Senate and Assembly Floor Sessions: November 14 (Brewers Stadium, Alcohol Regulation, Special Session Bill, PFAS)

Both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature met November 14 to vote on bills, resolutions, and executive appointments. Visit the links for coverage of the November 7 and November 9 floor days.

Senate (floor calendar)

The Senate passed 26 bills, adopted three resolutions, and confirmed 18 gubernatorial appointees, including several high-profile pieces of legislation. The Senate amended and approved a pair of bills (ABs 438 and 439) to finance improvements to and maintenance of American Family Field. Under the deal, the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team would extend its lease at the park through 2050. See this article on the Assembly’s October floor days for more information about the bills and initial negotiations.

The amendments, explained here and here, were needed to shore up support for the bills in the Senate. Both bills ultimately passed the Senate 19-14, with 11 Republicans each voting for and against the package. Notably, the amendments reduce the state’s financial commitment of funding and loans, increase the team’s rental payments, add a per-ticket surcharge on non-baseball events held at the stadium, and further change the composition of the stadium district board to include appointees nominated by the Milwaukee mayor and county executive.

Another bill on the calendar, SB 268, received a large addition when it got to the floor in the form of a 144-page amendment added to the 25-page bill. The amendment was authored by Majority Leader LeMahieu (R-Oostburg). On its own, the bill makes various changes to Department of Revenue (DOR) enforcement and administration of state alcohol, tobacco, and lottery laws and was supported by retailers, law enforcement, and beverage companies.

The LeMahieu amendment to SB 268 included the provisions of AB 304, a significant overhaul of state alcohol laws that was negotiated among many of the state’s alcohol interest groups. It creates a new Division of Alcohol Beverages within DOR to oversee alcohol regulation and enforcement.

The Assembly passed AB 304 in June; it received a public hearing in the Senate in August but was not scheduled for a committee vote. Unable to move that bill to the Senate floor, Majority Leader LeMahieu employed a procedural move to allow a vote on his amendment to SB 268. Sen. LeMahieu was also the Senate author of the alcohol overhaul bill.

After a series of procedural and amendment votes, the updated version of SB 268 passed the Senate 21-11, with 14 Republicans and seven Democrats voting in favor and eight Republicans against. News coverage is available here and here.

Later the same day, the Assembly took up and approved the Senate’s amendments to the Brewers stadium bills and the amended SB 268; more on those votes below. Also later that day, Gov. Evers (D) issued a press release stating that he will sign the bills, and the Brewers organization issued a press release applauding the Legislature’s action. News coverage is available here.

The Senate also amended and approved SB 312. The bill includes a variety of provisions addressing PFAS contamination, notably the creation of municipal and innocent landowner grant programs for PFAS remediation using funding set aside in the 2023-25 state budget. The Senate adopted several amendments to the bill making numerous updates (some explained here) including removing a provision to limit the authority of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to require a property owner to test for PFAS without meeting certain standards.

The bill passed 22-11, along party lines. The bill received a public hearing in the Assembly in June. Gov. Evers has said “it remains to be seen” whether he will sign the bill because “it does not hold anybody accountable, it takes away the powers and the authority of the DNR.” Environmental groups have similarly criticized the bill. The bill’s authors have reasoned that they want to encourage people to test and remediate PFAS on their property without fear of being held responsible for contamination they did not cause.

Along with the bills explained above, the Senate passed the following, all by voice vote or unanimous roll call unless otherwise noted:

  • SB 67 Utility Aid Payments Changing the phase-out of utility aid payments for decommissioned power plants.
  • SB 85 Lake District Email Notices Authorizing email for notice of public inland lake protection and rehabilitation district board business. Assembly amendment adopted.
  • SB 241 School Psychologists A school psychologist loan program, and making an appropriation.
  • SB 261 Tanning Facilities Regulation of tanning facilities.
  • SB 267 Recovery High Schools A grant program for recovery high schools and making an appropriation.
  • SB 271 CDL Training A commercial driver training grant program and making an appropriation.
  • SB 363 Pig Iron Transport Permits for the overweight transport of pig iron.
  • SB 380 Wisconsin Grants Wisconsin grants and other financial aid for higher education. Assembly amendment adopted.
  • SB 404 Operating Without License Penalties for operating a motor vehicle without a license or after license suspension or revocation and providing a penalty. Passed, 20-13.
  • SB 408 50 Piece Rule Public funds for substantially identical materials distributed by state senators and representatives to the assembly prior to a general election and providing a penalty. Passed, 27-6.
  • SB 431 Overweight Permits Permits for the overweight transport of certain fluid milk products.
  • SB 451 Premier Resort Tax Allowing certain municipalities to increase the rate of the premier resort area tax. Passed, 32-1.
  • SB 460 Workers Present Violations Traffic violations when railroad workers are present and providing a penalty.
  • SB 462 Crisis Urgent Care Crisis urgent care and observation facilities and granting rule-making authority.
  • SB 520 Kinship Care Payments Inclusion of like-kin as an option for with whom children may be placed out of their home under certain circumstances and who may receive kinship care payments.
  • SB 527 Suicide Prevention Programming Grants for suicide prevention programming.
  • SB 558 Property Damage Damage or graffiti to certain historical property and providing a penalty. Passed, 22-10.
  • AB 133 Farmland Preservation Agreements Farmland preservation agreements and tax credits. Passed, 31-2.
  • AB 335 Candidate Violation Judgments Judgments concerning a candidate’s felony violation of certain campaign finance or election fraud laws.
  • AB 396 Voter List Fees Fees for obtaining the official voter registration list. Passed, 23-10.
  • AB 494 Indefinitely Confined Voter Status as an indefinitely confined voter for purposes of automatically receiving absentee ballots and providing a penalty. Passed, 23-9.
  • AB 566 Suicide Prevention Programming Grants for suicide prevention programming.

The Assembly Bills (AB) listed above have passed both houses of the Legislature and can be presented to the governor for his signature or veto. Senate Bills 85 and 380 have now also passed both houses of the Legislature in the same form after the Senate concurred in an Assembly amendment to each bill.

The Senate also adopted three resolutions, one recognizing Wisconsin Apprenticeship Week and two declaring November as an awareness month for diabetes and veterans’ mental health.

Finally, the Senate voted near-unanimously to confirm 18 executive appointments to the UW System Board of Regents, Professional Standards Council, and Educational Communications Board. Sen. Nass (R-Whitewater) voted against confirming all of the appointees. Sen. Tomczyk (R-Mosinee) voted against confirming all the Board of Regents appointees except for one (Angela Adams, sixth congressional district representative). One appointed regent (Evan Brenkus, traditional student representative) received six Republican “no” votes including Sens. Nass and Tomczyk and four others.

Assembly (floor calendar)

In total, the Assembly passed 34 bills and four resolutions. As noted above, the Assembly took up and approved the Senate amendments to the Brewers stadium bills and the combined alcohol overhaul/DOR enforcement bill. The stadium bills were approved 72-26 (16 Republicans, 10 Democrats against) and the alcohol/DOR bill passed by a vote of 88-10 (three Republicans, seven Democrats against).

The Assembly also concurred in the special session workforce package as amended by the Senate in October. In short, the Senate removed a slate of policies and funding provisions proposed by Gov. Evers and replaced them with middle-class income tax cuts, tax credits and deductions for child care and private school tuition, and several workforce-related policies that are also advancing as standalone bills.

Gov. Evers will veto this bill, with a spokesperson calling it a “completely unserious proposal from Republicans who are wholly out of touch with the challenges and needs of our state.” See this article for more information about the special session called by Gov. Evers and the political and policy issues at hand.

Many of the other bills on the Assembly calendar were related to health care licensing, insurance, and government health care programs. The Assembly passed the following bills, all by voice vote except for AB 133 (which passed by a unanimous roll call vote):

  • AB 62 Dental Benefits Assignment of dental benefits under health insurance.
  • AB 129 Sexual Assault Sexual assault by a health care provider and providing a penalty.
  • AB 133 Farmland Preservation Agreements Farmland preservation agreements and tax credits.
  • AB 223 Opioid Antagonists in Schools Maintaining a supply of usable opioid antagonist at a school.
  • AB 251 DPI Licenses A tier I license issued by the Department of Public Instruction and modifying administrative rules promulgated by the Department of Public Instruction.
  • AB 437 Insurance Law Changes Various changes to insurance laws and providing a penalty.
  • AB 466 Data Protection Consumer data protection and providing a penalty.
  • AB 514 Public Contracts Prohibiting certain indemnification provisions in public contracts relating to design professional services.
  • AB 541 Out-of-State Telehealth Provision of telehealth services by out-of-state health care providers.
  • AB 560 Videoconferencing The use of videoconferencing technology in certain civil actions.
  • AB 573 DHS Pilot Program A law enforcement officer virtual behavioral health crisis care pilot program.
  • AB 574 Earned Wage Services Regulating earned wage access services, granting rule-making authority, and providing a penalty.
  • AB 575 DPI Training Program The mental health training program provided by the Department of Public Instruction. 1 tabled, 63-35.
  • AB 576 Peer Counseling Public safety peer counseling and privilege for peer support and critical incident stress management services communications and granting rule-making authority.
  • AB 616 MA Coverage Medical Assistance coverage of services provided in an institution for mental disease.
  • SB 134 Farmland Preservation Agreements Farmland preservation agreements and tax credits.
  • SB 196 Counseling Compact Ratification of the Counseling Compact.
  • SB 197 Audiology Compact Ratification of the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact, extending the time limit for emergency rule procedures, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and granting rule-making authority.
  • SB 248 Care Management Organizations County of residence for care management organization facility placements.
  • SB 259 Payday Loans Payday loans.
  • SB 263 Prescription Drugs 100-day prescription drug supplies under SeniorCare and amending an administrative rule related to 100-day prescription drug supplies permitted under SeniorCare.
  • SB 267 Recovery High Schools A grant program for recovery high schools and making an appropriation.
  • SB 324 Refrigerants Restrictions on use of certain refrigerants.
  • SB 362 Electronic Communications Permitted electronic transmissions under employer-sponsored health insurance policies and plans.
  • SB 369 Infant Safety Devices Newborn infant safety devices under the safe haven law.
  • SB 400 PA Licensure Ratification of the PA Licensure Compact.
  • SB 419 Hearing Aids Practice of fitting and dealing in hearing aids, certification of hearing instrument specialists to engage in cerumen management, and granting rule-making authority.
  • SB 434 Medical Assistance Repair of complex rehabilitation technology under the Medical Assistance program.
  • SB 440 Cremation Permit Creation of a cremation permit application form.
  • SB 527 Suicide Prevention Programming Grants for suicide prevention programming.

The Senate Bills (SB) listed above have passed both houses of the Legislature and can be presented to the governor for his signature or veto.

The Assembly also voted to adopt the three resolutions that passed the Senate earlier the same day, and a fourth declaring November as pancreatic cancer awareness month.

For more information about the 2023-24 legislative session in Wisconsin, see the following articles: