Wisconsin Legislative Spotlight
Maintained by the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), this page provides an overview of recent and upcoming activities in the Wisconsin Legislature. The LRB revises its content weekly during legislative floorperiods and less often when the legislature is not in session. Links to more detailed information are highlighted in the text.
Senate Joint Resolution 1 establishes the 2005-2006 Session Schedule. Both houses are scheduled to be in session on Tuesday, December 6 to begin their next floorperiod which is scheduled to end on December 15.
Representative Dan Vrakas (R-33) has resigned as of October 31. Vrakas was elected Waukesha County Executive, and was sworn in on October 31. A special primary to fill the vacancy will be held on December 12 to narrow the slate of Republican candidates. The Republican candidates are James R. Behrend of Delafield, Troy Fullerton of Waukesha, David E. Marlow of Hartland, Scott Newcomer of Hartland, Jack F. Perry of Waukesha, and Kent D. Woods of Pewaukee. The sole Democratic candidate is Patrick Bryne of Delafield. The special general election will be held on January 10. With Vrakas' resignation, the partisan composition of the Assembly is 59 Republicans, 39 Democrats, and 1 vacancy.
On November 9, Florence County voters approved a measure to give the Florence County School District $4.75 million over the next five years to keep the district operating. The vote was 1,424 -1,253. On November 15, the School District Boundary Appeals Board met in Florence and decided by unanimous vote to keep the school district.
Representatives Mark Pocan (D-78) and Stephen Freese (R-51) asked Governor Doyle to call a special legislative session the week of December 5 to take action on 2005 Assembly Bill 627, which would require electronic voting machines to create a paper record of every vote cast. The bill has passed out of the Assembly and is currently being considered by the Senate Committee on Labor and Election Process Reform. Representative Pocan reports that the State Elections Board is preparing to purchase electronic voting machines and that to require a paper record this proposal must pass before the order is made.
2005 Senate Bill 174, which would create an exception to laws that prohibit providing alcohol to an inmate in a correctional facility and prohibit consumption of alcohol by an inmate in a correctional facility, passed the Senate on October 25 by a vote of 18-15. The Assembly concurred in the bill on November 17 by a vote of 76-15. The bill would allow a reasonable amount of alcohol to be provided and consumed for religious ceremonies. The governor has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.
2005 Assembly Bill 56, which would shield sports shooting range owners or operators, gun or sportsmanís clubs, and manufacturers, importers, trade associations, or dealers of firearms, firearm components, or firearm ammunition from certain lawsuits. 2005 Assembly Bill 56 was passed on June 14 by a vote of 63-32, and the Senate concurred in the bill on November 9 by a vote of 25-8. The bill is similar to a federal ban approved by Congress. The governor has indicated that he will veto the bill.
2005 Assembly Bill 85, which would prohibit the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority from making, buying, or assuming a home mortgage loan for an individual who does not have a social security number, passed the Assembly on November 8 by a vote of 57-38. Now in the Senate, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security, Military Affairs, Small Business, and Government Reform.
2005 Senate Bill 1, which would merge the State Ethics Board and State Elections Board into a new Government Accountability Board (GAB), was recommended for passage on October 27 by the Joint Committee on Finance by a vote of 13-3. The GAB would have an enforcement division that, unlike the current boards, could prosecute elected officials for criminal violations. Currently, only district attorneys and the state attorney general are authorized to pursue criminal actions against politicians. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 28-5 on November 1. Now in the Assembly, it has been referred to the Committee on Campaigns and Elections.
On October 25, the Assembly passed 2005 Assembly Bill 766 by a vote of 64-30. The bill would reestablish limits on the amount of noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, that may be recovered in medical malpractice lawsuits. Monetary limits created by 1995 Wisconsin Act 10 were ruled unconstitutional in July 2005 by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the case of Ferndon v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund. There are no statutory limits on economic damages such as loss of income or medical costs. The Senate passed the bill on November 8 by a vote of 19-14. The governor has said that he is likely to veto any bill that appears to be unconstitutional under the Supreme Court decision.
2005 Assembly Joint Resolution 36, which would amend the Constitution to require photographic identification to vote, or register to vote, at the polls on election day, was passed by the Assembly on November 1, by a vote of 57-36. To become a part of the Constitution, the proposal would have to be passed both in the current session and again in the 2007-08 Legislature and be ratified in a statewide referendum.
The Legislative Audit Bureau conducts financial and program evaluation audits of state agencies. The Audit Bureau will soon begin conducting an audit of the hiring practices of the University of Wisconsin System and will issue a report sometime next year. Recent audit reports are accessible online, including a report on the implementation of existing voter registration laws statewide.
Last revised: October 18, 2012