Floor Report: May 2 & 10

The Wisconsin Senate and Assembly were in session on Tuesday, May 2 and Wednesday, May 10 to take up a variety of bills.

Notable in the Senate’s May 2 session was passage of the REINS Act. [link] The REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, SB 15, would require approval from the legislature to pass a bill on any agency rule that would cost an industry or business more than $10 million over two years. This version of the bill, which stalled in the Senate last session, would change various administrative rules and rule-making procedures, including requiring agencies to hold public hearings on proposed rules at the request of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, requiring the legislature to pass a bill on any agency rule that would cost an industry or business more than $10 million over a two-year period and allowing JCRAR to make an indefinite objection to a proposed rule. The REINS Act passed along party lines, with Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) the only Republican voting no. The Assembly Committee on State Affairs recommended the Assembly version of the bill for passage 10-5 on May 3.

The Senate also passed legislation that would legalize delivery drones in Wisconsin. SB 148 passed via voice vote with one amendment that changes bill language to hold operators of these personal delivery devices (PDDs) accountable for the PDDs following rules of the road. The Assembly also passed the bill unanimously the following week in their May 10 session and sent it to the governor’s desk.

Convening in Special Session on May 2, the Senate sent nine bills to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk as part of the package to address opioid abuse and addiction. Senate Democrats proposed several amendments to the bills, including one that would force Wisconsin to accept federal Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Another Democratic amendment to SSAB 8 hoped to increase reimbursement rates for providers of opioid treatment programs. Republicans acknowledged the issue, but hoped to address it separately, possibly in the budget.

The highlight of the May 2 Assembly session was the vote to send SB 76, regarding high capacity wells, to the governor’s desk for signature. The bill, which passed 62-35, would eliminate the need for the Department of Natural Resources to provide additional approval for an owner of an already approved high capacity well to repair, replace, reconstruct or transfer the well. In debate, Democrats continued to oppose the bill on environmental grounds. Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) was the only Republican to vote no. Gov. Scott Walker also indicated on May 2 that he would sign the bill. The legislation comes in the midst of ongoing legislation with DNR regarding high capacity well permits.

In the May 2 session, the Assembly also passed AB 25, which would eliminate the requirement for 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain a child work permit. After debate, the bill passed 64-34 along party lines. Democrats said the bill was a backward step in Wisconsin’s child labor law, while Republicans argued that the bill would make it easier for homeless teenagers to provide for themselves. After more debate in the Senate on May 10, the bill was passed 20-12 and messaged it to the governor.

On May 2, the Assembly unanimously passed AB 123 that alters criteria for broadband expansion grants and adds $18.5 million more available for rural areas. The bill passed Assembly without a key Senate amendment that would have banned broadband providers from collecting customers’ information without permission. The non-amended version passed in the Assembly would need to pass the Senate before being messaged to the governor. The bill was on the Senate calendar May 10, but no action was taken.

Also of note in the May 2 session, the Assembly passed AB 194, which would allow those under 21 years old to enter musical festivals without their parents, AB 58, which eliminates the costly requirement that law enforcement dogs that have bitten a person be examined by a veterinarian and a package of four bills to address homelessness. The Senate also passed both bills in their May 10 session and messaged them to the governor’s desk.

Convening in Special Session on May 2, the Assembly passed the last two bills of Rep. John Nygren’s (R-Marinette) package to combat opioid abuse. SSAB 3, which would grant immunity for possessing a controlled substance to the aided and the aider who call 911 in the event of an overdose, passed via voice vote. SSAB 5, which would allow involuntary treatment for a person who suffers from drug addiction, passed unanimously.

On May 10, both chambers met again. In addition to sending the musical festivals, dog bites and child labor permits bills to the governor’s desk, the Senate passed a bill from the Joint Audit Committee that changes certain Department of Transportation procedures regarding highway projects, among other bills. In the Assembly, representatives sent the personal delivery device legislation to the governor, and passed various other bills including mandatory child abuse reporting (SB 35) and a controversial proposal that would tie housing vouchers to employment (AB 238).