2021-22 Session Ends With 267 New Laws, Record-Breaking 126 Vetoes

On April 15, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) issued what are likely to be his final signatures and vetoes of the 2021-22 legislative session. With the Assembly and Senate standing adjourned as of their final floor days in February and March, respectively, any outstanding bills passed by both houses were sent to the governor’s desk automatically on April 14, pursuant to the Legislature’s session calendar.

Since January 2021, Gov. Evers has signed 267 laws and issued 126 vetoes, eclipsing the previous single-session record of 90 vetoes set by Gov. Fred Zimmerman (R) in 1928, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB). After our coverage of his actions throughout March, Gov. Evers issued two sets of decisions on legislation in April.

On April 8, Gov. Evers announced he had taken action on 78 bills, signing 35 into law and vetoing 43 others. Perhaps most notable was 2021 Wisconsin Act 252, which authorizes almost $42 million in borrowing to build a new juvenile correctional facility in Milwaukee County. This facility will replace the troubled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools in Irma. The existing facilities have been controversial due to high-profile violent incidents and ongoing reports of safety concerns from staff. The law originated in the Senate as Senate Bill (SB) 520.

Among the new laws, numbered as Acts 218 through 252, Gov. Evers also signed two bills relating to the Unemployment Insurance (Act 231) and Worker’s Compensation (Act 232) programs, as agreed to by the respective advisory councils including representatives from employer and employee associations. Among the bills vetoed on April 8 were a series of measures introduced by Republican legislators intended to recruit, retain, and educate law enforcement officers and correctional employees and to reimburse local governments for certain costs related to policing.

Gov. Evers vetoed several bills supported by construction trade groups and other employer associations. Assembly Bill (AB) 152 (veto message) would have created an exemption from state plan review requirements for building projects consisting of small, single-story commercial buildings not intended for residential, educational, or high hazard uses and for plumbing plans with at least 16 but no more than 25 fixtures. The bill was strongly supported by construction associations with members who have experienced costly delays because of extended review times for relatively simple projects.

The governor also vetoed AB 932 (veto message), which would have required him to allocate at least $20 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to promote and expand the availability of youth and adult apprenticeship programs. Previously, in December, Gov. Evers vetoed a bill that would have created an individual income tax subtraction for tuition paid for apprenticeship programs (more on that here). Gov. Evers vetoed many bills this session seeking to direct funds allocated to Wisconsin under ARPA; the governor has sole authority to direct any discretionary funds.

On April 15, Gov. Evers announced his decisions on the remaining 43 bills that passed both houses of the Legislature during the 2021-22 session. The governor signed 15 bills into law as Acts 253 through 267 and issued 28 vetoes.

Notably, Gov. Evers signed Act 254 (originally SB 392) allowing the licensed practice of expanded function dental auxiliaries (EFDAs). Licensed EFDAs will be able to perform certain tasks related to dentistry and dental hygiene, such as assisting with restorations, taking impressions, and applying sealants and fluorides. Before passage, the Assembly amended the bill to remove “supragingival scaling” from the list of procedures EFDAs will be allowed to perform, addressing a concern raised by dental hygienists. Supporters of the policy contend it will lower the cost of dental care and promote access to dental care in underserved areas.

Gov. Evers also issued several notable vetoes:

  • SB 365 would have made changes to the state’s broadband expansion grant program, including focusing the program on developing internet service in “unserved areas” and changing the minimum standards for internet service developed using program grants. Veto message
  • SB 394 would have created a new practice license for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with four recognized roles. In his veto message, Gov. Evers wrote that he vetoed the bill “because I object to altering current licensure standards for APRNs, allowing practices functionally equivalent to those of physicians or potentially omitting physicians from a patient’s care altogether notwithstanding significant differences in required education, training, and experience.” While nursing groups and many legislators supported SB 394, the Wisconsin Medical Society and other physician groups opposed provisions allowing APRNs to practice independently of physicians.
  • SB 494 would have made “numerous changes relating to the control of aquatic plants using chemicals or biological agents,” according to LRB. Veto message
  • The “Stronger Workforce” package, a group of seven bills intended to get more Wisconsinites into the labor force.

Across both days in April, Gov. Evers vetoed dozens of bills containing Republican policy priorities that were not supported by Democratic legislators, including packages of election reform bills from each house as well as many bills related to K-12 and higher education. The governor also vetoed several bills to create or adjust crimes and penalties under state law.

Most of the bills signed by Gov. Evers on April 8 and 15 dealt with minor issues of state tax and business law, adjustments recommended by state agencies, and technical changes to the statutes such as removing obsolete language and aligning state law with federal law.

For more coverage of recent legislative and gubernatorial actions in Wisconsin, see the following articles: