• WisPolitics

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

 8:06 PM 

Civil liability bill gets vote

Republicans drew unanimous consent to put AB 308 up for a vote, and the bill passed on a voice vote.

The bill would exempt people from civil liability if they force their way into a car to help a person or an animal that appears to be suffering.

The bill had been bumped to the delayed calendar when Dems introduced a resolution before the bill had gotten a vote.

 8:03 PM 

Lambeau bill headed to governor

A bill that directs the distribution of excess sales tax revenue from the Lambeau Field renovation is on its way to the governor’s desk following the Assembly’s 89-2 vote in favor of concurrence on the Senate legislation.

The bill, which unanimously cleared the Senate, would require the state Department of Revenue direct 25 percent of the excess sales tax collections toward redevelopment of the Brown County arena, with certain restrictions. The remaining 75 percent would go to Brown County municipalities, with the amounts proportional to their populations.

Assembly bill author Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, has cited a state Department of Revenue estimate the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District will have $17.6 million in excess sales tax revenue. The tax was closed out Sept. 30 but final numbers won’t be available until closer to the end of the year.

 7:54 PM 

Resolution bumps bill from calendar

The Dems' introduction of the middle-class task force resolution bumped a bipartisan bill to the delayed calendar through a procedural quirk.

The skipped-over bill is AB 308, which would exempt people from civil liability if they force their way into a vehicle if a person or animal appears to be suffering. Reps. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, and Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, are the lead sponsors of the bill.

It could come up during the next floor session or later during this session.

Kerkman said the bill isn't dead. But Dems got a vote on an item that wasn't on the calendar and, as a result, lost a vote elsewhere, she said.

"You don't reward bad behavior," Kerkman said.

 7:17 PM 

Dems propose resolution, Republicans kill it

Dems proposed AR 17, which would have required immediate formation of a task force on the middle class.

The task force would have been charged with identifying ways to increase the average household income in Wisconsin.

Republicans would not allow suspension of rules to pull the resolution from committee for a vote.

 7:09 PM 

Group health insurance bill sails through

Rep. John Nygren’s bill calling for Joint Finance Committee oversight of any changes to public employee group health insurance programs cleared the Assembly on a 90-2 vote.

Gov. Scott Walker vetoed a similar proposal from the state budget. If he were to veto AB 394, the vote today represents by far enough support to override that veto.

 7:03 PM 

Civil service debate winds down

Rep. Peter Barca closed the Dems' case against the civil service bill by arguing the legislation marks the continued Republican dismantling of clean, open and transparent government.

The Kenosha Dem said Republican changes to the GAB, civil service, campaign finance and John Doe probes are threatening the "rich, rich heritage" in Wisconsin. He said Dems are genuinely concerned about how the bill could allow for corruption and cronyism.

"This is an important part of trying to maintain just one shred of that heritage," Barca said.

Bill author Rep. Jim Steineke, though, said Dems have to stop looking at civil service changes as some "right-wing bill." It's a topic that's been taken up by Dems and Republicans all around the country, the Kaukauna Republican said.

And with that in mind, Steineke said, the bill should have drawn bipartisan support. The problem, he said, is Dems have been unable to put aside the rhetoric.

"I think you'll find reasonable reforms that are both pro-taxpayer and pro-employee," Steineke said.

 6:05 PM 

Vos lays out argument for bill

The civil service bill makes practical changes to the state system and leaves alone the statute that prohibits hiring or promoting based on political affiliations, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.

The bill, for the most part, simply makes the public system more closely aligned with the private sector, the Rochester Republican said. And that alignment covers even some of the most basic expectations for state employees.

"What kind of a world do we live in," Vos said, "where people who work for state government don't get an annual performance review?"

Dems, he said, should stop focusing on scoring political points and acknowledge the basic improvements proposed under the bill.

 5:48 PM 

Johnson argues test shields against discrimination

Rep. LaTonya Johnson is arguing the removal of the civil service test opens the door to discriminatory hiring decisions.

The Milwaukee Dem cited statistics about how many fewer job call-backs those with names associated with black people get when compared with those who have names associated with white people.

The test, Johnson said, ensures a greater level of protection than simply a resume-based system, as the bill calls for.

"We know firsthand that racial bias plagues the country," she said, "and it plagues the state."

 5:14 PM 

Dem amendments don't stick

Dems are on their tenth amendment, which faces a fate similar to the nine before it.

Republicans have repeatedly shot down the Dem proposals to change the civil service bill. Those changes have included a proposal to audit the civil service system if the bill becomes law and create specific First Amendment protections for state employees.

As the debate over the amendments continues, patience on both sides of the aisle is wearing thin. After Assembly Speaker Robin Vos again criticized Dems for failing to understand the bill, Dems accused the Rochester Republican of lowering the level of debate.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, said Vos simply pops out of his office to make comments and "then you run back into your little hole."

And when Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, got into a procedural tussle with Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, the bill's author had a few words for Barca.

"Spare me your outrage," Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said. "I'm getting little tired of it."

 4:54 PM 

Civil service debate gets testy

Dems have tried repeatedly to get bill author Rep. Jim Steineke to yield to questions.

The Kaukauna Republican repeatedly has refused.

And that has fueled the Dems' fire. Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, accused Steineke of doing a "backroom deal" and then "running from his bill" when Dems challenge it.

"Sad that he won't even take my question," Jorgensen said.

Steineke did correct Dems on the probationary period for state employees under the bill. An amendment to the bill changes the proposed probationary period from two years to one. State agencies would have the option to extend that by 12 months.

Dems had discussed the original two-year period.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also shot back at Dems, saying their concerns for state employees losing some protections should be balanced with an understanding that everyone in private employment is an at-will employee.

So after that probationary period, Vos said, state employees will have protections afforded to few, if any, private workers.

"I'm sorry that you're getting so carried away with your rhetoric that you'e not using any facts," the Rochester Republican said.

 4:22 PM 

Civil service referral fails

The Dems' push to refer the civil service bill to an Assembly committee has fallen on a 59-36 vote.

The extensive debate on referral included Dems arguing the bill isn't "ready for prime time," and Republicans saying the legislation will put the state in a better position to quickly hire candidates.

"The bill does nothing more than create the ability to have a central clearinghouse of qualified candidates," Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah.

Rep. Gordon Hintz agreed the civil service system needs to be updated to reflect concerns about retaining employees, attracting younger people and dealing with an aging workforce. But the bill creates too many loopholes and needs more work, the Oshkosh Dem said.

"Unlike a lot of times, the referral to committee is the absolute right thing to do," he said.

 3:19 PM 

Highlights of the civil service bill

The proposed overhaul of Wisconsin’s civil service system calls for several changes.

Those include:

* Giving the state power to fire workers for specific conduct without imposing progressive discipline. The conduct that qualifies includes theft, falsifying records and harassment. Employees also could be fired for work performance determined to be inadequate, unsuitable or inferior, but only after facing progressive discipline. Under an amendment to the bill, that progressive discipline can be accelerated in extreme circumstances.

* Requiring performance reviews be performed at least annually.

* Replacing the civil service test with a resume-based application process.

* Reducing the threshold for a state employee’s job to be considered abandoned. The bill calls for three no call-no show days in a calendar year as opposed to five consecutive days.

* Setting the probation period for new hires at one year with an option to extend it by 12 months. An amendment from author Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, reduced the proposed probationary period from two years to one.

* Allowing layoffs based on performance and other factors rather than just seniority.

* Expediting the hiring process. The deadline for making an appointment would be cut in half to 30 days after certification rather than 60 days.

* Eliminating the state’s right to ask applicants about previous criminal convictions, except under certain circumstances. The so-called “ban the box” provision has held the bill up in the Senate, where Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, has argued the state should retain that right.

* Establishing a system that gives veterans and some spouses preference in the hiring process for classified positions in the civil service.

* Establishing a timeline for employee grievances.

* Requiring the DOA develop a plan by March 1, 2017, for assuming all human resources functions for state agencies. The plan would be implemented by July 1, 2017.

* Limiting reinstatement privileges to permanent, classified employees who are on layoff status and reducing eligibility for reinstatement from five to three years. The bill also eliminates reinstatement privileges for employees who leave service for an elective position.

*Eliminating restoration rights for permanent employees in the classified service who are laid off. Those rights now give state employees who are laid off the ability to bump someone else out of a job, and employees have restoration rights for three years after being laid off.

The bill passed the Assembly’s State Affairs and Government Operations Committee on an 8-5 party-line vote.

 3:16 PM 

Civil service debate gets rolling

The civil service bill debate is getting started.

Bill author Rep. Jim Steineke got the microphone first. He defended the proposal and predicted Dems would turn the discussion into a political debate.

"Just pass the bill," the Kaukauna Republican said. "Send it over to the Senate. Do something good for the state."

 3:14 PM 

Two courtroom protection bills pass Assembly

The Assembly concurred on SB 117 and passed AB 347, signing off on two bills that have only one difference in calling for expanded protections for court officers.

Current law makes it a felony for anyone to threaten or commit battery against judges or law enforcement officers working in their official capacities. The law extends that protection to the families of judges and officers and carries a maximum $10,000 fine and six years in prison.

SB 117, which the Assembly concurred on with a bipartisan 80-16 vote, would extend that legal protection to prosecutors and their families. Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, is the author of the Assembly companion bill. The legislation now goes to Gov. Scott Walker.

Rep. Samantha Kerkman’s AB 347 is the same as Ott’s but further extends the protection to public defenders. The Assembly passed that bill 80-15.

Both Kerkman, R-Salem, and Ott are on the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, which passed both bills with only one vote against. Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, opposed both.

A debate between Ott and Rep. Evan Goyke that started when the bill was in committee continued on the floor. The Milwaukee Dem argued the bill will scoop up more people than the author wants, people who are on drugs or off medications who make idle threats that amount to felonies, prison time or plea deals.

"The justice system is not an adequate response to crisis," Goyke said.

But Ott said such threats also affect people, forcing them to look over their shoulders.

"Threats of that nature are made to exact an emotional toll," Ott said.

Read the vote on SB 117 here.

Read the vote on AB 347 here.

 2:44 PM 

Knife bill clears Assembly

A bill that would let people go armed with knives passed the Assembly on a voice vote.

AB 142 would repeal the state’s switchblade prohibition and let people carry any kind of knife, without regard to its concealment. But those who would not be eligible for a concealed-carry permit in the state would not be able to go armed with a knife.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said he supported the bill when it focused just on an outdated definition of switchblades. But when the bill was amended to establish concealed carry for all knives, he said, the legislation lost his backing.

"The bill we started with is not the bill we have before us," Goyke said, adding the current bill is "bad public policy."

Author Rep. Kathleen Bernier’s bill also would prohibit local governments from enacting knife prohibitions that are stricter than the state’s. The Chippewa Falls Republican said the idea came from a constituent who is a police officer and a concealed-carry instructor.

That constituent said he has fielded many questions about where knives fall into the concealed-carry law, Bernier said. The answer to that question is the bill, Bernier said, and it's good legislation no matter what Goyke says.

"He's just wrong on this one," she said.

The Assembly’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee amended and then approved the bill on an 8-2 vote. Dem LaTonya Johnson, of Milwaukee, joined committee Republicans in support of the bill.

 2:28 PM 

State treasurer resolution gets green light

The Assembly has taken the next step toward eliminating the state treasurer’s office from the state constitution.

Rep. Michael Schraa’s proposed constitutional amendment passed the Assembly on a 63-33 bipartisan vote.

Backers of the Oshkosh Republican’s AJR 5 say it is a clear example of saving money for taxpayers by eliminating a position that has few constitutional duties anyway. Schraa today said the treasurer still is a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, a job that requires two 15-minute phone calls per month, he added.

Opponents, however, argued the proposed amendment is another example of Republicans dismantling democracy in the state.

For the amendment to go into effect, it still would have to clear the Senate this session and then pass the next legislative session before going to a statewide referendum. State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk was elected in fall 2014 after campaigning on a promise to try to eliminate the position.

A similar resolution last session passed the Assembly but failed in the Senate.

See the vote here.

 2:15 PM 

The sound of music

Music is an early theme of the Assembly's floor session today.

So far, members have listened to the University of Wisconsin Marching Band following the Assembly's recognition of band director Michael Leckrone.

Then, members sang the National Anthem and followed that up by listening to the Canadian National Anthem.

 2:09 PM 

Opt-out bill passes Assembly

A bill that would let parents opt their children out of state or federal school exams cleared the Assembly on a voice vote.

The bill, AB 239, applies to grades three through 12 and still lets school districts mandate certain exams. Under the bill, high school students still would be required to take and pass a high school civics test prior to graduation.

The Assembly’s Education Committee passed the bill 10-3 in July, with Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, joining Republicans in favor.

 2:07 PM 

We're back

The Assembly is back in session.

Next on the agenda: continuing education for electricians.

 2:00 PM 

JFC to meet soon on road bonding

JFC will meet at some point in the next 10 days to discuss Gov. Scott Walker's request the state release $200 million in contingency bonding to keep some road projects from hitting two-year delays, Rep. John Nygren said before the floor session today.

The Marinette Republican and co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee said members are checking their schedules to see what days work.

 1:57 PM 

Nygren, Vos brace for governor's veto

Rep. John Nygren said today he knows Gov. Scott Walker intends to shoot down the Marinette Republican's group health insurance bill.

Under Nygren's bill, any proposed changes by the state's Group Insurance Board would have to go through a 21-day passive review process by the Joint Finance Committee. The bill cleared the JFC on a 15-0 bipartisan vote.

Walker vetoed a similar provision from the budget, and Nygren said he heard the same is true for his bill.

"That's what he said," Nygren said, adding he's willing to discuss the bill with the guv's office.

Speaker Robin Vos said the Assembly doesn't pass bills with the expectation the guv will veto them, so it's too soon to talk about an override vote.

"My hope is he will come around to our way of thinking," the Rochester Republican said.

 1:53 PM 

Assembly recesses for treats with Canadians

The Assembly has gone into recess after proclaiming today Canada Day at the Capital and this week Canada Week in Wisconsin.

Members will have a brief reception with a group of Canadians.

The Assembly will reconvene in about 10 minutes.

 1:40 PM 

Barca, Dems slam civil service bill

Rep. Peter Barca and other Assembly Dems today took repeated swings at the GOP-backed civil service bill scheduled for a floor vote today.

Barca, of Kenosha, told reporters prior to the floor session today the bill is "one more giant step in the arena of corruption and cronyism."

Rep. Robb Kahl, D-Monona, said he understands the civil service system needs updates, but Republicans chose to make those changes "behind closed doors" rather than working with Dems. The result, he said, is a bill that shifts the system toward politics-based decisions.

"I think we're losing our objective nature of how we hire and fire in the state," Kahl said.

Both Vos and bill author Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, disagreed. Steineke also said that, for now, he wants to keep the provision in the bill that would prevent the state, except in certain instances, from asking applicants about their criminal history.

The so-called "ban the box" provision has led to the bill's stalling in the Senate. But even if that element leads to the bill not passing until January, Steineke said, he's OK with that.

He also said he wouldn't let "ban the box" permanently cripple the legislation.

"We're not going to let any single provision spell the death of the bill," Steineke said.

 1:27 PM 

Vos confident GAB bill will clear Senate

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters prior to the floor session today he expects the Senate will come to agreement on a bill that would abolish the Government Accountability Board.

The bill passed the Assembly last week.

The Rochester Republican said if senators are hung up on whether judges should play a role in the new commissions, then he would be willing to talk about those changes. He noted the original bill included judges in the new system, but that provision was removed at the request of the Senate.

The big picture, Vos said, is clear: the GAB was "out of control," targeting national figures and was engaged in a "continuing political vendetta" and "witch hunt," he said.

"I think the Senate is going to see the exact same information we have," Vos said.

The speaker also said he is opposed to a sales tax that would support parks, zoos, arts and other things in the city of Milwaukee if that tax was applied outside of the city. The possibility of such a tax arose yesterday during a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce meeting.

The MMAC unveiled a report that suggested a sales tax could be used for those city amenities. It has not been decided whether the tax would be proposed for the county or for a wider audience.

"I think they went way too far," Vos said.

 8:26 AM 

Assembly to take up civil service overhaul

The state Assembly will vote today on the GOP plan to overhaul the civil service system and eliminating the state treasurer's office.

The Senate, however, has put off its planned meeting today to give Republicans more time to discuss the GAB and campaign finance legislation.

Also on the Assembly agenda are:

*AB 142, which would lift the prohibition on switchblades and prohibit local governments from placing additional restrictions on carrying them.

*AB 239, which would allow parents to opt students out of certain statewide exams.

*AB 394, which would give lawmakers oversight of changes to the public employee group health insurance program.

*And SB 233, which would divvy up among Brown County communities the excess sales tax revenue collected for the renovation of Lambeau Field.

See the calendar:

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the chamber is looking at coming in next week, the final meeting period until Jan. 12.

But instead of being on the floor today, Senate Republicans will instead caucus on the GAB and campaign finance bills.

 8:25 PM 

John Doe debate covers familiar ground

Dems and Republicans have picked up where they left off yesterday in the debate over changes to John Doe probes.

Both sides argue they are trying to stand up for the rights of Wisconsin citizens. Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, wondered how people can get their reputations back when there are gag orders and no time limits to the investigations.

"We're trying to correct it to protect the rights of our citizens," he said.

But Dems echoed their arguments from the debate yesterday. They wondered whose rights Republicans really are trying to protect.

"This excludes political crimes from John Doe investigations," Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, said.

 7:50 PM 

Vos scolds Dems

The same statute Dems are citing during their recusals also gives them the right to vote on the campaign finance bill, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.

But, the Rochester Republican said, the minority party made the decision to follow the wrong people.

"This is one of those times when you have watched your leadership walk you off a cliff," he said.

Vos went on to chastise Dems for failing to perform the most important role they have.

"I have never been so disappointed," he said, "in the members of the minority."

 7:30 PM 

Bill 'sucks'

Rep. LaTonya Johnson gave a different reason for not wanting to vote on campaign finance reform.

"This bill sucks," the Milwaukee Dem said.

But she had more to say on the topic.

"And I'm sure next week, there's going to be other bills that suck," she said, adding the bill "sucks" for the people of Wisconsin.

Also, Johnson said, it "sucked" having to wait so long to tell everyone she thinks the bill "sucks."

 7:23 PM 

Dem recusals continue

Dems continue taking turns recusing themselves from the campaign finance vote, and Republicans continue to lobby criticisms.

Rep. Jim Steineke told reporters the mass recusal is the "dumbest" thing he's seen since he entered office. By recusing themselves from this vote for substantial financial interests, the Kaukauna Republican said, they are saying they can't vote on the budget, redistricting and taxes, among many other things.

On the bright side, Steineke said, the bill will pass on a unanimous vote. Or, at the very least, all Republicans will vote to represent their constitutents, he said.

Other Republicans called the recusals a "stunt." And Rep. John Macco, R-Ledgeview, compared it to lawmakers leaving the state for Rockford, Ill.

 6:55 PM 

Dems refuse to vote on campaign finance bill

In a rare procedural move, Dems are recusing themselves from a vote on passage of the campaign finance bill.

The Dems cited their "substantial financial interest" in the bill as their reason for recusal. They cited section 19.46 of statute for their refusal to vote on the bill.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Dems are creating a dangerous precedent. He pointed out they didn't recuse themselves from a campaign finance bill last session, nor did they do it on the GAB bill.

"You're showing you're treating this institution like a joke," the Rochester Republican said.

But Dems rose one by one to say they cannot in good conscience vote on the legislation.

Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, mocked the Dem move, noting lawmakers vote to raise their salaries.

But Rep. Robb Kahl, D-Monona, noted those votes do not take effect until the next term. If the same happened with the campaign finance bill, he said, it would be a different story.

"But having this apply this year, you have a problem," he said.

Read the statute here.

 6:17 PM 

Rules committee approves Oct. 27 calendar

The Rules Committee has approved along party lines the proposed calendar for the Tuesday session.

The only change from the proposed version was the addition of two Senate bills that are companions to Assembly bills already on the calendar. The calendar includes a bill that would overhaul the state's civil service system.

The committee did not set debate time limits. Chairman Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said he and Dems agree the limits will be established Tuesday morning.

Assembly members also have been told to keep their calendars open for possible floor sessions Tuesdays through Thursdays for the next two weeks.

 5:33 PM 

Assembly stands in recess

The Assembly is in recess until 6 p.m.

The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet at that time to iron out the official calendar for the Oct. 27 floor period.

 4:53 PM 

Barca, Vos go nose to nose again

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Rep. Peter Barca are going back and forth on the campaign finance bill.

After a string of Dem comments against the bill, Vos took the floor and accused the other side of the aisle of being disingenuous. He pointed out how Dems already are taking advantage of unlimited donations to parties.

The Rochester Republican said he checked on contribution numbers and found Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele had given the Dem Party $400,000.

"So don't stand up here and act sanctimonious," Vos said, adding that Dems already are taking and using the money. And that's OK, he said, because it's legal.

But Barca, D-Kenosha, said his office checked and found that other states that have adopted unlimited corporate donations have paired that with reporting requirements. Vos' bill, Barca said, does not require that reporting, and that is where the problems really arise.

"I can see why you're the only one who put your name on the bill," Barca told Vos. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is a co-sponsor on the bill.

But there is a bright spot, Barca said.

"The only good news is the Senate doesn't appear to be crazy about this," he said.

 4:39 PM 

Dems take tuns blasting campaign finance bill

Dems, one after another, are taking shots at Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' campaign finance bill.

The criticism is coming during official discussion of a Dem amendment to send the bill to the Joint Finance Committee. Dems are arguing the bill allows for unlimited, undisclosed corporate contributions and collusion.

"I've seen a lot of bad ideas come through here in my nine years in office," Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said. "This is the worst."

 3:50 PM 

Campaign finance bill highlights

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' campaign finance bill makes several changes to state law.

Among those changes, many of which codify a string of court decisions in recent years, are:

* allowing corporate contributions to political parties, but not individual candidates.

* doubling the contribution limits to candidates for state or local office while requiring adjustments every five years to reflect the change in the consumer price index over the period.

* requiring candidates file fundraising reports more frequently with the state -- six times in even-numbered years and quarterly in odd-numbered years.

* establishing unlimited contributions to political parties and committees.

 3:30 PM 

Vos amends campaign finance bill

The Assembly has adopted Speaker Robin Vos' amendment to his campaign finance bill.

The amendment includes several technical changes, the Rochester Republican said. It also makes such adjustments as inserting the word "occupation" to replace the word "employer" in contribution reports.

Vos argued what a person does is far more relevant than where a person works.

The amendment, he said, also ensures current law protects party member communications and clarifies what is and is not regulated by government in relation to issue ads.

 3:19 PM 

GAB bill passes Assembly

The bill passed on a 58-39 vote.

Three Republicans joined Dems in voting against the bill. They are: Todd Novak, of Dodgeville; Warren Petryk, of Eleva; and Travis Tranel, of Cuba City.

See the roll call here.

 3:16 PM 

GAB bill debate winding down

Debate on the GAB bill has now shifted to the author speaking.

Rep. Dean Knudson is arguing the Government Accountability Board is a failed model, one that no other state is likely to adopt. His proposal, the Hudson Republican said, is common throughout the United States.

And no matter what Dems say, Knudson said, no one will allow for more corruption in the system.

"Just because you say 'corruption' 100 times in a two-day period," he said, "doesn't mean corruption isn't against the law in the state."

The Assembly will vote on passage next.

 2:44 PM 

Nygren defends GAB bill

Rep. John Nygren voted for the formation of the Government Accountability Board, he said, and he wishes it had lived up to expectations.

It didn't, the Marinette Republican said.

The goal at the time, he said, was to take partisan politics out of the elections and ethics oversight system. But Nygren cited various GAB emails from the John Doe II investigation in arguing partisan politics never disappeared.

"We must take action to give the entire constituency of Wisconsin trust in our elections," he said.

 2:30 PM 

Dem amendments fall, discussion turns to passage

Four proposed Dem amendments to the GAB bill have failed.

Those amendments included directing the bill to the Joint Finance Committee and delaying the bill's implementation.

Debate now is on final passage of the bill, and Rep. Terese Berceau has the stage.

"I really hope there is a conscience on the other side that will reconsider passing this bill," the Madison Dem said.

 1:44 PM 

Vos fires back at Barca

In response to Rep. Peter Barca's criticism of the GAB bill, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the board has had zero successful prosecutions since its inception.

He also said the caucus scandal that prompted the formation of the GAB was rooted out by the preceding, bipartisan system. He said the bill today will create an effective government watchdog.

"Let's talk about the reality," the Rochester Republican said, "and not the myth you are attempting to create today."

 1:36 PM 

GAB bill picks up two Republican amendments

Republicans have approved two amendments so far to the bill that would split the Government Accountability Board into two arms, one for elections and one for ethics.

The first amendment clarifies the number of people on the two boards and that appointees can serve prior to confirmation. It also clarifies the terms for board chairs.

The second amendment covers technical changes identified by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, is making the Dem case against the bill. He's stressing reports the Senate is not completely on board with the GAB bill or the campaign finance proposal.

"Maybe you don't want an organization to do their job stamping out corruption in ethics," Barca said.

Rep. Dean Knudson's bill would:

*Require each commission would have six appointments, four of them by the legislative leaders. The leaders would then forward a pool of candidates to the guv to select the final two spots on each commission.

*Each commission would select an administrator.

*The new commissions would be charged with developing written policies for negotiating settlements when a complaint is filed as well as handling investigations. There would be additional due process for those who have been accused or are being investigated, including a notice to the target and a period of time in which to respond.

*The bill would keep the current secrecy requirements for staff, which is prevented from discussing details of a complaint.

*Advisory opinions requested by individuals would be public, though identifying information would be redacted.

*Any single investigation would be limited to $25,000 in cost. If additional money were needed, the agency would have to submit it to Joint Finance for passive review. The request wouldn't identify who was being investigated, but it would outline the general nature of the probe.

 1:17 PM 

Senate, Assembly still in campaign finance talks

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said prior to the floor session today that negotiations with the Senate are ongoing over his campaign finance bill.

The Rochester Republican said those negotiations could lead to amendments on the floor today, but he would not say what they might be.

"Of course we'll be willing to listen," Vos said, "but I'm not going to negotiate in the press."

The GAB bill, likewise, is facing hesitation in the Senate. Bill author Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, said today he is confident in his version of the bill, including how it relates to the makeup of the proposed ethics and elections boards. That makeup has been listed among the concerns in the Senate.

Knudson would not say for certain if he would entertain changes to his bill.

"In politics," he said, "you never say 'never.'"

Both bills would usher in corruption in Wisconsin, Rep. Peter Barca said before the floor session. He cited the campaign finance bill's allowance of unlimited spending with no disclosure as a particularly "egregious" provision.

Vos said such provisions already are allowed under law. His bill, he said, simply codifies it.

But the vote today, Barca said, including concurrence on the Senate's John Doe bill will hurt Republicans.

"I think they will be run out on a rail in many cases," the Kenosha Dem said.

 12:46 AM 

Senate approves Doe bill along party lines

The Senate approved legislation overhauling the John Doe process 18-14 with Dems slamming the legislation as a push to protect corrupt politicians. Republicans, meanwhile, called it a needed change to reform a process ripe for abuse. 

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he originally wanted to get rid of the entire John Doe process because he believes it is so flawed, but prosecutors persuaded him to keep it for investigations of certain drug offenses.

Still, he railed against prosecutors in John Doe I and II, saying they were willing to use the process as a political weapon to trash people’s lives. He also said the supposed secret investigations aren’t truly secret. Instead, rumors spread after subpoenas are served, wreaking havoc on those who are ordered not to speak about the probes and therefore cannot defend themselves.

“That is flawed. That is a mess, and it might have been in the statutes for years and years, but it’s not right what you do to people,” Fitzgerald said.

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, said the only reason Republicans were pushing the bill is because of the John Doe investigations that touched Gov. Scott Walker. What’s more, he said Republicans made clear their true intention was to shield politicians from future Doe investigations by rejecting Dem amendments that would have allowed prosecutors to continue using the secret investigations to investigate crimes such as pay-to-play.

“This bill isn’t about protecting innocent people,” Hansen said. “It’s about protecting crooked politicians.”

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, charged the only reason Republicans were pushing the bill is because Walker is the "most corrupt governor in the history of our state" and "you're trying to protect him."

Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, rejected Dem suggestions that restricting Doe investigations would lead to an explosion of corruption. He pointed out no other state uses the John Doe process, but all of them, like Wisconsin, allows for grand juries. Those states, Lasee argued, are still able to investigate corruption with the tools at their disposal.

“I wonder if a Republican DA spent years investigating a Democrat governor, if the shoe was on the other foot, I wonder what you all would be saying in the inner circle,” Lasee said.

Someone in the chamber answered, “The same thing,” and Lasee responded, “I’m sure. I’m sure.”

The bill was messaged to the Assembly, which passed its own version of the legislation Tuesday. Dems blocked sending that bill to the Senate after final passage.

 6:02 PM 

John Doe bill passes, message blocked

The bill passed 60-36, but messaging to the Senate was blocked by the same vote.

Messaging requires a two-thirds vote. As a result of the Dems' move to block, the Assembly will take up the bill on special order at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

At that time, the Assembly either can take up its bill for a vote or the Senate's version for concurrence. The Senate is expected to reconvene at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow to vote on the bill after Dems in that chamber blocked a third reading of the bill.

