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 1:58 PM 

VC bill passes with a bit of bipartisan dissent

The venture capital bill has passed the Senate on a 29-3 vote, with Sens. John Lehman, D-Racine, Fred Risser, D-Madison, and Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, voting against the bill.

Lehman said the bill was not the proper role for government to "become venture capitalists" and that it ignored more appropriate investments for the government to make.

"We're stepping in as a government... in a way I argue we should not," Lehman said. "I wish we had stayed today with a bill that follows our best bets. Our best bets are strong funding for university research, strong funding for technical colleges."

Risser also railed against the provision, saying the $500 million structural deficit made it hard to justify an endeavor like this, even a modest amount.

"Is it the state's job to get involved in gambling," Risser asked. "I don't know, I'm not a gambler myself. ... And it is a gamble, everyone admits its a gamble."

Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond Du Lac, said it would be a mistake to walk away from the culmination of years of work because it's an imperfect bill. He also said that if the bill shows some promise in the next few years, they can put more money into the fund to boost economic development efforts.

"This probably isn't the most perfect bill we could come up with ... but you know what, now it's here," Gudex said. "And this is something that I think we can nurture."

 12:45 PM 

Venture capital debate includes Dem substitute amendment

Once again, the venture capital bill has bipartisan support from the body, but Democrats feel there's more that can be done on the long-debated measure.

The current bill, as amended, would allow management of a $25 million fund by an separate fund manager. That manager would be chosen by a committee consisting of three members from the State of Wisconsin Investment Board and two members of the Department of Administration Capital Finance Office. It also would limit investment of the funds to six target industries.

The Democrats have offered a substitute amendment to the venture capital bill that would create a separate venture capital authority to manage the fund and direct $208 million to the fund over the next five years. Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, says the amendment is necessary for a "robust" VC fund that will create jobs and establish companies in the state.

Lassa said that the proposal from the GOP would take years to see any substantive job creation and that the size of the alternative fund is appropriate to start creating some economic progress in the next year.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said that the VC process has been like a Dr. Seuss book: previous attempts to find compromise didn't work out and were either "Too small, too big...too bumpy, too lumpy." Darling said that the fund isn't perfect, but it's a good start.

"Is it enough money? No," Darling said. "Is it all we want it to be? No. But as the Cat in the Hat would say, 'You just have to take a hat and you just have to run with it.'"

That amendment was tabled on a 19-13 vote, with Sens. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, joining Republicans.

Right now, Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, is speaking on an amendment that would remove the six target industries from the bill, making it "industry agnostic." This is to address Dem concerns that bioscience has been excluded from the list of targeted industries for socially conservative concerns.

"I'm asking rather than targeting a limited list of industries, we should empower the managers to invest where there is going to be the greatest return on investment," Taylor said.

 12:07 PM 

Dems, GOP praise bipartisan effort on WEDC bill

While there seems to be bipartisan agreement on a bill reforming some governance and reporting elements of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Democrats are still going to try and offer amendments that would go further on reform measures.

The bill, authored by Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, would specify certain performance measures WEDC should report, create a "Lead Director" position that would serve as a liaison between management of WEDC and the board and would set term limits on WEDC board members.

Cowles said that the bill was simply acting on the recommendations of the Legislative Audit Bureau report, which found major deficiencies in WEDC's reporting requirements and financial tracking mechanisms.

"We all hope that the agency is on the mend," Cowles said. "(WEDC) is a piece of the economic development equation, it's not the be all end all."

Democrats said they hoped this bill and the next -- which would approve a fund structure for $25 million in venture capital funds -- was a sign of bipartisanship that the state's voters had been looking for. However, they also said the problems of the organization was the board of director's lack of control over WEDC management.

That concern is the main reason behind the Dem amendments being offered, which seek to remove the governor as chair of the WEDC Board of Directors and give the board hiring and firing power over the CEO, COO and CFO. Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said that the state has to make sure the board has proper control over the public-private corporation.

"I think the audit bureau report on WEDC showed that the governing board was not always informed about what was happening with policies and practices and board members only heard about these problems in the agency months after management became aware," Lassa said.

Lassa said an amendment removing the governor as chair of the WEDC board was necessary to make sure the chair had the proper amount of time to fully devote his or her attention to WEDC. The governor, with a myriad of other responsibilities, will always have a divided attention, Lassa said.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, disagreed with that amendment, saying the board needed a chair who was also elected by the public in order to hold that person accountable.

So far, three amendments proposed by Cowles and the Joint Legislative Audit Committee have been approved unanimously.

UPDATE: The amendments regarding the governor's chairship was defeated on an 18-14 vote, with Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville joining the GOP on both votes. Another amendment on the executive hiring and firing power was also defeated on a 18-14 vote, with Cullen again joining the GOP.

 11:37 AM 

Farrow, Mueller appointments to Board of Regents approved

The Senate has approved the appointment of former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow and former state auditor Janice Mueller as members of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. Both positions were approved unanimously, with Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, recusing himself on the vote for his mother.

Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, spoke highly of Farrow and Mueller, saying that they were "no shrinking violets, they're no placeholders."

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, also praised Mueller.

"I'm excited because everybody knows that Miss Mueller is exception based on her abilities in running some of our other departments," Taylor said.

Democrats did note that Mueller's appointment might help understand the true nature of UW's reserves. The revelation of those reserves that to a tuition freeze and the elimination of additional GPR funding originally set aside for UW in the governor's budget.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, also made reference to the withdrawn appointment of Joshua Inglett, saying that Farrow was a perfectly qualified individual to be a regent and that it wouldn't have mattered whether or not she signed a recall petition. Senate President Mike Ellis did occasionally have to direct him to focus comments on the appointments at hand, not Inglett.

 11:24 AM 

Quick note before appointments

Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, gave a brief speech before we got on to normal business, chastising Senate President Mike Ellis and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald for cutting off debate last week on the ultrasound/abortion bill.

Miller said that when Ellis doesn't uphold the rules of the body, "You fail in your obligation to this body." However, he also said that he was "willing to chalk it up to just a bad day."

Ellis responded lightly.

"Those comments will be taken as they are given, from one friend to another," Ellis said. "I would hope that your mother was proud of you."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

 8:36 PM 

The Assembly is adjourned

The Assembly is done for the day.

Suder said they'll take up the budget around 11a.m. on Tuesday and intend to be done around dinner that day. They'll reconvene on Wednesday morning and go however long they decide. However, they said legislators should make sure to keep calendars open Thursday and Friday.

 8:20 PM 

Debate ending with private revelation by Rep. Wright, final speech by Rep. Strachota

We're about six minutes from a vote on the ultrasound bill, but this was a noteworthy moment.

Rep. Mandy Wright, D-Wausau, spoke against the measure, saying that the bill would only allow exemptions from the ultrasound requirements in cases of rapes and incest that has been reported to law enforcement. She revealed -- first apologizing to her parents -- that she had been sexually assaulted at the age of 8 by a relative, something she had kept private from all but close family until the floor speech. 

Wright said that she could only think about what would happen if her daughters were placed in a similar situation during child bearing years. She added that she feared it could result in those children to be forced to either have an "invasive procedure" before an abortion or to reveal the painful details of a sexual assault to the public.

"None of these options are appropriate at all," Wright said. "Please, I implore you, what is the purpose of this? I too believe in life. I love my three children dearly, I would do anything for them, please do not accuse us of being anti-life, it's not true."

Rep. Pat Strachota, R-Chippewa Falls, is ending debate by making clear that there is an exception in the cases of rape or incest, and said these are about "elective abortions." She also said that it is not true that a woman would not have a choice about whether to have an abdominal ultrasound or a transvaginal ultrasound.

She also said that she's only trying to give women full information before making a difficult decision.

"That's exactly what I'm trying to do, is to stand up for women in this bill," Strachota said.

 7:25 PM 

Reps. Pope, Ballweg get personal on the bill

Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Madison, broke up consistently in a speech against the ultrasound bill, saying that she felt the body was overstepping its bounds in a "cruel" fashion.

Pope compared the debate to a previous debate on a bill to allow certain parties to override a Do-Not-Resuscitate order if they felt the life of the patient could be saved. Pope, whose husband decided on a DNR order after his cancer had progressed and he was admitted to hospice care, said the debate was "crushing to me to sit in a chair and listen to my colleagues tell me that their moral choice was more important than the decisions he and I made."

She then said they were doing it again, noting that she had five pregnancies and only one child. She recounted being told by a doctor during her second pregnancy that her child would not live through birth and that she could either have an abortion or "let nature take its course."

"I'm appalled that you believe your morals, whatever your church dictates to you, has got to play out in my life," Pope said. "That's disgusting."

Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, noted that she has faced similar situations. Last session she gave an in-depth explanation of her views, talking about her decisions to carry the high-risk pregnancies of her children to term. She pleaded with Dems to understand their decisions are not politically motivated. She urged legislators to remember a common thread -- that most of the body has children and understands the preciousness of their lives.

"What we're talking about here is to take a look and ask folks to realize that this is a life," Ballweg said,  "This isn't a skin tag that we want to get rid of, this is life. This can be a very difficult situation, but this is something that with help and support can have a very positive outcome."

 7:03 PM 

Dems continue final arguments on ultrasound bill

We're still on the vote for referral and Dems are still decrying the bill.

Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, said that he believed the GOP assumed abortions happened to college kids, when in actuality these decisions had to be made by regular citizens. He also decried the fact that the libertarian wing of the party never came out against government intrusion in these cases.

"I get it," Danou said. "It's about raw politics, it's about satisfying the base of your party that you feel you need to survive, because in the end, the world is changing and the world is running away from you. And I guarantee you, these are the things that make the world run away from you even more quickly.

Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, argued the rules weren't followed because the Assembly bypassed a committee vote and that there had not been true debate on the issue.

"I don't believe I heard one person on that side give me a reason why they support this bill," Bernard Schaber said.

"We've only heard a monologue... and that happens constantly in our Assembly."

UPDATE: The referral motion fails on a party line vote.

 6:24 PM 

Dems urge referral back to committee

After the last amendment from the Dems -- which would allow a woman to refuse a transvaginal ultrasound -- failed, we were almost onto final passage. Then Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca moved to  refer the bill back to committee.

Barca said that amendments would have been taken up in committee to mitigate the effects of the bill, but that the Assembly committee "didn't do their work." No vote was taken in the Assembly committee, but was taken in the Senate committee.

"We've got two more weeks that if you still believe you can impose this on the will of Wisconsin, you've got the time to do it," Barca said.

"Let's rise to the occasion," Barca said. "Let's do what we know is needed, which is to take a close look at this bill."

UPDATE: Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer rules that out of order and said Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder had the floor. So we actually ARE on final passage.

UPDATE 2: We're actually back on referral, now that Barca has made the correct motion to refer it back to the Committee on Health.

 5:36 PM 

Debate continues on ultrasound bill

We're currently about five amendments in to 13 proposed amendments from Democrats, which actually seem somewhat different than those authored earlier this week by Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. However, a few of Erpenbach's amendments were eventually adopted. We've yet to see that happen here yet. 

Democrats are also using the amendment debate to argue that the bill has isn't medically necessary, but merely is designed to shut down an abortion clinic in Appleton.

"This has nothing to do with the health of a mother," Taylor said. "It is laughable to suggest that." 

 4:28 PM 

Dems use pulling motion to debate workforce growth grants

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca made a pulling motion to bring AB 52 to the floor. That bill allows tech college districts to obtain grants from the Wisconsin Technical College System Board to partner with businesses or other economic development organizations to help close the skills gap or address workforce needs.

Barca says he can't understand why the body would allow nine hours on abortion but not want to dedicate time to creating jobs.

"There is nothing more important that you can do today than to take up a workforce development bill,"Barca said.

This bill might get a more favorable vote from the GOP, as Speaker Robin Vos just tweeted out something that sounds like support: "Talking about job training grants that will help expand the skills of our workforce that will make them more attractive to businesses!"

UPDATE: Maybe not. Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, said she would urge her colleagues not to take up this bill today, because it hasn't gone through her committee (Workforce Development) yet.

UPDATE 2: That previously mentioned tweet seems to have been deleted.

 4:22 PM 

Sex-selective abortion bill passes

The bill had a party-line vote of 58-39. Before we move onto the last anti-abortion bill, Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, is reading, in full, the statement he didn't get to read beforehand.

 4:19 PM 

Kestell rebuts claims on sex-selective abortion bill

Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, is responding to the claims by Democrats that the bill is not needed, is racist or that it is intrusive because it could compel pulling women's medical records if a case is brought to court.

Kestell says a study published by researchers from Columbia University and Berkley University showed a prevalence of certain ethic groups participate in sex-selective abortions. Kestell claims the issue is a rising problem in the nation. In the press availability before the session, Kestell admitted that he had not heard of any incidents or clinics that market toward performing sex-selective abortions in Wisconsin, it's an issue of concern regardless.

"Why have most of the developed countries around the globe already dealt with this issue," Kestell said.

Kestell also derided the Dem amendment that was voted down earlier, saying it was akin to someone saying "murder is bad." He also added the bill could provide the "Kumbayah moment we're all looking for." That received some groans and chortles from Dems.

 4:04 PM 

Jacque: I was ready to explain my bill

Just as an aside, Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, came over to tell the press table that he actually was going to speak on his bill, but missed his chance to jump in the queue because the roll bypassed the last speaker.

In any case, he passed out testimony to the press. That testimony said the legislation was just meant to "bring us in line with the Federal government, which does not pay for elective abortions by Federal employees either -- they pay out of pocket."

The statement goes on to say that even the Obama administration made religious exemptions, albeit narrow ones, for contraception coverage as well. He also managed to address a claim made by Democrats who laughed off a statement that he saw free contraception being advertised on late night TV.

"And yes, there is an organization that advertises services, including free or no cost birth control, on TV in the Green Bay media market - NEWCAP Inc," Jacque wrote. "They are one of many entities, including Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, which receive millions of dollars in funding statewide through the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver."

The site for NEWCAP does advertise community health services in areas of Northeast Wisconsin, including emergency contraception and federally approved birth control. It's site specifies "You can take advantage of our services at low or no cost, based on your income, even if you have insurance." 

 3:38 PM 

On to bill providing sex-selective abortions

Before we get to the bill, Democrats are decrying the fact that Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, did not speak on his bill.

After that aside, Dems are offering a substitute amendment to the bill of Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, that allows lawsuits against those who perform sex-selective abortions. Their amendment would simply outlaw the process.

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said that this amendment achieves what they were seeking.

"These is not one person in this body that wants sex-based selection abortions. So if you're against it, vote for the sub. But if you're for more lawsuits, if you're for going into women's records... you'll vote for the bill."

When Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, asked why the bill wanted to go through women's medical records.

"This has nothing to do with HIPAA," said Rep. Erik Severson, R-Star Prairie, referring to the federal medical privacy law.

One of the amendments offered by Democrats would make clear that a court could not compel the woman who sought the abortion to provide medical records for proof. That amendment, along with other Dem offerings were defeated on party line votes.

 3:16 PM 

Debate on Jacque bill now focusing on contraception provision

The last few speakers on behalf of Dems have hit the GOP for the provision exempting religious employers and organizations from providing a health care plan that cover contraception.

Freshman Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, said the GOP positions in the bill is a contradiction that ignores the right of a family to plan their pregnancies.

"You don't want a woman to get contraception, but you also don't want her to have an abortion. Which is it? Pick a lane."

Rep. Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, and Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said the bill essentially discriminates against woman in their child bearing years. Taylor also said that the bill is "big government" at it's worst.

"The government's role is to make sure its [birth control] affordable and available for those who need it," Taylor.

As for the religious argument, Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, said the argument is moot because "contraception is not abortion."

 2:52 PM 

Having a quick call of the house

After a few members left the floor, Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, asked for a call of the house, saying that the debate was important enough to require the presence of GOP members on the floor.

CLARIFICATION: Apparently that was Berceau who called the house in, not Bewley. Bewley spoke beforehand and my view is blocked.

"I realize many of my colleagues are uncomfortable with this discussion," Berceau said. "If you're uncomfortable...don't bring forward this legislation. But I don't think that it's fair for you to bring forward legislation like this and then go hang out in the parlor."

 2:45 PM 

Back in session

After that brief outburst, we're back on debate and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca has asked the gallery to respect the rules.

"We appreciate you being here, I think it's very important that people be here to watch this debate ... but let's please all comply with the rules."

 2:40 PM 

Assembly informal while portion of the gallery is cleared

Following applause from the gallery after a Dem speech, Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer has ordered a portion of the gallery cleared. He is clarifying to some angry Democrats that he gave them a warning the first time there was an outburst in the gallery.

Of course, the gallery is behind us here, so I can't exactly see if there was anything else going on there.

 2:24 PM 

Debate starts on anti-abortion bills

Democrats are starting debate on a bill that would prohibit the Group Insurance Board, which provides health insurance for state employees and some local public employees, from providing plans that cover abortions. That provision would not apply to coverage for abortion in the case of rape or incest.

The bill would also provide an exemption from contraceptive coverage for religious employers or organizations.
Democrats offered an amendment that would have eliminated language requiring that incident of rape or incest to be reported to law enforcement, with Democrats arguing the humiliation involved in those incidents means many women don't report those crimes. That amendment was tabled on table lines.

Another Dem amendment was offered that would make the religious exemption match the federal standards of the Affordable Care Act, something bill author Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, claims has already happened. That amendment also failed along party lines.

Democrats have already started making their arguments against the bill itself, saying it limits a woman's right to choose.

"Shame on you for presuming you know better when a woman and her doctor can decide for themselves," said Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison.

 2:06 PM 

Assembly moves fast, then gets stuck on debate of domestic abuse bill

We're moving through the calendar pretty quickly, with two of Rep. Andre Jacque's three bills designed at curtailing domestic abuse being quickly approved with voice votes.

However, AB 187, which would allow domestic abuse incidents within the last 10 years to be brought as evidence at a trial in a domestic abuse related case, got some pushback from some Dems. Kessler said that the bill doesn't follow the 4th Amendment protections given to defendants for a fair trial, because the bill could allow hearsay to encourage a conviction.

"It allows you to take hearsay evidence unsupported by anybody, unsupported by prior convictions, even unsupported by any arrests, it can be merely rumor," Kessler said. "And that violates the 4th Amendment about as clearly as anything as I have seen."

Jacque countered that the bill allows "context" of domestic abuse incidents to give a better idea of an offenders patterns. He also said that the discretion of the judge to disallow certain evidence should be enough to eliminate any prejudicial evidence.

"This doesn't change any existing hearsay rules," Jacque said.

UPDATE: The bill then passed on a voice vote, but Kessler asked to be registered as voting against the bill. We're now on one of three bills with a focus on abortion, starting with Jacque's bill on prohibiting the Group Insurance Board from contracting for health plans that cover abortions, with certain execptions. It would also provide an exemption for insurance coverage of contraception for religious reasons.

 1:35 PM 

A note before debate starts

There are already a few people protesting the anti-abortion bills up for consideration today, sitting with tape over their mouths to signify women being silenced.

 1:11 PM 

Quorum call begins in the Assembly

And we've got a longer session today. The three anti-abortion bills on the docket today (one relating to ultrasounds before abortions, one creating a civil penalty for gender-selection abortions, and another prohibiting group insurance board coverage for abortions) should each be limited to 2 and a half hours. That means it could be about 10 p.m. before all the final votes are taken. However, Speaker Robin Vos did say that Dems would agree to those limits. We'll see if that holds up after the Dems took issue with debate limits on the ultrasound bill in the Senate.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

 4:56 PM 

Assembly adjourns

The Assembly has adjourned. Lawmakers are scheduled to be back on the floor tomorrow afternoon.

 4:46 PM 

Assembly backs UI changes

The Assembly has concurred in SB 200, which would make a series of changes to the state's unemployment program, by a 61-35 vote with a pair.

Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, said the bill "kicks people when they're down."

She also slammed Republicans for moving UI changes -- including measures that had not been cleared by the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council -- into the budget bill, saying they "have not negotiated in good faith."

"I don't know how you people can look at yourselves in the mirror," Sinicki said.

Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown and the Assembly author, countered that his bill included measures that had all been approved by the UIAC -- a panel divided between business and labor leaders traditionally relied upon to make changes to the program. He also said that the changes would strengthen the UI fund "so it's there for legitimate claimants moving forward."

 4:20 PM 

Dems offer resolution to remove policy from budget

Dems proposed a privileged resolution to oppose the inclusion of non-fiscal policy items in the budget bill.

Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee and the author of the resolution, said Dems are deeply concerned about provisions "that don't have any business being in the budget of the state of Wisconsin."

"Some of these are absolutely terrible precedents that undo years of Wisconsin law and years of Wisconsin policy," Kessler said.

He particularly hammered a provision to reinstate bail bonds, saying Wisconsin was just the fourth state to repeal the practice in the 1970s due to its corrupting effects on the judiciary.

Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, slammed a series of provisions involving wells, zoning and residency rules -- "things that local units of government should be making on their own."

Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, also knocked the severing of the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in the JFC's final budget motion.

"I thought that was a good thing for democracy," Barca said.

A motion to take up the resolution was shot down 39-58. We're now onto legislation altering the state's Unemployment Insurance program.

 3:15 PM 

Assembly backs election changes

The Assembly has passed a sweeping elections bill in a voice vote.

The bill, as originally proposed by Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, would have addressed the voter ID requirement currently tied up in court proceedings. With those issues still ongoing, however, the bill now makes a series of changes largely agreed to by both parties.

Stone said the measure would ease burdens on local elections officials and alter regulations on lobbyists. It would also increase fees for an election recount, require referendums to be held on normal election days, establish security measures for ballots and establish an online method of voter registration.

It would also hike campaign contribution limits for the first time in decades, Stone said.

Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, called the bill a "mixed bag for all us us," but praised the removal of the most controversial provision for Dems.

 2:54 PM 

Technical difficulties

The computer issues continue in the Assembly chamber, particularly with the electronic voting system. For the time being, we're in limbo.

UPDATE: 3:07 p.m.: The chamber decides to move ahead with bills that can be taken up on voice votes, passing three bills, including a measure to ease restrictions on pepper spray. We're now onto the elections bill.

 2:27 PM 

Assembly passes lemon law changes

The Assembly has passed legislation making changes to the state's motor vehicle warranty law as Dems hailed changes from the original draft offered by Rep. Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha.

Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, called the substitute amendment a "dramatic change," and said he would support the bill.

"This is the kind of thing that I had anticipated when getting to this Legislature," Wachs said of the bipartisan work on the bill.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, also complemented Kramer but said the bill still negatively affects consumer protection.

"It's not quite where I need it to be," Hebl said. The measure passed 87-9 with a paired vote.

Kramer -- who joked that the Dem comments may cost him votes on his side of the aisle -- said the bill meant to curtail "games" being played by "certain players in this market."

"The purpose of the this bill was never to screw anybody, to gut anything, to peel anything back," Kramer said.

UPDATE -- 2:36 p.m.: Due to a computer glitch, the chamber re-voted on AB 200. The margin has now changed to 88-8.

"We did that all so I could pick up one more vote," Kramer joked.

 2:17 PM 

Onto lemon law bill

After moving through several non-controversial bills, the Assembly is now onto consideration of the lemon law overhaul. That bill is up first today due to a drafting error on the elections bill.

Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder says the chamber will take up the elections bill once it's ready.

 1:46 PM 

Assembly in brief recess

The Assembly is in a "five-minute" break so that members can meet a number of state wrestling dignitaries on hand to back AJR 39, which requests that the International Olympic Committee maintain wrestling as an olympic sport.

UPDATE -- 1:51 p.m.: We're back in session.

 1:06 PM 

Assembly about to get started

A quorum call is underway in the Assembly chamber.

Representatives are set to take up a bill altering campaign finance laws, including doubling the maximum donation to state candidates. Today's calendar also includes an overhaul of the state's lemon law and changes to unemployment insurance.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said AB 59 -- relating to law enforcement searches -- will likely not be taken up today as originally planned.

 8:38 AM 

Democrats explode as Fitzgerald calls for immediate vote

Following Sen. Mary Lazich's speech on her bill, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called for an immediate vote on the bill. This prompted many Democrats to jump out of their seats.

"Mr. President, this is a democracy,"shouted Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point.

"This is a bill forcing women ... I think we should have a lengthy debate on this," said Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, as Senate President Mike Ellis continued banging his gavel and saying that his outbursts "will not be tolerated."

The bill passed on party lines.

 8:29 AM 

Debate on abortion ultrasound bill continues

Debate on the ultrasound bill continues this morning, starting with Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, pleading with the body to hold off on this measure, arguing that the bill's requirements could lead to the closure of abortion clinics. She also read a letter from a constituent arguing that the requirement to get an ultrasound prior to an abortion is humiliating and distressing, especially to victims of rape and incest.

She also criticized stories provided by Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, citing women who had decided to carry their child to term after viewing the ultrasound.

"Every single story presented by the author of this bill happened under the current law," Vinehout said.

Lazich dismissed the "theatrics"of Vinehout, noting that the bill provides exceptions for those who are victims of rape or incest. However, Lazich also provided an impassioned speech defending the bill, arguing that many women who underwent abortions regretted them later and were provided various excuses -- which she called "baloney" -- by staff at abortion clinics.

"But they killed their child and they made a horrific decision and they regret it and they wish that they never would have done it,"Lazich said. “And for those that want that information and they wish they never would have done it, that’s what Sonja’s law is all about.”

Lazich also said that she'll likely be pushing more abortion-related bills because more has to be done about the issue.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

 4:31 PM 

The Senate is adjourned

The Senate is adjourned until 8 a.m. tomorrow, where the chamber is expected to vote on passage of the ultrasound bill.

 4:28 PM 

Senate debating rules and precedent of Senate

Despite the fact that the body seemed on track to approve the remaining Assembly bills on the calendar, the Senate has gotten wrapped up in a discussion about whether those bills should have gotten a Senate committee vote before coming to the floor.

Democrats first raised the issue on a bill regarding the dwelling code. Democrats argued that the bill should have come before a Senate committee for a vote on the bill and a Democratic amendment. After voting on a referral back to committee and a Dem amendment, the bill passed the floor.

The same issue came up again two more times, which prompted Democrats to claim it was established precedent that the Senate should vote on the bills in committee before they're moved to the floor. Both Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Senate President Mike Ellis said it was not a part of Senate rules and disputed the idea that it was an established precedent, saying the Democrats had pulled the some move during their control of the house.

 3:51 PM 

Senate passes UI bill, Dems decry differences from UIAC recommendation

The Senate passed a measure that would make various changes to unemployment insurance on a party line vote.

Democrats are argued that the bill deviated from the normal process of approval, in which changes are advised by the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council.

The bill makes various changes to unemployment insurance benefits, including prohibiting UI payments to social security recipients, eliminating extended benefits for those participating in a work training program and a record matching program with financial institutions to track down UI debtors.

The bill was amended before debate to allow for those delinquent on payments to be afforded an opportunity to contest the claims of delinquency.

Sen. Frank Lasee, R-DePere, said that while they added some amendments to the recommendations of the council, the product is based on their recommendations.

"But this Senate bill 200 is the recommendation of the UI [council] and it' is our job to look at it or move it forward or not,” Lasee said.

Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, argued the bill is a “trojan horse” for problematic changes included in the JFC version of the budget bill. He also highlighted the changes from the UIAC recommendations.

“This is the first time that this body has simply cherry picked the items they agreed with and then set aside the items they didn’t agree with,” Jauch said.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, also took issue with the record matching provision, arguing that it was "snooping" into people's bank accounts and that it was "ironic" that the measure was being raised at a time when the federal government is doing the same thing.

 3:07 PM 

Senate back on debate

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is withdrawing his germaneness motion. Sen. Jon Erpenbach has asked to have his amendment returned to him. We're now on amendment 16, which says ultrasounds required here may not be administered by sex criminals.

 1:57 PM 

Democrats break for caucus for one hour

Democrats are breaking for caucus for an hour.

An amendment offered by Sen. Jon Erpenbach -- which requires any facility that provides a free ultrasound have machines available for both transvaginal and transabdominal ultrasounds -- was approved unanimously.

A floor amendment offered by Erpenbach that would prohibit convicted criminals from performing ultrasounds is still hanging around-- Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald contended that the amendment was not germane. The Senate President Pro Tem hasn't ruled on the point of order yet.

 1:34 PM 

Debate on ultrasound focuses on transvaginal method

We've been stuck on an amendment to the bill offered by Democrats that would explicitly say the ultrasound should be transabdominal rather than simply leave it up to choice. Democrats have argued that the choice included in the first amendment isn't guaranteed in cases where the transvaginal method may be the only method offered by a physician.

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, made very clear that the transvaginal method is uncomfortable and embarrassing for a woman seeking an abortion.

"You're going to require them to have a trans-vaginal probe inserted into their vagina," Lassa said. "That's what we're talking about."

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, disputed the notion that women would not have a choice in the matter, and contended that the abortion procedures themselves are more problematic than the form of ultrasound. However, she did make a defense of the procedure.

"I too was on the receiving end of a transvaginal ultrasound," Lazich said. "And let me tell you, it is life saving."

Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson ended the debate by making one final plea for the amendment.

"For the love of Wisconsin, let's stay out of their vaginas," Larson said.

The amendment failed on party lines. We're now on to the remaining Dem amendment and a Lazich amendment that clarifies some language on who performs the ultrasound.

 12:29 PM 

Debate begins on bill mandating ultrasounds in abortions

Democrats have drafted amendments attempting to lessen the impacts of a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound of the unborn child.

The original bill would have required a doctor to perform an ultrasound and provide visualization of a fetal heartbeat in a form "consistent with current medical practice." Democrats argued that language could require a transvaginal ultrasound -- something viewed by abortion rights advocates as intrusive -- rather than an abdominal ultrasound. As a response, the Committee on Health and Human Services drafted a bill that would clarify the language.

The bill does not require the woman to view the ultrasound, but it does require the doctor to perform and explain the ultrasound. The ultrasounds are not required in the cases of emergency abortions or in cases of rape or incest.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, argued that the original intent of the bill was to limit a woman's options and "take away the rights" of a woman seeking an abortion to make a decision for herself.

"It's not the right of special interests ... or of a particular senator, to foist their morals, to force their religious views on the rest of the state," Erpenbach said. "It has no business being in this state. It tells a woman she is not capable to think on her own."

Bill author Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, argued that the amendment clarified that a woman could choose the method of the ultrasound if it produces a visualization of the fetal heartbeat. She also said that her only intent was provide adequate health care to women.

"If you have a loved one that is going to terminate, you want that loved one to have the best health care available," Lazich said. "There's not woman a should have a lesser standard of care."

So far, several amendments drafted by Erpenbach have been defeated on party line votes.

 11:47 AM 

Three appointments pulled aside, quickly approved

The Senate has pulled three appointments aside for separate consideration: the appointment of Sen. Alberta Darling to the 529 College Savings Program Board, former Racine County Executive William McReynolds to the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board and former Dem Rep. David Kedrowski to the Wisconsin Waterways Commission. McReynolds was approved 31-1 (Sen. Robert Wirch voting no), with the Kedrowski and Darling approved unanimously, though Darling abstained from the vote on her own appointment.

 11:37 AM 

Quorum Call underway

We're getting started here in the Senate. The ultrasound bill is the big one today, with at least a handful of amendments being offered by the Dems. Also have an unemployment insurance omnibus bill for consideration and a WEDC-related bill.

 8:55 AM 

Senate to take up ultrasound bill

The state Senate will be on the floor today with an agenda that includes legislation requiring an ultrasound prior to an abortion -- one of several abortion-related bills making their way through the Republican-run Legislature.

The Senate Health Committee passed SB 206 by a 3-2 party-line vote yesterday morning after tweaking the legislation.

The amendment changed a requirement that the ultrasound include a visualization of the fetal heartbeat; the amendment stipulates that the requirement would be satisfied even if an initial ultrasound couldn't show a heartbeat.

The bill would also require physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles.

The Senate calendar also includes SB 200, which would make a series of changes to the state's Unemployment Insurance program.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

 6:16 PM 

Assembly adjourns

The state Assembly has adjourned. The chamber is scheduled to be back on the floor next week Wednesday.

 5:50 PM 

Assembly backs landlord-tenant bill

The Assembly has passed the last item on its calendar for today, a bill to make sweeping changes to laws governing landlords and tenants, by a 57-37 margin.

Dems charged it would shift the law dramatically in favor of landlords during an already rough economy for many renters -- as well as take away local government control of housing.

Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, called it "one more mean-spirited effort to kind of kick the downtrodden."

"It reads more like a (landlord) wish list rather than an actual bill," added Rep. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, saying a provision involving pest control amounted to "an early Christmas present" for "every slumlord in the state of Wisconsin."

Dems also warned Republicans that the provisions in the bill, particularly governing evictions, would affect all districts with renters.

"This is about basic rights of citizens in a contractual relationship," said Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland. "Do not think that it's not about you ... or about one of your constituents."

 5:12 PM 

Assembly passes bill on court reviews of laws

The Assembly voted 57-39 to pass a bill enabling automatic injunctions of stays on new state laws.

Republicans argued the bill would maintain the judicial review process while keeping a judge elected by a single county from usurping the power of the elected Legislature and governor.

"One judge, elected by one county in the state, shouldn't be allowed to upend legislation in perpetuity without a process," said Rep. David Craig, R-Vernon.

Dems countered the bill attacks an independent branch of government and would eventually be struck down by the judiciary.

"We are being asked today to pass a piece of legislation that the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ... (says) is unconstitutional," said Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, added that just as the Assembly forbids questioning members' motives, "we shouldn't second-guess our independent branch, our judiciary."

"This bill is an abuse of power, and it's an assault on democracy," added Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, saying "this body believes it's above our constitution."

 4:27 PM 

On to injunction bill

After passing a pair of additional bills -- including a 94-1 vote to give veterans priority in registering for UW System and tech college courses -- we're onto a measure that would provide for automatic stays of judicial injunctions on new state laws.

The measure, along with a bill governing landlord-tenant laws, is already on third reading and has about an hour left in debate after Dem objections last month.

UPDATE -- 4:55 p.m.: The vote on registration preference for veterans is now unanimous after Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, asked the body to change his vote.

 3:58 PM 

Assembly passes venture capital bill

The Assembly voted to pass legislation establishing a $25 million state venture capital fund under the Department of Administration.

The bill passed 91-2; two sets of paired votes will also be tacked onto the bill. Some Dems, however, expressed concerns about the role of DOA and the lack of biotech under the proposal.

Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, offered an amendment to instead place the fund under the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

Zamarripa said the amendment "will take the politics out of this," calling DOA "Gov. Walker's right hand man."

Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin and the Assembly author, said the most important part of the bill is to oversee an independent manager for the state's funding, making it an appropriate role for DOA.

Prior to the session, Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said the bill ensures the venture capital fund is "firewalled" from politics.

Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, also sought to add bioscience to the measure, which some have speculated was not included in the bill due to the potential role of stem cell research. Bewley said, without the amendment, government would be "picking winners and losers."

Suder said before session that the bill instead sought to target "the sectors that can actually use the money."

Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo and a co-author of the bill, added prior to session that while he supported the biotech sector, the bill also cannot be the "end all, be all." Several lawmakers also expressed concerns about an inadequate level of funding, but Clark said the program could expand further down the road.

"I'm satisfied that this bill is going to get venture capital started here in Wisconsin,” Clark said.

 2:34 PM 

Assembly already sparring over budget

The state Assembly isn’t scheduled to take up the state budget until later this month, but that didn’t stop Dems from pre-emptively criticizing GOP management of the bill.

Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, offered a resolution he said would require the Assembly to debate the budget bill during “normal waking hours,” citing the early Wednesday morning Joint Finance Committee votes on final budget issues.

“The people of Wisconsin need to know what their elected leaders are doing in the middle of the night,” Richards said.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine and, like Richards, a JFC member, said the committee debated the most expensive, contentious parts of the budget “from 1 until 6 in the morning.”

“When we do business in the middle of the night like that, it’s the middle class that loses,” Mason said.

Mason also said a provision of the wrap-up motion kicking the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism off the UW-Madison campus was “beneath the majority party.”

The discussion later veered into the substance of the bill, with Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, arguing a Dem tax motion would have taken up more state funding than the JFC budget.

Mason countered, “You’re stealing money from schoolchildren to pay for tax cuts that benefit the wealthy.”

Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, accused Republicans of “continuing down the same path” as the governor’s first budget, rattling off a series of rankings showing the state near the bottom of the country in job prospects.

“If you don’t like these rankings, change the budget,” Barca said. “Don’t double down on trickle-down.”

Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said the chamber would, eventually, have a healthy debate on the budget during appropriate hours, telling Dems they had made their point for today.

Barca then withdrew the motion to take up the resolution. With that, we’re onto venture capital legislation.

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