Over the last two weeks, the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly convened for what is expected to be the last floor days for regular business until fall. The legislature will be back on the floor sometime this summer to take up the 2017-19 budget. The Senate and Assembly were both in session on June 14 and the Assembly reconvened this week on June 21, voting on several controversial pieces of legislation.
Convening in Special Session on June 14, the Senate passed the last two bills of the package to address opioid abuse and addiction. SSAB 3, relating to parole revocation immunity, passed 32-1. Sen. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) was the only senator voting against, saying that the bill goes too far in granting immunity. SSAB 5, which would allow for the involuntarily commitment of a person who suffers from drug addiction to treatment, passed via voice vote after some debate.
The Senate rejected an amendment to SSAB 5 from Democrats that would have required Attorney General Brad Schimel to consider suing drug manufacturers and to submit a report to the legislature. Schimel revealed just days later the Department of Justice has been working on an investigation into drug makers’ potential role in the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. Both SSAB 3 and SSAB 5 were messaged to Gov. Scott Walker. A total of eleven special bills have been passed by the legislature and are awaiting Walker’s signature.
Also of note in the Senate’s session, legislators passed the first bill of Sen. Leah Vukmir’s (R-Brookfield) seven-bill crime package. SB 58, which would increase penalties for carjacking felonies, passed in a 25-7 vote and was messaged to the Assembly. The remaining six crime bills are still in committee.
The Senate passed a variety of other bills, including:
- SB 198, creating weight limit exemptions for vehicles with idle reduction technology or natural gas fuel systems, was sent to the Assembly.
- SB 271, allowing sales of homemade baked and canned goods without a processing plant license or retail food establishment license, was messaged to the Assembly.
- SB 285, allowing corporations’ shareholders meetings to occur online, passed the Senate but was not messaged.
- AB 56, allowing fuel price advertising by the half-gallon, was messaged to the governor.
The June 14 Assembly session focused mainly on an hours-long debate on a package of bills that would call for a constitutional convention: AJR 20, AJR 21 and AB 165. Altogether, the bills would add Wisconsin to a list of 29 states that have called for a convention to create an amendment requiring the federal government to pass a balanced budget. The bills also create rules and procedures for the convention and for choosing Wisconsin’s delegates. The set of three bills passed the Assembly along party lines and was messaged to the Senate.
In its June 14 session, the Assembly also passed several bills on administrative rules. SB 15, the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act was passed and sent to the governor’s desk. The bill, which had stalled in the Senate last session, would require explicit legislative approval – passage of a bill – for any administrative rules costing $10 million over any two-year period. The Assembly also sent to the governor SB 100, which would create a 30-month expiration date for statements of scope by administrative agencies. The Assembly also passed AB 317, which would create an expedited procedure for repealing unauthorized agency rules, require examination and reporting of possibly unauthorized, outdated or unnecessary rules by both the agencies themselves and the Legislative Reference Bureau, and authorize the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules to request a retrospective economic impact analysis. AB 317 was messaged to the Senate.
Also of note, the Assembly passed AB 253, modifying the procedures for a sale of foreclosed property by a sheriff, which was messaged to the Senate, and SB 89, which makes various tax administration changes, including defining a restaurant for the purposes of alcohol beverage regulation. SB 89 was messaged to the governor.
The Assembly’s June 21 session lasted late into the night as legislators took hours debating several controversial bills. This included a bill that would limit recounts to elections where a candidate loses by no more than one percent and a bill that protects prevents protests at University of Wisconsin campuses from interfering with the free expression of other speakers. Both bills were messaged to the Senate.
Early in the morning and in a rare procedural move, the Assembly withdrew a Democratic bill from committee and passed a substitute amendment that would prohibit insurance plans from excluding individuals with pre-existing conditions. Read more on this legislation here.
The Assembly also passed a bill that would allow chiropractors to perform physical examinations, including students’ sports physicals, among other medical services. Opponents of the bill argued that chiropractors do not have the same qualifications as doctors to conduct athletic exams that go beyond the muscular and skeletal fields in which chiropractors are trained. The bill passed the Assembly via voice vote and was messaged to the Senate.
Also of note, the Assembly passed and sent to the Senate a bill providing local assistance for remediating contaminated wells. The Assembly also sent to the governor a bill criminalizing credit card skimmers that the Senate had passed on June 14.
Other than coming in for budget votes, the legislature’s next floor period is not until mid-September.