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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. Links to more detailed information are highlighted in the text.

The Week of October 15, 2007

Budget Special Session October 15

On October 9, Governor Doyle issued Executive Order #219, calling the Legislature to meet in a special session beginning on Monday, October 15, to consider the state budget. The governor will propose a revised budget that includes funding for municipal aids, medical assistance, K-12 education, and the University of Wisconsin System, but not funding for transportation-related items, which will be considered later in a separate bill.

For more information about procedures applicable to special sessions, see Legislative Reference Bureau Informational Bulletin 98-1, "Special and Extraordinary Sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature."

Floorperiod Continues Until Budget Passage

The current legislative floorperiod will continue until budget passage.  Senate Joint Resolution 1 establishes the 2007-2008 Session schedule. For information on recent session day actions visit the Legislative Activity section of the Wisconsin State Legislature Web site.

2007-2009 Biennial Budget

Budget work continues in conference committee

Because the Assembly and Senate have passed different versions of the biennial budget, a committee of conference has been created to work on a compromise between the two versions. Assembly Joint Resolution 59 created the conference committee. The committee is made up of Senators Judy Robson, Russ Decker, Bob Jauch, and Scott Fitzgerald, and Representatives Mike Huebsch, Kitty Rhoades, Jim Kreuser, and Jeff Fitzgerald. The committee held its first meeting on July 25 and met most recently on September 21. A video archive of the committee's hearings is available at WisconsinEye's Web site.

Note: The stateís fiscal year begins on July 1. Unlike the federal budget process and that of many states, however, no state agencies or programs are required to cease operations if a new budget or temporary appropriations have not passed by that date. Rather, Wisconsin law provides that spending may continue at the current level of appropriations until a new budget is enacted.

Assembly passes on school aids and levy limits

The Assembly met September 18 and passed 2007 Assembly Bill 506, relating to school aids, and 2007 Assembly Bill 507 relating to local levy limits. The votes were 70-27 and 52-45, respectively. These are normally two of the largest sections of the budget. Both bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Senate Organization.  Reports indicate that the Senate is unlikely to take up either bill.

Budget history

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has prepared summaries of the Senate and Assembly versions of the budget.

Proposal to appoint new committee of conference

2007 Assembly Joint Resolution 70, introduced on October 2, would create a new committee of conference with the same general house and party make-up as the current committee, but different members. The resolution was referred to the Committee on Assembly Organization.

Other budget information

For more information about the 2007-2009 budget, visit the Department of Administrationís budget Web site and the Legislative Fiscal Bureauís Web site. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau prepared an overview of state agency request items; January 2007 Revenue Estimates, an annual publication which includes estimated revenues, expenditures, and tax collection projections for the biennium; and Informational Paper 73, which describes the responsibilities of the Joint Committee on Finance.

New Legislation

Snowmobile speed limits at night

2007 Assembly Bill 526, which would create a speed limit for snowmobiles operating during the hours of darkness, was introduced on October 4 and referred to the Assembly Committee on Tourism, Recreation and State Properties. A companion bill in the Senate, 2007 Senate Bill 277, was also introduced on October 4 and referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Insurance.

Auto title loans

2007 Assembly Bill 529, introduced on October 4, would prohibit licensed lenders in Wisconsin from offering automobile title loans. The bill was referred to the Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions.

Local elected officials may refuse salary

2007 Senate Bill 280, introduced on October 4, would authorize an elected member of the governing body of a city, village, town, or county to refuse his or her salary. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations.

Status of Selected Proposals

Gift card regulation

2007 Senate Bill 245, introduced on July 25, and 2007 Assembly Bill 471, introduced on July 26, would regulate gift cards and certificates to remove most expiration dates and require that a valid gift card be honored by a retailer. Two other bills, Assembly Bill 360 and Senate Bill 191, would continue to allow expiration dates and service charges, but would require conspicuous disclosure of such terms.

AB-360 was the subject of a public hearing in June. Two amendments have been offered to that bill. The two competing Senate bills were the subject of a committee hearing on August 22. An amendment to SB-191 was offered September 14.

Appointment of DNR secretary

2007 Assembly Bill 504, introduced on September 13, would provide that the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources would be appointed by the Natural Resources Board, rather than the governor. A hearing was held on the bill on October 10 by the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources.

Teen cell phone use while driving

2007 Assembly Bill 464, introduced on July 19, would prohibit a person operating a vehicle under an instruction permit or certain minors on probationary licenses from using a cell phone while driving, unless it is to report an emergency. The bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation, and a public hearing was held on August 16. An amendment offered on September 11 was adopted by the committee on October 4, and the bill passed out of committee that same day by a vote of 10-1.

Cable competition bill

A proposal to establish a statewide video franchise, 2007 Assembly Bill 207, was taken up by the Assembly on April 24. The proposal would repeal state laws allowing municipalities to grant cable franchises and require cable companies to obtain a franchise through the state Department of Financial Institutions. After extensive debate, the Assembly adopted Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to AB-207. The Assembly passed the amended version of AB-207 on May 9, by a vote of 66-28. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities and Rail, which recommended concurrence. The companion bill is 2007 Senate Bill 107. A sixth fiscal estimate for that bill was released August 29.

Employment decisions based on conviction records

The Assembly passed 2007 Assembly Bill 30 on May 16. The bill would allow an educational agency to refuse to employ or to terminate employment of an unpardoned ex-felon. The bill proposes to expand a current exemption to existing employment discrimination law that allows an employer to terminate or refuse to hire someone because of a conviction, the circumstances of which substantially relate to the circumstances of the particular job. The Assembly vote was 64-29, 4 paired. On July 11, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

No Call for cell phones

A public hearing on a proposal to expand the state's "no-call list" to cell phones was held April 25 by the Senate Committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Workforce Development, Technical Colleges and Consumer Protection. 2007 Senate Bill 99 would also allow small businesses to be included on the list and would increase the monetary penalties for violating the law. At an executive session held on May 3, the committee offered amendments to the bill and recommended passage as amended, 3-2.

Statewide smoking ban

A proposal to ban smoking in taverns, restaurants, and other workplaces currently exempted from statewide smoking prohibitions was introduced April 18 as 2007 Senate Bill 150. Senators Risser and Roessler are the primary sponsors. The bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Public Health, Senior Issues, Long Term Care and Privacy, and a public hearing was held on May 31.

Constitutional Amendments

Three joint resolutions to amend the Wisconsin Constitution were adopted on first consideration by the 2005 Wisconsin Legislature and are eligible for second consideration by the 2007 Legislature. They relate to: 1) requiring a photographic identification to vote, or to register to vote at the polls on election day; 2) prohibiting partial vetoes from creating new sentences; and 3) prohibiting vetoes of individual words in sentences. As of May 17, resolutions for second consideration for two of these proposals have been introduced in the 2007 Legislature.

Photo ID for voting (second consideration)

Assembly Joint Resolution 17, proposing a second consideration related to requiring photographic identification to vote or register to vote on election day, was introduced on February 15. The resolution was given a second reading and debated in the Assembly on March 1. The Assembly voted 54-43 to pass this resolution. The resolution was referred to the Senate Committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs on April 19.

Partial Veto (second consideration)

Assembly Joint Resolution 1 passed the Assembly on February 1 by a vote of 70-25 and was subsequently sent to the Senate, where it was referred to the Committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations. Assembly Joint Resolution 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 5, each proposing a second consideration constitutional amendment prohibiting item vetoes from effectively creating new sentences, were introduced on January 12 and January 16, respectively. A hearing on both measures was held by the Senate Ethics Reform and Government Operations Committee on June 18.

Redistricting (first consideration)

2007 Assembly Joint Resolution 63, introduced August 28, would amend the state constitution to change the procedure for redistricting the state legislature. The proposal would create a state redistricting board composed of four state constitutional officers and a member appointed by the state supreme court.

Other proposals for constitutional amendments (on first consideration)

Legislators have proposed constitutional amendments on first consideration on taxation, term limits, equal rights, the Supreme Court, and state segregated funds. See the Legislature's Web site for more information by searching for "constitutional amendments" (with the quotation marks).

Committee Activity

On October 16, at 11:00 a.m. in Room 225 Northwest, State Capitol, the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice will hold a public hearing on 2007 Assembly Bill 326, relating to notification requirements for persons who must register as sex offenders and who are on school premises.

On October 17, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 225 Northwest, State Capitol, the Assembly Committee on Labor and Industry will hold a public hearing on 2007 Assembly Bill 294, relating to a state electrical wiring code; regulation of electricians, electrical contractors, and electrical inspectors; and inspections and regulation of electrical wiring.

On October 17, at 1:00 p.m. in Room 411 South, State Capitol, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will hold a public hearing on 2007 Senate Bill 138, relating to claims for loss of society and companionship in medical malpractice cases.

On October 18, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 201 Southeast, State Capitol, the Senate Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on 2007 Senate Bill 132, relating to the use of ethnic names, nicknames, logos, and mascots by school boards.

Please see the Schedule of Committee Activities for more information on this week's hearings.

Recent Publications

The Legislative Audit Bureau has released an audit of Wisconsin Mental Health Institutes.

The Legislative Reference Bureau released a Wisconsin Brief providing legislative and background information on the HPV vaccine, and a Governing Wisconsin explaining Wisconsinís Constitutional Conventions. The Theobald Library compiled a "Tap the Power" bibliography on Bridge Infrastructure.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau released State Financing of K-12 Education in Wisconsin - An Overview of Revenue Limits and General School Aids.

The Legislative Councilís Special Committee on Affirmative Action has released a report to the legislature.

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Last revised: October 23, 2012