Senate signs off on six Assembly bills, including free liquor samples

The Senate has signed off on six Assembly bills, including one allowing grocery stores to give out free liquor samples, clearing the way for them to hit the guv's desk.

AB 18 would allow one 0.5-ounce sample per person per day.

The other bills approved include:

AB 10, which would give the courts new powers in harassment cases where the abuse happens outside Wisconsin. The proposal would kick in under certain conditions, including when an act or threat that occurred outside the state is part of an ongoing pattern.

AB 11, which would eliminate the newspaper recycling fee and minimum percentage of recycled content in newsprint. Bill supporters say the fee only applies to Wisconsin-based publishers, meaning companies like Gannett don't pay it, and has not been enforced for some time by the DNR because of
difficulties in getting recycled newsprint.

AB 14, which would tweak state law on raffles. See an outline of the changes.

AB 16, which would require DOJ to design a poster displaying information regarding the national human trafficking resource center hotline.

AB 17, which would tweak the requirements to renew a valid certificate of food protection practices, which is required to run a restaurant, for those employing five or fewer food handlers.


 1:29 PM 

Senate approves bill to pause report cards for schools

Wisconsin's schools would not receive a report card evaluating their performance for 2014-15 under legislation the Senate approved via voice vote today.

The Senate also approved an amendment go SB 67 that would allow educator effectiveness evaluations to be performed in the 2014-15 school year, but would prohibit the use of test schools in the reviews.

The legislation stems from concerns over the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The test was designed to replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam and is to be incorporated into the school report cards and teacher evaluations.


 1:24 PM 

Senate signs off on ban of microbeads

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, today praised legislation to ban microbeads, saying it highlights the importance of research.

The bill cleared the Senate and next heads to the Assembly.

It would ban the manufacture of personal care products containing microbeads beginning Dec. 31, 2017. Personal care products containing microbeads would be banned for sale starting Dec. 31, 2018.

"Until the technology exists to stop our water pollution plans from allowing these through the filters, we've got to find a way to get this out of the environment," Cowles said. "This is a step in the right direction."



 1:20 PM 

Dems emphasize importance of extra budget hearings

Saying he is "extraordinarily concerned" about Gov. Scott Walker's budget, Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca today said the nine additional budget hearings Dems scheduled for around the state are essential.

Speaking prior to the Assembly floor session, Barca, D-Kenosha, raised concerns about budget proposals for bonding for roads, cuts to local school districts, cuts to the University of Wisconsin System and "neutering" the DNR's Natural Resources Board, among other things.

"These are huge, major changes that go to the heart of our values," Barca said, "and really the heritage of our state."

Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, also singled out as "disturbing" a budget proposal that would change the structure and oversight of the Government Accountability Board.

"It's almost putting together a perfect storm," Wachs said, "that could do permanent harm to the republic."


 12:56 PM 

Hitt, Neitzel, Wall clear Senate

The Senate has signed off on Gov. Scott Walker's appointments of Scott Neitzel to be DOA secretary, Ed Wall to continue as Corrections secretary and Andrew Hitt to the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority Board.

Neitzel was confirmed 23-7, while the vote on Wall was 29-1.

Hitt was approved along party lines as Dems raised concerns about the appointment considering he is now serving as treasurer of the guv's 527, Our American Revival. Hitt served on the hospital board while working for DOA. After leaving the agency, he became director of operations for ElderSpan Management and is pursuing an MBA in healthcare management at George Washington University through a distance education program. 


 9:02 AM 

Nygren says he wasn't at first excited about bill, but predicts little change for union members

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said he initially wasn't thrilled with a vote on right-to-work, but he predicts little change for union members once it becomes law.

Nygren, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, noted Marinette Marine is in his district and said there's always fear of change. Still, he said for unions doing a great job and providing a true service to their members likely won't see a change.

"The simple principle is they will still have the right to join. They will still have the right to associate with their fellow employees. This isn’t something we should force on them," Nygren said.


 8:13 AM 

Debate on final passage begins

Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, argued the bill was about freedom.

"We stand today for a simple and yet very powerful concept, the concept of worker freedom," Knudson said. "The time has come for Wisconsin to adopt this law."

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, joked if anyone following the debate at home played a game requiring them to drink every time someone said the word "freedom," they would have "cashed out yesterday afternoon."

"I want to say this has nothing to do with freedom, it has nothing to do with choice. It has everything to do with busting. It had everything to do with divide and conquer," Jorgensen said, referencing comments Gov. Scott Walker made in 2010.


 6:50 AM 

Milroy question draws chuckles from the floor

The chair, on multiple occasions during the nearly nine hours spent debating a motion to refer right-to-work to the Small Business Committee, has questioned speakers about what their comments have to do with small business.

Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, asked that question of Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, when he asked August if he took history classes.

When August asked what that had to do with small businesses, Milroy responded that "small businesses are rooted in the history" of the country.

That response drew laughs from the floor and August.


 6:30 AM 

Goyke seeks practical details of right-to-work

The practical, real-world application of right-to-work, Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said, raises several questions about enforcement.

People would need to figure out, for instance, if they should call the police if they spot what they think is a right-to-work violation, Goyke said. 

"Are law-enforcement officers going to go into these businesses and arrest the business owners?" he said.

Following that question, Goyke sought answers from Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere and Labor Committee chairman, about the day-to-day enforcement of criminal penalties and why such penalties would be in the bill if they would not be enforced. 

Jacque said the penalties would serve as a way to compel businesses to comply with statute.


 5:14 AM 

Vos promises final right-to-work vote by 9 a.m.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, guaranteed a final vote on right-to-work by 9 a.m.

The plan, he said, is to finish by 8 a.m. a debate on a motion to refer the bill to the Small Business Committee. He also said he expects one vote on the Dems' first amendment, which already has been discussed and would delay implementation of right-to-work law for about 90 days, and another vote on all other Dem amendments, taken as a package.

He said he does not expect any amendments to pass.

Starting at 8 a.m., he said, each side of the aisle will get 30 minutes for debate, and the final vote will take place by 9 a.m.

Vos said the ongoing committee-referral discussion, which has lasted for more than eight hours, confirms his prediction that Dems would use delay tactics on the floor.

He said he believes there were Republican members who, prior to the floor debate, were on the fence or leaning toward voting against right-to-work. But, Vos said, the Dems delays on the floor by focusing on committee referral have changed some minds.

"It's made people want to vote yes," Vos said.





 4:07 AM 

Kooyenga argues against right-to-work referral

An emotional Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, talked about the tradition of garbage men in his family and the importance of unions while also arguing against right-to-work referral to the Small Business Committee.

"If I was a garbage man, I'd be in a union," he said, "because I think unions have done great things for this country."

Still, Kooyengaa said, the bill should not go to the committee. He said right-to-work is not just about small businesses, but rather worker freedom.

That freedom means no contract between two people should force a third to join, Kooyenga said. But that does not diminish the value of unions, he said.

"Unions and freedom and liberty," Kooyenga said, "can sit side by side."


 3:49 AM 

Mason argues right-to-work could violate federal law

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, while approaching the hour mark in his argument for right-to-work referral to the Small Business Committee, is raising the possibility that elements of the bill could violate federal law.

Mason spoke about training, safety, fair representation and fair share, among other things, before saying he received a memo from Legislative Council confirming that "there are places where the bill already violates federal law," particularly as the bill applies to dues checkoffs outlined in the National Labor Relations Act.

"Don't we deserve, for small businesses and employees in the state, to give it additional consideration?" Mason said.

He said if Republicans are in such a hurry to pass right-to-work, they should take the time to make sure that the law does not spend a long time tied up in federal court.



 2:47 AM 

Danou compares right-to-work to mining bill

Arguments in favor of a motion to refer right-to-work to the Small Business Committee are continuing with Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, comparing the bill to mining legislation.

Danou's shift to mining prompted Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, to caution Danou to stay on the topic of referral to committee.

Danou shot back that mining legislation is pertinent to the discussion because that law highlights the need to properly vet bills and not rush to approve them. He referenced the Penokee Hills mine to prove his point.

Gogebic Taconite recently closed its office in Hurley after analyses found wetland problems with the proposed mine.

"In all honesty, please," Danou said, "if the stuff you did before worked, I'd be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt."


 1:59 AM 

Wachs wonders if right-to-work bill has drafting errors

In arguing to move right-to-work to the Small Business Committee, Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, wondered if the bill's repealing the declaration of policy from state labor law was a drafting oversight comparable to the proposed budget's controversial changes to the language of the Wisconsin Idea.

The declaration sets out a state policy that calls for labor peace, freedom to negotiate and join a union, and protection of the interests of employers, employees and the public. The Assembly Labor Committee on Thursday rejected an amendment from Dems that would have reinstated that declaration.

Wachs focused specifically on labor peace, as outlined in the declaration, and said he wonders what repealing that statement says to the people of Wisconsin.

"Why in the world would that be taken out of statute?" Wachs said. "Could it be another drafting mistake, similar to, why, I think it was the Wisconsin Idea?"





 12:52 AM 

Hebl cites letters in opposition to right-to-work

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, has twice referenced Bill Kennedy, president of Janesville-based Rock Road Companies Inc., while describing multiple letters written in opposition to right-to-work.

Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, sent a letter to Kennedy this week inviting Rock Road to move to Minnesota in light of right-to-work moving through the Wisconsin Legislature.

Hebl said Assembly Republicans should pay attention to the complaints from Kennedy and others like him.

"These are the folks that you will effect with this legislation," Hebl said. "Let's slow down a little. Let's not screw up like we did with the mining bill."



 12:33 AM 

Taylor ends filibuster on right-to-work

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, has completed her filibuster on the motion to send right-to-work legislation to the Small Business Committee.

She spoke for more than an hour.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, is now speaking on the motion. He said there are more than 430 business representatives that have spoken out about the problems they see with right-to-work.

"Listen to your constituents," Hebl said. "We've got to do this right."

For that reason and others, he said, the bill is "not ready for prime time" and should go to committee.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

 11:54 PM 

Taylor approaching one hour in right-to-work filibuster

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, has been talking for nearly an hour so far on the motion to send the bill to the Small Business Committee.

She's been digging deep into several studies regarding right-to-work and rehashing many of the arguments others made tonight.

Vos interrupted at one point, asking Taylor if she knows how long she will speak.

He said she has the right to filibuster, but suggested she do so on the main bill rather than the motion.

She quipped that she was happy Republicans were paying attention.


 11:44 PM 

Doyle waxes poetic in right-to-work debate



Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, gave his arguments against right-to-work earlier tonight in the form of  a poem said in the cadence of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

Here is an excerpt:

Twas the day before the big vote and all through our house,
the Ds talked so long it made me the Rs grouse.
But we have heard this is your bill.
Though written By ALEC, you claim ownership still.

But why debate this bill?
The budget is nigh.
What will this do to help unemployment so high?

Our budget, our budget!
That's what's the matter.
That's the topic that arose such a chatter.

Listen to the full audio from WRN here.

h/t Jessie Opoien


 10:25 PM 

Discussion continues on sending right-to-work to Small Business Committee

Debate continues on whether to send the right-to-work bill to the Small Business Committee.

For those keeping track, the session started a little over 13 hours ago and there has yet to be a vote on any amendments.

In arguing to send the bill to the committee, Rep. Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, argued the Assembly needs more solicit input from small business owners, who she said drive the state's economy.

But Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, said the bill had already been taken up by the Labor Committees in the Assembly and Senate.

Rep. Robb Kahl, D-Monona, said those committees have a different focus than the Small Business Committee. He said it is important to have an economic impact study done on the bill in order to understand how it will affect small businesses.


 9:33 PM 

Vos in right-to-work debate: Dems touting support for small biz 'just about makes me ill'

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos pointed to a number of tax and fee increases Democrats have supported when they were in power in questioning their support for small businesses.

He said when he hears Democrats say they want to stand up for small businesses "it just about makes me ill."

Vos, R-Rochester, said the 440 contractors they are holding up that oppose right to work are just a portion of the 400,000 businesses in the state.

And he said he hopes Democrats will listen to small business when Dems push for raising the minimum wage.


 8:48 PM 

Barca moves to refer right to work bill to committee

Action has resumed on the floor.

Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca interrupted a motion to table Amendment 1 by making a motion to refer the bill to the Small Business Committee.

Barca, D-Kenosha, said the bill is opposed by 440 businesses in the state.

Dem Caucus Chair Rep. Andy Jorgensen of Fort Atkinson is making the case for the move, questioning how the Legislature knows better than 440 business owners.

Jorgensen is addressing members across the aisle, asking them whether they reached out to businesses who signed on to the Wisconsin Contractors Coalition list against right to work.

As he does so, he reads the name of each business in the corresponding district that signed on.

He appears prepared to read them all.

UPDATE

Jorgensen spared members the the full list. Assistant Minority Leader Katrina Shankland now has the floor.


 8:29 PM 

Assembly stands informal

The Assembly has moved to informal session after Barca asked for Assembly Amendments 1 and 2 be withdrawn to the authors.

After a Republican objected, Barca grew incredulous, saying never in the history of the Assembly has that courtesy not been allowed.

Barca said Dems have about 40 amendments they want to introduce.

They are still working out the issue.

UPDATE:

Vos told reporters that he's concerned all amendments may be offered and then withdrawn before voting on them. He said if people are serious about amendments they should allow a vote on them.


 7:35 PM 

Sanfelippo: If you like your union, you can keep it

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, said the bill comes down to a manner of choice and is not about "wrecking unions."

"If you like you union you can keep your union," he said.

He said the bill is about making sure people do not have money taken from their pay checks against their will.

To push against the notion that right-to-work would encourage freeloading, he noted that trade associations help all businesses in their industry, but all businesses in that industry are not required to pay dues to the association.


 7:17 PM 

Dems introduce 10 amendments

Assembly Dems have introduced ten amendments so far, including measures that would pump more money into worker training, remove penalties from the law, set conditions under which the law would not apply and require Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce accept all companies as members without them having to pay dues.

Assembly Amendment 1 would delay implementation for three months.

AA2 would remove language making it a misdemeanor to require someone to pay dues.

AA3 would block enforcement of the law if per-capita wages have declined after 36 months.

AA4 would appropriate $80,000 over two years for worker skill training.

AA5 would transfer $5 million from the general fund to the work injury supplemental benefit fund.

AA6 would make the law not apply if employers and employees to enter an agreement "that establishes the terms and conditions of employment of the employer’s employees.”

AA7 would block enforcement of the law if workplace injuries  after 36 months.

AA8 would require shareholder approval for a corporation to make a political donation.

AA9 would make each limited liability partnership, corporation and cooperative a full member of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce without payment and that WMC "shall treat and represent all of its member businesses equally, without regard to their payment of membership fees."

AA10 would make the law not apply if wages decline by 50 percent or more of 2015 levels.


 7:07 PM 

Spreitzer says right-to-work threatens to undo progress on colleagiality

Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said in his maiden speech there has been some good work done restore some of the bipartisanship and collegiality, but the Assembly is now taking up "one of the most divisive issues that could be taken up at this time."

He said there are a lot of non-divisive issues, like rural broadband, that they could work together on instead and implored his colleagues to do so.

He asked that if the bill were about worker freedom, why are there no unions backing the legislation.

He noted that Walker had previously said he was not pushing for the bill, but he said the governor changed his mind either because he is running for president and needs to appease primary voters or because he wants to take attention away from his budget proposal.


 6:37 PM 

Protesters gathered outside chamber, police restrain and remove one

As the Assembled debates inside, a crowd of about 30 protesters are gathered across from the doors to the chamber, signing protest songs and shouting various slogans.

Police hauled a protester away who was displaying a "general strike" sign while standing in the roped-off area in front of the Assembly Chamber.

Fellow protesters said the man had been there for a 20 minutes with the sign. While police cuffed him and led him away, protesters shouted "let us in" and "shame."

But not all those protesting approved of  the man's actions. One complained the man was "acting like an idiot" and making them look bad.



 6:00 PM 

More maiden speeches


Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Rice Lake, delivering his maiden speech, disputed Dem's economic arguments about right-to-work, but said the issue is a matter of freedom.

"The fact remains a good union doesn't need compulsory membership and a bad one does not deserve it," Quinn said.

Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, delivering his first speech, recounted how he questioned union membership as a teacher but that the union was there when he needed it.

He said for him, he had the freedom to keep his job because the union defended him.


 6:00 PM 

Kuglitsch says people will pay dues if they see value

Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, fired back against arguments that right-to-work would reduce wages or threaten safety.

He said nothing in the bill lowers wages, nor is there anything in the bill that changes safety standards.

All the bill does, he said, is allow people to decide whether they want to pay union dues.

"If they see value, they will pay their union dues," he said


 5:30 PM 

Allen says right-to-work about individual rights

Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, in his maiden speech, ticked off a number of cases in which the party championed individual rights and freedom.

He noted President Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, that Republicans passed the first anti-trust laws to break monopolies, were instrumental in the passage of civil rights laws and passed and overrode the veto of the Taft-Hartley Act.

He called upon his colleagues to "recognize the rights of the individual over the interests of the mob" and "stand for fairness and competition and eliminate the monopolistic power of the unions in the workplace."


 5:13 PM 

Taylor offers to end talk of ALEC

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, promised her Republican colleagues that she would never mention the American Legislative Exchange Council--if they stop passing its bills.

"I will never ever mention ALEC again--if you stop passing their bills," Taylor said.

She held up and ALEC booklet she said was called called "You Too Can Enact Right-To-Work Laws."

She said that while the LFB said Wisconsin's bill is based on Michigan's bill, Michigan's came from ALEC.

"This bill is identical," Taylor said.

She said the legislation is designed to break unions, lower wages and take away health care.


 4:54 PM 

Brostoff: Workers concerned about safety

Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, in his maiden speech, read a letter from a constituent who said he was concerned right-to-work would undermine his safety.

He also recounted his conversation with another constituent with similar concerns.
He said unions look out for each other.

These are human lives we are talking about," Brostoff said.

Brostoff said Wisconsin is known for strongest and best labor and the state does not want to be known as the one with the cheapest labor.

"Are we going toward a race to the bottom where everyone loses or are we trying to do what's best for the state?" Brostoff said.

He said a Minnesota Republican is already trying to use right-to-work to woo businesses from Wisconsin.

And he said Minnesota was giddy for another reason: "They would love to see the Green Bay Packers jailed for their union activities."


 4:38 PM 

Mandela uses tale of Moses and the Pharaoh as metaphor for labor relations

Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee, recounted the first tale of labor relations and work stoppage by telling story of Moses and the Israelites enslaved in Egypt and how God visited Egypt with plagues.

He said the Pharaoh first relented, but ultimately went back on his word.

He said the Assembly can now part the Red Sea by voting down right-to-work.

'There's a burning bush Mr. Speaker, don't ignore it,' Barnes said.


 4:36 PM 

Stuck, Gannon deliver their first floor speeches

Rep. Amanda Stuck, D-Appleton and Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, delivered their first speeches on the Assembly floor.

Stuck noted her husband is a union worker and how at times they lived paycheck to paycheck. She said right-to-work states offer lower wages and that right to work is wrong for the state.

Gannon complained about the pace of discussion and called upon his colleagues to take the vote so those who want can go home to their children.

"I'll stay all night and you can regale me with all the political stories you want," Gannon said, noting that his children are older.


 3:40 PM 

Knudson: We wouldn't be here if it were up to Walker

Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, rejected the suggestion from Dems that today's debate over right-to-work is a reflection of the guv's presidential aspirations, arguing Scott Walker didn't want the Legislature to take it up.

"We would not be having the discussion today if it were up to him. That is the truth," Knudson said.

Knudson said the bill has been a priority for Republicans over the years and their constituents have pushed for the bill. He also recounted working for fellow GOP candidates in the fall elections and meeting voters who asked him about right-to-work. Knudson said he was honest with them.

"If we do it, we will do it without the leadership of Governor Walker because he doesn't believe it's a priority," Knudson recounted telling them.



 3:27 PM 

Ohnstad jabs Walker

Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, got in a jab at Gov. Scott Walker over right-to-work and his decision to reject a casino in his home county.

Like other Dems, Ohstad complained that Walker had said right-to-work was a distraction and discouraged lawmakers from taking it up only to now embrace it as he lays the foundation for a presidential run.

"Hell, he may even pop back in Wisconsin from the campaign trail and sign it before heading back to Iowa," Ohnstad said.

The Dem, a former member of UAW Local 72, charged all of Walker's decisions these days are based on his presidential aspirations. That includes rejecting the Menominee's proposed Kenosha casino because "600 right-wing extremists in Iowa told him to."

"If those Iowans don’t believe in casino gambling, let them close one of their own," Ohnstad said.

"Governor Walker may not act like it, but he’s still the governor of this great state."


 3:20 PM 

Freshman GOP rep offers unique perspective

Freshman GOP Rep. Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum praised right-to-work while talking about his two stints as a union worker.

Kremer said he was a member of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association while a police dispatcher and later belonged to the Air Line Pilots Association.

He said the joined the ALPA because he believed the union had value and would have provided legal representation if he had been involved in an accident.

Kremer also recounted voting in 2010 to bring the union into a non-union business. He said the company, which he did not name, had been taking advantage of employees by regularly having them fly back-to-back-to-back 14-hour days and extended seven-day stays away from home to nine days. He said while management had worked with employees on occasion, there were real safety concerns and customer services issues, proclaiming "unions do serve a purpose."

"I do believe that no one, no should be coerced to join a union," Kremer said. "This is simply a matter of freedom."



 3:03 PM 

Debate begins

Members from both sides are starting to lay down the foundation of today's debate.

For Republicans, it's about worker freedom with the promise the change will send a message about Wisconsin's economy. They're also citing figures they argue show right-to-work will mean a boost in wages.

For Dems, it's about an attack on the middle class and hurting the unions. They're also citing their own figures that suggest things won't go well for the state's workers if right-to-work becomes law.



 2:27 PM 

RTW opponents again rally on Capitol steps

Right-to-work opponents again rallied on the Capitol steps today, as union supporters joined together for one final demonstration before the expected passing of the bill.

Between chants of “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” and the union cry of “Solidarity forever!”, union leaders and tradesmen took to the podium, urging listeners not to give up yet.

“When I leave here tonight, there’s only going to be one thing on my mind: organizing,” said CWA member Clinton Rogers. “I’m going to be talking to everybody, and asking them the same thing I’m asking you today: to stand up with me, to stand for Wisconsin, for our future!”

The state Department of Administration estimated 300 people attended the rally, significantly smaller than last week's rallies as the Senate took up the bill.

Rally organizers said the legislation would not only hurt unions now, but cause crippling after effects for years to come. Some, predicting even more drastic cuts, were convinced Right to Work is just the beginning.

“They won’t stop here. They’ll just keep cutting and cutting and cutting. But eventually, something’s going to give, and someone has to say no,” said one rally attendee.




 1:54 PM 

Barca, Vos call for civil debate, but eruption results in gallery cleared

Now that we're back on the floor, Minority Leader Peter Barca and Speaker Robin Vos are calling for a civil, meaningful debate.

But after thanking each other for their efforts to set the stage for a meaningful debate, a member of the gallery erupted "Right-to-work is wrong for Wisconsin." Others joined in a chant and call, resulting in an order to clear the galleries.

After several outbursts, Vos said "Clear it, we're done."

Those leading the chants read from yellow pieces of paper in leading the chants. Police then began working through the galleries to clear out members of the public.

UPDATE: See video from inside the chamber:
video
More from inside:
video

And video from outside the chamber, after the galleries were cleared:

video


 12:21 PM 

Assembly shoots down taking up Dem resolution, breaks for State of Tribes speech

The Assembly rejected a motion to take up the Dem resolution calling on Gov. Scott Walker to apologize to those who protested in the Capitol four years ago over his collective bargaining changes.

The vote was along party lines, and the Assembly is now taking a break from the debate for the State of the Tribes address.

Following the speech, there will be a short reception before the chamber reconvenes to debate right-to-work.

This morning's caucuses, debate on the resolution and the tribes speech all count toward the 24-hour window to take up right-to-work.


 11:40 AM 

Assembly debates Dem resolution calling for Walker apology

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, dismissed the resolution as nothing more than a sign Dems have “Walker derangement syndrome.” 

If Dems simply wanted a resolution thanking workers, Vos said all 63 Republicans would sign on. 

“He never compared public workers to terrorists,” Vos said. “All he did was say he had a backbone of steel, and I’m telling you he does.”

Dems, though, took turns decrying Walker’s comments as an attack on first responders, teachers and nurses and recounted how they and their relatives joined the protesters four years ago. They also insisted there was no mistaking what Walker said.

“Is that what our presidential politics has sunk to?” asked Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau. “Is this the way that people view their political opponents these days that they draw that equivalent. They were peaceful protests.”

GOP Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who’s married to Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, took umbrage at the description of protesters. He recounted some in the Capitol who he said made obscene comments toward his children, let bullets outside the offices of lawmakers and the death threats some faced. He also told the chamber there was 24-hour surveillance outside his home.

“What short memories we have,” Kleefisch said.


 11:20 AM 

Assembly Dems start right-to-work debate by calling on Walker to apologize to Act 10 protesters

Assembly Dems started today's debate by introducing a resolution calling on Gov. Scott Walker to apologize to Capitol protesters after an uproar over comments that some interpreted as comparing them to ISIS.

Speaking in Washington, D.C., last week, Walker was asked how he could confront the terrorist group known as ISIS and ISIL.

“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said.

The guv has rejected the suggestion he was comparing the terrorist organization to protesters who flooded the Capitol during the debate over his collective bargaining changes for public employees. Instead, he has said the comment was an example of the challenges he's faced as guv and his leadership.

Dems used a procedural move to introduce the resolution before debate began on right-to-work and then made a motion to put it on the Assembly floor for a vote. They then began knocking Walker for his comments, calling them outrageous and offensive.

The resolution concludes:

"Wisconsin’s state employees are second to none in our nation. Our citizens expect great service, and you have delivered. The state assembly knows you will continue to deliver top−notch programs for Wisconsin’s taxpayers. The state assembly thanks you again for your service to our state, and with deep hearts the state assembly apologizes for Governor Walker’s insensitive comments."


 11:13 AM 

Vos, Barca trade barbs before heading to the floor

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos dismissed Dem calls to amend right-to-work, saying it was nothing more than a delay tactic and none of the changes would attract votes from the minority party anyway.

Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, countered the bill was just another right-wing attack on Wisconsin workers.

The two had dueling media availabilities before heading to the floor.

Vos, R-Rochester, said Dems would not debate the merits of the bill and would instead put forward a series of amendments to distract from the main argument. He also predicted Dems would turn the bill into an attack on Gov. Scott Walker's presidential aspirations.

"I want to see them stand up and say why giving workers a choice to join a union is bad for our economy," Vos said.

Barca then followed in the Assembly parlor, slamming Republicans for not running on right-to-work last fall after saying it was not a priority and predicting it would not reach the floor this session, only to do an about face.

"How can you claim that it’s essential we move this through in nine or 10 days and make it law in two weeks?" Barca said. "That contradicts everything they told the public in the election."

Vos also told voters he expects some of his members will vote against the bill while again saying Republicans were not open to amendments.

Walker had said for months right-to-work was not a priority for this session and until recent weeks had called it a distraction. But in addressing business leaders yesterday, Walker cited things like business ranking and site selection criteria as "the reason why we brought that up."

Asked about the comments, Vos said Walker "has been clear in every meeting that I’ve had with him that he’s not pushing for this" and gave Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, credit for driving the issue.



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

 6:25 PM 

Assembly committee sends right-to-work to floor

Right-to-work legislation passed out of the Assembly Labor Committee on a party-line, 6-3 vote, with Dems and Republicans passionately defending their positions.

"I'm really, deeply disappointed with the direction this bill is taking," said Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine. "Clearly, it is the most anti-worker legislation we have seen since Act 10."

Mason's "anti-worker" comment prompted a response from Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, who said that, in light of debate tomorrow, he was not going to speak. But, he said, he had to answer Mason's comments.

"This is pro-worker, this is worker freedom," Kuglitsch said. "This is worker choice."

And, with Rep. Tod Ohnstad voting "hell no," the committee adjourned for the night.

The full Assembly is scheduled to take up right-to-work at 9 a.m. Thursday.


 6:05 PM 

Committee Republicans shoot down sunset

Labor Committee Dems' fourth and final amendment, a sunset provision for right-to-work, met the same fate by the same vote as the preceding three amendments.

Committee Republicans voted down the amendment 6-3.

The sunset would have phased out right-to-work if per-capita wages in the state go down after three years. The Department of Workforce Development would track those wages in the state during the three years to determine if the sunset applies.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said the amendment stems from the recent back and forth between right-to-work proponents and opponents over whether the bill would increase or decrease wages in the state.

"What this amendment does," Mason said, "is it basically leaves time to figure out who's right and who's wrong."

But the amendment lacked crucial details, committee Chairman Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, said. He said the amendment did not clarify how much a reduction in wages would trigger the sunset, nor, he said, did the amendment direct the DWD to determine what caused a wage decrease.

"I have serious concerns about the readiness of the amendment," Jacque said.


 5:45 PM 

90-day delay amendment fails

A right-to-work bill amendment that would have delayed implementation by 90 days failed with a 6-3 party-line vote.

Assembly Labor Committee Dems said the delay would be a reasonable way to let the business community adjust to right-to-work and offer stability during a time of uncertainty.

"If you look at other states that became right-to-work states, most recently Michigan," Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said, "this was a part of the bill."

Rep. Daniel Knodl, R-Germantown, argued there really is no reason to wait for right-to-work.

"A good bill means a good law," he said, "and it's good to go on day one."



 5:25 PM 

Amendment to remove criminal penalty fails

The Assembly Labor Committee rejected, with a 6-3 vote along party lines, an amendment from Dems that would have removed the criminal penalty in the right-to-work bill.

The criminal penalty would make violation of right-to-work a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine. The three committee Democrats — Reps. Christine Sinicki; Cory Mason, D-Racine; and Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha — spoke out against that penalty.



 5:09 PM 

Committee kills first amendment to right-to-work

The Assembly Labor Committee voted 6-3 along party lines to reject the Dems' first right-to-work amendment, which would have reinstated the declaration of policy at the start of the state's labor law.

That declaration sets out a state policy that calls for labor peace, freedom to negotiate and join a union, and protection of the interested of employers, employees and the public.

"In other words, we're finding a peaceful way to come up with our solution," Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said after reading the declaration aloud. "There's nothing wrong with keeping this declaration of policy in state statute."

Calling the declaration unnecessary, Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, urged the committee to reject the amendment.

"Everything stated in here," he said. "is in the statute."





 4:31 PM 

Dems plan right-to-work amendments heading into committee vote

Assembly Labor Committee Dems outlined their right-to-work battle plans today prior to an executive session on the bill.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said Dems would introduce four amendments to the right-to-work bill in committee. Those amendments are: delaying the effective date of the bill by 90 days; removing the criminal penalty in the bill that would make violation of right-to-work a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine; restoring the labor law's preamble, which emphasizes the importance of labor peace; and adding a sunset to right-to-work under which the law would phase out if wages in the state go down after three years.

The Department of Workforce Development would track median wages in the state during the three years to determine if the sunset applies, Mason said.

"We are choosing those four amendments because that is what we heard over and over again during testimony," he said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, responding after the Assembly Dems completed their press conference, said the amendments will fail.

"We are not going to accept amendments," he said, "that have no purpose other than to delay implementation of the bill."


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