Senate and Assembly Floor Sessions: February 15

Both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature met on February 15 for floor sessions to vote on bills and resolutions. Below, we review a few notable items.

Senate Floor Calendar, February 15

The Senate passed 39 bills and six resolutions, including:

  • Senate Bill (SB) 365, which makes changes to the broadband expansion grant program administered by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC). Generally, the bill changes the purpose of the grant program from improving broadband service in “underserved” areas to constructing broadband service in “unserved” areas. It also adjusts some of the project eligibility requirements. The Senate passed the bill 20-12 along party lines.
  • SB 429, which requires the Department of Transportation to replace all motor vehicle registration plates on a rolling ten-year basis. The new plates are required to have a high-visibility coating and embedded security features. The bill includes a $6.50 fee for a new set of plates (front and back) and raises the replacement fee from $2 to $3.25 per plate. The Senate passed the bill 30-2, with Senate President Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Sen. Bradley (R-Franklin) voting against.
  • SB 573, which would allow persons to operate an EV charging facility without being regulated as a public utility provided that they charge a flat fee, a time-based fee, a fee based on the amount of electricity consumed, or a fee based on the rate charged by the operator’s electric provider. It would generally prohibit local governments and the state from operating charging facilities that sell electricity to the public except under limited circumstances. The Senate passed the bill 19-13, with Sen. Nass (R-Whitewater) joining all Democrats in voting against.

The Senate approved two bills related to foreign influence in the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, including one bill to prohibit the UW System from admitting or employing members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and another bill to prohibit Chinese foreign missions at UW institutions and prohibit UW System involvement with recruitment or propaganda programs of the Chinese Communist Party. Those bills passed 20-12 along party lines.

The Senate also approved three bills making changes to campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws as recommended by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Those bills passed by voice votes.

Assembly Floor Calendar, February 15

The Assembly passed two resolutions and did not consider any bills. The primary item on the chamber’s calendar that day was Assembly Joint Resolution 107, a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that would add factors that a judge could consider when setting bail for a defendant accused of a violent crime. Under the proposal, judges could consider the seriousness of the alleged offense, the criminal record of the accused, and the risks of further harm to the community and of possible witness intimidation if a defendant were released pretrial.

Currently, the Wisconsin Constitution prohibits excessive bail and provides a right to pretrial release in all but the most serious cases, and bars judges from considering any factor other than assuring the defendant’s appearance in court when setting bail.

The resolution passed 70-21, with 13 Democratic members joining all Republicans present in voting yes. If the resolution passes the Senate before the end of this session and the Legislature passes the same resolution next session, then the issue will appear on the ballot as a referendum during the next statewide election. The proposal will become part of the state’s constitution if a majority of voters approve it.

The Assembly also adopted, by voice vote, a resolution “congratulating the athletes, coaches, and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on their accomplishments” in the field of wheelchair basketball.

For more coverage of legislative issues in Wisconsin, see these recent articles: