The Wisconsin Legislature stands adjourned following the Senate’s final planned floor day on March 8. The Assembly adjourned two weeks earlier after its final votes on February 23 and 24. Barring any unusual circumstances, the Legislature will not convene again until the next legislative session begins in January 2023.
Also on March 8, Republican leaders in the Senate and Assembly gaveled in and then immediately adjourned a special session called by Gov. Tony Evers (D). The governor announced his call for a special session at his February State of the State address. Gov. Evers called on the Legislature to consider his proposal to spend some of the $3.8 billion surplus the state is projected to have at the end of the 2021-23 fiscal biennium. A press release from the governor criticized legislative Republicans for rejecting his plan to direct $1.7 billion of the projected surplus towards tax relief and education spending.
The Senate’s floor calendar included nearly 150 items. First, the Senate voted unanimously to confirm 62 of Gov. Evers’ appointments to various state boards and commissions, including all nine of the governor’s initial appointments to the recently created Physician Assistant Affiliated Credentialing Board.
The Senate passed 64 bills and two resolutions, including a package of Assembly bills aimed at recruiting, training, and retaining law enforcement officers. Those bills passed the Assembly on January 25. The Senate also approved several bills related to education that had previously passed the Assembly on February 22.
The Senate also considered eight items from the Senate that were subsequently amended by the Assembly. Notably, the Senate agreed to the Assembly’s changes to the following bills:
- Senate Bill (SB) 520, which authorizes almost $42 million in general fund-supported borrowing to build a new juvenile correctional facility in Milwaukee County. This facility will replace the troubled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools in Irma, which house male and female juvenile offenders, respectively. The existing facilities have been controversial due to high-profile violent incidents and ongoing reports of safety concerns from staff.
- SB 392, which would establish a certification program for expanded function dental auxiliaries (EFDAs). Licensed EFDAs would be able to perform certain tasks related to dentistry and dental hygiene. Supporters argue that the bill will lower the cost of dental care and promote access to dental care in underserved areas.
- SB 394, which creates an additional level of nursing licensure called an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with four recognized roles. The bill is supported by nursing trade groups, health insurers, and associations representing the interests of the elderly. Both the Senate and Assembly added amendments to the bill regarding the extent to which certain APRNs early in their practice will need to maintain a collaborative relationship with a physician.
The Senate voted unanimously (31-0) to reject an Assembly amendment to SB 573, which would allow persons to operate an electric vehicle charging facility and charge fees to customers without being regulated as a public utility. Because the two houses did not agree on the final language of the bill, it cannot advance to the governor’s desk. The Senate originally passed the bill on February 15, adding an amendment to prohibit the state and local governments from operating charging facilities except to charge government vehicles. The Assembly took up SB 573 on its final floor day and added an exception to the Senate’s amendment, which the Senate rejected.
Democratic members of the Senate introduced motions to withdraw from committee and take up two bills containing some of their party’s key policy priorities. SB 361, colloquially known as the “CLEAR Act,” includes a variety of provisions to regulate PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and to fund PFAS testing, monitoring, and disposal initiatives. SB 956 is the surplus spending proposal that Gov. Evers called for during his State of the State Address. Neither bill had received a public hearing or further committee action before the March 8 floor session; each motion was rejected on a party line vote of 11-19.
Finally, the Senate referred six bills on its calendar back to the Committee on Senate Organization, effectively killing the bills without a final vote. Notably, a bill to increase the minimum age to purchase and possess tobacco and nicotine products was pulled from the calendar, as well as a bill that would have made changes to how the Department of Revenue enforces the state’s tobacco, alcohol, and lottery laws. Although the federal minimum age for nicotine products is already 21, Wisconsin is limited in how it can enforce that rule without a corresponding change to state law.
See the articles below for more coverage of recent legislative issues in Wisconsin: