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 8:07 PM 

Dems attempt to pull manufacturing grants bill to the floor

One of the special session bills that never made it to the Assembly floor is being coaxed back to the floor by Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

The Senate version of the bill, which would increase advanced manufacturing grants for tech colleges by $400,000, annually passed 32-1.

The motion failed.

 8:01 PM 

UW Task Force deadline amended, passed

The Assembly passed a bill that pushes back the deadline for the UW Restructuring Task Force to complete its work, but an amendment moves the deadline up to July 31, 2012. The report of the committee could be delayed until the end of August under the bill.

The changes will now have to be approved in the Senate, which only approved the bill under the bills original deadline of Jan, 2013. The task force's original timeline was January of this year.

 7:48 PM 

Richards attempts to bring resolution on public notice to the floor

Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, has attempted a pulling motion on Assembly Resolution 14, which would change rules to require that members of the public are "reasonably" apprised of notice of a committee meeting two hours before it starts, which would be the time required if there's good cause that the normal 24 hour requirement is impractical. It also would apply that rule to extended, special or extraordinary sessions.

Lets rise above partisanship today," Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha said. "Its a rule, its very simple, you can read it in about three minutes and all it says that we're going to follow the laws we require of other people."

The vote on suspending the rules fails, 59-36.

 7:36 PM 

Mason amendment on sex assault services fails

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, tried to to pass an amendment to a bill regarding liability of a municipality or county for disrepair of highways that would have restored funding for sexual assault services.

The amendment was defeated on a 60-36 vote.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, is now asking that the Senate version of the bill be put aside and taken up in favor of the Assembly version. He went into an extended dialogue about how the Assembly should take up it's own bill instead of the Senate version, calling it jokingly a "Fitz vs. Fitz" fight.

The reason for this was that the Assembly version also had the same Mason amendment appended to it.

There is an objection to that measure to which Barca responds, "I'm shocked!"

Eventually, SB 125 was passed on a voice vote.

 7:23 PM 

Assembly moving on with rest of agenda

The following bills have been passed by voice vote:

*SB 89, regarding income tax withholdings for employees of county fair association. Bill raises the exemption for withholdings from $100 annually to $500.

*AB 176, which eliminates minimum harvesting requirements for commercial fishing.

We're now on an amendment to SB 125, offered by Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.

 7:10 PM 

Roys tries to get gallery filled

Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, is trying to get the observers back into the gallery. This is coming as the crowds outside the Assembly are making the desk in front of us rumble with drumming.

"I must also point out that there were many many people who traveled for this vote."

Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer said they should have nudged each other to keep protesters in order. "If they wanted to stay in the gallery, they could have kept quiet."

Kramer ruled that the galleries don't need to be opened.

"I thought you were supposed to be have someone from the public be watching this," replied Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, "I just don't want to have an invalid vote on this bill."

Kramer then pointed to the press and said WisEye is available.

Pocan then tried to argue there were some people who may have gotten off of work later and not gotten an ability to come into the gallery. That drew groans.

UPDATE: The drums have stopped.

 6:13 PM 

Assembly informal while gallery is cleared

And after a few more outbursts, the galleries are being cleared. Chief Charles Tubbs is on the floor viewing the galleries.

Some observers are shouting "We have a right to be here!" as they leave. Others are shouting "Shame" as they're led out of the Assembly. The handful of people (maybe about 30-50) outside the Assembly continue to chant while some bang on the gates to the Assembly chambers.

 6:08 PM 

Debate halted briefly by protester signs

Right before Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, began speaking on the bill, two protesters slowly unrolled a banner reading "Bury the bill." The two were removed from the gallery, while Rep. Alvin Ott, R-Forest Junction, shouted "Rules!" from the back of the room. He then approached the leadership and said they should stand informal while the galleries are cleared because it's making "a mockery" of the proceedings.

As of right now, the galleries are not being cleared.

Another protester on the other side of the gallery has also just been removed.

 5:46 PM 

Substitute amendment passes

We're now on to final passage.

Molepske speaking against the bill:

"This bill should not be passed tonight. We are not opposed to mining, we’re opposed to this bill. Just look at the senate; if it was such a great bill, they’d be rushing to pass the bill. They aren’t."

 5:17 PM 

Dems hit back at GOP on mining bill

After statements from Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, that the contested case hearing process is "simply an avenue for lawyers to drag out the hearing forever," Democrats responded that it's a necessary process for grievances and would actually minimize the need for litigation.

Meanwhile, Rep. Louis Molepske Jr. and other Dems urged the GOP members to at least amend the bill to give 100 percent of the net proceeds tax revenue to the locals. Right now, the bill has a 50/50 split between the state and the local communities. The amendment would change that to 60/40 in favor of locals.

Honadel also claimed that he had shared a draft of the bill with representatives from Northern Wisconsin. Both Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, and Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, said they'd never seen the bill.

Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, also claimed that provisions in the bill could result in the suspension of federal emergency flood insurance from FEMA. The bill exempts mining from prohibitions on building in a floodplain zone.

Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, responded to all of those claims by emphasizing that the Legislature had to make a choice between China and Wisconsin. He also assailed Dems for protecting the contested case hearing, saying it takes power out of the hands of DNR staff.

"It has been repeatedly said, you need to trust the Dept of Natural Resources. Those are the scientists, those are the experts. This bill says exactly that, let's let those professors in the DNR make that decision."

 4:40 PM 

GOP making the case for the need for mining jobs

Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, took the opportunity to speak to the body for the first time to address what he saw in Hurley when he went there for the hearings held by the Committee on Jobs, Economy and Small Business. Kuglistch said it was obvious the people of the community desperately wanted the mine and supported the bill to make that happen.

"This was evident with the many signs that displayed: 'Mining: Our history, our culture, our future," Kuglitsch said. He also said residents shouldn't have to move away from the area to find jobs and that they need to "put the state to work."

Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, is making similar points on how the bill would help not only Hurley, but those employed by mining equipment manufacturers.

"Those are jobs for people in the most distressed areas of our state and it's a benefit to everybody in this room when we take someone who can't get a family supporting job and get them on that ladder...and we don't have to provide them services from the state."

Tim Sullivan, former Bucyrus CEO and current head of the Wisconsin Mining Association, said during a press conference when the bill was first unveiled that while the bill may not create more jobs for those manufacturers, it would preserve existing jobs.

Stone also shot back at Rep. Louis Molepske Jr., D-Stevens Point, who said those up in the north don't want the bill as written. Stone said the people in the area want the bill and that committee members took those concerns and made the bill better through amendments.

 3:52 PM 

Questions about authorship prompt cosponsorship of entire GOP body

After Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Ft. Atkinson, asked leadership who was the author of the bill, Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald ignored the question but chastised Democrats for what he said was "rhetoric coming to fruition."

"I want to know, when Democrats, when people on that side of the aisle are going to really be sincere about creating jobs," Fitzgerald said. "Because we know this is going to create hundreds of jobs in construction of the mine, generational jobs. These aren't jobs that are going to pick up and move to China. I don't know how anyone from Iron County can vote against this piece of legislation."

Fitzgerald then took a shot at Democrats assertion that there was a "phantom author" of the bill by moving that all GOP members be made coauthors of the bill. This was followed by GOP standing en masse to be recognized as coauthors.

 3:38 PM 

Mining debate shifts to GOP amendment

The GOP substitute amendment is not under discussion on the floor, with Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber saying that most of the changes in the substitute amendment would have been unnecessary if they had created a fair bill in the first place.

One of the charges she leveled is that the new cap on reimbursement for permitting costs to the DNR would not be enough, and said she believed that DNR costs could exceed $8 million.

However, a memo from DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (sent on Tuesday)claims that $2 million would be enough to cover the permitting costs "the Department could expect to incur during this budget biennium." But she did not close out the possibility of other costs.

"If the cost of the review of a particular proposal is greater than the established cap, the DNR will seek additional state funding in the next biennial budget."

 3:16 PM 

Disruptions in the gallery stop mining discussion

After a speech from Rep. Dan Knodl, the gallery erupted in swearing and coughing, a few GOP representatives stood up and ordered the gallery cleared. Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer asked the gallery be cleared. That prompted Rep. Mark Pocan to criticize the observers and the speaker.

Pocan warned those who are swearing to leave the gallery, "Otherwise, they're going to clear the whole gallery."

Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald then took the microphone to say that it's getting out of hand, but warned that while the gallery won't be cleared now, one more outburst would force his hand. In the midst of his remarks, several observers coughed obscenities at him.

"I hear one more obscenity and that gallery is cleared," Fitzgerald said.

In the end, the gallery members who caused the disruption were removed, but the rest of the gallery was allowed to remain.

 3:06 PM 

Dems sub amendment defeated

The Dems only attempt to amend the mining bill with a stripped down proposal was voted down in short order, 60-36.

The mining debate started out with an impassioned speech from Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, who made the case for the Dems substitute amendment. Among the changes it would have made:

-Would increase the notice of intent payments from three payments of $50,000 for local communities to three payments of $100,000. That money is used by local communities to pay for legal and other costs related to negotiating agreements with the mining company.
-Says it adopts Minnesota timelines, which they say is a "model" of iron mining.
-Restores net proceeds tax to 100 percent local and imposes a tax on tonnage rather than simply "net proceeds."

Bewley said the request from Gogebic Taconite turned into a simply request for streamlining into rolling back environmental protections and raiding segregated funds.

"This gives you everything the mining company asked you for. It holds them to their word that they have no intention of changing environmental standards. Where did that come from? They didn't ask for it, so why is it in here?"

 2:48 PM 

Assembly is coming back to session.

Assume that we'll get to the mining bill fairly quickly. In addition to the sub amendment that was approved in committee on Tuesday, there's a small amendment from Kuglitsch and Klenke dealing with fees for waste and a substitute amendment from the Dems on the bill.

UPDATE: The Dems sub amendment contains provisions more in line with what tribes and residents have been asking for. That includes tweaking the net proceeds tax on iron mining to charge $2.38 per ton of iron ore sold and essentially restoring language that gives that tax revenue completely to local communities impacted. The bill also makes clear that the new provisions would not apply if there are significant amounts of sulfide minerals at the mining site. They also remove most of the changes to environmental regulations included in the original bill.

It seems to retain the initial 12-month waiting period before filing a mining permit application, but makes the timeline for mine permitting subject to completion of the DNR's Environmental Impact Study.

 11:43 AM 

Jill Billings sworn in to office

Jill Billings is now officially the Assembly representative for the 95th district, which covers La Crosse. Billings, a Democrat, won the seat late last year in a landslide special election to replace now-Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.

She was sworn in by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.

 9:03 AM 

Assembly to take up mining bill

Legislation to overhaul the state's mining permitting process headlines today's Assembly calendar.

The agenda also includes SB 2, which includes changes to the timing of the application process under the open enrollment program. GOP leaders noted on the finalized calendar they intend to concur with changes the Senate made to the legislation.

In addition, Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, will also be formally sworn in. She won a special election in November to replace now-Sen. Jennifer Shilling.

 2:11 PM 

Fitzgerald scolds Dems, warns next budget could be even tougher

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald delivered a strong rebuke to Dems for their criticisms of the guv from the chamber floor and warned the next budget will be even tougher than the one crafted less than a year ago.

Minority Leader Mark Miller and several Dems gave speeches today during final comments criticizing Gov. Scott Walker for the state's sluggish economy and the job losses the state has seen for six straight months.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, accused Dems of living in a fantasy world. He went on to mock Dems for their job creation efforts in the last session when they were in the majority and was incredulous that they could call on Republicans to work with them while they're launching four recall efforts seeking to take back the majority.

"It’s about we didn’t get our way in the last election and the way we’re going to change that is going back to politics," Fitzgerald said. "We’re going to go back to the street and recall legislators and waste $9 million of taxpayer money so you can take over the chamber sometime this summer and then what?"

Fitzgerald then challenged the Dem senators considering a run for guv to use the chamber floor to launch their campaigns and lay out what they plan to do

"I'll tell you what I think you're going to do. You’re going to raise taxes," Fitzgerald said. "If you think this budget was scary, wait until the next one."

Fitzgerald said he hopes Legislative Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang will tell lawmakers within the next few weeks that somehow income and sales tax collection have grown compared to a year ago.

"But I'm not optimistic because that's where the national economy is," Fitzgerald said. "I'm not sure what happened in December, but I hope retail sales will change that."

His comments prompted several Dems to rise in rebuttal.

 1:36 PM 

Miller criticizes Walker from Senate floor ahead of State of the State

Minority Leader Mark Miller offered a critique of Gov. Scott Walker’s job creation efforts during closing statements today in a preemptive shot at the guv ahead of tomorrow’s State of the State address.

Miller, D-Monona, said the state was poised to make progress on the job creation front at the beginning of last year. But he charged Walker took the state in a new direction after taking office in January 2011, putting the state on an extreme agenda that he said reversed that progress.

It included reducing opportunities for workers to acquire new skills, raising college tuition, and reducing taxes for the corporations and the wealthy instead of investing in workers and families.

“Our state and our citizens are paying the price for these failed policies,” Miller said.

“It’s time to get Wisconsin working.”

 1:25 PM 

Senate approves new rules for restraint, seclusion in schools

The state Senate today approved via voice vote legislation to establish new standards for the use of physical restraint and seclusion in Wisconsin schols.

Sen. Luther Olsen praised the legislation and the various groups that came together to work on it.

He said sometimes restraint and seclusion are needed.

"But we need to do it right so we can protect the studtns and the adults who work with them," said Olsen, R-Ripon.

The legislation would allow seclusion and physica restraints to be used on students on if certain conditions were met, including the pupil's behavior presenting a clear and immediate risk to the student and others and the degree of force or seclusion used is only what's necessary to resolve the risk.

It also would prohibit certain techniques from being used such as pressure on the student's chest, neck or throat.

"It does protect students, it does protect the staff and it makes sure parents know what's going on at school," said Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point

 1:12 PM 

Differential tuition bill won't get a vote today

The bill was referred back to the committee on Senate Organization. The bill would exempt certain UW campuses from a prohibition on raising tuition beyond the 5.5 percent cap created by the 2011-13 budget. Campuses at Parkside, Green Bay, Stevens Point and the two-year colleges wish to create differential tuition for portions of the campus.

 12:00 PM 

Senate sends resolution on rules for committee hearings back to Org

The Senate voted along party lines to send back to Org a resolution changing the body's rules to prevent the committee from waiving a rule requiring a bill to receive a public hearing before it could be placed on the calendar.

Dems complained there is a growing perception that the Legislature is limiting public access to the body and argued the rules change would help alleviate that.

Senate President Mike Ellis countered the rule allowing Org to waive the public hearing requirement has been on the books through Dem and GOP majorities and noted the rules passed unanimously last year when they were proposed.

"These rules are not a product of a Republican-controlled Senate," Ellis said. "They're the product of past history. Whether that's good or bad is in the eye of the beholder."

Countered Sen. Fred Risser," It has been on the books a long time. It's time to change that right now."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

 1:46 PM 

Senate adjourns after passing remaining bills

The Senate passed remaining bills on the calendar, including one changing the requirements of the membership of the Natural Resources Board. That bill would require an agricultural representative on the board and at least three people who have held a trapping, fishing or hunting license in seven of the last 10 years. The bill passed 23-9 and now goes to the governor's desk for approval.

Senate President Mike Ellis made a ruling before adjournment regarding Senate Resolution 22, which prohibits Senate Organization from waiving the requirement for a public hearing for a bill that comes to the floor. That bill will now come to the floor in the next floor period.

 1:42 PM 

Veteran-focused bill on Walker agenda passed

The Senate unanimously passed a bill that would waive certain fees for occupational licenses for veterans. The bill was included as part of Gov. Scott Walker's "Wisconsin Working" agenda released last week.

Walker released a statement praising the Senate and Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, for their action on the bill.

 1:38 PM 

Concealed carry training bill won't be taken up today

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald moved to refer the bill back to Senate Org. The bill would essentially affirm a decision from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to suspend requirements for a time length for concealed carry training necessary to obtain a permit.

A spokesman from JCRAR Chair and Sen. Leah Vukmir's office said they're still working with the Department of Justice on permanent rules and that there's no urgency to pass the bill as long as those talks are continuing.

 1:25 PM 

Senate honors press corps dean Dick Wheeler

Members from both sides of the aisle are giving their remembrances of former press corps dean Dick Wheeler, who passed away last fall. The Senate unanimously approved a resolution honoring Wheeler.

Other senators emphasized Wheeler's fair approach and sometimes prickly demeanor. Sen. Jon Erpenbach noted that outside of his daughter, Dick Wheeler gave "the best eye-rolls" ever. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said that the fact that Wheeler is gone is only just hitting him now.

"I think Dick would be somewhat uncomfortable with the attention given to him, and expect us to turn the attention back on ourselves," said Sen. Bob Jauch,D-Poplar.

 1:09 PM 

Minor debate on open enrollment amendment

The Senate voted 18-14 to amend an Assembly change to the open enrollment bill.

The Senate originally passed its version of the bill 20-11 in early 2011.

The Assembly approved an amendment that would only allow a student to transfer to a school out of the student's district if the resident's school district, receiving district and parents agreed the transfer was in the student's best interest. The Senate amended this to allow parents to appeal the decision to the Department of Public Instruction if the resident school district blocks the transfer.

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, tried to refer the bill back to the education committee for further DPI input, but that motion failed 15-17.

 11:21 AM 

Senate breaks for reception, caucus

After a series of resolutions honoring fallen soldiers, the Senate has broken for a reception with the families in the Senate Parlor, followed by caucus. They intend to return to deal with the rest of the calendar at 1 p.m.

 10:03 AM 

Senate to kick off 2012 session

The state Senate will be in this morning for its first floor session of the year.

The calendar includes three appointments to the Board of Regents and an Assembly bill to place new requirements on membership for the DNR Board.

The state Assembly is due to meet on Jan. 26.

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