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2013-14 Legislature: Printable directory | Leadership rosters | New faces

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

 7:15 PM 

Senate adjourns

The Senate has adjourned its final scheduled floor session for the 2013-2014 session.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, joked that he and Minority Leader Chris Larson would forego their partisan speeches in light of the calls for bipartisanship from the departing members.

 7:12 PM 

Departing senators deliver final remarks

After wrapping up its business for the day, senators took turns acknowledging the four members marking their final days on the floor.

Sen. John Lehman, who is leaving his now-GOP-leaning seat to run for lt. governor, addressed the chamber first as the “junior” of the group. He recalled that a former student in Racine asked him to run for city council following the death of an incumbent alderman, starting his path to serving as “one of the 33.”

“Doing this is really a delightful thing for a former social studies teacher,” Lehman said.

The other three retiring members called on their colleagues to work to improve the Senate and make it reflect the lives of ordinary Wisconsinites.

“There is a yearning outside this capital for cooperation, for common sense and compromise,” said Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, who noted he was first elected to the chamber 40 years ago, taking a hiatus between 1987 and 2011.

“In order to renew to the possibility of bipartisanship, members must be willing to sit down, differ with their own party and reach compromise with members of the other party,” added Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar.

And Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said, "We have to quit asking ourselves, 'Which team are you on?'"

"For me, partisanship is a lens, not a straightjacket," Schultz said.

 5:46 PM 

Senate backs UW classified research bill

The Senate has concurred in AB 729, allowing classified research at University of Wisconsin campuses, via voice vote.

Backers say the bill would allow the state to compete for lucrative federal research contracts.

Other bills to move through the Senate include either unanimously or via voice vote include:

*AB 710, creating a “Silver Alert” program for missing, at-risk adults;

*AB 712, eliminating the requirement that employers to keep records of the hours worked by employees who are not compensated on an hourly basis; and

*AB 726, to allow the use of cannabidiol to treat seizure disorders.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, praised the cannabidiol bill but said he would be remiss if he did not urge lawmakers to join other states that have allowed medical marijuana.

“There are thousands and thousands of Wisconsinites we are leaving behind today,” Erpenbach said.

 5:15 PM 

Senate backs heroin bills

The Senate has unanimously backed a pair of bills targeting opiate addiction.

AB 701 would require the establishment of opioid treatment programs in high-need rural areas, while AB 702 would establish short-term sanctions for certain parole violations -- which is intended to get addicts into treatment more quickly.

The chamber also voted 33-0 to fund an expansion of a program to track gunfire in the city of Milwaukee.

 4:58 PM 

Senate GOP to caucus

The Senate is taking a 10 minute break so Republicans can caucus.

Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Allouez, had asked to refer SB 644 to committee, saying it hadn't received the necessary scrutiny from lawmakers. The bill would allow for deductions or refunds for bad debt assumed by a private label credit card.

UPDATE -- 5:04 p.m.: Cowles removes his objection, and the bill is concurred in 19-14.

 4:13 PM 

Senate backs minimum wage exemption

The Senate has concurred in legislation that would exempt outside salespersons from the state’s minimum wage law 18-15.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, called the bill unnecessary, arguing that all workers subject to an employer should be provided benefits under state law.

“Why we should exempt employees -- anyone -- from the minimum wage law is beyond me,” Risser said.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said the state is on the wrong side of the minimum wage debate happening at the national level.

"We are looking for loopholes to exempt professions from the minimum wage," Larson said.

Prior to debate on that bill, the chamber concurred in a slew of additional bills without debate, including legislation requiring outside investigations of deaths involving law enforcement officers.

 3:53 PM 

After a short break, Senate passes medical apology bill

The Senate went informal following an objection to third reading of AB 120, after which Taylor allowed a motion from Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, to move to third reading.

The chamber then passed the bill 19-14.

"Looks like a majority of this particular body wants to move this ahead," said Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison.

Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, also explained his opposition to the bill, saying lawmakers can get in a habit of assuming the plaintiffs in lawsuits are always wrong.

Grothman said he would support the bill if it were limited to apologies, but "we go beyond here, to include things like 'I am at fault' or 'I am liable.'"

"It's almost impossible to win a med mal case already in the state of Wisconsin," Grothman added.

 3:37 PM 

Medical provider apology bill stalls on third reading

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, objected to third reading of legislation to prohibit expressions of condolence or apology by health care providers from admission as evidence in medical malpractice cases.

The move -- which was upheld when a 20-13 vote to move to third reading failed to reach a two-thirds majority -- would stall the bill for the day on the final scheduled floor day this session.

Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, said the bill aims to break down “the wall of silence” between providers and patients, saying medical professionals are afraid of being sued at the most difficult times in patients’ lives.

Vukmir, a nurse, said delivering bad news to patients is “a very difficult time” and that sometimes “things just come out of your mouth because of the emotions of that time.”

“This bill protects conversations, not bad acts,” Vukmir said.

Dems, however, argued those conversations could take place under current law -- and the bill would establish the most “extreme” standard in the country for evidence in such cases.

“Instead of protecting our most vulnerable citizens, we are giving an ‘out,’” Taylor said.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, also criticized applying the law to disciplinary proceedings for health care workers, saying that goes “far, far afield.”

 2:59 PM 

Senate essentially kills constitutional amendment on Milwaukee County treasurer

In a move that seemed to catch the Senate off guard, Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, essentially killed his own constitutional amendment that would make the Milwaukee County Treasurer an appointed position.

Carpenter said he had concerns about the options available to appoint the Milwaukee County Treasurer under the current resolution, which prompted him to offer an amendment to the joint resolution. That amendment was approved by voice vote, though Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Leibham, called for a voice vote twice to ensure there wasn't some confusion on what had taken place.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald asked Carpenter afterward whether he truly wanted that amendment, considering it would likely sink the bill this session. Carpenter said he was and reaffirmed his concerns.

Because the Assembly has stated it won't come back in this session, the change effectively kills the resolution this session since they would have to concur on the bill. It takes two consecutive sessions of the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment before it can be put to a referendum.

 2:35 PM 

Oral chemo bill passes Senate

The Assembly version was concurred in by the Senate, on a 26-7 votes. Dem Sens. Tim Cullen, Robert Jauch, Dave Hansen, Tim Carpenter and Jon Erpenbach joined GOP Sens. Dale Schultz and Leah Vukmir.

It now heads to the governor's office for his signature.

 2:25 PM 

Sen. Jauch withdraws his amendment

After an hour and 20 minutes of debate, Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, has withdrawn the amendment and says he won't put his colleagues through the political strain of the "rhetoric" that will come out against them should they vote against the measure.

So now we're back on the question of concurrence.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said he would be voting in support of the measure, but wanted to look into sending a joint letter from Legislative leaders urging insurance companies not to take advantage of potential loopholes in the law.

"Something is better than nothing, I just hope the people put that letter forward and people do not take advantage," Larson said.

 1:56 PM 

Senate debating change to oral chemo bill, GOP fears change could kill measure

The Senate is debating whether to further amend the oral chemo bill with a clarification that insurers can't raise deductibles or co-insurance.

The original bill said the health insurance plans must not charge higher out-of-pocket costs -- either through deductibles, co-insurance or co-payments -- for oral chemotherapy than it does for IV chemotherapy. However, an amendment passed in the Assembly says insurers are in compliance with that provision if it limits co-pays on oral chemo to $100 per 30-day prescription.

Democrats have offered an amendment to the bill that would explicitly prohibit any increases to out-of-pocket costs.

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said he felt that passing the Assembly version of the bill would be a "bait and switch" and urged his colleagues to try and pass the compromise amendment.

"Here we find ourselves on the last day...with an opportunity to do something," Schultz said. "Now, I know we've been told that they're not coming back. I think we send a message to the Assembly that this will not stand, they will come in and they will pass a bill with a compromise, and I think that would be in the finest tradition of this body."

Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, called the Assembly version a "give-away" for insurance companies, saying the way it was written did not truly limit co-pays to $100. That, Cullen said, was because doctors may need to order multiple prescriptions at a time and language in the amended bill seems to allow insurance companies increase deductibles or co-insurance, unlike other states with similar measures.

"If we've heard stories of people paying two or three or four thousand a month or more for their oral chemo, why would the insurance companies be happy settling for $200 or $300 bucks," Cullen said "They're happy because in this amendment, they have an out."

Cullen also accused Assembly Majority Leader Pat Strachota of writing the bill at the behest of the insurance companies, saying that no advocacy groups were involved in the authorship of the amendment.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said she didn't like the Assembly amendment either, but said she was happy that "we got this far." She also cited a memo from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance saying the amended version of the bill indicated it would indeed result in $100 limits on co-pays and offers parity. Darling cautioned against possibly killing the bill by sending it to the Assembly.

"I have been working on this for two and a half years and I'm not willing to take this risk," Darling said.

Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond Du Lac, said even an imperfect bill would be better than nothing, given the current costs for oral chemo drugs.

"I stood with the cancer patients on March 18, I'm going to stand with the cancer patients today," Gudex said.

 11:27 AM 

Recess for one hour for partisan caucuses

The Senate has made its appointments en masse, though Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, reiterated a call for Gov. Scott Walker to appoint members to the Mining Impact Board. After that, we're now in partisan caucus for an hour.

 11:14 AM 

Senate roll call underway

So much for a later start. After a last minute "chick pic" of the Senate women -- Sen. Lena Taylor's words, not mine -- we should be getting started.

 11:04 AM 

Senate starting late

The Senate Chief Clerk said he was told they'd be "more or less" on time and Dems are starting to filter into the chamber. We'll see when the GOP members appear.

 8:03 AM 

Senate to take up bills on oral chemotherapy, medical malpractice cases

The Senate is set to concur in a long list of Assembly-passed legislation today as it wraps up the scheduled 2013-2014 session.

Tuesday is the only scheduled floor session for the Senate this week -- the last general business floor period of the session -- and the Assembly isn't expected to be in session at all.

The agenda includes legislation requiring health insurers to cover oral chemotherapy treatments in the same manner as IV treatments.

The Senate passed the bill earlier this month, but the Assembly then added an optional $100 monthly co-pay. Senate GOP backers of the original legislation, however, signaled their support for the amendment last week.

The calendar also includes legislation that would ban statements of apology or condolence by health care providers from being used in medical malpractice cases.

Other noteworthy bills set for votes include:

* AB 5, creating a sales tax exemption for property used by commercial radio and television stations;

* AB 409, requiring outside investigations of deaths involving law enforcement officers;

* AB 412, exempting outside salespersons from the state's minimum wage;

* AB 693, funding an expansion of the ShotSpotter gunfire tracking technology in the city of Milwaukee;

* AB 701 and AB 702, two bills targeting opiate addiction from Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette;

* And AB 726, allowing the marijuana derivative cannabidiol to be used to treat seizure disorders.

The Senate is also set to consider one proposed constitutional amendment: AJR 77, which would make the treasurer position in Milwaukee County an appointed post.

As expected, the final Senate calendar is missing a series of changes to drunken driving laws, a bill to pre-empt local living wage ordinances and several abortion-related bills.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

 12:22 PM 

Guv partially vetoes early voting bill

Gov. Scott Walker today used his partial veto authority on legislation to set new limits on early voting, eliminating a provision that would have limited it to 45 hours a week.

Walker also nixed a provision in SB 324 that would have reimbursed local governments for hiring people to assist in the in-person absentee voting process ahead of Election Day. But he signed off on the new limits to only allow early voting between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

His office said he signed 29 other bills into law while vetoing in full SB 628, which sought to regulate raffles, saying it threatened the rights of Native American tribes to conduct Class III gaming.

The bills he signed includes AB 19, which impacts asbestos lawsuits, and a series of election bills.

Monday, March 24, 2014

 10:37 AM 

Senate to vote on amended oral chemo bill April 1; Darling indicates support

The Senate will vote on the amended oral chemotherapy bill April 1 after finding “broad, bipartisan support” for the legislation, a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said this morning.

The announcement followed a statement from Sen. Alberta Darling, a co-author of the bill, saying the changes the Assembly made were “reasonable” and urging final passage by the Senate. She urged the Senate to concur on the amendment as soon as possible.

“Cancer patients and their families shouldn’t have to wait for help any longer,” Darling said.

Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said the majority leader expects the amended bill to pass the Senate April 1 without any further changes.

 3:34 AM 

Assembly passes limits to DNA collection

The Assembly has passed a bill that would limit collection of DNA upon arrest to cases of violent felonies.

Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, said that while he understands the desire for law enforcement to use all the tools necessary to solve crimes, the recent revelations of sprawling government surveillance into the lives of private citizens lives means that some defined limits must be set. He drafted a second amendment that would increase the list of crimes considered as serious violent crimes by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

"Really what this comes down to is solving cold cases is a very worthy cause, but we must hold even more dear the 4th Amendment rights of our citizens," Knudson said.

 1:56 AM 

Dems are ready for multiple pulling motions

We looked like we were getting closer to wrapping up business on the floor. Then Dems handed a list of 15 pulling motions they plan to make to GOP leadership. We have not yet seen what bills they plan to pull.

The reaction at 1:56 a.m., as one can imagine, was not one of unbridled delight.

UPDATE 3:13 - We're now on the last pulling motion. Then, we should probably get back to the main calendar.

 1:31 AM 

Assembly passes amended oral chemo bill; heads to Senate

The Assembly's oral chemotherapy bill has passed, 75-18, with a voting pair. It will now head back to the Senate for concurrence before it can head to the governor's desk.

The mix of Dem and GOP votes against the bill is a bit unusual, in part attributable to Barca's last-minute call for Dems to vote for the measure.

Dems voting no: Terese Berceau, Penny Bernard Schaber, Jill Billings, Gary Hebl, LaTonya Johnson, Andy Jorgensen, Fred Kessler, Sandy Pasch, Sondy Pope, Melissa Sargent, Leon Young, Josh Zepnick and JoCasta Zamarripa.

Republicans voting no: Dave Craig, Rob Hutton, Chris Kapenga, Joe Sanfelippo, Erik Severson

There was also a set of paired votes: Rep. John Klenke voting yes, Rep. Diane Hesselbein voting no.

 1:19 AM 

Assembly is informal

Basically, after lengthy debate and indications that Dems were going to vote against the bill because of the amendment, Minority Leader Peter Barca made a vague statement about how they can all feel good about passing this bill after some discussions with Speaker Robin Vos that indicated the Senate will pass the measure.

That led to an impromptu huddle between Dems who seemed a bit confused about what that statement meant.

UPDATE: Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, is now asking Barca to guarantee the Dem caucus that this bill will pass through the Legislature -- either as amendment through the Senate or coming back to the Assembly with further amendments.

"I'm sorry, but I do not have trust in the gentleman from the 63rd [Vos]," Bernard Schaber said.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

 11:51 PM 

Assembly approves GOP amendment on oral chemo

After some floor debate and a protracted argument (off the floor) between Rep. Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, over the former's comparisons to the latter's opioid treatment bill, the vote to reject the oral chemotherapy amendment failed on a 40-55 vote.

Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, and Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, joined Dems on the rejection vote, but the amendment was subsequently approved on a voice vote.

We're now on concurrence and Speaker Robin Vos is giving a speech on how they've approached the oral chemotherapy bill, while invoking the memory of a family member of his that died of cancer. However, he also repeated comments that members of the other side have used the bill to play politics.

 11:11 PM 

Dems pushing to reject GOP amendment on oral chemo bill

Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, has moved to reject the GOP amendment to the oral chemotherapy bill.

The amendment would say insurers must, at the very least, cap co-pays for oral chemotherapy at $100 per 30-day supply. That limit could increase at a rate tied to the Consumer Price Index starting in 2016. The original bill said insurers must treat oral chemotherapy drugs the same as IV chemotherapy drugs when it comes to out-of-pocket costs, and the amendment retains that option.

If the Assembly passed the amended version of the bill, it would be up to the Senate to concur and send the bill to the governor's desk.

Barca said Assembly GOP leadership was not trying to improve the bill but hoping the late change would hamper the bill's chances in the Senate.

"He wants to kill this bill," Barca said. "He doesn't like this bill. But the people like this bill. People who are desperately hanging on to hope that we'll do the right thing, that we're going to pass this bill and help people suffering with cancer."

Majority Leader Pat Strachota said she simply mirrored what the last seven states who passed similar legislation did and created a co-pay limit that was lower than California's $200 limit. She also said she chose a $100 cap because of the cancer patients who abandon their treatment when costs rise above that level.

 10:41 PM 

Single outburst in the gallery

Well, following the vote on the early voting limits, an individual started shouting at the body, calling them "white supremacists" and railing against "racist hypocrisy." Speaker Pro Tem Tyler August ordered the protester to be removed from the gallery. It's been taking a bit longer than expected, however.

The protester then said "I'm prepared to be removed" for Democracy.

"Well, then you'll be removed, that's for sure," August responded. That caused Speaker Robin Vos to tell Assembly freshmen "Welcome to the world of Act 10," referencing the numerous outbursts in the gallery during the 2011-13 session.

Said one notable GOP member from the back of the chamber: "Not even close."

And with that, we're on to the oral chemotherapy bill.

 10:37 PM 

Assembly passes limits on early voting

The Assembly voted 56-38 to set new statewide standards for early voting amid Dem objections that the legislation sought to suppress the vote in urban areas.

The vote clears the way for the bill to head to the guv's desk, where it faces an uncertain future. When asked about the bill, Gov. Scott Walker has said he will review it when it reaches his desk.

The bill would limit in-person absentee voting to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday leading up to an election. A municipality would also be limited to 45 hours per week of accepting the in-person absentee ballots. 

AB 54 would set a statewide standard for in-person absentee voting of between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. If a municipality offers 30 or fewer hours a week for it, the clerk or an election official can could conduct in-person absentee voting any time Monday through Friday if they witness it. 

Rep. Christine Sinicki accused Republicans of using the bill for partisan advantage at the polls. She charged the GOP drew new legislative boundaries ahead of the 2012 elections to guarantee themselves a majority in the Legislature for the next few years. But she noted Dems received thousands more votes than Republicans statewide that year and accused her GOP colleagues of rushing to approve a series of restrictions on voting to help Gov. Scott Walker win re-election this fall.

Ultimately, she said Republicans are trying to cut down turnout in urban areas.

“That’s your goal because that’s where Democratic votes come from. Let’s be honest about it,” Sinicki said.

Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, jabbed Republicans that they should have more lawyers in their ranks because their proposal so blatantly violates the federal Voting Rights Act that they would have counseled them to drop the bill. 

Kessler said the bill restricts the ability of minorities to vote in the state's population centers like Milwaukee, Madison and Racine, while predicting a federal judge will throw out the requirement if signed into law.

"You are placing barriers, barriers against minority voters from participating," Kessler said.

Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls and a former county clerk, charged Dems distorted the facts of voting. She said Wisconsin was one of the four states with the highest turnout in 2012 along with Colorado, New Hampshire and Minnesota. She said one allowed no early voting, one had absentee voting with a reason and one collected most of its ballots via the mail.

She said that showed there was no relationship between early voting and turnout.

“It has to do with political advocacy, and these four states were target states for the presidential election, and that is what turns out electors,” she said.

 8:20 PM 

Republicans reject amendment as debate begins on early voting

Republicans tabled 56-38 an amendment that sought to allow municipalities to offer multiple early voting sites as debate began on setting statewide standards for in-person absentee ballots ahead of an election.

Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, complained large cities such as Milwaukee are limited to only one early voting site at City Hall downtown. She urged the body to approve the amendment to ease the congestion leading up to an election.

 8:16 PM 

Assembly signs off on Senate accountability bill via voice vote

The Assembly approved via voice vote the Senate's school accountability bill after Republicans dropped an amendment that would have overhauled the legislation to impose sanctions on failing schools, among other things.

Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Cross Plains, said the bill beings the much needed process of ensuring all schools that receive taxpayer dollars are accountable to the state. But she said much work needs to be done.

“It’s high time we take down the smoke screen being put up by the voucher lobby … and get to work making sure our students get the best education our schools can provide them,” Pope said.
No other lawmaker commented on the bill prior to the vote.

 7:01 PM 

Assembly passes poll worker bill; Dems go to caucus

The Assembly has concurred in SB 20 by a 56-38 margin.

The measure would allow residents of a particular county to serve as poll workers in any municipality within that country.

Dems said the bill would encourage voter intimidation, with Rep. Cory Mason of Racine speculating that it would allow "bad actors" that serve as election observers in the state's largest cities "to actually be poll workers."

The chamber then recessed for a Dem caucus. Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August says the break will be "no more than an hour."

 6:46 PM 

Assembly passes bill on absentee voting at residential care facilities

The Assembly has concurred in a Senate amendment to AB 396 by a 56-38 vote.

The bill would require local elections officials to send special voting deputies for voters at residential care facilities to cast absentee ballots.

Dems accused Republicans of a pattern of voter suppression efforts, and said the bill was "insulting" to senior citizens.

“You guys will just make up anything to try to stop people from voting,” said Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee.

"I have little doubt this is a bill that will wind up in court -- soon," added Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.

Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, countered seniors could still request absentee ballots, vote early or head to the polls on Election Day, and that she hopes to prevent seniors from being "coerced, manipulated or treated disrespectfully in the electoral process."

"This bill helps the elderly and the disabled vote privately and independently, without the nursing home staff hovering, (but) with voting deputies that have taken an oath to uphold the election laws in Wisconsin," Bernier said.

 6:41 PM 

Assembly to pass Senate accountability bill

The Assembly intends to pass a “clean” version of a Senate school accountability bill this evening, but will convene meetings after the session adjourns to “lay the foundation” for a “workable and acceptable School Accountability bill in Wisconsin.”

Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, had indicated earlier that they hoped to reach an agreement to pass a different accountability bill -- which would include report cards for schools and sanctions for those that are failing -- with Vos calling the Senate version “watered-down.”

But both lawmakers have since signed onto a letter of agreement to the governor with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee.

Steineke said Assembly Republicans will withdraw amendments to SB 286 and concur in the bill, then convene meetings with interested parties later in the year.

The lawmakers pledge in the letter to bring legislation that meets six accountability criteria to lawmakers in the 2015-2016 session.

 5:43 PM 

Assembly backs asbestos claims bill

The Assembly has concurred in Senate changes to AB 19 on a 55-38 vote -- with a pair -- sending it to the governor's desk.

The bill, which would alter the process for civil claims over asbestos exposure, has drawn the ire of veterans groups, which have argued it would prevent or delay the payment of damages through trusts set up by bankrupt asbestos companies.

Dems, meanwhile, charged that the bill was backed by ALEC and other conservative groups, and reflected a pattern of GOP lawmakers favoring corporations over the public.

“It’s the big guys against the little guys, and the little guys are going to lose,” said Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland.

“I would hate to see the day when veterans bills get partisan, but that day is today,” added Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton.

Supporters of the bill, meanwhile, argue the bill increases transparency in the claims process and prevents “double-dipping” by attorneys.

Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said the bill aims to put "some control" on funds set up to provide compensation to victims, "which is not an endless pot of money."

 4:15 PM 

Assembly rejects Fox Valley RTA bill

The Dems’ first pulling motion of the day attempted to bring up a Senate bill that would authorize creation of a regional transit authority in the Fox Valley.

The bill passed the Senate despite a split GOP caucus, and has not come up in committee in the Assembly. The motion was rejected 38-55.

Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, charged that the Assembly speaker’s “personal philosophical opposition” to certain forms of transportation funding has been allowed to override the support on both sides of the aisle in northeastern Wisconsin.

 3:43 PM 

Assembly moving through non-controversial bills

The Assembly has started its long day of debate by moving quickly through some of the bills agreed upon by both parties.

Bills passed so far include:

*AB 232, creating an optional incentive programs for local governments that identify public assistance fraud;

*AB 767, prohibiting the use of a GPS tracking device without knowledge of the person being tracked;

*SB 196, restricting the use of drones;

*SB 348, a sales tax exemption for aircraft parts and maintenance; and

*SB 367, to prohibit distribution of a sexually explicit image without consent.

In addition, some departing members have taken their turns as speaker on the final scheduled session day. They include Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, who’s running for AG; Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, who’s running for state Senate; and Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, who’s retiring.

 2:46 PM 

Assembly concurs in choice bill

After adopting a slew of joint resolutions, the Assembly is onto the bills on today's agenda.

The chamber first agreed to take up and approve SB 584, relating to accreditation for schools in parental choice programs, via voice vote.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said the bill was “far from even coming close to what the governor has promised the people of this state,” and warned that Republicans would have a chance to vote a proposal to do so later tonight.

 1:56 PM 

Assembly getting started

We're a little later than usual, but a quorum call is underway in the Assembly.

Assembly GOP leaders rolled out an amendment to the oral chemotherapy bill on today's calendar in a press conference prior to session. The proposal would, according to Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, allow health insurers the option of parity between oral and IV chemotherapy or a $100 per month copay.

They also said they were still considering how to move forward on school accountability legislation. Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said he continues to talk with Assembly and Senate members about a more stringent accountability bill, while Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the Assembly hadn't decided about taking up a more lenient Senate version.

"It is really a weak, watered-down version of accountability," Vos said of the Senate bill.

 8:24 AM 

Assembly set to take up oral chemo, election bills during final scheduled floor session

The state Assembly is looking at a marathon debate today to wrap up the legislative session with a calendar that includes a series of election bills.

But the main focus today will be how Assembly Republicans approach legislation requiring insurance companies to treat oral chemotherapy treatments like they do those administered intravenously.

Gov. Scott Walker said yesterday he’d sign SB 300, which passed the Senate earlier this week 30-2. He added during a stop in Madison that he hoped any changes the Assembly makes to the bill would be agreeable to the Senate.

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said an amendment was being drafted to the bill that would mirror what the last six states to pass oral chemo laws have done on co-payments. That includes California, which limited maximum out-of-pocket costs for oral chemotherapy pills to $200 per 30-day supply prescribed.

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