The debate over amendments is finished, with each tabling vote picking up more Dem support. The final amendment, prohibiting guns from Summerfest, Miller Park and other public places, was tabled on a 69-28 vote, with Dem Reps. Barca, Clark, Danou, Doyle, Hintz, Jorgensen, Radcliffe, Molepske, Milroy and Vruwink joining Republicans.
Two individuals were booted from the Assembly gallery for holding up copies of the U.S. Constitution. Spectators in the gallery are prohibited for displaying signs.
The individuals who were tossed have been constant protesters at the Capitol since demonstrations began in February.
"Free speech is a right, not a privilege," the man shouted as he was carried out by the cops, one lifting him under his arms and the other by his legs. "The first line in this document says I can do this."
A woman was also carried out for the same offense.
Another man was momentarily ejected for having a video camera in the gallery. Recording the floor sessions is also prohibited. The man with the camera left without the help of law enforcement, and returned without the camera.
The gallery is relatively empty today compared to recent sessions, with only about a dozen people watching today's proceeding. It appears a majority of those who are here support the concealed carry bill.
Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder said passage of concealed carry is "long overdue" and said the legislation has had bipartisan support in previous sessions only to be vetoed. He called this version "a good bill" and "a safe bill."
He accused critics of the legislation of using scare tactics to incite "irrational fears."
"This is not some radical right wing proposal," Suder, R-Abbotsford, said, pointing out that 48 other states have some sort of concealed carry law.
"I could be wrong but I don't believe Republicans and the NRA control 96 percent of the United States," Suder said. He urged the lawmakers "to do what's right for your district, not what's popular for some on the left."
Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz, called the bill "a great first step for citizens of this state to personally be able to protect themselves."
Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, called this "a great day for the Second Amendment."
"Right now the only people out there who conceal carry are criminals," he said.
Rep. Mary Williams, R-Medford, said the responsibility of carrying a gun should be taken seriously, and that it is "important that anybody who wants to have a gun take a class" to learn how to use it properly.
Rep. Peter Barca, the Assembly Minority Leader, said there's no doubt the bill will be passed today, but he wants to ensure that the legislation includes proper training requirements.
"This is an important bill and let's just do it right," he said.
Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, said the bill is part of a "very divisive social policy agenda that a majority of Wisconsinites are not clamoring for."
She said lawmakers should be focused on improving the economy and creating jobs rather than "another issue that is going to tear this state apart."
The Senate has backed the measure dubbed the "bill to pay the bills" on a unanimous vote.
The legislation now heads to Gov. Scott Walker after Assembly passage last week. Among its provisions:
- the bill would repeal $29.8 million in lapses that were planned under the collective bargaining changes, but not realized because it had been held up by a Dane County judge.
- it would reduce required lapses to $67 million; they were originally to be $200 million.
- it would transfer $235 million to the Patients Compensation Fund by June 30, 2012, to pay back the fund with interest for the illegal $200 million transfer made as part of the 2007-09 budget that was invalidated by the state Supreme Court.
- it would realize $23 million in GPR savings by accelerating Medicaid payments in order to capture higher federal reimbursement rates in effect through June 30.
- it would decrease by $3.1 million community aids to realize anticipated savings.
- it would decrease by $4.6 million the Joint Finance Committee's supplemental appropriation.
Republicans tossed aside three Dem amendments backers said would have maintained local recycling grants and the SeniorCare program. Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills and the bill's co-author, said those issues have been addressed in the forthcoming biennial budget bill.
Darling accused the SeniorCare amendment's author, Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee, of scaring seniors with his floor remarks, withdrawing a comment of "shame on you."
That drew a rebuke from Carpenter and sparked a lengthy list of Dem speakers who reminded Republicans that their governor originally proposed phasing the program into Medicare Part D in the budget.
"I would submit that seniors should be scared," said Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona.
We've been wrapped up with the Supreme Court's decision in the collective bargaining case for a little while -- and the Assembly and the filing deadline for the recall elections and a few other things. But we're back following the Senate debate on the concealed carry legislation.
Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, complained both sides are overstating the impact of the concealed carry legislation.
During debate on an amendment to create exemptions to the concealed carry proposal for daycares, the Capitol, bars and other places, Holperin told the Senate he lives 12 miles from the Michigan. He said he can't tell a difference when traveling in Michigan, which has concealed carry, and Wisconsin, one of two states that does not.
