As 2019 comes to a close, Hamilton Consulting analyzes where we are in the 2019-20 legislative session and highlights what we might expect, according to legislative leadership, for the remainder of the session in 2020.
So far this session…
With divided government this session, the pace of bills passed and signed into law has slowed compared to the previous session. Gov. Evers has signed into law a total of 69 bills so far in the 2019-20 legislative session. In comparison, at this point in the 2017-18 session, Gov. Scott Walker had signed into law 135 acts.
The Legislature’s activity has slowed slightly too, both in introduced bills and floor action.
Bills introduced: The Assembly has introduced 682 bills so far this session. In 2017-18, the Assembly had introduced 773 bills by this point. However, the Senate is keeping closer pace to 2017-18, with 634 Senate bills introduced so far this session compared to 641 bills at this point in 2017-18.
Floor action: The Assembly met for floor votes on 11 days in 2019, compared to 17 days in 2017. The Senate met on 8 days in 2019, compared to 11 days in 2017.
Looking ahead, indications are the Legislature will meet for floor votes only a few more times in 2020. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has said he expects the Assembly to wrap up by late February. Similarly, last session, the Legislature met only a handful of times in the second year of the session. The Senate met for regular business only three times in 2018. The Assembly met for regular business eight times in 2018.
In an end-of-the-year interview with the Wheeler Report, Vos said he wants to focus on bipartisan issues in 2020, especially topics covered in the Speaker’s Task Forces (i.e. suicide prevention, water quality, and adoption).
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) echoed Vos’s hope for more bipartisan legislation to be passed and signed into law before the end of session. Hintz said his caucus’s priorities include health care, homelessness, medical marijuana, and special education. Hintz also told reporters he wants the Assembly to take up legislation on “dark stores” and to address mental health in schools.
In her end-of-the-year interview, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said her focus will be on issues including mental health, homelessness, and medical marijuana. Shilling also mentioned the “dark stores” legislation as a priority, but was doubtful it will pass in 2020. Shilling noted she hopes the Senate will confirm the remainder of Gov. Tony Evers’s cabinet secretary appointments in 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) held a press conference this morning to review 2019 and look ahead to the rest of the session in 2020. Moving foward, Fitzgerald’s caucus will focus on public safety, health care, transportation, and a potential property tax cut. 2020 Senate calendars will also include votes on cabinet appointees, according to Fitzgerald, although there are still some hesitations from Senate Republicans about certain appointees. Fitzgerald said the Senate will meet in January and February, and he is continuing to discuss the potential of March floor votes with Speaker Vos.
Gov. Tony Evers told reporters he wants to focus on criminal justice reform and redistricting in 2020. Evers also plans to continue conversation about health care reform, including Medicaid expansion, which was removed from the 2019-21 budget. Evers also mentioned farmers’ mental health and clean water as priorities for his second year in office.