The Week of November 16, 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 most recent regular floorperiod ended on Thursday, November 5, and the Senate and Assembly have called themselves into extraordinary session to finish work on their fall agenda, including the reorganization of the Government Accountability Board and campaign finance laws. The Assembly plans to meet on November 16 to concur in the Senate's actions on November 6.

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

Signed into Law

Last week, the Governor signed more than 40 bills into law. As of Friday, November 13, the governor has signed 113 bills into law from the current session. A selection of those laws are highlighted below.

Personal Privacy - "Upskirting"

2015 Wisconsin Act 80 creates an additional crime of invasion of privacy for a person who uses a device to view areas of another person's body, including areas covered by undergarments, without consent, making the practice of "upskirting" a felony offenseOn October 20, the Senate passed 2015 Assembly Bill 8. The bill passed on a voice vote.  The bill passed the Assembly in January.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences Related to Firearms

2015 Wisconsin Act 109 establishes mandatory minimum sentences for those who have a previous conviction for a violent felony and are convicted of illegally possessing a firearm or committing a violent felony using a firearm in addition to having a previous conviction for a violent felony. The Senate concurred in 2015 Assembly Bill 220 on November 6, by a vote of 23-9.  Assembly Amendment 3, adopted by the Assembly in June, applies the mandatory minimum sentence for possessing a firearm only to those who are convicted of illegal possession within five years of completing a prior sentence for a felony or a violent misdemeanor.

Forcibly Entering a Vehicle to Save a Child or Animal

2015 Wisconsin Act 103 exempts a person from civil liability if he or she breaks into a car to save a child or domestic animal. 2015 Assembly Bill 308 passed the Assembly on October 27 and was concurred in on a voice vote by the Senate on November 6.

Concealed Carry for Service Members and Former Out-of-State Officers

2015 Wisconsin Act 67 allows members of the armed forces who are stationed in Wisconsin to be eligible for a license to carry a concealed weapon.  2015 Assembly Bill 75 was concurred in by the Senate on a voice vote on November 6. It was passed by the Assembly in June on a vote of 91-8. 2015 Wisconsin Act 68 allows the Department of Justice to certify qualified residents who were employed in another state as a law enforcement officer to carry a concealed weapon. The Senate concurred in 2015 Assembly Bill 77 on November 6. It passed the Assembly in June on a vote of 89-10.

Local Regulation of Occupational Licenses

2015 Wisconsin Act 65 limits the authority of a political subdivision (city, village, town, or county) to create new occupational licenses or continue to regulate certain professions. Regulations may not be more stringent than those in place by the Department of Safety and Professional Services and must be discontinued if the department imposes new regulations on a profession. 2015 Senate Bill 81 was passed by the Senate in June and by the Assembly in October.

Unemployment Insurance Changes

2015 Wisconsin Act 86 makes changes to unemployment insurance benefits, including those related to employees participating in a work-share plan. 2015 Assembly Bill 416 was passed by the Assembly on November 3 and the by the Senate on November 6.


2015 Wisconsin Act 95 exempts columbaria established and used by a religious association from the requirements applicable to mausoleums and cemeteries. 2015 Senate Bill 229 was passed by the Senate in September and by the Assembly on November 3.

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

Campaign Finance and the GAB

GAB Reorganization

On November 6, the Senate met to consider amendments to 2015 Assembly Bill 388, which replaces the Government Accountability Board (GAB) with an ethics commission and an elections commission. Senate Amendment 2 replaces the proposed members who would have been county or municipal clerks with two members who formerly served as judges. The more extensive Senate Amendment 1 makes changes related to how the chairperson and the administrator of the commissions are chosen. It also provides that the members appointed by legislative leadership and the governor can serve in a nonvoting capacity beginning on February 2016. The amendment also allows members of the relevant Senate and Assembly standing committees to call employees of the current GAB before them to ascertain the progress of the transition. The Senate adopted SA-1 on a vote of 18-14. Senate Amendment 2 was adopted on a voice vote. Four other amendments were laid on the table during debate. The final vote on passage of AB-388 was 18-14. The Assembly first passed 2015 Assembly Bill 388 on October 21 by a vote of 58-39. It will meet on November 16 to concur in the Senate amendments.

Campaign Finance

The Senate also debated changes to 2015 Assembly Bill 387 on November 6, which rewrites the current laws on campaign finance. Senate Amendment 1 makes several changes. It lowers the threshold for triggering the registration of a Political Action Committee (PAC) or Independent Expenditure Committee (IEC) from $5,000 to $2,500. It also changes the ongoing reporting by such committees from quarterly to twice-yearly. In addition, SA-1 deletes a requirement that contribution limits be modified to adjust for changes to the Consumer Price Index. Segregated funds may not be used by a political party or legislative campaign committee for express advocacy or contributions to a candidate committee. It also modifies the coordination restrictions in the bill, applying them only to PACs, IECs, and other entities required to report express advocacy. It also makes changes to what constitutes coordination under the bill. SA-1 was adopted on a voice vote. Thirteen other amendments were introduced but tabled during debate. The final vote on passage of AB-387 was 17-15. On October 21, the Assembly passed AB-387 by a vote of 61-0. It will meet on November 16 to concur in the Senate amendments.

Committee Activity

OWI Laws

On November 12, the Assembly Committee on Judiciary held a public hearing on 2015 Assembly Bill 432, which provides for permanently revoking the driver's license of a person with five or more OWI convictions. A video archive of the hearing is available at WisconsinEye. The Legislative Council archives submitted testimony.

Upcoming Activity

Several public hearings and executive sessions are scheduled for this week. The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations will meet on November 17 in executive session to discuss 2015 Assembly Bill 76, which regulates unarmed combat sports, such as mixed martial arts, kickboxing, wrestling, and karate. A public hearing was held on November 4. The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage will hold an executive session on Tuesday to discuss 2015 Assembly Bill 433, which prohibits a person from interfering with lawful hunting activities. A public hearing was held on October 28. The Assembly Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on Thursday for 2015 Assembly Bill 469, which requires school boards to designate pupil restrooms and changing rooms for the exclusive use of only one sex. Check the committee schedule for updated information throughout the week.

Recently Introduced Proposals

2015 Assembly Bill 496 relates to school bullying by electronic means.

2015 Assembly Bill 502 requires the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to regulate liquid nicotine packaging, usually used in e-cigarettes.

2015 Senate Bill 380 adds circuit court branches to several counties in 2016 and 2017.

2015 Senate Bill 383 provides immunity to certain health care workers from civil and criminal liability related to performing a body cavity search.

2015 Senate Bill 385 expands the Family and Medical Leave Act related to caring for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings; lowers the numbers of employees above which an employer must permit family leave; and establishes a medical leave insurance plan.

2015 Senate Bill 386 affects the access of birth parents to information related to a child who has been adopted. It also affects access to genetic and medical information related to a birth parent.

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

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Last revised: November 16, 2015