Amid complaints from his fellow Dems that the concealed carry legislation is causing concern among small business owners about notifying patrons whether they can carry in their establishments. The legislation would allow businesses to post signs telling patrons guns weren't welcome.
Holperin said that concern was trumped up.
"Will this bill make this state any safer? Probably not. Will it make this state any more dangerous? Probably not. Will it result in any inconveniences for small business owners? probably not," Holperin said.
The Senate voted 21-10 to table an amendment adding penalties for straw gun purchases to the concealed carry legislation.
Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, introduced the amendment, saying it was needed to improve safety in his hometown.
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, assured Carpenter that legislation would soon be addressed by the Senate that would address straw gun purchases as well as increasing penalties for illegally carrying and invited him to work with her on the legislation.
Carpenter's amendment was tabled as Sen. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee, complained Dems were clouding the true intent of the legislation.
"This is about protecting the rights of law abiding citizens to protect themselves," Zipperer said.
UPDATE: 3:56 p.m. -- Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, missed the first vote but was allowed to add her vote in favor of tabling after the fact, making the vote 21-10 rather than the original 20-10.
The Senate has begun debating concealed carry legislation, but things have been decidedly one-sided in the early goings.
GOP Sen. Pam Galloway, the bill's sponsor, has declined a couple of requests to answer questions on the legislation, denying Dems a chance to make their points by grilling her on the bill.
After Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, failed to get Galloway to answer a question, Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, gave it a try, joking with the chamber he thought he was in better shape to get an answer than Erpenbach. But he was denied as well.
Cullen said he was sure no senator would intentionally introduce legislation that would make Wisconsin less safe and said he understands some people truly believe concealed carry will make the state safer. But Cullen, an opponent of the bill, questioned where there were any exemptions in the legislation if that were really true.
"If it makes Wisconsin safer some places, why doesn’t it make Wisconsin safer other places?" Cullen asked.
The Senate voted 18-14 to approve prohibiting local governments from placing restrictions on landlords in how they do background checks on prospective tenants.
The legislation also bans locals from telling landlords they can’t show properties to prospective tenants while the units are still occupied.
Sen. Frank Lasee, R-DePere, called the legislation pro-tenant, saying the restrictions that locals place on landlords are they passed onto those who rent from them in the form of higher costs.
But Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, called the legislation anti-Madison, particularly after it was amended to ban locals from requiring landlords to pay interest on security deposits once they’re returned. Madison now requires that.
“When did this get to be the ear of the big government republicans? What happened to local control?” Risser said.
The Senate unanimously honored the retiring State Auditor Jan Mueller today for the 13 years she led the Audit Bureau.
Longtime Joint Audit Committee member Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, said he was very sad to see Mueller retire and said state lawmakers wouldn’t have been able to get much done without her help.
“Godspeed, you’re still a young woman and still have much to do. Thank you for everything you’ve done for the state,” Cowles told Mueller, who was standing just off the Senate floor. That prompted a standing ovation from the full Senate.
Mueller, who became auditor in March 1998, retires at the end of this week.
The resolution has already been approved by the Assembly.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he his confident his caucus has the votes to pass the budget and said support remains strong for the collective bargaining changes.
Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he expects the outcome to be the same on the collective bargaining changes as it was in March, when Republicans voted 18-1 to approve them. Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center was the only Republican to oppose the bill.
Fitzgerald reiterated that he expects to add the collective bargaining changes to the budget if the Supreme Court does not act soon.
Fitzgerald also said his caucus gave Legislative Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang a round of applause yesterday when he announced during a briefing that the state's structural deficit would be wiped out under the budget and there could be a surplus of $306 million heading into the 2013-15 biennium.
"It's amazing to some of us who have been here for a while to hear we have finally accomplished what we set out to do, and that was to get the state back on track," Fitzgerald said.
The Senate had been waiting this afternoon to see if the Assembly would pass AB 148, which backers call the "bill to pay the bills," in time to take it up yet today. But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the Senate will instead take it up next time it's on the floor.
In what Assembly minority leader Rep. Peter Barca called “a preview for the big show next week,” the Assembly voted 84-12 to pass Assembly Bill 148, what backers have dubbed "the bill to pay the bill.”
The legislation would take some of the $636 million in additional revenue the state expects through the end of the next biennium and use it to pay off what the Patients Compensation Fund and other debts.
“Let’s work together,” insisted Barca, D-Kenosha. “Let’s pay our bills.”
But the Assembly proved divisive on a number of amendments, and motions to pay off money to local and municipal governments were tabled along party lines.
Bill author Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, called the Assembly’s overall agreement on AB 148 an “action of bipartisan leadership.”
The Assembly voted 68-29 this afternoon to repeal a program implemented under former Dem Gov. Jim Doyle to allow prisoners to earn their early release.
Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder said the program has been a disaster that did not save money as promised and has outraged the public.
“My goal all along was to get rid of early release,” Suder said.
Dem Rep. Tony Staskunas complained the state’s prisons are already at capacity and the state needs to find a way to cut the number of people behind bars. Without offering prisoners a way to earn their way out of prison, he said, the state is going to have to eventually begin to build more prisons, an expensive proposition.
The Assembly voted 61-36 to repeal a requirement that police collect traffic stop data in an effort to gauge whether racial profiling in a factor in pulling people over.
Supporters of the bill have complained the requirement is burdensome on law enforcement and an unnecessary step.
Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, chided Republicans for repealing the bill, saying it is part of an “ignorance is bliss” approach that trivialized the real issue of racial profiling. She also questioned why Republicans were so afraid of simply collecting some information.
She said African Americans are pulled over disproportionally in Wisconsin and has experienced racial profiling herself on her way to the Capitol with an officer asking what she was doing in a particular area. She’s also experienced it with her father, brother, cousins, uncles and friends, she said.
“This is real and if there is such an inability of people in this body to understand the experience of those outside of themselves, that is shameful and disgusting,” Grigsby said.
“You’re saying, no, it doesn’t happen. We don’t believe you.”
The Assembly voted 59-37 to approve its version of the legislation to change the composition of the Veterans Affairs Board and give the guv the power to appoint the secretary.
Dems objected to third reading of AB 96 last month while the Assembly was on the floor, requiring today's final vote. GOP leaders messaged the Assembly bill to the Senate for final approval before it can go to the guv.
If the Assembly had taken up the Senate version, which passed that chamber earlier today, Dems would have the opportunity to object to third reading again, delaying a final vote once again.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and her daughter came to the floor today to wish her husband -- and state Rep. -- Joel Kleefisch a happy 40th birthday. She also announced to the chamber that there was cake in the parlor.
The Senate has recessed for an hour while it awaits an amendment. It also may take up legislation on the Assembly calendar to use some of the additional $636 million in revenue anticipated through the next biennium to pay off the Patients Compensation Fund and take care of some other bills.
The Senate easily approved changing Wisconsin’s presidential primary back to the April general election, but split on moving the September primary to the second week of August.
The state has to move its fall primary because of federal rules for how military ballots are treated. With the current September primary, the state can't meet the deadline for sending absentee ballots to them.
Under the legislation, the Government Accountability Board would have to create a system that military members could receive absentee ballots electronically. That ability would not be afforded to other voters.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, complained that created an equal protection problem and sought to amend the bill so all voters would be able to do the same.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin and a co-author of the bill, said clerks weren’t equipped to handle requests for anyone other than military members.
Erpenbach complained that wasn’t a good enough reason.
“You have to treat everyone equally, no matter what,” Erpenbach said. “So far you just simply haven’t done it. This is just another classic example of rolling more voters in the state.”
Lazich countered military voters are a distinct group of voters that doesn’t have equal access to absentee ballots and she’s been advised the bill does not create an equal protection problem.
“They’re just not able to do it at this time,” Lazich said of clerks providing absentee ballots electronically for all voters.
The bill passed 19-13 with Dem Sen. Tim Cullen joining Republicans and GOP Sen. Pam Galloway absent for the vote.
Moving the presidential primary passed on a voice vote, with Lazich noting some lawmakers were reluctant to move the date back from its current February slot so Wisconsin is more relevant in picking the presidential nominees. But she said the state had to in order to comply with national party rules.
The Senate voted 21-12 to give the guv the power to appoint the secretary of Veterans Affairs.
In addition to taking that power away from the agency’s board, it would change the length of terms for board members to four years and require representation from every congressional district in the state. It also would expand the board from seven members to nine.
Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, offered a substitute amendment to change the board’s makeup, but still give it the power to appoint the secretary, fearing the politicization of the agency if the guv had that authority. But the motion was tabled.
“The bill seeks to bring some diversity and representation from across the state to the board of Veterans Affairs,” said Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan and one of the bill sponsors. “Through this new appointment process, the secretary will have greater accountability to the administration and to us in the Legislature who work on behalf of the veterans we serve.”