The Assembly tomorrow also will take up on special order a bill that would overhaul the GAB and the campaign finance bill. The chamber has allotted 10 hours for debate.

See the Assembly's John Doe vote here.

 5:43 PM 

Brostoff wants apology for Nazi statement

A clearly irate Rep. Jonathan Brostoff called for an apology for Republican comments comparing John Doe raids to Nazis.

The Milwaukee Dem, who is Jewish, said he wasn't going to speak until he heard the references to Nazi Germany. Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, made a Nazi comparison.

Brostoff, whose voice rose as he talked about genocide, said he can't believe such rhetoric is being used in the chamber.

"I'm sick," he said. "I have nothing else to say."

Rep. Daniel Riemer, who also is Jewish, followed up shortly after by saying he does not need an apology but expects better from his colleagues than resorting to comparisons to Nazis.

"One learns to ignore slights, brush off insults and endure," the Milwaukee Dem said.

 5:21 PM 

About 40 minutes left for debate

Time is winding down for debate on the John Doe bill.

Dems continue to argue against the legislation, saying Republicans need a fair bill, rather than one that removes politicians from John Doe probes.

"If you do away with some, it should go away for all," Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, said, adding if state law shifts more toward grand juries, the state should pay for them because small communities won't be able to afford them.

Republicans, though, have repeatedly argued the bill is blind to occupations and focused solely on the types of crimes. The bill would allow John Doe probes for Class A through Class D felonies and other selected crimes.

The John Doe changes are designed to offer equal protection to witnesses and subjects, Republicans said. And the Legislature's job is to protect citizens from "abusive prosecutors," Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said.

The subjects of those probes, he said, are supposed to be considered innocent.

"The current system treats them as anything but," Steineke said.

 5:07 PM 

Senate recesses until 12:01 a.m.

See you then.

UPDATE: Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, says the plan is to come in at 12:01 a.m. to take up the Senate version of the bill. The houses have to pass the same version of the legislation before it could go to the guv's desk for his signature.

 5:05 PM 

Senate concurs on bill making 'upskirting' a felony

The Senate, via voice vote, has concurred on an Assembly bill to make 'upskirting' a felony.

The legislation, which now heads to the guv's desk, creates a new penalty for using a camera or other recording device to take photos or videos up a person's skirt or underneath other clothing without their knowledge.

 4:44 PM 

Dems block final vote on Doe bill

Dems blocked a final vote on the John Doe bill by objecting to a third reading.

Republicans have a couple of options to move forward with the legislation. One is to come back at 12:01 a.m. to finish work on the legislation. Another would be to see if the Assembly version of the legislation clears final passage in that house and is sent over.

 4:28 PM 

Debate on bill passage continues

The current law is ripe for abuse, which has played out in recent years, particularly during John Doe II, Rep. Jim Ott said.

"The law needs fixing," the Mequon Republican said, "and what we're going to do today is fix it."

But those who want to change the law need to make a choice, Rep. Evan Goyke said. Either the law works and should be applied to all criminal behavior, the Milwaukee Dem said, or it doesn't work and should be abandoned.

"We cannot stand up in this body," Goyke said, "and think that we can carve out politicians and political crimes."

 4:14 PM 

Sanfelippo compares John Does to Nazis

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo is comparing the people who orchestrated John Doe raids in the past few years to Nazis.

The raids of homes and resulting secrecy orders brought to mind the actions of the Nazis and Pol Pot. Calling it a form of terrorism, the New Berlin Republican said such things could happen to anyone under the current law.

"The Republicans in this chamber want to make sure that no citizen in the state ever goes through that terror again," he said.

But Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, called out Sanfelippo for relying on hyperbole. She then shrugged off his comments by calling him a "real drama mama."

 3:58 PM 

How do you say that again?

Rep. Christine Sinicki just drew laughs from both sides of the aisle when she started talking about how everyone has been talking about hyperbole.

Republicans have accused Dems of being in hyperbole overdrive, and they have made a point of bringing it up during debate.

But Sinicki mispronounced the word several times as "hyper-bowl" until she realized she was saying it incorrectly. She told the Assembly she would say it however she wants to.

That prompted laughs throughout the floor.

"Don't make me laugh," the Milwaukee Dem said, "because I'm trying to be mad right now."

 3:27 PM 

GOP shooting down Dem amendments

Republicans are rejecting John Doe amendments almost as quickly as Dems can propose them.

Dems are discussing the seventh of their eight proposed amendments to the bill. The one up for debate now would subject illegal campaign and election activities to John Doe investigations.

Failed amendments included those that would allow John Does for illegal campaign finance, bribery and suspected pay-for-play.

 2:49 PM 

Vos, Barca trade shots

The John Doe bill is "incredibly simple" and if Gov. Scott Walker had not been a subject of one of the probes, there would be more bipartisan support for the legislation, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.

Surely, the Rochester Republican said, Dems should join the GOP in opposing a process that puts so much authority in the hands of a district attorney. Instead, Dems are suffering from "Walker derangement syndrome," he said.

Plus, Vos said, the law needs to change.

"It needs to be reformed because it allows for unconstitutional investigations," Vos said, adding that Dems are too hung up on exaggerated rhetoric.

Not true, Rep. Peter Barca said. The Kenosha Dem argued he truly believes the bill is pushing the state in the wrong direction and allowing for unguarded corruption in the Capitol. Lawmakers, he said, need to be subject to such probes to avoid instances such as the caucus scandals.

And the John Doe investigations must be doing something right, Barca said, considering they have been in the state since it was a territory.

"I'm sure the people are heartened to know you're coming here to save us," he said.

 2:36 PM 

John Doe highlights

The Republican-backed John Doe bill would make several significant changes to the law.

Those include:
  • Limiting the crimes eligible for John Doe probes to Class A through Class D felonies and certain other offenses. Any crimes alleged to have been committed by law enforcement, corrections, state probation, parole or extended supervision officers could fall under the John Doe investigations. Among the excluded crimes, as Dems have pointed out, are bribery and other forms of political or campaign finance corruption. Republicans argue those crimes still would be eligible for grand jury investigations. Current law allows John Does for any crimes.
  • Establishing a six-month time limit for the investigations. Six-month extensions would be available with the approval of a 10-member panel of chief judges from across the state. Current law does not set time limits.
  • Restricting the secrecy orders under the investigations to only the judge, prosecuting attorney and other court staff. Current law extends that order to witnesses and the subjects of the probes.
  • Making the costs of the probes a matter of public record. Those costs are not public under current law.
The bill now has three amendments:
  • Adding solicitation and conspiracy to the crimes eligible for a John Doe probe.
  • Requiring the judge that acts with the prosecutor throughout the investigation is not the same judge on any criminal trials resulting from the probe.
  • Making the secrecy order restrictions retroactive to previous John Doe investigations.

 1:54 PM 

Senate approves three GOP amendments

The Senate has approved three GOP amendments to the John Doe bill, including one only allowing judges who are not presiding over the secret probes to issue a search warrant related to the proceedings.

Another clarified in the bill anyone attempting to commit the felonies that would be subject to a John Doe could also face one of the secret investigations. GOP Sen. Tom Tiffany, one of the co-authors, said the omission was inadvertent.

 1:16 PM 

Vos swears in Duchow

Recently elected Rep. Cindi Duchow just took the oath of office on the Assembly floor.

The Pewaukee Republican won a special election for the 99th Assembly seat after Chris Kapenga vacated it after winning a seat in the Senate.

 1:13 PM 

Dems, GOP set stage for John Doe debate

Assembly Republican and Dem leaders today stated their cases in favor and against the John Doe bill that will take center stage on the floor this afternoon.

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, once again argued the bill will open the door to corruption in the Capitol by removing the possibility that politicians could be investigated for bribery and other campaign finance crimes.

He said the campaign finance and GAB bills scheduled for the floor tomorrow just exacerbate the problem.

"These bills mark the end of clean, open and transparent government in Wisconsin," Barca said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, though, said the bill simply puts Wisconsin on the same path as the rest of the country in that grand juries can be used to investigate political corruption. Bill author Rep. David Craig, R-Big Bend, said the bill represents a protection of First Amendment rights.

Under the grand jury system, Craig said, witnesses retain their First Amendment right to free speech, but that's not the case under John Doe probes. Under current law, witnesses and subjects of the investigations are bound by secrecy orders.

"The whole purpose of the bill is to make sure we're protecting constitutional liberties," he said.

Vos said if grand juries caused problems in other states, they would have adopted John Does.

"And that hasn't happened," he said.

 1:05 PM 

Senate opens John Doe debate

The Senate has begun debate on the John Doe bill with Dems portraying it as a move to protect politicians from prosecution and Republicans countering the legislation would create new accountability for the secret probes.

Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said today’s bill was part of a three-pronged GOP attack on good government in Wisconsin. The coming steps, she said, included breaking the GAB into two agencies and re-writing the state’s campaign finance laws.

Today’s bill, she said, shields public officials from investigations into corruption and scandal. It also is not a priority for the general public.

“No one has ever, ever come up to me at the grocery store or the gas station suggesting we need less accountability in government, that we need more partisanship in our state, that we need secrecy,” said Shilling, questioning if Republicans want the legislation to be part of their legacy.

GOP Sen. Tom Tiffany, one of the co-sponsors, countered the bill was about making the John Doe more transparent and accountable. Among other things, the probes would be limited to six months, though prosecutors could seek permission from a panel of judges before continuing the investigation and the costs of those probes would also be public record.
Tiffany said John Doe I and II raised the profile of the secret probes as they touched on Gov. Scott Walker, his old Milwaukee County exec aides and the conservative groups that backed him in the recall elections. But he said changes have been needed for some time, noting federal courts have raised concerns about a gag order provision in the John Doe that prevents those involved from discussing the case.

“I can tell you I want this to be my legacy that we are protecting the weakest among us,” said Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst.

One of the frequent points of contention between Dems and Republicans on the bill has been how it impacts elected officials. Dems argue it shields them from John Doe probes into political crimes. Republicans reject the argument that elected officials would be exempt from the probes, saying they would still be subject to the same standards as others.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, pressed Tiffany whether public officials would be exempt from prosecution from political crimes under the bill. Tiffany declined to answer.

That prompted Erpenbach to accuse Republicans of welcoming “with open arms the possibility of corruption.”

“Republicans don’t want to govern. They want to rule,” Erpenbach said.

Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, countered John Doe II was used to prosecute citizens who were exercising their First Amendment rights. That probe focused on coordination between outside groups and Walker's campaign, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court shut it down, ruling there was nothing illegal about what they were alleged to have done.

"This is what they were using this for, and it was not what it was intended for," Wanggaard said.

 12:00 PM 

Hogan confirmed as WEDC CEO

The Senate voted 23-9 to confirm Mark Hogan as CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

GOP Sen. Steve Nass of Whitewater joined eight Dems in opposing the nomination.

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, said he has known Hogan for years and likes him. 

"It's not because I do not like Mr. Hogan, but it is because I do not like WEDC," Hansen said.

The Senate unanimously confirmed state Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, to the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board for a term ending July 1, 2019.

It also unanimously backed former GOP Rep. Dave Hutchison of Luxemburg to the Educational Communications Board for a term ending May 1, 2017.

Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, is absent today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

 4:11 PM 

Written testimony accepted until 6 p.m.

After the Senate committee adjourned, some in the audience questioned Chairman Stephen Nass about why the hearing was ending now when it was publicized as going until 6 p.m.

Bill opponents in the audience asked for a recess rather than adjournment to let people testify after they get off work.

But Nass, R-Whitewater, kept the meeting adjourned, with the caveat that his office would accept written testimony until 6 p.m.

 4:05 PM 

Civil service bill testimony ends

The Senate's Labor and Government Reform Committee has adjourned the public hearing on a civil service bill.

All of the afternoon testimony was in opposition to the bill. Many who spoke argued the bill would reduce civil service protections and introduce the possibility of cronyism and political patronage.

Others criticized the proposed elimination of a civil service exam prospective state employees must take. Mark Horn, of AFSCME Local 1, said eliminating the exam will make it more difficult to ensure the best people get state jobs.

And if that happens, he said, the taxpayers lose out.

"When you weaken the system," Horn said, "you weaken the protections for the citizens of the state."

 3:11 PM 

Civil service testimony continues

Testimony on the civil service bill is still going, and more than six people have testified since the committee reconvened.

Each person who has spoken since the break has testified against the bill. That includes Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary/treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

She criticized the committee for what she said was a rush job on the bill. There was very little notice given for the hearing, she said.

"On behalf of Wisconsin's workers," Bloomingdale said, "I must ask: What's the hurry?"

 11:49 AM 

Committee recesses until 2:15 p.m.

The committee is in recess.

The committee clerk said there were seven people who registered to testify who had not yet had a chance to address the committee, though it is expected more will turn out this afternoon since the committee had noticed it would break and return at 2:15 p.m.

 11:33 AM 

AFSCME lobbyist: Bill the second phase in destruction of civil service

AFSCME lobbyist Susan Mc Murray told the committee the legislation takes the destruction of the civil service system to the next step.

Mc Murray said the undercutting of the protections began in the budget, which created the Bureau of Merit Recruitment and Selection within DOA's Division of Personnel Management. The director of the bureau is appointed by the DOA secretary.

Mc Murray said the director is not subject to Senate confirmation, meaning it is a political appointee serving at the pleasure of another political appointee of the guv's.

"Dear legislator, I would argue that when that bill passed without much attention, that set in motion the destruction of civil service," Mc Murray said.

"It's phase two of destroying the civil service."

 11:24 AM 

Walker administration officials back civil service changes

Walker administration officials backed the proposed civil service changes with DFI Secretary Ray Allen arguing the package will expedite due process for state employees who should be terminated.

Allen said the process can now drag on with employees sometimes having three stops within their own agencies -- supervisor, manager and upper management -- before it moves on.

Allen said speeding it up will help reach a resolution, which in turns helps those state workers who have to fill the void while someone is on administrative leave. That job can't be filled, he said, until the termination is upheld.

“It’s due process," Allen said. "They've got their rights. But the agency, once we’ve made a decision, we’ve thought that through."

Under questioning from Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, Allen acknowledged someone with political connections could make it through the initial screen. But he argued that person would face additional scrutiny because of those ties and would not be more likely to get the job because of them.

Larson also pressed the agency officials on comments Gov. Scott Walker made previously about the civil service protections during the debate over Act 10.

Deputy DOA Secretary Cate Zeuske told Larson the vast majority of state employees during her nearly three decades in the Capitol are hard working and professional and are unhappy over those who are falling asleep on the job or not pulling their weight.

She also argued Walker has taken a series of steps to benefit state employees such as ending furloughs that had been used by his predecessor while adding training and a merit compensation program. The latter was re-instated last week after being suspended eight months ago due to a budget crunch.

Larson said backers continue to make the case for the changes by relying on what he said were anecdotes of bad behavior by public employees, but no solid facts other than a wave of coming retirements for state workers.

He questioned how the Walker officials could persuade him the changes were not going to just produce "streamlined patronage."

"It’s tough when the best example is WEDC," Larson said. "It’s tough to trust you here."

Chair Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, at one point chided Larson to be "quiet" as the Dem continued to talk and argued Larson's comments the proposal would "gut" civil service protections were “as far from the truth as one could get.”

 10:19 AM 

Hearing room not at capacity

Committee Chairman Sen. Stephen Nass had cautioned prior to the hearing today he might place a time limit on speakers, but, so far, the crowd is relatively sparse.

As testimony on the civil service bill continues before the Senate's Labor and Government Reform Committee continues, only about 40 people are in the audience.

 10:04 AM 

Former state employee speaks against civil service bill

A former DOT legal counsel is arguing the civil service bill will allow for patronage hiring because it consolidates power with DOA, the "most political of state agencies."

Jim Thiel, who said he worked for the DOT for 40 years, said the bill opens the door for political influence. Under the proposal, people will have a fear of repercussions for their political allegiances, said Thiel, who is a board member for the Association of Career Employees, which he said focuses on civil service protections.

"It eliminates civil service protections for improper political intimidation," he said.

While he said the bill goes in the wrong direction, Thiel did acknowledge the state's hiring process needs to be faster.

 9:35 AM 

Larson rips civil service bill

Saying the Republican-backed civil service bill is "gutting about 110 years worth of law," Sen. Chris Larson is calling for a leg study committee to develop a bipartisan proposal.

Larson, a member of the Senate's Labor and Government Reform Committee, said there's a reason why Dems are lining up against the bill.

Sen. Roger Roth, though, said several states in the past decade already have been adopting many similar changes to their civil service systems. And, the Appleton Republican said, those changes have gone through with bipartisan support.

Still, Larson, D-Milwaukee, used WEDC as a model of what happens when an agency does away with civil service protections and said that is not the model the state should follow. He also said Roth's bill doesn't those protections and opens the door to "streamlining corruption, streamlining power."

"I'm not seeing that in the bill," Larson said, "other than pinkie swears."

But Roth said the protections remain.

"The alarms that you're trying to raise," he told Larson, "are unfounded."

 9:23 AM 

Roth testifies in favor of civil service package

Sen. Roger Roth is kicking off testimony for his civil service bill, saying it will make important changes to an "archaic" system while maintaining important protections.

The Appleton Republican broke down all of the changes proposed in the bill. That includes: establishing a 60-day goal for hiring employees; replacing the civil service exam with a blind-score, resume-based process; adding a ban-the-box provision that sets restrictions on the state's seeking previous criminal offense information from applicants.

"Nothing in this bill takes away from the core concepts of what the civil service system is," Roth said.

The bill, Roth said, also establishes discretionary merit compensation, a process for maintaining disciplinary records, the elimination of bumping rights and layoffs determined primarily by job performance.

But the bill keeps in place the protections offered under the current system, Roth said.

"Nothing in this bill will lead us back to the days of political patronage," he said..

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