Floor Report: Legislature Approves Marsy’s Law, Other Bills Taken Up by Senate & Assembly

The Senate and Assembly both met for floor sessions on May 15. The relatively limited calendars included votes on crime victims’ rights, a water pollution trading program, record expungement, and a package of legislation on abortion.

Both the Senate and Assembly approved Senate Joint Resolution 2, known as Marsy’s Law, which would elevate victims’ rights under Wisconsin law. Authored by Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), the joint resolution is a Wisconsin constitutional amendment that would explicitly give to victims rights equal to the rights of the accused. The bill had broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and Assembly.

Last session, the bill also passed the full legislature with broad bipartisan support. This week’s vote marked the adoption of the bill by two consecutive legislatures, completing the first step of amending the Constitution in Wisconsin. Next, Wisconsin voters will ratify the amendment by referendum, likely in the 2020 statewide elections.

On the Senate side, legislators also voted to pass SB 91, which would create a central clearinghouse for water pollution discharge elimination system permit holders to buy and sell water pollution credits. The bill, authored by Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) and Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), passed the Senate unanimously. The Assembly has not yet taken action on the bill.

During the Senate floor session, Democrats attempted to withdraw from committee and vote on SB 130, known as the “dark store” legislation. Opponents of the bill argue it would pose significant changes to the process of assessing property and a potentially massive property tax increase for Wisconsin businesses. The Senate voted 14-18 along party lines not to take up the legislation at this time. The bill has not yet received a hearing in either chamber of the legislature.

On the Assembly side, legislators passed via voice vote a bill (AB 33) that would allow for the expungement of records for certain crimes. Authored by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay), and Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), the legislation has support from a broad, bipartisan coalition of groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the League of Women Voters, National Federation of Independent Business, and the State Bar of Wisconsin. The bill has been voted out of the Senate Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety, but the full Senate has not yet approved the legislation.

The Assembly also took up several bills tightening Wisconsin’s abortion statutes. The Senate plans to take up the abortion legislation in its next floor period. However, it is unlikely Gov. Tony Evers will sign the four bills (AB 179, AB 180, AB 182, and AB 183) into law.

The next floor periods will likely be in June, during which the Senate and Assembly could take up the 2019-21 state budget, which is due June 30.