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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.

The Week of January 2, 2006

Session Schedule

Senate Joint Resolution 1 establishes the 2005-2006 Session Schedule. The Senate and Assembly have recessed until January 17, 2006.

Signed Into Law

Unemployment Insurance

On December 28, Governor Doyle signed 2005 Senate Bill 426 into law, creating Wisconsin Act 86. Act 86 is based on recommendations of the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Committee and it raises unemployment insurance payments slightly over the next two years and creates a position in the Department of Justice to combat tax and unemployment insurance fraud, among other provisions. The bill passed the Senate on December 6 by a vote of 31-2 and the Assembly on December 15 by a vote of 82-11.

Real Estate Law

On December 28, Governor Doyle signed 2005 Assembly Bill 783 into law, creating Wisconsin Act 87, which makes numerous revisions to Wisconsin real estate law as it relates to brokers and salespeople. The bill was passed by the Assembly on November 1 by a vote of 94-2 and by the Senate on a voice vote on November 8.

Motor Fuel Tax Rate Annual Adjustment

On December 22, Governor Doyle signed 2005 Senate Bill 331 into law, creating 2005 Wisconsin Act 85, which eliminates the annual adjustment of the motor fuel tax rate. It was passed by the Senate on December 6 by a vote of 20-13 and by the Assembly on December 13 by a vote of 74-23. After April 1, 2006, the legislature would need to enact any future increases in the gasoline tax. The Legislative Council has prepared a memo on the subject.

Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan (HIRSP)

2005 Assembly Bill 844 became 2005 Wisconsin Act 74 when Governor Doyle signed the bill on December 21. It implements several modifications to the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan, including the creation of a Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan Authority. The bill passed the Assembly on December 6 by a vote of 83-12 and was concurred in by the Senate on December 6 by a vote of 27-6.

Avery Task Force Recommendations

On December 16, Governor Doyle signed 2005 Assembly Bill 648, creating 2005 Wisconsin Act 60, which makes changes to numerous law enforcement procedures. This bill was based on recommendations made by the Avery Task Force, which was created to examine the causes of wrongful convictions.

Religious Wine for Prisoners

2005 Senate Bill 174, which was signed by Governor Doyle on December 20 and became 2005 Wisconsin Act 67, allows for the use of a reasonable amount of wine in religious services performed in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities.

Discounts for Cash Purchases of Motor Vehicle Fuel

On December 22, Governor Doyle signed 2005 Senate Bill 180 into law, enacting 2005 Wisconsin Act 84, which allows gas stations to offer discounts on any motor vehicle fuel purchases made with cash.

Other Wisconsin Acts

A complete list of 2005-2006 Wisconsin Acts can be researched online.

Enrolled Bills Awaiting Action by the Governor

Electronic Voting System Standards

2005 Assembly Bill 627 would require electronic voting machines to create a complete, permanent paper record of all votes cast. The paper record would be used by the voter to verify his or her votes, and would also be used in the event of a recount. The Assembly passed the bill, as amended, 91-4 on November 10. It was concurred in by the Senate on December 7 by a voice vote.

Immunity for the Gun Industry

2005 Assembly Bill 56 would provide some legal immunity to gun manufacturers, dealers, and other gun related organizations against civil liabilities in some cases and against certain actions taken by the state or other government units against them. This bill passed the Assembly, as amended, 63-32 on June 14, and it was concurred in by a Senate vote of 25-8 on November 9.

Notice of Fetal Pain during Abortion

2005 Senate Bill 138 would require that a women seeking an abortion be informed that an unborn child, who is at 20 weeks gestation or older, may feel substantial pain when the most common methods of abortion are used. This bill passed the Senate, as amended, 21-12 on September 27, and it was concurred in by the Assembly on November 8 by a vote of 61-34.

Other Enrolled Bills

A complete list of enrolled bills can be researched online.

Other Current Legislative Action

Sales Tax Credit for Hybrid Cars

A public hearing was held on December 20 for 2005 Assembly Bill 745, introduced on October 11, which would provide a tax credit of up to $1,000 for the sales tax paid on hybrid vehicles with EPA ratings of 40 miles-per-gallon or greater.

Driver’s Licenses for Legal Aliens

2005 Assembly Bill 69, introduced on February 1, would require that any alien resident of Wisconsin applying for a driver’s license or identification card provide proof that the person is legally residing in the state. This bill passed the Assembly, as amended, 62-35 on September 27 and was recommended for passage by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Transportation by a vote of 4-1 on December 21.

Ethanol Requirements in Automotive Gasoline

2005 Assembly Bill 15 would generally require that beginning on October 1, 2006, automotive gasoline that has an octane rating of 87 must contain not less than 9.2 percent nor more than 10 percent ethanol. The bill passed the Assembly on December 15 by a vote of 54-38 and was referred to the Senate Committee of Agriculture and Insurance on December 16.

Firearms Concealed Carry

2005 Senate Bill 403, with certain limitations, would allow licensed individuals the right to carry concealed and armed dangerous weapons. On December 6, the Senate adopted Senate Substitute Amendment 2 (as amended by Senate Amendment 9) and passed Senate Bill 403, as amended, by a vote of 23-10. The Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 64-32 on December 13. The Legislative Council has prepared a memo on the subject.

Cell Phone Use by Teen Drivers Prohibited

2005 Assembly Bill 120 would prohibit cell phone use while driving by both teenage drivers during the first nine months of their license period, when other Graduated Drivers License restrictions are in effect, and also by teenage drivers who hold an instructional permit. The bill, which would allow the use of a cell phone to report an emergency, passed the Assembly on December 13 by a vote of 89-6.

Constitutional Amendments

Same Sex Marriages

2005 Senate Joint Resolution 53 and 2005 Assembly Joint Resolution 67 were introduced for the second consideration needed to pass a constitutional amendment, which would provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman be legally recognized in Wisconsin, and it would prohibit granting identical or similar legal rights to any unmarried couples, effectively banning civil unions and domestic partnerships. If either of these resolutions pass both houses of the legislature without any changes to the language, a statewide referendum would become necessary before ratification. 2005 Senate Joint Resolution 53 passed the Senate on December 6 by a vote of 19-14.

Spending Minimums for the State and Maximums for Municipalities

2005 Assembly Joint Resolution 71, introduced on December 15 for first consideration, would prohibit a local government unit from spending more in fees and property taxes than it had spent in the previous year (indexed for inflation), while requiring the state to spend at least as much as it had spent in the previous year for school aid and shared revenue (also indexed for inflation).

Wisconsin Brief 05-4 describes the constitutional amendments given first consideration approval by the 2003 Wisconsin Legislature.

Also in the News

Ladwig Convicted

On December 28, former State Representative Bonnie Ladwig was convicted of a misdemeanor for directing aides to campaign on state time. Ladwig pleaded guilty in a plea agreement under which she will have to pay $4,500 in fines and restitution and cooperate in the prosecution of State Representative Scott Jensen and former State Representative Steve Foti, but will likely avoid jail time. Ladwig will be sentenced on or soon after March 10, 2006.

Rationing in Voucher Schools

The Department of Public Instruction announced on December 27 that rationing would have to be imposed in Milwaukee’s school choice program during the 2006-2007 school year because demand far outpaces available resources. Opponents of the move point out that rationing could prevent hundreds, or even thousands of Milwaukee students from enrolling in or continuing in the program.

Senator William Proxmire Memorialized

Senator William Proxmire died on December 15 at the age of 90, and is memorialized in 2005 Assembly Joint Resolution 70. Proxmire served in the Wisconsin Assembly in the 1951 session and the U.S. Senate from 1957 to 1989.

Chvala Sentenced

On December 15, former State Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala was sentenced to nine months in jail and two years probation, and ordered to pay a $5,500 fine. In October, Chvala pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office and directing campaign contributions that exceeded the legal limit.

Legislative Audit Bureau Reports

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.

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Last revised: October 18, 2012