• WisPolitics

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

 9:42 PM 

Senate adjourns

With Dems pushing for the vote on the CBD oil bill, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, motioned to adjourn, and President Mary Lazich gaveled the session out.

The move means Sens. Nikiya Dodd-Harris, D-Milwaukee, and Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, will not be able to give their farewell speeches to the chamber. Neither is seeking re-election this fall.

 9:39 PM 

Fitzgerald uses procedural move in effort to prevent pulling motion on CBD bill

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, acknowledged he was using a procedural move to protect his members from a vote on legislation that would legalize cannabidiol, or CBD oil.

The oil, derived from marijuana, is used to treat seizure disorders. It is also illegal under federal law.

After the Senate finished its calendar, Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, moved to pull the bill from committee so the chamber could vote on it. The legislation has already cleared the Assembly, but will not pass this session without Senate action.

Earlier in the night, Fitzgerald referred the bill to Senate Org. He then scheduled a public hearing on the bill, which prevents the bill from being pulled to the floor.

Fitzgerald said he scheduled the hearing specifically to prevent a pulling motion, saying it would Would “put some senators in a very difficult position, and I don’t think it would be a real valid position for them.”

Dems proposed suspending the rules to take up the bill despite Fitzgerald's move. But Republicans could adjourn the session rather than holding the vote, and Dems were trying to prevent that.

 8:41 PM 

Alzheimer's bills head to guv

The Senate has signed off on three bills from the Assembly’s package to address Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The bills are now off to the guv. They include:

*AB 786, which would direct the Department of Health Services to propose a county-level pilot program for dementia crisis units; 

*AB 787, which would provide $1 million for respite care under the Alzheimer's Family and Caregiver Support Program; 

*and AB 790, which would require the DHS award grants totaling $250,000 in fiscal 2016-17 for training mobile crisis teams to serve people with dementia.

The Senate does not plan to take up the rest of the package.

 8:22 PM 

College affordability package bills going to guv

The final three bills in Gov. Scott Walker's college affordability package have passed.

AB 741, which would provide grants to tech college students facing a financial emergency, drew one Dem vote in favor, from Rep. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma. AB 742 and AB 744 passed along party lines.

Dems attempted, and failed, to attach multiple amendments to the bills. They repeatedly pounded the package as not doing enough for students.

"You stick with the governor -- Mr. 39 percent," Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said.

But Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, shot back at Dems, criticizing them for voting against legislation that helps some people.

"Do I wish we could have done more? Absolutely," he said. "But, you know, I'm going to take what I can get."

All four bills in the package are headed to the guv's desk.

 7:32 PM 

Dems ridicule college affordability package

Dems are criticizing the college affordability package as bills that do very little to solve the problems of student loan debt.

Still, AB 740, which would provide grants to tech colleges, passed 19-13 along party lines.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said the four college bills before the Senate will amount to about $2 million for tech college and university students. The La Crosse Dem said the package doesn't "move the needle" nearly as much as the Dems' "higher ed/lower debt" student loan refinancing legislation.

Walker's "big State of the State challenge" offers "micro-help, mini-help, tiny help, tiny," Shilling said.

"This is so pitiful," she said.

 7:16 PM 

Senate takes up GOP's college affordability package

The Senate is taking up the first bill in Gov. Scott Walker's college affordability package.

AB 740 would provide grants to tech colleges. Other bills in the package and on the calendar are:

*AB 741, which would provide grants to tech college students facing a financial emergency;

*AB 742, which would require DWD provide student internship coordination;

*and AB 744, which would require colleges provide information to students on the true costs of their student loans.

The Senate did not include a bill that would create a new tax deduction for the interest paid on student loans. It was the most expensive piece of the guv's package, and Senate Republicans have expressed concerns about adding spending.

Walker has said he's unhappy the full package won't make it to his desk.

 7:12 PM 

Plastic bag bill gets Senate OK

Despite Dems arguing the bill takes away local control and hurts the environment, the Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit municipalities from passing bans on "auxiliary containers," such as plastic bags or take-out boxes.

AB 730 passed 19-13 along party lines. It now goes to Gov. Scott Walker.

"I deeply resent this attack on local control," Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Kenosha, said.

But Sen. Frank Lasee called that "just a bunch of hooey." The De Pere Republican said Dems are using rhetoric but missing the point about the role of state government. He said state lawmakers need to strike a balance between local control and fairness for all.

"I think this is reasonable," Lasee said, "and it's reasonable for us to lay out parameters."

It's not fair to the city of Eau Claire, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout said. The Alma Dem said the legislation should be called "Eau Claire City Council vs. Walmart" legislation.

The city, she said, found a way to save money by getting people to bring their own bags to stores. Vinehout said local businesses, including Walmart, supported the idea. But then statewide groups heard about it and raised an uproar, leading to the legislation.

"This is ridiculous," she said.

Bill author Sen. Roger Roth said preventing the bans actually is better for the environment because replacement bags actually take longer to decompose. Furthermore, the Appleton Republican said, it prevents patchwork ordinances that could put some businesses at a disadvantage.

"It's a very proactive bill," Roth said, "that seeks to get ahead of the curve."

 6:30 PM 

Senate approves latest round of Nygren heroin, opioid bills

The Senate has passed via voice vote four bills that are the next installments of Rep. John Nygren’s Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education agenda.

The Marinette Republican’s AB 657, 658, 659 and 660 would: increase spending on treatment and diversion programs; criminalize masking agents; establish requirements for the regulation of opioid-treatment programs; change the authority of certain credentialing boards.

They next head to the guv's desk.

AB 766, which would set up review and reporting requirements for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, is expected to be taken up later in the Senate calendar.

UPDATE: The Senate has approved AB 766, and it's also on the way to the guv.

 6:27 PM 

Senate OKs bill ensuring live Christmas trees can be placed in churches, Capitol rotunda

Local governments could not prohibit the placement of a live Christmas tree in a church under legislation that cleared the Senate.

AB 648, which is now headed to the guv’s desk, also would ban the state from passing a rule that would prohibit a live tree being placed in the Capitol rotunda.

The issue popped up following complaints that some local officials were cracking down on churches having live trees as part of their Christmas displays over concerns they could be a fire hazard.

The bill, which cleared 25-7, also would create a presumption the seasonal placement of a Christmas tree in the rotunda or a church is not a fire hazard.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, knocked the legislation for usurping local authority and said lawmakers were substituting their judgment for those of fire officials.

“It is inconceivable that we’re going to pass a law that a fire hazard is not a fire hazard,” Risser said.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said Christmas trees have been put up in churches for at least two centuries and in the Capitol rotunda since the 1920s. He said only those in Madison -- a “different world” -- would have an issue with the bill. 

“This is why the public is so frustrated with government, especially at the national level, because they do these things which lack common sense,” Nass said.

 5:50 PM 

Senate approves felony charge for throwing bodily fluids at prosecutor

It would be a class I felony to throw or expel bodily fluids at a prosecutor under legislation the Senate approved.

The bill, approved 24-8, now goes to the guv.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, questioned why the legislation did not also make it a felony to spit at a judge. But it was rejected. Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said he was willing to work with Risser next session on legislation to extend that protection to judges.

If the bill had been amended to add judges, it would have likely died for the session with the Assembly not expected to come back.

Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, said spitting at a prosecutor wasn’t very smart. But he questioned why the Legislature was taking up the issue and whether it would truly deter anyone from spitting at prosecutor.

“I can’t imagine a prosecutor worth their salt going after somebody for spitting,” Miller said.

But Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, noted it extended to other fluids such as blood, urine, feces and semen. He noted the health threat some of those fluids can pose.

 5:31 PM 

Senate approves immunity for private campgrounds

Private campgrounds would have immunity from civil liability if someone is hurt or killed while using the property due to the “inherent risk of camping,” under legislation that cleared the Senate along party lines.

The bill would not provide immunity if the person seeking the legal protection intentionally caused the injury, death or property damage; acted with willful or wanton disregard; or if they failed to post warning signs of dangerous inconspicuous condition.

AB 174, which was approved 19-14, now goes to the guv's desk.

 5:24 PM 

Wood stove bill clears Senate

The Senate signed off on 19-13 legislation directing the DNR to not comply with the EPA’s newest wood stove regulations, clearing the way for the bill to hit the guv’s desk.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, the EPA establishes regulations to limit air pollution and then delegates the implementation and enforcement authority to states. The federal agency enacted has 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.

 5:23 PM 

Senate approves high-capacity well bill, but legislation likely dead for session

The Senate voted along party lines to approve legislation that would allow owners of high-capacity wells to repair, maintain or replace them without needing a new permit.

But it appears the legislation is dead for the session. The Senate bill, which cleared 19-13, differs from the one the Assembly signed off on earlier, and that chamber is not expected to return.

The main difference between the two bills is a provision in AB 874 lets people file a nuisance lawsuit claiming they are "unreasonably harmed" by the lowering of a water table or the reduction of pressure caused by someone else's well. The Senate version does not include that provision.

A high-capacity well is defined as one that, along with other wells on the property, can pump more than 100,000 gallons of water per day. 

Dems railed against the bill, saying it ceded control over existing wells and undercut the state’s responsibility to oversee the public interest in protecting groundwater. 

“It is privatizing Wisconsin’s groundwater,” said Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona.

No Republicans defended the bill on the Senate floor.

 3:25 PM 

Senate concurs on amendment to elections bill

The Senate via voice vote concurred on an amendment the Assembly made to legislation that would allow electronic registration, among other changes to election law.

Dems raised concerns the bill was poised to be signed by the guv just weeks before the April election, possibly causing issues for local officials. But Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg and co-author of the bill, said the legislation was important because it ensures veteran ID cards can be used at the polls.

The amendment the Assembly added to the bill deals with a campaign contributions provision. The tweak would serve as a catch-all, making sure there are limits for campaign contributions to state lawmakers from federal PACs.

UPDATE: The Senate has also concurred on changes the Assembly made to three other bills:

SB 615, a special needs scholarship bill that carries an amendment from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to adjust the funding formula public schools use for school choice students. It would reduce the property tax levy authority districts have for students who enroll in the voucher program. But critics have raised concerns the amendment would cut available revenue for those districts.

SB 546, to create an Internet crimes against children surcharge.

SB 581, which would change the salary threshold for when a volunteer fire fighter, EMT or first responder in a city, town or village can also hold elected office with that municipality.

 3:24 PM 

Fitzgerald: Senate likely to take up its version of high-capacity well bill

The Senate is likely to take up its version of the high-capacity well bill, meaning the legislation is unlikely to make it into law this session.

Under the legislation, the owner of a high-capacity well would not need a new permit to repair, maintain, replace or reconstruct a high-capacity well, which can pump more than 100,000 gallons of water a day.

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said members had concerns over the Assembly version of the bill and there seemed to be more support in his caucus for the Senate bill. Both houses have to sign off on the same version of any bill before it could go to the guv's desk, and Fitzgerald acknowledged there's almost no chance the Assembly will come back.

"It's the one thing we could do to send the message to the ag community this is an important issue," Fitzgerald said.

 12:57 PM 

Shilling: 'Were going out with a whimper'

Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling today ripped Senate Republicans for their agenda this session, saying Wisconsin families are in worse position now than they were five years ago when the GOP took over the state Capitol.

The LaCrosse Dem ticked off a list of priorities laid out this session that she said have been ignored by majority Republicans as they sought to boost Gov. Scott Walker's short-lived presidential campaign rather than help boost the state's economy.

"I feel like we’re going out with a whimper," Shilling said.

Shilling and fellow Dems also knocked Senate Republicans for the college affordability bills they put on today's calendar, saying it was inadequate. While several of the guv's bills are on today's calendar, Senate Republicans declined to take up a proposed tax deduction for student loan interest due to concerns over the price tag. Dems have argued the entire package did not go far enough and the state should create an authority to refinance student loans.

“What’s happening on our calendar is really an anemic attempt to help with college affordability," Shilling said. "It misses the mark."

 12:13 PM 

Senate honors Ellis, though Erpenbach questions motivation

The Senate today voted to honor the service for former Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, though Dem Sen. Jon Erpenbach questioned the motivation for the resolution.

Erpenbach, D-Middleton, worked with Ellis on campaign finance reform and the creation of the Government Accountability Board during their time in the Senate. Erpenbach said resolutions such as this are normally reserved for former members who have passed away and chided Republicans, saying Ellis was "run out of town" two years ago by the conservative wing of the GOP.

Conservatives often blamed Ellis for holding up various priorities as compromises were worked out.

Senate President Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, chided Erpenbach for questioning the motives of senators, which is against chamber rules.

Erpenbach then raised the prospect there was a reason behind the resolution.

"This is here because somebody is looking for an endorsement in a congressional race, I think," Erpenbach said.

Erpenbach did not single out who he was referencing. But Sen. Frank Lasee, R-DePere, is the only co-sponsor of the resolution who's currently running for Congress. 

UPDATE: Lasee said he did not ask Ellis for his endorsement, but didn't want to respond to Erpenbach's comments.

"I thought Mike Ellis should be honored," he said.

UPDATE 2: Ellis said this afternoon he was unaware the resolution had been introduced and that he has not spoken with Lasee about an endorsement.

 11:58 AM 

Dems cite Tomah VA scandal in opposing confirmation of appointments

The Senate voted 19-13 along party lines to approve Dr. David Roelke as a member of the Medical Examining Board with Dems opposed because of the body's failure to suspend the license of a doctor who was over-prescribing opiates at the Tomah VA.

The Senate also voted 19-13 to approve the appointment of Dr. Kenneth Simons to the Interstate Licensure Compact Commission with Dems again opposed.

Dr. David Houlihan, who was dubbed the “candy man” by VA patients, is the former chief of staff at the center and was fired after an investigation of the prescription practices under his direction that resulted in the death of a veteran. He has since been hired by a private clinic in La Crosse.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said he could not support the appointments considering Houlihan still has his license. 

The examining board in December found there was probable cause Houlihan had "committed unprofessional conduct." 

 11:44 AM 

Dems slam inaction on Correction as Senate approves Litscher appointment

Dems slammed the Senate for inaction on what they say is a crisis in the Corrections Department as the chamber approved Jon Litscher to take over the agency as secretary.

Litscher, who previously led the agency under Govs. Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum, was praised by some Dems as a good pick to lead the department, and the chamber signed off on his appointment 29-3.

Still, Dems used the vote to tick off a list of concerns they have with the agency, which has been under fire for its handling of abuse allegations at the youth prison in northern Wisconsin.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said Lincoln Hills is only one item on a list of problems at Corrections that includes forced overtime and a rise in assaults on guards. He said guards face unsafe working conditions in a dangerous job, but the Senate has done nothing to address those problems this session.

“We have a crisis in Corrections right now," Erpenbach said. "Hopefully the secretary will be able to come up with some ideas to address that. But legislatively, we could have done something, anything to make the officers’ jobs safer."

 11:11 AM 

And we're informal

That didn't take long.

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, moved to take up the appointments en masse. But Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, objected, saying he wasn't told ahead of time the appointments would be taken up before the Senate goes back to caucus to discuss the calendar.

The chamber then went informal to move on to resolutions. But that's been delayed because some members aren't in the chamber.

UPDATE: The Senate is back and taking up all of the appointments but four.

Monday, March 14, 2016

 12:41 PM 

Senate releases tentative calendar

The Senate plans to take up a package of changes to state election laws as well as a high-capacity well bill that was amended in committee this morning.

The Assembly version of the well bill is also on the tentative calendar.

The 16-page tentative calendar does not include such legislation as the so-called sanctuary cities bill or the REINS Act, which would add a new layer to the rules making process.

The Senate is scheduled to hit the floor at 11 a.m. tomorrow for its final floor period of the session.

See more in today's PM Update.

See the calendar here.

 12:10 AM 

County exec bill going to guv

The Assembly has concurred 53-40 on Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s bill that would prevent members of the Legislature from serving concurrently as a county executive.

The bill, which cleared the Senate 19-14, now goes to the guv’s desk.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, recently introduced the bill and has acknowledged it is aimed at Winnebago County Exec Mark Harris. He announced last year he plans to run as a Dem for the 18th SD, which is expected to be the most competitive race this fall.

The Senate amended the bill to provide 60 days following the certification of the election for either office before the ban would kick in.

 12:00 AM 

Vos amendment gets Assembly OK, bill goes back to Senate

The Assembly has added Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ new voucher funding formula to a Senate bill dealing with special needs scholarships.

Dems lost a challenge to the relevance of the amendment to the bill.

The bill was concurred 56-37 and now goes back to the Senate.

Vos’ amendment would adjust the overall funding formula public schools use for voucher students. Under the Rochester Republican's new proposal, public schools could count the full voucher scholarship amount immediately but not the additional money it costs to educate a student in that district.

The original amendment would have required public schools count voucher students on a three-year rolling average, meaning they would be counted one-third the first year, two-thirds the second and fully the third before phasing back toward zero in following years.

Current law lets districts count those students for the full amount, beyond the voucher scholarship, immediately toward revenue limit authority.

The bill, SB 615, would make several changes to the Special Needs Scholarship Program created in the most recent budget. That program lets public school children with disabilities receive financial assistance from the state to participate in school choice.

The legislation would, among other things, let children with disabilities apply for the scholarship to attend a private school at any point during the school year.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

 11:19 PM 

'Alicia's Law' going back to Senate

A bipartisan bill that would direct more money and more tools toward fighting Internet crimes against children is headed back to the Senate after picking up a technical amendment in the Assembly.

The Assembly passed the bill 87-7.

Known as “Alicia’s law,” the legislation focuses on two elements in the fight against crimes against children: money and subpoenas. An earlier amendment to the bill would transfer $1 million from various state DOJ accounts to one that would be focused on criminal investigations of the crimes. The original bill would have raised the money through a $20 surcharge to misdemeanor convictions and $40 to felonies.

The bill also would give the AG authority to issue administrative subpoenas to gather from Internet providers the protocol records that identify users. An earlier amendment specifies the circumstances when that subpoena can be used and the information that can be obtained. The Assembly amendment tonight further narrowed those subpoena powers.

Assembly author Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said the latest change in no way threatens the bill in the Senate.

Alicia Kozakiewicz, the bill’s namesake, was 13 when she met someone online, was lured from her home and taken across state lines. She was chained by the neck in a basement, she said, and kept there for four days and nights before a child task force rescued her after tracking the online photos her captor had posted of her on the Internet.

 11:04 PM 

Assembly sends navigable water bill to guv

A navigable waters bill is headed for the guv’s desk after the Assembly concurred 56-37 on an amended version of the legislation.

The Assembly last week approved a version of the bill that would allow general permits for dredging of up to 30 cubic yards from a lake bed rather than more restrictive individual permits. It also would change the way Areas of Special Natural Resource Interest are designated, requiring the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules approve them. The Assembly also wanted to create a mechanism under which developers could get clean deeds to dry lake beds.

The Senate, though, dropped the dry lake bed and dredging provisions. It also reworked the Areas of Special Natural Resource provision to limit the types of areas the DNR can designate.

The office of Senate co-author Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, said the change would still mean, for example, the DNR could not designate all of Lake Winnebago an Area of Special Natural Resource. Instead, that designation would be limited to the lake's most sensitive areas.

Sen. Rob Cowles, who co-authored the legislation as chair of the Natural Resources and Energy, said many of the provisions were pulled because there was not enough time to carefully review them before the Legislature adjourns.

 10:59 PM 

Assembly passes Milwaukee County debt collection bill

The Assembly has given a green light to a bill that revives provisions similar to those in the Bucks arena legislation that would let Milwaukee County use its debt collection to cover its portion of the project.

The money this time around, though, is not set aside specifically for the Bucks arena.

The bill drew a bipartisan 55-40 vote.

AB 885, by Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, would let the Department of Revenue take over debt collection for the county. The legislation would allow for payment plans as low as $25 per month in certain circumstances based on income levels of those who owe.

Among the amendments to the bill is one that would ensure the money collected is directed to the areas of county government to which the debt was owed. A further amendment also places restitution to crime victims as the top priority. Money left over would go to the county coffers.

The bill each year would direct $1 million or 50 percent of the amount collected, whichever is less, to a local workforce development board. The bill also would require review of the debt collection every three years.

Milwaukee County now is receiving $4 million less per year in shared-revenue payments from the state to cover the counties portion of the arena project.

 10:21 PM 

Krug votes against well bill with his sub

The GOP author of a sub amendment for a high-capacity well bill got his proposal adopted and then voted against the bill.

Rep. Scott Krug, after being called out by Dems after the 57-35 vote in favor of the bill, said he wanted to add more to the sub to Rep. Lee Nerison's legislation. Krug, R-Nekoosa, said he spent three years working on a high-capacity well bill. His more sweeping legislation recently died, so he tried to boost Nerison's narrower bill.

AB 874 deals with permitting for the wells, which can pump 100,000 gallons of water per day. Under the bill, for instance, no new permit would be required for well maintenance or when ownership is transferred. The Westby Republican’s legislation also would allow for the drilling of a new well using the same specs as the old as long as the new one is within 75 feet.

In response to Dems on the floor, Krug said he thought the bill "fell a little short." Later, he was more specific, saying his primary problem with the bill was the ownership transfer provision.

"That's just too big of a hurdle to jump for my constituents," Krug said.

Krug's sub for the bill would create hydrology tests for three watersheds in the Central Sands area of the state as well as require flow meters for many of the high-capacity wells.

Dems made their opposition to the bill clear much earlier in the debate. Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said the bill, particularly the transfer of ownership provision, moves the state toward a "Western-style" water rights approach, which, he added, amounts to: "I have dibs."

And the amendment calling for a study is just pushing the problem down the road, Mason said.

"You're selling snake oil to your constituents so you can go home and say you did something," he said.

Krug told Dems to "spare me the indignation" when they aren't offering their own solutions. And, he said, it's time to stop laying all the blame on farmers.

"There's got to be some shared pain," he said. "There's got to be some shared sacrifice. There's got to be some shared solutions."

 9:11 PM 

Rulemaking bill clears Assembly

An amended version of legislation that would add new requirements to the rulemaking process cleared the Assembly 60-33 alng party lines.

See the roll call here.

AB 251 would require legislative approval for any proposed rule that would carry $10 million or more in compliance costs to implement. GOP Rep. Adam Neylon’s legislation would add another public hearing on proposed rules that would occur earlier in the process than is now required.

Neylon, of Pewaukee, said he worked with multiple stakeholders from across the business spectrum to make the bill work. That's why the bill had nine amendments, he said.

"Regulatory reform is not a very glamorous subject," he said, "but it is an important one."

The bill also would give the Legislature, through the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, the power to request an independent economic analysis after viewing estimates from state agencies on the costs.

If an independent review found the costs would eclipse the $10 million threshold, the agency would have to ask JCRAR to introduce a bill authorizing promulgation of the proposed rule; to modify the proposal; or to withdraw the rule. 

Forty groups have lobbied on the bill since its introduction in June, according to the GAB's website. And Dems pointed out the legislation's opponents, including the National Federation of Independent Business.

"This bill will hurt public health and the environment," Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said, "and dilute the voice o small business."

Several utility groups have raised concerns over how the bill would dovetail with federal requirements, and insurance companies are looking for an exemption for their industry.

One of Neylon’s amendments offers "narrow exemptions" from the legislation for the insurance industry. Another amendment clarifies how the process would work when Environmental Protection Agency regs and the state rulemaking process come together. Another amendment delays implementation of the bill until January 2017.

 7:18 PM 

Some confusion after Assembly returns from caucus

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, had a brief moment of confusion after returning from partisan caucuses.

Taylor was speaking on her amendment to SB 503, a bill from Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, that makes several changes to tax laws and Department of Revenue procedures. But she forgot which bill she was speaking on and asked Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca for help.

“Peter, do you know what this bill is?” Taylor asked as fellow lawmakers laughed. “I can’t remember. I’m sorry. It will come back to me.”

Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, called it a “very convincing argument, indeed.”

Taylor then proceeded to raise her concern over the bill. One of the bill’s changes would forbid DOR from imposing some penalties on taxpayers until the agency has sent them summons and the taxpayers have ignored those summons.

Taylor said that would lead people to not comply “until they get the summons.”

 6:09 PM 

Streetcar bill wins Assembly approval

Milwaukee County and the state could not incur any expenses related to the city of Milwaukee’s streetcar project under a bill that cleared the Assembly 59-36.

And that didn't sit well with Dems, who repeatedly argued the topic is a matter of local control and not one the Legislature should be concerned with.

"If you don't want to fund it, don't fund it," Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said. "But don't go out of your way to pick on my city."

AB 562, by Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, adds the state to a measure in the current budget that requires the county cannot incur expenses related to the streetcar unless the city fully reimburses those expenses.

An amendment to the bill clarifies the state and Milwaukee County cannot incur any expenses relating to the operation “or construction” of the streetcar. The amendment also requires Milwaukee reimburse the state or county for any direct or indirect expenses related to the project.

Kremer said his bill has nothing to do with local control. No one, he said, is telling the city that it can or cannot build the streetcar system.

But, he said, project cost overruns are common on major government projects and he wants to make sure state taxpayers don't shoulder the burden.

"I do not wish ill will on the city of Milwaukee or its residents," Kremer said.

Two Republicans -- Al Ott, of Forest Junction, and John Spiros, of Marshfield, joined Dems in voting against. See the roll call here.

Following the vote, Rep. Thomas Larson, R-Colfax, got a standing ovation from the body for running the bill.

 5:06 PM 

Larson takes the chair

Rep. Thomas Larson has taken the chair to run a bill dealing with state money for Milwaukee's streetcar project.

Once again, the move follows the Assembly tradition of letting departing members run bills.

 5:02 PM 

Forestry bill going to Walker

An amended bill that would make several changes to the state’s Managed Forest Land program now awaits the guv’s signature after the Assembly concurred 62-32 on a Senate bill.

The goal of Rep. Jeffrey Mursau’s bill, backers say, is to strike a balance between supporting sustainable timber harvests and meeting the needs of the nearly 50,000 landowners in the Department of Natural Resource’s program. There are nearly 3.3 million acres in the MFL program.

Under the program, landowners who sign up and agree to forestry management practices and plans to log timber pay fees, in lieu of property taxes, that are less than what they would have been taxed. Current law requires those property owners reserve no more than 160 acres as closed, or private, while the rest is kept open for public recreational use.

Under the amended bill by Mursau, R-Crivitz, the 160-acre cap for nonindustrial land owners would be doubled to 320. The bill’s other proposed changes to the law include:

*ensuring property owners are signing a contract when entering the program and can withdraw if they do not agree with changes;

*letting land owners lease out their closed property for recreational use;

*increasing the minimum acreage requirement from 10 to 20;

*letting landowners remove as many as 5 acres from the program to build a residence;

*directing that the closed-acreage fees go to the parcel’s county and municipality or town rather than to the DNR, as current law requires. That provision is coupled with an end to the timber harvest yield taxes local governments now receive.

 4:44 PM 

Per diem bill gets Assembly's OK

The Assembly has approved via voice vote a bill that would sunset a state law that lets certain lawmakers use their per diems as income tax deductions.

The bill by Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, applies to lawmakers who live within 50 miles of the state Capitol. Those legislators have for years been able to deduct their per diems, while those who live farther away from the Capitol have not had that option, according to the bill's backers.

 3:59 PM 

Digging into some numbers

The debate over a bill that would set rules for state agency budget requests led to a back and forth between Majority Leader Jim Steineke and Dem Gordon Hintz.

Under the bill, state agencies would have to include in their biennial budget requests a plan that would keep their operations spending at current levels as well as one to impose a 5 percent cut. The original bill applied to agencies’ overall budgets, but the legislation was amended to apply to operations, which excludes aids to local governments, individuals and organizations. The substitute amendment also would exclude expenditures from federal revenues and for debt service.

Hintz, D-Oshkosh, criticized the bill as a "cute proposal" that isn't a solution, and he hit Republicans over budget cuts to the UW System.

"The real issue of fiscal responsibility comes from the decisions we make in an ongoing basis," Hintz said.

Steineke, R-Kaukauna, jumped at that statement, asking Hintz if he knows how much the state would have spent if every Dem pulling motion had passed.

Hintz countered that is "junk math" because it takes the motions in aggregate. Dems, he said, try a new motion when the previous one fails.

"But if you rattle that off, it's one of the lamer things we've heard on the floor," Hintz said.

The number, Steineke said, is nearly $2.5 billion.

"When you're complaining about fiscal responsibility," Steineke said, "maybe take a look in the mirror."

 3:38 PM 

Knudson has the chair

Following Assembly tradition, members who will not be returning are running bills from the chair.

Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, is up first. The bill deals with state agency budget proposals.

 3:15 PM 

Strip search bill going to guv

A GOP bill that would expand the circumstances under which someone in police custody can be strip searched is headed to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk following the Assembly's voice vote concurrence on a Senate bill.

Now, other than those arrested for felonies and some misdemeanors, someone has to be facing detainment of at least 12 hours before police can conduct a strip search. The bill would drop the 12-hour requirement.

Dems pointed out the bill reverses a bipartisan move on the floor last session that established the 12-hour wait. Rep. Evan Goyke said he understands the need for strip searches but added the 12-hour wait protected people who haven't been charged.

"They're now going to have to squat naked in a jail even though they're not charged with a crime," the Milwaukee Dem said.

Rep. Mandela Barnes brought up a recent $5 million settlement between the city of Milwaukee and 74 African-American residents who said they were subjected to illegal strip searches and cavity searches. The Milwaukee Dem proposed an amendment that would have required the state Department of Justice track data -- age, ethnicity, zip code -- of people who are strip searched within the the 12-hour window. The amendment failed.

Assembly bill author Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said he understands how "horrifying" strip searches can be. He said he prays he never has to go through it and "I pray more for the person who would have to strip search me."

But, he said, the state tried the 12-hour wait and heard it isn't good enough.

"We need to listen to our law enforcement," Kleefisch said.

 2:30 PM 

Assembly OKs cellphone bill

A bill that would mostly prohibit cellphone use while driving through construction zones has Assembly approval via voice vote.

AB 198 would establish exceptions for reporting emergencies and for drivers who use voice-operated or hands-free devices. Fines for using a cellphone in a construction zone would be $20 to $40 for a first offense and $50 to $100 for subsequent offenses within a year.

 1:41 PM 

Alzheimer's, dementia bills win Assembly approval

A package of 10 bills from the Speaker’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia are headed to the Senate after clearing the Assembly either unanimously or via voice votes.

The bills target a variety of areas related to Alzheimer’s and dementia. AB 791, for example, would require a community-based residential facility obtain a signed acknowledgment form for administration of psychotropic medications.

Other bills in the package would:

*create virtual dementia tour licenses;

*direct $50,000 for two new Alzheimer’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison;

*create a dementia specialist certification program;

*create a county-level pilot program for dementia crisis units.

Several of the bills also were amended, some in technical ways and others in ways that were more far-reaching.

For instance, AB 787 would provide $1 million for respite care under the Alzheimer's Family and Caregiver Support Program. An amendment would allow Native American tribes access to the program. A second amendment would increase the level of household income from $40,000 to $48,000 to be eligible for the program.

The bills are expected to cost $2 million this biennium.

 12:47 PM 

Nygren: There was a way to victory

Rep. John Nygren said the hardest part about choosing not to run for the 8th CD was that there was a "pretty clear pathway, honestly, to victory."

Still, he said, family trumped that. During the past couple of years, the Marinette Republican said, both parents and two of his siblings died, and that emphasized to him the importance of family.

"Life is short," said Nygren, whose oldest daughter has struggled with addiction and has been an inspiration for a package of bills he's pushed through to combat heroin abuse.

Nygren also said he has reviewed an LAB financial audit of the UW System. The LAB identified concerns some UW reserve policies and recommended a review of them.

Nygren said he didn't see any "glaring issues" but expects to learn more during Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearings.

According to the audit, The system's unrestricted program revenue balances declined from $973.3
million as of June 30, 2014, to $923.9 million as of June 30, 2015.

"Obviously," Nygren said, "the reserves are still pretty darn strong."

 12:31 PM 

Drone bills fly through Assembly

The Assembly has separated two bills regulating the use of drones, approving AB 670 via voice vote.

That bill would prohibit the use of drones over state correctional institutions.

The second, AB 671, would enhance the penalties for crimes committed using a drone.

EDITOR'S NOTE: AB 671 passed via voice vote later in the floor period.

 12:30 PM 

Shoreland zoning bill headed to guv

A property rights and shoreland zoning bill is headed to the guv’s desk after the Assembly concurred on the Senate version via voice vote.

The bill cleared the Senate this week 19-13, but that body amended the legislation to remove a provision dealing with the timing of property tax assessments on vacant land. The bill originally cleared the Assembly 56-39.

Rep. Adam Jarchow’s AB 582 has gone through several revisions since introduction. The Balsam Lake Republican’s amended version eliminates a provision from the original bill that would have established new “vested rights,” under which local zoning laws are frozen at a certain point when a developer applies for permits.

Other provisions include:

*clarifying that land platted and zoned for residential, commercial or manufacturing is assessed at its unimproved value until a building permit is issued, except in certain circumstances involving TIF districts;

*requiring a two-thirds vote from the governing board to down-zone a property, essentially allowing fewer uses on the land. The original bill called for approval by 75 percent of the board;

*requiring municipalities provide to those who request it an annual publication of zoning changes;

*prohibiting the Department of Natural Resources or other authorities from preventing flat roofs on boathouses;

*letting plaintiffs substitute the judge in contested case hearings;

*and letting a licensed surveyor determine the ordinary high-water mark on shoreland properties.

 12:18 PM 

Future dim for fetal tissue bill

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wouldn't say directly if the Assembly would come back to take up a fetal tissue bill if it clears the Senate, but his answer didn't bode well for the legislation.

"My plan is to not come back," the Rochester Republican said.

The bill would prohibit the sale of, or research on, fetal tissue derived from abortions.

 11:49 AM 

GOP lawmakers respond to protest outside Capitol

The GOP author of a bill at the heart of the "A Day without Latinos and Immigrants" protest outside the Capitol this morning said those people are misinformed about the legislation.

Rep. John Spiros, speaking prior to the floor period today, said his bill dealing with "sanctuary cities" is not designed to punish people who are in the country illegally. As he talked in Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' office, cheering, drums and speeches in Spanish could be heard from just outside the window.

"Bottom line is," Spiros, R-Marshfield, said, "what they're being told is not the truth."

The protest drew thousands of people to the State Street entrance to the Capitol, and hundreds more circled the building in a parade. As the Assembly gaveled in, the protests continued loudly outside, prompting one Dem to ask Vos, R-Rochester, if the people outside the building would be allowed into the Assembly gallery, which was mostly empty.

Vos said the typical rules of the Assembly apply, meaning no signs or cellphone use.

Prior to the floor period, Vos backed Spiros' comments about the "sanctuary cities" legislation and another bill that would limit and regulate the creation and use of local photo IDs. The protest also targeted that bill.

Vos blamed "Democratic activists" for capitalizing on the situation and distorting the facts of the bills.

"The goal of the legislation is to make sure the people who commit crimes are punished," Vos said of the "sanctuary cities" bill. He later added, "Luckily, we have the facts on our side."

That legislation would let local governments allow law enforcement to ask people about their immigration status once they've been charged with a crime. "Sanctuary cities" prohibit such questions.

The bill passed the Assembly on Tuesday with an amendment that changed the wording to "charged with a crime" from "arrested or detained." That, Spiros said, makes clear his bill is not targeting people who do not commit crimes or who receive traffic violations.

Dems today took credit for amendments to the bill, saying they successfully lobbied Spiros to change the bill. Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa said the bill's changes could let law enforcement in her district of Milwaukee continue working with immigrant communities.

Still, the Dem said, the bill is anti-immigrant and likely to clear the Senate.

"Unfortunately, I see it passing that house," she said, adding the protests are crucial to send a clear message to Gov. Scott Walker.

 2:04 AM 

Online voter registration bill passes Assembly

The Assembly has OK'd an amended online voter registration bill, sending the legislation back to the Senate for another vote.

Members approved the bill 56-38, with four Republicans joining Dems in opposition. See the roll call here.

Dems, during debate over passage, insisted the GOP could have passed a "clean bill" that maintained the special registration deputies allowed under current law. Rep. Terese Berceau, who worked on earlier versions of the legislation, said she is "disappointed you did this."

"What we are missing is the fact SRDs help people without computers," the Madison Dem said.

Still, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the legislation marked an effort that stretched across the aisle.

"This is a good bill that really focused on what we want to do," the Rochester Republican said.

 1:19 AM 

Debate kicks off on online voter registration bill

Dems are trying to amend an online voter registration bill by restoring the special registration deputies the bill would eliminate.

"Pass a clean bill," Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, said.

SB 295 would let the state start a system for electronic voter registration. That system could be used by eligible voters who hold state driver’s licenses or ID cards. If their information is verified by the Department of Transportation, those voters would not have to provide proof of residence.

A sub amendment to the bill requires, among other things, the online voter registration system be up and running by the 2017 spring primary.

The bill and sub also eliminate the special registration deputies and replace them with election registration officials assigned by a clerk. That provision has drawn pushback from some groups and Dems who argue eliminating the volunteer deputies would put an end to voter registration drives.

Another provision in the bill that faces opposition would change the rules for counting absentee ballots. Under current law, the ballots must be postmarked by Election Day. Under the sub, the ballots must be delivered to the polling place by Election Day.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also has a proposed amendment up for the bill. The Rochester Republican's amendment deals with a campaign contributions provision. The tweak would serve as a catch-all, making sure there are limits for campaign contributions to state lawmakers from federal PACs.

 1:12 AM 

WIAA bill clears Assembly

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association would face more public oversight under a bill the Assembly has passed 61-34.

Rep. John Nygren’s bill would allow membership in an interscholastic athletic association only if it agrees to be governed by the state’s public records and open meetings laws. The Marinette Republican’s bill mostly mirrors legislation introduced in 2009 by former Dem Rep. Tony Staskunas, of West Allis.

But Dems tonight questioned the legislation and pointed out what they said was irony in a co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee proposing open records legislation. Rep. Andy Jorgensen called Nygren a member of the "gang of 12" that inserted into the budget changes to the state's open records law.

"You can't make this stuff up folks," the Milton Dem said.

The WIAA drew widespread attention for in recent months for telling schools to emphasize that taunts or chants, such as "air ball" during basketball games, directed at opposing fans or players are considered rude and are not allowed. Nygren, at the time, wrote in a column that such policies “deserve more oversight and scrutiny.”

Nygren called Dem criticism of the bill "rhetoric" and said there's a clear goal with the legislation.

"Transparency on all forms of government is a good thing," he said.

 1:02 AM 

Assembly approves broadband bill

The Assembly has cleared via voice vote an amended broadband bill that would give the Public Service Commission new duties in expanding the service in the state.

Under Rep. Romaine Quinn’s AB 820, the PSC would be required to:

*encourage broadband infrastructure development in underserved areas of the state;

*make network project permit information available to anyone;

*work with other governments on timely issuance of permits;

*and encourage coordinated activities for the approval and issuance of permits.

Among the changes under the amendment is one that would require written notification of a permit denial include evidence that the denial was not arbitrary.

 1:00 AM 

College affordability package gets OK from Assembly

The package of six bills has cleared the Assembly.

The votes on the bills were:

*AB 739, which would create an income tax deduction for interest paid on qualified education loans. The bill passed 61-37. See the roll call here.

*AB 740, which increases grants for tech colleges to aid students.The bill passed 61-36. See the roll call here.

*AB 741, which would expand emergency financial need grants for students at tech colleges and two-year UW colleges. The bill passed 61-36. See the roll call here.

AB 742, which would require DWD coordinate between colleges and employers to increase the number of students placed in internships and add two employees at the agency to oversee that.  The bill passed 60-37. See the roll call here.

AB 743, which would require the UW Board of Regents create new positions to coordinate efforts to help students get internships. The bill passed 57-40. See the roll call here.

AB 744, which would require colleges and universities provide students information relating to educational costs and financial literacy. The bill passed 61-36. See the roll call here.

 12:41 AM 

Assembly calendar set for Thursday

The Assembly's floor period Thursday will start at 11 a.m. and end at midnight as members take up what is expected to be the final calendar of the session.

The Rules Committee, in approving the calendar, added 34 bills to the calendar and dropped two.

The additions to the calendar include:

*AB 251, which would add new requirements to the rulemaking process, including requiring legislative approval for a proposed rule that would carry $10 million or more in compliance costs to implement;

*AB 345, which would sunset individual income tax deductions for expense allowances for certain lawmakers;

*AB 582, which would affect property rights and regulations of shoreland zoning, among other things. The Senate, in passing the bill 19-13 tonight, added an amendment, which means it returns to the Assembly.

*SB 459, which would overhaul portions of the state's navigable waters laws. The Senate also amended that bill, meaning it returns to the Assembly before heading to the guv.

*SB 546, which, among other things, would create an administrative subpoena for investigating Internet crimes against children;

*SB 615, a special needs scholarship program for voucher students. The amendment-free bill cleared the Senate tonight. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos intends to amend the bill with a proposal to adjust the overall funding formula public schools use for choice students.

*and SB 707, which would prevent a legislator from concurrently holding office as a county executive. The Senate passed the legislation tonight.

The committee also dropped from the calendar:

*AB 719, which deals with shining wild animals;

*and AB 748, which deals with technical education grants to school districts.

See the finalized calendar here.

 12:16 AM 

Assembly trying to wrap up calendar tonight

The leaders of both parties have agreed to try to wrap up the calendar tonight and are shooting for adjournment around 1:15 a.m.

If the calendar is completed tonight the 8 a.m. to noon floor period scheduled for Wednesday will be cancelled, leaving more time for caucuses.

To achieve that, there now is a 3-minute limit on all passage speeches.

: See older blog items :

Quorum Call site feed

wispolitics.com Social News

Follow Us


WisPolitics coverage of news from the Wisconsin Legislature.

Editor: JR Ross
Reporters: Chris Thompson, David Wise

· Quorum Call site feed
· Quorum Call on Twitter


· InSession: Senate | Assembly
· Audio/video coverage
· Session calendar

· Bill database
· Lobbying information
· Notification service

· Download a printable directory
· Leadership rosters
· New faces in 2013
· Find your legislator
· Senate home pages
· Assembly home pages


· December 2009
· January 2010
· February 2010
· March 2010
· April 2010
· December 2010
· January 2011
· February 2011
· April 2011
· May 2011
· June 2011
· July 2011
· August 2011
· September 2011
· October 2011
· November 2011
· January 2012
· February 2012
· March 2012
· July 2012
· November 2012
· December 2012
· January 2013
· February 2013
· March 2013
· April 2013
· May 2013
· June 2013
· September 2013
· October 2013
· November 2013
· December 2013
· January 2014
· February 2014
· March 2014
· April 2014
· June 2014
· November 2014
· December 2014
· January 2015
· February 2015
· March 2015
· April 2015
· May 2015
· June 2015
· July 2015
· September 2015
· October 2015
· November 2015
· January 2016
· February 2016
· March 2016
Copyright ©2012 WisPolitics.com All rights reserved. | WisOpinion.com | WisBusiness.com  |  Website development by wisnet.com LLC  | Website design by Makin’ Hey Communications