Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, is attempting to move SB 121 to the floor. The bill would direct the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to create a business retention program and increase the skills enhancement grants by $400,000 a year. The grant part of that bill was passed as a separate measure in the Senate, but has yet to be taken up by the Assembly.
Senate Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald said that while he respects the efforts of Lassa, the bill would defeat the purpose of WEDC and would work outside of the functions of the WEDC board.
Lassa said that the bill would create a "rapid response" team to make sure that businesses in danger of closing or leaving the state do not do so and don't put Wisconsinites out of work. Lassa wants the bill on the next session schedule.
"We have too many people in the state of Wisconsin who are depending on us to get it [job creation] done," Lassa said.
Sen. Joe Liebham, R-Sheboygan, said the bill should not be pulled from the committee and accused Lassa of trying to make a political point. Liebham said that many of the things being addressed by Lassa's bill are already in the works, but warned against "micromanaging" the group.
While it looked like the Senate was ready to approve the bill, Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, has the floor and is railing the bill again, saying that the GOP has reached a "new low" with the bill.
"Big government is going after women, there's no question about it," Risser said.
Lazich took the opportunity to respond to Risser and Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, saying that someone needs to stand up for the health care of women, reiterating some of her points from yesterday. She also criticized Risser for trying to mock the principles of the Republican Party.
"His espousing the [Republican] principles is very insincere and very inaccurate."
The Assembly continues to move through its agenda.
The latest measures to pass are three bills aimed at improving the unemployment rate for veterans.
Things bogged down briefly when Dems attempted to restore tech college funding cut in the state budget in SB 338, which waives fees for certain professional licenses issued to veterans. The amendment was shot down 33-61.
The Assembly has passed first consideration of a constitutional amendment requiring the use of generally accepted accounting principles in state collections and expenditures.
Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said the resolution would place "inappropriate" restrictions on future legislatures.
Other Dems sought to include a ban on the use of state settlement money for discretionary spending in the amendment, railing on the Walker administration and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen for moving $25.6 million in foreclosure settlement into the state's general fund.
"When is someone going to stand up to Governor Walker?" asked Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee. Republicans voted to table the measure.
The amendment then passed 69-25. It would require passage by both houses in consecutive sessions and in a statewide referendum to be enacted.
The Assembly has concurred in a bill that would, in part, eliminate damages in employment discrimination cases.
Dems objected to third reading of the bill last week, stalling the bill until this evening. It passed 60-35.
Dems slammed the bill as an attack on the idea of equal pay for equal work in the state.
Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said it's inconceivable "that somehow we may not want the best for our daughters as we want for our sons."
Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, said that no such damages have been awarded since passage of her gender pay equity bill -- something she said is a sign that it's working.
"You worked hard to be here, didn't you?" Sinicki asked her female GOP colleagues. "But yet you're about to go along with the notion that women don't belong in the workplace."
Rep. Michelle Litjens, R-Oshkosh, said it would remain illegal and wrong to pay a woman or minority less for equal work, and that workers facing discrimination could still go to the Department of Workforce Development.
Furthermore, she said punitive damages would still be allowed in federal court. Instead, she said her bill would protect businesses targeted for their "deep pockets."
"If an employer discriminates they should be fined, and they should be penalized," Litjens said.
We're back in session, and Rep. Louis Molepske has removed his objection to tabling the Assembly wetlands bill. He has asked that the chief clerk note members who wish to record their intended vote on the measure in the chamber's official journal.
The chamber then adopted a measure to increase penalties for repeated domestic abuse offenses by a 94-1 vote; Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, was the lone vote against the bill.
After making short work of a series of minor bills, the Senate got wrapped up in debate over a bill that would remove requirements and procedures for voter registration at high schools and tribal schools with a significant number of eligible voters in a municipality. The bill passed on party line vote of 17-16.
Democrats originally objected to third reading of the bill before then moving backward and trying to refer the bill back to the Senate committee on transportation and elections. That motion failed along party lines.
Democrats argued it was just another way to take away voting rights from Wisconsin citizens. Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said that constituents simply felt that the burden of voter registration should not be placed on high schools.
Lazich also pointed out testimony from the Fond Du Lac County Clerk pointing out a situation in which 80 students at a local high school registered to vote, but only five ended up voting.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, retorted by saying "So what?" He said that because they're busy during school and after-school sports, registering at school is the only way they can reasonably register.
"The fact is they're 18 years old," Erpenbach said. "The fact is they're qualified to vote. The fact is that they need to be registered to vote."
The Senate was set to vote on SB 306, which would require a physician to be physically present and perform an exam on patients before giving them an abortion-inducing drug. The bill would also change law to require a physician, rather than a physicians assistant, to confirm that the woman's request for an abortion is voluntary.
Instead, Democrats objected to a third reading, blocking a final vote for today.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said all her bill was trying to do was make sure that someone seeking an abortion received the quality of health care necessary for such a procedure.
"The usual practice of a gynecologist is to perform a physical exam on a young woman or girl," Lazich said. A patient would who was prescribed medication without a physical exam would think the physician is a "quack."
Democrats claimed that the bill would make it a felony if physicians do not follow the exact procedure outlined in the bill and said that would hamper the physician's ability to give the best medical advice available.
"I find it hilarious that the argument is based on protecting others," Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said. "Call a spade a spade, this bill is political ... This chamber is not your church, it's not you're synagogue, it's not any of those things."
Democrats also argued that it was hypocritical of Republicans to demand government stay out of health care when debating AJR 21, but should have a direct hand in health care here.
An amendment to remove the penalties was tabled along party lines. Another amendment that would have maintained current law for victims of rape or incest was also tabled.
There's been lengthy debate so far on SJR 21, which would include a provision in the state Constitution that would prohibit any law that mandates the purchase of health care. The bill would have to be approved in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature and put to a statewide vote to become part of the Constitution.
Democrats introduced an amendment that would also require coverage for preexisting conditions. Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, called the bill a "scam" and said it played upon the fears of those who don't understand the federal health care law.
"Give me all the rights you want, but you're not forcing the insurance companies to hold up their end of the deal," Erpenbach said.
Erpenbach also claimed that the resolution would essentially block workers compensation because of its broad language.
Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, said the citizens of the state have the right to vote on whether they should have the Constitutional right to make their own decisions on health care. He also said that he believed the people of Wisconsin were smart enough to make the right choice. Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, assailed Democrats claim that they're not providing for government safety nets, saying the claims were ridiculous.
"Nowhere does that negate [private citizens'] right or desire or want to get into Medicare ... that's just plain silly talk," he said.
The amendment was tabled in a 17-16 vote. Two other Democratic amendments along the same lines were ruled non-germane by the chair.
In the middle of debate on a resolution on a constitutional amendment blocking mandates on health care coverage, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called for a caucus. No word on how long it'll be.
Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, attempted to pull SB 174 to the floor -- a measure that would end a provision in the budget allowing school choice expansion to second-class cities other than Milwaukee and Racine.
The Senate passed the bill on a voice vote in October, and the measure has five GOP co-sponsors in the Assembly.
"A deal's a deal," Hintz said, citing an agreement by GOP leaders in the budget debate to approve a trailer bill to fix that broader expansion.
Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, asked Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald if the bill would receive a vote with potential floor days in 2012 dwindling.
Fitzgerald said Dems could be jumping the gun on the bill.
"By no means did anyone say this bill was dead," said the Juneau Republican.
Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, made a pulling motion to bring AB 90, which would offer grants in order to finance purchases that would qualify for tax credits. Clark said that he thought that the bill needed to include some version of jobs legislation if he state was going to have any chance to rebound from a sagging economy.
"We're passing bills defining who can shoot a crossbow at a rough fish ... this calendar isn't just light, it's depressing. You're presiding over the dissolution of the state of Wisconsin, here."
Rep. Dan Meyer, R-Eagle River, said Dems had the opportunity to pass these bills 14 months ago and chose a tax hike instead.
"Do you remember what you did, you ran the whole place, why didn't you pass those jobs bills then?" Meyer asked. "Your first economic development package was to raise the taxes on businesses by $1.2 billion."
Rep. Jon Richards proposed the first Dem pulling motion of the evening -- a resolution requiring at least 24 hours notice before every Assembly committee hearing -- sparking a lengthy debate over redistricting agreements signed by GOP members this summer.
Republicans said the redistricting documents dealt with attorney-client priviledge are were not "secrecy oaths."
"Whatever you want to call it, it is underminding the trust of what we do," said Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay.
Rep. Erik Severson, R-Star Prairie, added that Dems should open their caucuses to the public and "lead by example."
Minority Leader Peter Barca responded that Dems would have loved for Severson to drop in on this afternoon's caucus.
"If there's anything -- anything -- we ought to be able to come to an agreement on, it should be to preserve the reputation of this great state," said Barca, D-Kenosha.
The pulling motion was rejected 38-57.
UPDATE: Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, made another pulling motion on AJR 52, which would take up first consideration of a constitutional amendment requiring enactment of similar open meetings notice laws. That motion was also defeated on a 38-57 vote.
Assembly Dems touted a wide range of legislation they dubbed the “Restoring Integrity” ethics package prior to the floor session this morning.
The package included 18 bills or additional proposals that Dems said would remedy the “unprecedented” abuses of the first year of the Walker administration. The measures particularly focused on campaign finance, judicial standards and open meetings reform.
“Clean, open and transparent government in Wisconsin is in tatters,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, in a press conference. “Wisconsin democracy is at risk.”
Dems particularly criticized recent reports of secrecy oaths taken by Republicans during the redistricting process, as well as the announcement yesterday that Senate Republicans had dissolved that chamber’s mining committee.
Rep. Louis Molepske, D-Stevens Point, charged that just after Wednesday’s mining announcement, the Club for Growth began running robocalls in favor of the Assembly mining bill in the districts of northern lawmakers.
“Is there collaboration at every turn?” asked Barca.
More than 11 hours after debate began on the wetlands bill, the chamber passed the legislation on a 17-15 vote.
Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, was not present for tonight's session.
A motion from Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, to return the bill to committee was rejected 15-17.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee -- who objected to third reading this morning -- said Dems and Republicans nearly achieved collaboration on the bill, but good amendments were turned aside.
"We want to preserve the wetlands that we have," Larson said.
Meanwhile, shouts from the gallery continued despite pleas from Larson to remain quiet.
"You are doing us a disservice" by speaking out, Larson said.
After the vote, Dems objected to messaging the bill to the Assembly. Following rejection of a motion to reconsider SB 368, the Senate quickly adjourned, prompting chants of "shame" and "Scott Fitzgerald has got to go" from the galleries.
We're back in the Senate chamber as the calendar turns to Feb. 15, where lawmakers will once again take up legislation regarding wetland permitting.
Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, has gaveled the session to order.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, objected to third reading of the bill during Tuesday's session, prompting Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, to move for a session beginning at 12:01 a.m.
There's a gathering of protesters outside the chamber foyer -- which is being guarded by a pair of Capitol Police officers -- and a number of others have made their way into the galleries.
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, moved that SB 233 -- which would restore collective bargaining rights for public employees -- be sent from the Senate Labor committee to Senate Org.
Risser's motion came on the anniversary of the announcement of the budget repair bill last winter. He asked for a handful of Republicans to help move the bill along and "correct our mistakes" from earlier in the session.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, asked whether the motion was about Kathleen Falk and her "corruption that now exists between the unions and your Democratic candidate."
He then asked for the chamber to adjourn until 12:01 a.m. to take up today's objection to third reading of the wetlands bill. The adjournment motion passed 17-16.
The Senate has moved quickly through the rest of its bills and passed the final measure on the calendar -- an Assembly bill limiting consideration of certain carbon dioxide sources in determining permit requirements for greenhouse gas emissions.
Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, has ruled that an amendment to SB 284 is not germane to the bill.
Sen. Lena Taylor had sought to restrict the use of foreclosure settlement funding from use in the state's general fund, but Leibham said the law revision bill would be substantially expanded in scope under the amendment.
The ruling was upheld on appeal by a 17-16 margin; the bill then passed on a voice vote.
Sens. Lena Taylor and Spencer Coggs have removed two prior objections to third readings.
SB 269, which would expand the eligibility for serving as election workers to residents of the same county rather than only of the same municipality, passed 17-16.
Dems complained that local elections officials aren't asking for the changes in the bill, and that it was "micro-managing" clerks.
SB 271 -- relating to absentee ballots -- passed 17-16.
Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, questioned why voters shouldn't be able to have their absentee ballot cancelled on Election Day if, for example, their previously preferred candidate dropped out of the race. She said that should be of particular concern with the state's presidential primary coming up in April.
"You are creating a second tier voter," Lassa said.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said there's an avenue to correct legitimate mistakes with absentee ballots, but that "you cannot have a do-over because someone drops out of the race."
The Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would lift the cap on the state's Family Care long-term care program for seniors.
The governor has supported lifting the cap, though some lawmakers have expressed concerns about its impact on the state's strained finances. Federal officials have indicated that aid to the state could be jeopardized without removing the cap.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, chided the governor for celebrating the lifting of the limit on Family Care after being "told by the Obama administration to lift the caps."
And Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, thanked his GOP colleagues for "coming around" on Family Care, but questioned whether they were taking a favorable vote only to watch the Assembly pass on the legislation.
"I hope the Assembly has the courage to take this up," Hansen said.
Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, said the measure had broad support in the chamber, adding that he's been told as a freshman senator not to question the motives of his colleagues.
"It sounds to me like that's what's happening here," Moulton said.
Among other bills to move though the Senate are measures to limit the number of income tax checkoffs, apply military experience to certain state licensing, and remove the word "retarded" from state regulations.
Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, introduced an amendment to a law revision bill that would restrict the state from using $25.6 million from a national foreclosure settlement for the state's general fund.
Taylor has circulated legislation to require legislative approval of that expenditure, but Taylor called the amendment "an opportunity that we have ... to stop this action, to do what is right for the taxpayers, for the citizens, for the victims of foreclosure in Wisconsin."
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, asked for a ruling of germaneness to SB 284. Sen. Joe Leibham, who is sitting in the president's chair, has taken that question under advisement and the bill has been moved to the bottom of the 11th order of business.
Dems have objected to a pair of election bills, stalling those in the chamber.
Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, objected to third reading of a bill that would allow election officials to reside in the same county as the municipality they're serving in. Currently, that those officials are restricted to residents of the same municipality.
Fellow Milwaukee Dem Spencer Coggs objected to the next bill, which would, in part, ban absentee voters from casting a ballot on Election Day.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, objected to third reading after more than an hour of debate on wetlands legislation, stalling the bill in the Senate.
The Assembly is tentatively scheduled to take up the wetlands bill Thursday.
Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn and the author of the bill, said the proposal "strikes a reasonable balance" among the stakeholders in the legislation.
He said the bill, in part, responds to suggestions from a legislative audit calling for greater consistency in enforcement and permitting with regard to projects on wetlands.
"SB 368 is a cleaned up, modernized version of the original wetland bill," Kedzie said, noting that many of those who worked on previous legislation 12 years ago were also involved in recent months.
But Dems charged that the bill undermined conservation of wetlands.
"This bill is a valentine to those interests that would like to build on Wisconsin wetlands and destroy our habitats," Larson said.
"The manufacturers association and the realtors -- I believe their voice was heard in this bill," said Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie. "But the sportsmans' groups? No, I don't believe their voice was heard."