Session in Review: Wisconsin Legislature 2023-24

The Wisconsin Legislature stands adjourned for the 2023-24 session and is not expected to reconvene until January 2025. This session, Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed 272 bills into law and vetoed 73 others. He also issued partial vetoes to the state budget and three other spending-related laws. With adjournment, all bills introduced this session have been disposed of (enacted, vetoed, or dead).

The Assembly voted to adjourn at the conclusion of its last scheduled floor day, February 22. Following the Senate’s adjournment in mid-March after its final day of votes, Gov. Evers was busy signing and vetoing bills: Republican legislative leaders sent 201 bills to the governor’s desk over a three-week period. Gov. Evers signed 152 of those bills and vetoed 49.

This article reviews notable bills that were signed, vetoed, or failed to pass by the end of the session. Additionally, the Legislative Reference Bureau recently released its Summary of the Wisconsin Legislative Session. Finally, see the lists of links under “Session Highlights” and “Everything Else” for our comprehensive coverage of the 2023-24 session of the Wisconsin Legislature.

Gov. Evers issued the following announcements of his actions on bills in March and April:

  • Acts 121 and 122: EV Charging Regulations and Grant Program
  • Acts 123-170: Election Law, Financial Institutions, Taxes, and Transportation (plus six vetoes)
  • Acts 171-214: Health Care, Education, Licensure, and Real Estate
  • Acts 215 and 216: Memorial Highway Designations
  • Act 217: Xylazine Testing Materials
  • Act 218: Tactical Emergency Medical Services Personnel
  • Acts 219-247: Law Enforcement and Public Safety
  • Acts 248-264: Mental Health Services, Law Enforcement, Corrections, and Miscellaneous Items (plus 40 vetoes)
  • Act 265: Flood Resilience Grant Program
  • Act 266: Hmong and Asian American Curriculum
  • Acts 267-269 : Memorial Designations and DFI Regulation Overhaul (plus one veto)
  • Act 270: Mt. Horeb Veterans Memorial
  • Act 271: Prohibiting the Sale of Counterfeit and Unsafe Lighters
  • Act 272: “Prince Act”—Expanding Criteria for Missing Children Alerts

Among the notable vetoes listed in the above press releases were:

SB 52, legislation to create a voluntary training and registration program for commercial applicators of products for snow and ice removal, intended to encourage procedures that protect water quality by providing reasonable protections from civil liability for a hazard related to snow and ice accumulation (veto message). The bill was supported by Wisconsin business and environmental groups, but opposed by the plaintiff’s bar.

SB 145, legislation to create a new system of licensure for an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) [veto message]. Last session, Gov. Evers vetoed similar legislation (2021 SB 394). He has echoed the concerns of the Wisconsin Medical Society regarding the number of hours an APRN must practice with supervision before being able to practice independently.

SB 312, legislation to implement $125 million in PFAS remediation funding set aside in the 2023-25 state budget (veto message). Gov. Evers cited concerns from environmental groups that the bill lacked “accountability” measures for polluters and limited certain powers of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), even after the Senate voted to remove a provision limiting DNR’s ability to require a property owner to test for PFAS. Gov. Evers has issued numerous press releases calling on the Joint Committee on Finance to release the funding to DNR without legislation.

Republican legislators declined to attend a “special meeting” of the finance committee called by the governor, calling it a “publicity stunt.” The Senate author of SB 312 said the governor “doesn’t want to explain why he insists on punishing PFAS victims for pollution they didn’t cause—and why he would hold $125 million in relief hostage to do so.” Gov. Evers said he is considering litigation to try and release the funds (see this article for information about a related, ongoing lawsuit).

SB 549, legislation to allow a federally chartered youth organization at least one time during a school day at the start of the school term to provide information about the organization to students at a public school (veto message, author’s response). The covered organizations are the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Future Farmers of America, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. In recent years, youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America have reported that many Wisconsin school districts refuse to allow even brief recruitment presentations to students, coinciding with notable declines in membership for the same organizations.

SB 613, legislation to create a $1 million per-victim cap on the recovery of noneconomic damages from trucking companies and commercial drivers (veto message). Garnering broad support among Wisconsin’s business community, the goal of the bill was to protect employers from unreasonable “nuclear verdicts” and to help stabilize insurance costs for the trucking industry.

Gov. Evers also highlighted the following vetoes in separate announcements:

Session Highlights

Among the most notable pieces of legislation enacted throughout the session were the state budget, shared revenue reform, the Brewers stadium financing agreement, alcohol regulation overhaul, and redistricting. Perhaps the most notable bill that failed to reach the governor’s desk this session was AB 470, legislation to create a “right of first refusal” for electric utility transmission projects in Wisconsin. The bill passed the Assembly by voice vote but did not make it to the Senate floor before adjournment.

The governor and legislature never came to an agreement on using a large surplus of state funds for significant middle-class income tax cuts (sought repeatedly by Republican legislators and vetoed each time) or funding for child care programs (strongly advocated for by Gov. Evers).

Following is our coverage of the most important issues and events this session:

Everything Else

This session, Hamilton Political Tidbits covered every floor day of the legislature and every bill signed and vetoed by the governor—see the following articles for the rest of our comprehensive coverage of the 2023-24 session: