Legislative Update: Senate Holds Floor Vote; Assembly to Meet Twice Next Week; Committees Consider Apprenticeship, EV Proposals

The Wisconsin Senate convened on October 20 to vote on a variety of measures, including several bills related to restrictions on and information requirements about abortion procedures. The Senate also passed relatively routine bills on issues such as ATV/UTV speed limits and technical changes to the statutes governing the Department of Tourism. A full listing of the Senate’s actions this week can be viewed here.

The Assembly plans to convene for floor votes on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, October 26 and 27. Tuesday’s docket includes a package of bills related to workforce housing, while Wednesday’s docket includes a series of abortion-related bills, including several approved by the Senate on October 20. Governor Tony Evers (D) is expected to veto the abortion-related bills, having vetoed similar bills last session.

Joint Finance Committee Approves Apprenticeship Tuition Tax Deduction

On October 19, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met to hold a public hearing and executive session on several matters. Notably, the committee voted 11-4 to approve Senate Bill (SB) 125 and its companion, Assembly Bill (AB) 115, which create a new income tax deduction for tuition paid for apprenticeship programs. The full Assembly will vote on AB 115 on October 26.

Also at the meeting, JFC approved a request from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to release $40 million in state funds for grants to meat processing facilities and to promote the meat industry. The committee also heard public testimony on and then voted to approve AB 314, which requires DATCP and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to “cooperate in achieving certain objectives related to Wisconsin’s export of agricultural products.”

EV Direct Sales Bill Slated for Senate Committee Vote

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection is scheduled to take a committee vote on SB 462 on October 26. As introduced, the bill allows for an auto manufacturer that makes electric vehicles (EV) to sell those vehicles through stores the manufacturer owns directly to the consumer. The bill’s Senate author, Senator Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), offered an amendment that will limit direct sales to a manufacturer that exclusively makes EVs, is not a subsidiary of a franchised manufacturer, and is engaged in distributing EVs in the U.S. The Senate committee appears likely to approve this amendment before voting the bill.

The Assembly Committee on Transportation has not yet taken any action on AB 439, the Assembly companion to SB 462.

EV Charging Station Bill Receives Public Hearing

On October 20, the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities held a public hearing on AB 588, which would allow persons to operate an electric vehicle charging facility without being regulated as a public utility provided that they charge a flat fee, a time-based fee, or a fee based on the amount of electricity consumed. The bill would also allow municipalities to own and operate EV charging facilities. In addition, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation could install or operate publicly available charging facilities with the approval of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance. AB 588 was authored by Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) and Representative Nancy VanderMeer (R-Tomah).

Testimony was generally supportive of AB 588, including from representatives from Kwik Trip (a convenience store chain with hundreds of locations), the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Clean Wisconsin (an environmental advocacy group), and the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum and RENEW Wisconsin (nonprofits promoting renewable energy).

Representatives from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state chamber of commerce, testified that they oppose provisions in the bill allowing municipalities and the state transportation department to operate publicly available charging stations that would compete with private EV infrastructure development. WMC noted they would support the bill if these provisions were removed by amendment.