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Friday, November 6, 2015

 11:48 AM 

Senate Republicans: Deal reached on GAB bill, more time needed on campaign finance legislation

Senate Republicans say they have reached a deal on legislation to split up the GAB, but more talks were needed on a bill to overhaul Wisconsin's campaign finance laws.

Senate Republicans earlier this week reached an agreement to change the Assembly bill that would split the Government Accountability Board into two new commissions. Under that deal, the proposed six-person Ethics Commission would include two retired judges.

But Senate Republicans went back to caucus this morning to work out the method for putting the two retired judges on the commission.

Sen. Leah Vukmir, the bill's co-author, said the process will mirror how municipal or county clerks or appointed to the proposed Elections Commission.

The bill calls for the four legislative leaders to each appoint one member of the Elections Commission. The Dem and GOP leaders would then separately propose a pool of up to three candidates with the guv selecting one from each side. 

Under the deal on the Ethics Commission, the process will be the same, though the pool for the final two slots would be comprised of retired judges.

Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, said she is not thrilled with the idea of retired judges being part of the Ethics Commission, but the deal makes an important change to the structure of the agency.

Some Senate Republicans had advocated using a committee that mirrors the makeup of the presidential primary nominating committee to select the judges, one from the Dems and one from the GOP. The commission includes the four legislative leaders, Dem and GOP state party chairs, and the Dem and GOP national committee members.

"We tried that, but the problem is it gets too complicated," said Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, has been an opponent of including retired judges on the Ethics Commission. He said he will support the legislation, but he is proposing an amendment that would prevent the retired judges from chairing the commission.

"The judges have basically failed us for eight years," Nass said.

Nass and Olsen said more talks were needed on the campaign finance bill that cleared the Assembly. They said Senate Republicans plan to change the bill to do away with indexing future increases in the cap on contribution limits. They also plan to keep the current schedule for filing campaign finance reports rather than going to a quarterly system as the Assembly proposed.

But talks continued on a provision in current law that requires candidates to identify the occupation and employer of donors who give at least $100. The Assembly bill would end that requirement, though some in the Senate GOP have advocated keeping it but upping the reporting threshold to $200.

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