Assembly and Senate Floor Sessions: September 12 and 14

After a quiet summer following passage of the 2023-25 state budget, the Wisconsin Legislature resumed regular committee and floor activities in early September. The Assembly and Senate are each expected to hold several floor days in October and November and again over the first few months of 2024 before adjourning the 2023-24 session. See this article for a discussion of the political issues that the legislature and Gov. Tony Evers (D) are focusing on, including tax cuts, child care funding, and redistricting.

Assembly: September 12 (floor calendar)

The Assembly passed one bill and six resolutions, including AB 386, which includes an individual income tax cut for the state’s third tax bracket and an expansion of the income tax subtraction for retirement income. The Republican tax plan would reduce the income tax rate from 5.3% to 4.4% for individuals earning between $27,630 and $304,000 and married joint filers earning between $36,840 and $405,000. The proposal would also exempt from taxation up to $150,000 in retirement income (e.g., from pensions and 401k plans) for married couples who are both at least 67 (or up to $100,000 in retirement income for individuals).

Gov. Evers has pledged to veto AB 386, saying it would put Wisconsin “on a path to bankruptcy” by reducing future tax collections and possibly requiring repayment of certain federal funds the state received during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Assembly passed two resolutions proposing amendments to the Wisconsin Constitution. To amend the state constitution, a proposal must pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions and then be approved by a majority of voters in the next statewide election. One resolution, on its second consideration, would require legislative approval for the allocation of any federal funds. The other resolution, on its first consideration, would require a two-thirds vote from each house of the legislature to approve any increase to the income or franchise tax rates.

Assembly: September 14 (floor calendar)

The Assembly passed nine bills and five resolutions. Notably, the Assembly passed a bill (AB 415) to establish a new procedure for redistricting and create a redistricting advisory commission. Under the bill, the Legislative Reference Bureau would prepare redistricting plans based on certain standards. The bill is modeled on a process used in Iowa and is similar to proposals introduced by Democratic legislators in recent sessions. Following a series of amendments, the Assembly voted 64-32 to pass the bill, with Rep. Myers (D-Milwaukee) joining all Republicans present in supporting the bill.

The Assembly also passed a package of child care legislation, introduced by Republican legislators, intended to reduce regulations on child care providers and create revolving loan and reimbursement account programs:

  • AB 387: Creating a child care reimbursement account program, providing an income tax subtraction for certain contributions to a child care reimbursement account.
  • AB 388: Creating a child care center renovations loan program.
  • AB 389: The regulation of large family child care centers.
  • AB 390: Modifying administrative rules relating to assistant child care teachers.
  • AB 391: Modifying administrative rules regarding the number of child care workers and children in group child care centers.
  • AB 392: Allowing certified child care operators to provide care to up to six children.

These bills were introduced in response to Gov. Evers’ calls for additional funding to support child care providers. For more context on the back-and-forth between the governor and legislative Republicans on tax cuts and child care issues, see this article.

The Assembly also concurred in two bills passed by the Senate the same day, including a bill providing a process to resolve damages claims related to utility relocation in highway projects and the Senate’s amended version of a bill to limit the dismissal or deferred prosecution of certain criminal charges.

Senate: September 14 (floor calendar)

The Senate passed 21 bills, adopted six resolutions, voted on three executive appointments, and considered two bills for veto override votes. Bills passed dealt with a variety of issues such as grants for higher education and public safety communication systems, certain definitions and penalties in criminal law, veterans programs and veterans tuition and fee remission, and sexual misconduct procedures in the Wisconsin National Guard.

Notably, the Senate voted 32-1 to pass SB 110, which directs the Department of Health Services to seek a federal waiver to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women to twelve months. Currently, postpartum women are eligible for these benefits for 60 days, and a waiver request is pending to extend this coverage to 90 days under 2021-23 state budget. The bill is supported by a large, bipartisan group of legislators and a broad coalition of healthcare interests.

The Senate voted 22-11, along party lines, to override several vetoes issued by Gov. Evers. SB 49, vetoed on August 7, would prohibit local regulation of utility service based on the type or source of energy to be provided. Although primarily intended to protect new natural gas service connections, the bill would also protect other forms of energy from local regulation. The Senate also voted to override two of the governor’s partial vetoes of SB 70, the 2023-25 state budget bill. These vetoes eliminated an individual income tax rate reduction for the state’s third tax bracket and provided an annual per pupil revenue limit adjustment of $325, raising the property tax ceiling for school districts every year until 2425.

The Senate voted to confirm Emilie Amundson as secretary of the Department of Children and Families and Daniel Carlton as administrator of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. The Senate voted 22-11, along party lines, to reject the appointment of Meagan Wolfe for a second term as administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Some Republican legislators have been highly critical of Wolfe during her first four-year term as elections administrator.

Finally, the Senate adopted six resolutions, mostly by voice vote, except for Senate Resolution 4, which calls on the Wisconsin Elections Commission to appoint a new administrator following the chamber’s vote to reject Wolfe’s appointment.

The issue of Wolfe’s appointment remains unresolved and will likely be decided in court. A lawsuit filed by Attorney General Josh Kaul (D), on behalf of Wolfe and the commission against Republican legislative leaders, contends that the Senate’s vote “has no legal effect.” Wolfe’s first term expired on June 30 and the Wisconsin Elections Commission deadlocked on whether to reappoint her to a second term. AG Kaul argues that Wolfe can continue serving as a holdover official under her first appointment until she is reappointed or replaced by the elections commission.

Wolfe did not attend a recent Senate hearing on her appointment. She has said that she will not resign and will continue to work until a court decision is issued. A handful of legislators have since suggested that Wolfe should be impeached.

For more information about the 2023-24 legislative session in Wisconsin, see the following articles: