The Week of October 19, 2015

The Wisconsin Legislature's 2015-2016 legislative session began on January 5, 2015. The schedule of floorperiods is established by Senate Joint Resolution 1. The Senate and Assembly are expected to meet on October 20 and 21 to take up items affecting John Doe hearings, campaign finance, the reorganization of the Government Accountability Board, and electronic voter registration.

For daily updates on Wisconsin politics in the news, please see our Capitol Headlines page.

Recent Legislative Action

GAB Reorganization

2015 Assembly Bill 388 and Senate Bill 294, both introduced on October 9, eliminate the Government Accountability Board (GAB) and replace it with an ethics commission and an elections commission. Each commission would consist of six members; four members of each commission would be appointed by legislative leadership, and two members would be nominated by the governor. Under the bills, each commission would be able to investigate only violations of laws administered by that commission upon the filing of a sworn complaint with the commission, except for violations that result in a payment not exceeding $2,500. The bill also requires the commissions to disclose certain information related to investigations and advisory opinions. A joint hearing between the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections and the Senate Committee on Elections and Local Government was held on October 13 for both of the bills. A video archive of the hearing can be found at WisconsinEye. The Legislative Council has archived submitted materials for AB-388 and SB-294. On October 15, the Assembly committee voted 6-3 to recommend the bill for passage, with one amendment.

Campaign Finance

2015 Assembly Bill 387 and 2015 Senate Bill 292, both introduced on October 8, rewrite current state laws related to campaign finance. The proposals double the current campaign contribution limits for candidates for state and local office and would require those limits to be adjusted every five years in relation to the consumer price index. The bills would define a political action committee (PAC) and would allow contributions to PACs to be unlimited. The bills also define "express advocacy" and repeal and recreate laws related to registration and reporting and by coordination between candidates and committees. These bills were also part of the joint public hearing held on October 13 (see the section above for the video archive link). The Legislative Council has archived submitted materials for AB-387 and SB-292. On October 15, the Assembly committee voted 6-3 to recommend the bill for passage, with one amendment.

Civil Service System

2015 Assembly Bill 373, introduced on October 7, and 2015 Senate Bill 285, introduced on October 1, make changes to the civil service laws, including changes related to hiring, probationary periods, reinstatements and restoration, layoff criteria, just-cause standards, and the appeals process for certain adverse employment actions.  They also create a discretionary merit award program for classified employees. The Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform held a public hearing on SB-285 on October 6. A video archive of the hearing can be found at WisconsinEye. Materials submitted to the committee clerk are found at the Legislative Council's site. The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations will held a public hearing on AB-373 on October 15.

Fetal Tissue

On October 13, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services voted to recommend 2015 Senate Bill 260 for passage. SB-260 is the companion bill to 2015 Assembly Bill 305, which generally prohibits the sale and use of fetal body parts derived from an induced abortion. A public hearing on SB-260 was held on September 22. Earlier in September, the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted to recommend Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to the AB-305, which allows tissue acquired before January 1 of this year to be used in research, by a vote of 6-5. It voted to recommend passage of AB-305 as amended by a vote of 7-4.

John Doe Investigations

The Assembly has placed 2015 Assembly Bill 68, related to John Doe proceedings, on the calendar for October 20. Among the changes proposed to current law, the bill limits the length of such proceedings to six months, generally limits the crimes that may be investigated to certain felonies in the criminal code, limits the application of secrecy orders to the judge, the prosecuting attorney, law enforcement, and court reporters and interpreters, and makes records on the costs of John Doe proceedings a matter of public record. On August 20, the Assembly Committee on Judiciary held an executive session on AB-68. The committee voted 5-3 to recommend the bill for passage. Its companion bill, Senate Bill 43, was recommended for passage by a Senate committee in March.

Recently Introduced Proposals

Electronic Voter Registration

2015 Assembly Bill 389 and Senate Bill 295, both introduced on October 9, permits electronic voter registration and the use of electronic poll lists among other changes to the voting process in Wisconsin. These bills were included in the joint public hearing held on October 13 (see GAB Reorganization section). The Legislative Council has archived submitted materials for AB-389 and SB-295.

WRS Retirement Age

2015 Senate Bill 329 and Assembly Bill 397, both introduced last week, increases the minimum retirement age under the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). Under current law, a WRS participant can retire as early as age 55 and those under protective occupation status can retire as early as age 50.  The bill increases those ages to 57 and 52, respectively.

A list of recently introduced proposals is available at the legislature's 2015 documents site.

Committee Activity

As of Friday, October 16, all committee activity is scheduled for Wednesday. Check the committee schedule for updated information throughout the week.

Signed into Law

As of Friday, October 16, the governor has signed 61 bills into law from the current session.

A list of enrolled bills that are ready to be sent to the governor is updated regularly.

Resources from the LRB Library

Recent Publications

For information about legislative service agency publications, see the left panel of the Spotlight index page.

Spotlight Home

Prior Spotlight issues

Send comments to

Last revised: October 19, 2015