The Wisconsin Senate met on the morning of January 25 for a floor session to vote on bills and resolutions, while the Assembly met that afternoon to take a series of votes. The Assembly also met on January 20, which we covered in this article.
The Senate passed 55 bills and 11 resolutions, including the following healthcare-related bills:
- Senate Bill (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. SB 394 was amended before passage to address concerns from associations representing medical doctors and specialties.
- On January 12, the Assembly Committee on Health voted 9-6 to recommend the bill for passage as amended. Whether SB 394 will make it to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk is unclear, as there are ongoing negotiations regarding the extent to which certain APRNs early in their practice will need to maintain a collaborative relationship with a physician.
- SB 357, which allows retailers and wholesalers to sell drugs, vaccines, and other items that qualify as medical expenses below cost. Currently, this practice is prohibited under Wisconsin’s Unfair Sales Act or “minimum markup” law. In October, the Assembly Committee on Health voted 8-5 to recommend the bill for passage. Similar legislation has failed to reach the governor’s desk in past sessions.
The following joint resolutions:
- Assembly Joint Resolution 9, which calls for, under Article V of the United States Constitution, a “Convention of the States for one or more Constitutional amendments restraining abuses of power by the federal government.” The Senate voted 17-16 to concur in the resolution, with Republican Sens. Cowles, Feyen, Petrowski, and Roth joining all Democrats in voting “no.” The resolution passed the Assembly 58-36 in May. With the Senate’s concurrence, Wisconsin became the 16th state to apply for a constitutional convention, which requires 34 state applicants to move forward.
- Shortly after Wisconsin, Nebraska became the 17th state to call for a convention. Specifically, these 17 states are calling for a convention “limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”
- Senate Joint Resolution 58, which applies under Article V of the United States Constitution “for a convention to propose an amendment providing that the Supreme Court of the United States shall be composed of 9 justices.” The Senate voted 18-14 to pass the resolution, with Republican Sens. Cowles, Petrowski, and Roth joining most Democrats in voting “no.” Sen. Erpenbach (D-West Point) did not vote.
And a variety of other legislation:
- Bills relating to aquatic plant management (SB 494) and nitrate contamination under the well compensation grant program (SB 678).
- Several bills regulating the practice of naturopathic doctors, psychologists, and social workers, all of which passed the Assembly a week earlier.
- Several measures relating to transportation, including weight limit permits, infrastructure loans, temporary license plates, and CDL training.
The Assembly passed 52 bills and four resolutions. Many of the items on the Assembly’s floor calendar dealt with law enforcement and criminal justice issues, including a package of bills aimed at promoting law enforcement as a profession, expanding and funding programs to train and recruit new officers, and retain existing ones. The Assembly also passed several bills related to the Department of Corrections and several others relating to the creation of new crimes or penalties, adjusting existing criminal penalties, and regulating the conduct of criminal proceedings.
Notably, the Assembly passed via voice vote AB 743, colloquially known as the “Inform Act.” The bill would “establish different requirements related to third-party sellers and online marketplaces through which they sell consumer products,” according to the co-sponsorship memo. Supporters of the bill argue that online marketplaces need additional regulations because they are a common site for the sale of counterfeit goods and merchandise stolen from physical retail stores. The bill has yet to receive a public hearing or further attention in the Senate.
Both houses voted unanimously to pass SB 673, which directs the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) to oversee the development of a statewide “Next Generation 911” (NG911) emergency number system. The bill creates a grant program to assist counties in preparing geographic data to enable NG911. According to DMA’s Office of Emergency Communications, the goal of NG911 is to connect “all public safety answering points in the state” and to develop “the ability to transmit, receive, process, transfer, dispatch, use, and store both voice and data” associated with emergency calls.
Both houses also approved six bills to ratify collective bargaining agreements negotiated between the State of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin System, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the Wisconsin State Building Trades Negotiating Committee for the 2021-22 and 2020-21 fiscal years. The Legislature also approved a bill ratifying the agreement negotiated between the state and the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association for the 2019-21 fiscal biennium.
Assembly members have been asked to hold February 15 and 17 as floor days and to keep February 22, 23, and 24 open as additional floor days if needed. Senators have been asked to keep February 15 and 22 open as possible floor days. After February, the Legislature’s calendar has set aside March 8-10 as the final regular floor period for the remainder of 2022. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) has confirmed that the Senate plans to finish its work by March 10.