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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

 6:27 PM 

Senate OKs bill ensuring live Christmas trees can be placed in churches, Capitol rotunda

Local governments could not prohibit the placement of a live Christmas tree in a church under legislation that cleared the Senate.

AB 648, which is now headed to the guv’s desk, also would ban the state from passing a rule that would prohibit a live tree being placed in the Capitol rotunda.

The issue popped up following complaints that some local officials were cracking down on churches having live trees as part of their Christmas displays over concerns they could be a fire hazard.

The bill, which cleared 25-7, also would create a presumption the seasonal placement of a Christmas tree in the rotunda or a church is not a fire hazard.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, knocked the legislation for usurping local authority and said lawmakers were substituting their judgment for those of fire officials.

“It is inconceivable that we’re going to pass a law that a fire hazard is not a fire hazard,” Risser said.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said Christmas trees have been put up in churches for at least two centuries and in the Capitol rotunda since the 1920s. He said only those in Madison -- a “different world” -- would have an issue with the bill. 

“This is why the public is so frustrated with government, especially at the national level, because they do these things which lack common sense,” Nass said.


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