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

 2:09 AM 

Wrapping up

After passing the remaining special license plate bills -- and following a Dem objection to third reading of a measure altering the fees charged for recounts -- the Assembly has finished its regular calendar for the day.

 1:40 AM 

Assembly moving quickly after time limit reached

After the Assembly concurred in legislation increasing math and science requirements in high schools via voice vote, Majority Leader Bill Kramer -- who’s back holding the gavel -- says the chamber has reached its debate time limit and will not hear additional speakers on bills this morning.

 1:30 AM 

More elections bills pass

The Assembly has passed legislation to establish requirements for absentee voting at residential care facilities and to require printed names on recall petitions and nomination papers.

“I find it really hard to believe that there is rampant voter fraud going on in our nursing homes,” said Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, of the residential care bill, which passed 54-39.

Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, argued the bill simply reinforces current law about special deputies for nursing homes.

The petition bill, meanwhile, passed 53-38 with a paired vote. Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, said the measure amounted to a “literacy test” for such documents, while others expressed concerns about those with disabilities; Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, called that and other Dem claims “outrageous rhetoric.”

 12:15 AM 

Assembly passes ‘Choose Life’ license plate

The state Assembly voted 54-38, with a paired vote, to pass legislation to establish a special license plate reading “Choose Life.”

Dems hammered the legislation, charging that Republicans have eschewed efforts to bolster women’s health care in favor of directing funding to controversial anti-abortion groups.

Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, the co-author of a compromise substitute amendment to shift responsibility over special plates to the DOT, also blasted the decision to take up the individual bills instead, saying some Republicans “act as if they’re in middle school and high school.”

“I now know that I cannot trust any word that I hear from Republican leadership, and that is a problem,” said Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton.

Tempers flared at times, with Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, referring to GOP leadership by their first names and being declared out of order by Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August.

“I’m going to ask whoever I damn please to stand up and explain your behavior to the state of Wisconsin,” Zepnick said.

Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, countered the adjournment motion from Dems earlier in the night effectively would have broken off all agreements on the remainder of the calendar.

“I hope when we return in January, we can go back to the way we started last January,” Knudson said.

Dems objected to messaging the bill, but a majority vote sends the bill to the Senate under its special order.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

 11:11 PM 

Election observer changes pass

The Assembly has passed AB 202, which would require election observers to be placed within three feet of a polling place’s registration tables, 54-39.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said while observers are needed on Election Day, the bill would give “more license for people to come in and intimidate voters.”

Bill author Don Pridemore, R-Hartford, responded that the limits would allow observers to do their jobs.

“If you continually move poll observers further and further away from the process, their job becomes unable to perform,” Pridemore said.

 11:03 PM 

Assembly likely go a bit later

Today’s lengthy session appears likely to get a little longer after a series of special license plate bills are back on the agenda.

Majority Leader Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, said Dems have been “wasting time” during the debate, while Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said debate will proceed on each of the bills individually.

A substitute amendment had been offered to AB 173 -- originally targeting a special license plate for Trout Unlimited -- that would have allowed groups seeking special plates to apply directly to the Department of Transportation.

 10:53 PM 

Assembly passes local recall changes

The Assembly has passed legislation that would establish an ethics code for local elected officials and require violations in order to recall those officeholders.

The measure passed 54-38 with a paired vote.

Rep. Stephen Smith, D-Shell Lake, referenced former Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan and embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, saying voters would no longer be able to recall them if they held office in Wisconsin.

“This is going to have real world impacts,” Smith said.

Prior to debate on the local recall measure, Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, moved to take up a Senate resolution honoring the victims of last year’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. It was rejected 53-39.

 10:46 PM 

Assembly approaching time limit

Majority Leader Bill Kramer, who is currently in the speaker's chair, reminded members that about 80 minutes remain in today's calendar and 15 bills remain on the agenda.

 10:32 PM 

Assembly passes limits on access to mine sites

The Assembly has concurred 54-39 in a Senate bill to limit public access near mining equipment and related roads in the state’s managed forest land program.

The Senate passed an amended proposal last week to create 600-foot parameters, aimed at protecting a proposed mine site in northern Wisconsin.

Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said the “extreme and unnecessary” response to one video of a confrontation between workers and protesters threatens to “harm and limit the rights of law-abiding people in the north.” Republicans rejected her amendment to shrink the parameters to 300 feet.

Republicans also shot down a series of amendments from Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, aimed at providing more hunting, fishing and trapping access on affected land.

Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz, said Gogebic Taconite -- which is seeking to open the proposed iron ore mine -- has tried to accommodate hunters as best as possible while safeguarding their workers in the area, and that altering the managed forest land program is the best way to accomplish that.

Bewley responded, “This is supposed to be land that has public access.”

“It isn’t this body, it isn’t the public, it is a company who gets to decide if, on a given day, somebody gets to hunt.”

 9:08 PM 

Assembly backs absentee voting changes

The Assembly has passed a bill that would limit voting hours for in-person absentee voting.

AB 54, passed 53-39 with a paired vote, would give municipalities two options for in-person absentee voting in the two weeks leading up to an election.

They could offer set hours of 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the Friday before an election, or, if a municipality has 30 or fewer hours of in-person absentee voting in a week, the clerk may offer it after 6 p.m. Monday through Friday or anytime on the weekends if they personally administer the ballot.

Democrats argued the bill was simply an attempt at suppressing votes in large cities that offer in-person absentee voting beyond normal business hours.

"I don't understand why you are so afraid of the voices of the people of Wisconsin that you're trying to silence them," said Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood.

"This is absolutely the worst of government," said Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, noting a version of the bill hasn't even been offered in the Senate.

Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville and the author of the bill, said his intent was simply to establish "reasonable and equitable" standards for all the state's voters.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, added that a measure last session to shorten the window for in-person absentee voting before an election had actually resulted in increased turnout in the last cycle.

If people understand how important voting is, Kooyenga said, "they're going to find a way to vote."

 5:42 PM 

Assembly starts debate on voter ID change

The Assembly has started debate on a provision that would amend the voter ID law, in an attempt to avoid further enjoinment of the law by the court.

The bill would allow those who cannot get voter ID for reasons of indigence or religious reasons to sign an affidavit attesting to the exception. The current voter ID law is held up due to an injunction by a state circuit court and a federal court near the tail end of a trial on the law.

Democrats argue the bill would still reduce the number of people who vote, especially those minorities and the poor who are more likely to vote for Democrats.

"You are clearly aiming at preventing and suppressing good citizens from voting, there's no other reason," said Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee.

Rep. Michael Schraa, the lead author of the bill, read off a list of people charged with voter fraud or giving a false name signature on a recall petition.

"Don't tell us that voter fraud doesn't happen," Schraa said.

Currently, Democrats have tried to refer the bill back to committee. Democrats also have a number of amendments in the queue.

UPDATE: The motion for referral fails on a vote 39-54.

 5:33 PM 

Assembly gives first approval of chief justice election measure

The Assembly has signed off on a resolution that would allow members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to select the chief justice. The resolution passed 54-38.

The Assembly passage means the Legislature has given the resolution a first approval. It would need to be approved by the Legislature in the 2015-16 session before it can be put on the ballot as a referendum. If voters approve the change, it would become part of the state Constitution.

The bill failed in the last session after Assembly Republicans appended a Democratic amendment to the measure that could not be taken back. However, the Senate approved the resolution this session earlier this month.

Democrats contend the bill is an attempt to make the judiciary more political and give conservatives an additional edge on the court. Currently, Shirley Abrahamson serves as chief justice as she is the most tenured member of the court. If she were to retire, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley would become chief justice based on the current seniority rules.

"No request was made by the judiciary for this bill, by the Supreme Court," said Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie. "This is done purely political reasons. Now I grant you, if Chief Justice Gableman were before us, we would not be here."

Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, said it was a "non-partisan, non-controversial" resolution that tried to restore faith in the state Supreme Court. He also said the bill gives the justices a vote to decide who can best serve as the chief administrative officer for the judiciary.

"Seniority as a stand-alone determining factor is inadequate," Hutton said.

 4:45 PM 

Assembly gives first approval on limits of recalls against state officials

The Assembly has voted to approve a resolution to amend the Wisconsin Constitution to limit the conditions under which state officials may be recalled.

The Assembly approved the measure 53-39 with Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, voting against the measure along with the Dems.

Under the resolution -- which must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and approved by voters via referendum to amend the constitution -- recalls against state officials could only be launched if the official is charged with a felony or violated the state ethics code. Currently, residents don't need a specific reason to file for a recall.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, referenced the recall of GOP state Sen. George Petak in 1996 over his vote approving the Miller Park stadium tax as he argued against the amendment. Mason said that despite the fatigue over the Act 10-related recalls, Wisconsin residents still need the mechanism to hold politicians accountable for a perceived betrayal of their constituents. 

"Now, you may not agree with the reason for some recalls, but that doesn't take away from the bigger issue, which is whether or not the people who elect us have the right to hold us accountable for the reasons I see fit," Mason said. "I know where I stand."

Rep. Jim Steineke said the change still gave residents the ability to recall representatives for significant crimes or violations while restoring order to elections.

"It's time we restore predictability back to the election process ... voters shouldn't have to pay for costly and unnecessary recall elections," Steineke said.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said that change would still have to be approved by voters before it became law and decried the Democrats' criticism as hyperbole.

"So to say there's no voice for the people, that we're taking that away from them by giving them a chance to decide is absolutely untrue," Nygren said.

A bill to limit the recalls of local officials is also on today's calendar. That measure only needs to be approved by both houses to become law.

 3:45 PM 

Assembly standing informal

After the redistricting reform bill got debated, the Assembly shifted to the resolution on limiting the statewide recalls. Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer basically told Democrats they wasted the time on the pulling motion and would proceed to a vote in two minutes on the resolution.

The body went informal, but now it looks like leadership from both sides has agreed to shave time off other debate topics and will end at midnight instead of 2 a.m.

 3:43 PM 

Assembly rejects attempt to pull redistricting reform to the floor

Republicans rejected a Dem pulling motion to put redistricting reform before the house, chiding the minority for not doing anything on the topic while they were in control of the body.

A series of Dems ripped Republicans for refusing to hold a hearing on AB 185, which would create a nonpartisan commission to draw new legislative and congressional lines after each Census. Now, lawmakers do that through legislation with the guv’s signature required, though the process has often ended up in the courts.

Dems read a series of editorials from Wisconsin newspapers calling for lawmakers to embrace the bill so voters pick their lawmakers, not the other way around. They also decried the $2.1 million Republicans spent on legal fees to draw and defend the maps while arguing the districts that were drawn have led to more partisanship and an extreme agenda.

Rep. Tyler August, who formerly chaired the committee where AB 185 now sits, noted the series of letters he received on the bill, but chided Dems for their outrage. In addition to not doing anything about the bill in the 2009-10 session, he said changing redistricting would require a constitutional amendment because lawmakers can’t bind future Legislatures. Other Republicans argued the current process is better than having unelected bureaucrats draw the lines.

“The bill not a serious proposal because it is unenforceable,” August said.

The pulling motion, which would have required a two-thirds vote, failed 39-54.

 2:22 PM 

Assembly opens debate on recall amendment by refusing to send back to committee

The Assembly opened debate on a constitutional amendment to make it harder to recall state officials by refusing to send the legislation back to committee.

State Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, made the motion asking sponsors, "What in the world are you afraid of?"

He argued recall is a part of Wisconsin's history and gives voters a check over their elected officials.

Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, then alluded to the long day ahead of the chamber by noting a series of controversial bills on the calendar and urged the chamber to pull back on the amendment.

But the motion failed on a 39-54 party-line vote.

 8:07 AM 

Assembly to consider chief justice change, elections bills

The state Assembly is gearing up for what could be a long day -- and night -- with a series of controversial bills on today’s calendar, the final scheduled floor session for the year.

The agenda includes a constitutional amendment to allow members of the Supreme Court to elect the chief justice rather than assigning the post to the most tenured member, license plates proclaiming “Choose Life” and “In God We Trust,” and a boost in the number of math and science credits needed to graduate from high school.

There calendar also includes a series of election-related bills, including efforts to make it harder to recall public officials, to limit hours for in-person absentee voting and to tweak the state’s voter ID law, which has been on hold due to a court order.

Assembly leaders have said the debate could go until 2 a.m. according to the time limits set for today’s floor schedule.

 6:36 PM 

Assembly to take up voter ID, other controversial bills Thursday; Dems decry packed calendar

The Assembly Committee on Rules has scheduled a packed Thursday calendar including voter ID provisions, a bill that would make the chief justice of the Supreme Court elected by peers and bills limiting the ability to recall local and state officials.

Democrats decried the calendar of the last day of fall floor period as anti-democratic.

"When you want to have power grabs of the judicial branch, as you did earlier in the year ... when you have [a bill] eliminating early voting for people, I truly think you are cutting into the heart of our democracy here in Wisconsin," said Assembly Speaker Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Ft. Atkinson, said his caucus will respond by attempting to pull their redistricting reform bill to the floor on Thursday as well.

"They're there because you're giving into the extreme districts that you've drawn up," Jorgensen said of the bills on Thursday's calendar. "Extreme begets extreme."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he does not support any changes to the current process.

"There's no doubt whatsoever they're constitutional," Vos said of the redistricting lines. "I have said over and over and over, I support the process that's currently in our constitution."

The body has also special ordered 13 of the bills on the calendar, ensuring that Democrats cannot block passage on a procedural vote and that they'll receive a final vote on Thursday.

Republican leadership said debate could extend to about 2 a.m., based on debate times agreed to on each bill.

 5:39 PM 

Assembly informal until 6 p.m.

While Dem leadership emerged from the Speakers office, it looks like we're still waiting -- Speaker Pro Tem Tyler August just announced the chamber is standing informal until 6 p.m.

UPDATE: Rules should start at about 6 p.m.

 5:06 PM 

Assembly stands informal

After passing the last bill on the agenda today, the state Assembly is standing informal. We expect some wrangling over the Thursday calendar before heading to rules.

 3:55 PM 

Assembly passes "revenge porn" bill, Dems argue it won't pass court scrutiny

The Assembly passed a bill that would prohibit so-called "revenge porn," though Democrats argued the bill may not pass constitutional scrutiny.

"Revenge porn" is a term for sexually explicit photos or videos posted online meant to embarrass or humiliate the people in those photos. The issue has become more of a problem in the last few years with the proliferation of specific "revenge porn" sites and postings on Twitter.

The current bill would amend state statute to prohibit a person from distribution or publication of sexually explicit images without the consent of the person in the images, regardless of whether that person consented to the images being taken.

Rep. Fred Kessler. D-Milwaukee, offered an amendment that would require some proof that the distributor of the images intended to embarrass or humiliate the person in the image. He said that because the bill currently lacked proof of intent on the part of the offender, courts would likely strike it down.

"[Revenge porn], to me is a serious issue," Kessler said. "But I'm even more afraid of this bill, because I think what this bill might actually be doing is this bill might be weakening the law."

Kessler's amendment was defeated on a 56-38 vote. The bill eventually passed on a voice vote.

 3:39 PM 

Assembly passes bulk of mental health bills

The state Assembly today signed off on the bulk of the legislation born out of a speaker's task force that backers argued constitute the most comprehensive package of mental health reforms in memory.

The full package, which carries a price tag sponsors put at $5 million, includes 13 bills that were on today's calendar, such as:

AB 450 to create crisis intervention grants to train law enforcement officers who deal with emergency detention. Passed on a unanimous 94-0 vote.

AB 452, which would create a consultation line for primary care physicians to consult to help treat children who may have mental health issues. The bill passed on a 94-0 vote.

AB 454 to create grants for primary care and psychiatric care physicians who agree to work in rural areas. They would be eligible for up to $20,000 a year for three years in the hopes they would enjoy working in a rural setting and would stay on their own after the grants expire. The bill passed on a 93-0 vote with a paired vote -- Rep. John Murtha voting yes, and Rep. Dean Knudson voting no.

AB 458, which would change rules for children who are required to seek outpatient treatment before being eligible for in-home treatment by allowing them to bypass the outpatient treatment. Backers argued it would save money by allowing those who know they will fail the outpatient treatment to move directly to in-home care. The bill passed on a voice vote.

AB 459, which would help extend care into rural areas by allowing those seeking treatment to go to a Medicaid clinic to speak with a mental health profession over the computer via a secure network. The bill passed on a 94-0 vote.

AB 488, which would give families who seek emergency detention of a loved one another option if the county denies the petition by allowing them to go to court. This bill is a bit lower on the agenda and should be taken up later today.

UPDATE: AB 488 was passed on a voice vote.

 2:53 PM 

Senate wraps up calendar

The Senate has completed its agenda after initially delaying action on a pair of bills.

SB 314, which would prohibit local governments from considering new regulations enacted after the filing of a development permit, passed 18-15.

The chamber, meanwhile, did not take up AB 277, which relates to various provisions of the Department of Financial Institutions. Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, had attempted to decrease the amount of financial liability in the event of a stolen ATM card.

 2:15 PM 

Slow start in Assembly

Things are still getting going in the Assembly. We just came back from going informal, and members are now on introductions.

Dems are also gearing up for a fight in Assembly Rules over Thursday's calendar, which includes a series of controversial bills for the last day on the floor this year.

 2:12 PM 

Senate backs increasing high school requirements, limiting Internet account access

After the more than hour-long debate on the chief justice amendment, the Senate is moving through the rest of its calendar at a quicker pace.

Measures approved so far include:

*SB 51, to increase high school math and science requirements, by a voice vote.

*SB 183, to allow annexed county shoreland areas to maintain their previous zoning ordinances, 20-13.

*SB 223, to prohibit employers from accessing social media accounts of employees and prospective workers, 33-0.

*SB 321, to limit the liability of property owners whose land is used for noncommercial aviation purposes, via voice vote.

*SB 338, to expand the authority of towns to create TIF districts.

 1:49 PM 

Senate passes amendment to create elected chief justice

The Senate has passed first consideration of a constitutional amendment that would allow the justices of the state Supreme Court to elect the chief justice 18-15.

Dems said the measure would set a “dangerous precedent” of meddling with the state’s separation of powers and increase political considerations on the high court.

“This is simply tinkering in an area where we should not be,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee.

“This is the Shirley resolution,” added Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, referring to Chief Justice Abrahamson.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, argued that the public would ultimately make the decision about how the chief justice would be elected.

“This bill is about the people of the state of Wisconsin having the opportunity to express their opinion,” Lazich said.

Sen. Tim Carpenter fired back that under that logic, lawmakers should bring the amendment banning same-sex marriage back before the voters.

He also slammed Republicans -- and Lazich in particular -- for holding up the nomination of David Deininger to the Government Accountability Board, saying those judges are supposed to serve in a similarly nonpartisan capacity.

“It’s a doggone shame when there’s a litmus test by Republicans on one of their own,” said Carpenter, D-Milwaukee. “What a disrespect to an honorable gentleman.”

The chamber adopted an amendment to strike language that would have set limits on court terms for a chief justice. Dems also attempted to amend the resolution to establish standards for recusal by Supreme Court justices; that was ruled non-germane by Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, who held the gavel at the debate's outset.

The amendment would have to be passed by both houses in the next session before going to the voters in a statewide referendum.

 1:38 PM 

Roll called in Assembly

Roll is being called in the Assembly.
   Speaker Robin Vos and authors of bills on the floor today are still briefing reporters on today's agenda.

 12:43 PM 

Senate passes historic tax credit bill

The Senate has backed the fourth and final bill included in the governor’s special session call, concurring in the Assembly special session bill to increase the historic rehabilitation tax credit.

The bill passed 31-2, with Sens. Glenn Grothman and Neal Kedzie in opposition.

Grothman, R-West Bend said he had concerns about the bill -- most notably, that the package of tax credits available from the state and from the federal government would lead to the public funding more than half of some building rehabilitation projects.

But Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, predicted the bill would be a success in Wisconsin as it has been in other states.

“If we want to get serious about creating jobs in the state of Wisconsin … we need to get serious about investing monies into the state of Wisconsin,” Gudex said.

With that, the Senate has adjourned its special session and moved into regular session.

 11:30 AM 

Senate session underway

Senate President Mike Ellis has called the Senate to order. We'll begin with special session.

UPDATE -- 11:33 a.m.: Nevermind. Members on both sides are still working on amendments, according to Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, so we've recessed for an hour.

UPDATE -- 12:30 p.m.: We're back in special session.

 8:07 AM 

Senate to take up chief justice amendment; Assembly to consider mental health bills

Both houses of the Legislature will be on the floor today to kick off the final week either house is scheduled to be in session before the end of the year.

The Senate is only scheduled to meet today. Its calendar includes a constitutional amendment to have the Supreme Court elect the chief justice rather than assigning that post to the member with the most seniority.

Most of the bills on the Senate agenda passed out of committee on bipartisan votes, including SB 223, which would ban employers from accessing social media accounts of employees and prospective workers.

The chamber will first convene in special session to take up a bill -- called for by the governor last month as part of a special session -- to boost the state's historic rehabilitation tax credit. The Assembly passed that bill last month by a wide margin, but the Senate originally put it off citing cost concerns.

The Assembly calendar includes a series of bills from the Speaker's Task Force on Mental Health, including the creation of a child psychiatry consultation program, grants for crisis intervention team training, and changes to emergency detention and involuntary commitment.

The office of Majority Leader Bill Kramer sent members an email this week that there is a seven-hour limit for today's Assembly calendar.

 7:37 PM 

Sen. Hansen attempts to pull "higher ed, low debt" bill to Senate floor

Dem Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, has attempted to pull a bill that would offer those with student loan debt to refinance those loans.

"This is an economic driver, by helping these people with their debt," Hansen said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he might be willing to work with Dems on the bill, but said it was too soon to move on the bill.

"I would hate to have a bill pulled directly to the floor that's had no public hearing, no executive session and no fiscal note," Fitzgerald said.

The motion, which required a two-thirds vote, failed 19-14 with Cullen joining the GOP on the vote. We're on to adjournment.

 6:35 PM 

Schultz substitute fails

The amendment to the race-based mascot bill is rejected on a 17-16 vote, with Schultz voting with the Dems.

We're now on to another Dem amendment offered by Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.

 4:36 PM 

Senate debating race-based mascot bill

The Senate is now debating a bill that would change the process for handling complaints over race-based mascots.

A substitute amendment authored by Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, would institute a system overseen by the Department of Public Instruction requiring a systematic review of all race-based mascots by school districts and whether they were discriminatory. The amendment would make exemptions to the rule for local school districts who find an agreement on the name with the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.

"Again, there’s rumor mongering that somehow GLITC has a secret agenda to do away with all Native American Based mascots. Well, I don’t think that’s a secret," Schultz said. "I mean, if your race was being demeaned and vilified wouldn’t you want to end that too?"

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said the difference between the two bills is the process afforded to complainants. The GOP bill, she argued, was fair to all parties, while the original law regarding race-based mascots presumed discrimination and gave no deference to communities who did not believe the mascots were offended.

"It creates a nanny complaint system with DPI telling communities they should be offended," Lazich said.

The Assembly version of the bill would only trigger a complaint when a petition opposing the mascot, signed by 10 percent of the school district population, is submitted. From there, the Division of Hearings and Appeals at DOJ would hear the complaint and would place the burden of proof on the complainant to show the mascot promotes discrimination or harassment.

Democrats assailed the GOP-version of the bill as an unjustified compromise that doesn't do enough to address the discrimination suffered by Native Americans. Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, made the point by using the n-word several times during her floor speech, noting how the word has been deemed racist but that some GOP colleagues won't abandon titles like "redskins" or "savages."

"As a nation, it took us a long time to come from slavery and after that we still struggled to overcome the use of the n-word and to find it offensive," Taylor said. "Some people still don't. I hope it makes you uncomfortable when you hear me say it. And I wish that we were as uncomfortable with savages, Indians and redskins. "

 3:41 PM 

Assembly signs off on workforce development bills, guv's desk up next

The Assembly signed off on seven workforce development bills today, clearing the way for them to head to the guv’s desk.

Gov. Scott Walker called for the bills as part of his fall agenda, and the Assembly took them up after the Senate approved most of them earlier in the day.

SB 274, pertaining to vocational rehabilitation services, was approved 32-0 and 90-4.

SB 331, pertaining to technical education inventive grants, was approved unanimously by both houses.

SB 332, a tuition reimbursement program for those who receive apprentice training, was approved by both houses unanimously.

SB 333, pertaining to a transitional jobs program, was approved by the Assembly 92-3. The Senate approved it via voice vote last month.

SB 334, which expands excellence in higher education scholarships to tech colleges, was approved 33-0 and 92-3.

SB 335, a tuition reimbursement program for apprentices and employers, was approved 32-0 and 93-2.

SB 336, pertaining to local youth apprenticeship grants, was approved 33-0 and 94-1. GOP Rep. David Craig asked after the roll call to have his no vote changed to a yes, though it was not reflected in the roll call posted online.

 2:11 PM 

Senate debating mining land access bill

The Senate is still debating an amended version of a bill that limits access to mining lands in northern Wisconsin.

The original bill would have allowed mining company Gogebic Taconite to remove its mine site from the managed forest program. That would have allowed the company to restrict public access to the site, whereas right now the site is open to the public. The substitute amendment from Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, restricts public access within 600 feet of roads and mining equipment in the area and requires to company to pay for land removed from the managed forest program.

Democrats are attempting to pass several amendments to Cowles' version, including one that would have given the Natural Resources Board, rather than the Department of Natural Resources, the ability to further restrict access to the mine.

Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, argued that while he knows there may be other situations that require further restrictions, he would rather the board discuss those decisions in public than leave it to the DNR to discuss in private.

"What I'm not comfortable with is leaving it up to the DNR political leadership, who've been clear about their intentions," Cullen said.

Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, opposed the bill entirely, saying it was a "sweetheart deal" to void the managed forest program contract.

"They want to close it all, they want to close as much as they can. It isn't to protect those workers, it is to prevent law abiding citizens...who want to go on that land to do the sort of scientific research necessary to verify that permit," Jauch said.

Cowles said he didn't like the original version of the bill and argued the amendment was a good compromise that kept the interests of the public in mind.

"I understand that the minority party still doesn't like it, I'm disappointed in that because I think we've got a pretty good bill here," Cowles said.

 1:43 PM 

Assembly approves drunk driving bills

The Assembly signed off on a pair of drunk driving bills this afternoon.

AB 67, approved on a voice vote, would require those who commit a first offense OWI to appear in court on the violation. Currently, only some counties require an appearance.

AB 68 would eliminate the look back windows for enhanced OWI penalties. That was approved 88-7.

AB 467 would enforce penalties for those who are ordered to install an interlock ignition device, but fail to do so, tamper with or violate the order in other ways. It was approved on a voice vote.

 1:02 PM 

Sen. Carpenter alludes to Vukmir case on floor

Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, stopped proceedings in the middle of the floor period to ask Senate President Mike Ellis for a ruling on the use of immunity when dealing with open records request, an allusion to a civil case pending against Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa.

Carpenter asked for a ruling on when the Legislature is in session and how the relates to immunity from civil lawsuits under the public records law. Vukmir has been sued by the Center for Media and Democracy when it claimed Vukmir did not turn over certain records relating to her relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council. Vukmir argued she was immune from such lawsuits while the Legislature is in session. The case is currently in front of a Dane County judge.

Ellis said Carpenter should submit the request in writing and that Ellis would give his interpretation in the next week.

In the meantime, the Senate is working through a series of workforce development bills.

 8:27 AM 

Senate to take up mascot bill; Assembly considers drunken driving legislation

Both the state Assembly and Senate will hold floor sessions today.

The Senate plans to take up legislation overhauling the process for challenging race-based school nicknames and mascots.

Other bills on the agenda include a compromise on limiting access to mining sites on property in the managed forest land program and exempting outside salespersons from the minimum wage law.

The Assembly's calendar includes a series of drunken driving bills.

Among them is AB 67, which would require court appearances for OWI offenders, and AB 68, which would increase penalties for first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol content of more than 0.15. The chamber is also set to take up AB 467, which would establish procedures for installing ignition interlock devices for OWI offenders.

The Assembly also has a series of workforce development bills on its agenda. It plans to take up the Senate versions of those bills if that chamber has finished them and sends them over, a spokeswoman for Speaker Robin Vos said. Otherwise, the Assembly will do its version of those bills, which Gov. Scott Walker called for as part of the fall agenda.

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