Wisconsin Legislative Spotlight

The Week of November 23, 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 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 met 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

As of Thursday, November 19, the governor has signed 113 bills into law from the current session.

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 16, the Assembly met to concur in Senate 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 Assembly concurred in SA-1 on a vote of 58-37. Senate Amendment 2 was concurred in on a vote of 56-37. Five Assembly amendments were tabled during debate. The bill will now go to the governor for enactment.

Campaign Finance

The Assembly also concurred in a Senate amendment to 2015 Assembly Bill 387 on November 16, 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 concurred in by a vote of 59-0. Members who recused themselves from voting on October 21 were not permitted to vote, according to a ruling by the presiding officer. This bill will also go to the governor for enactment.

Committee Activity

Mixed Martial Arts

The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations met in executive session on November 17 to discuss 2015 Assembly Bill 76, which regulates unarmed combat sports, such as mixed martial arts, kickboxing, wrestling, and karate. The committee voted to recommend passage of the bill with one amendment, unanimously. Assembly Amendment 1 clarifies terms used in the bill.

Hunter Harassment

The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage held an executive session on November 17 to discuss 2015 Assembly Bill 433, which prohibits a person from interfering with lawful hunting activities. The committee voted by a unanimous vote to recommend one amendment to the bill to clarify that the "interference" must be intentional. The committee voted to recommend passage of the bill as amended by a vote of 14-1.

Pupil Restrooms

The Assembly Committee on Education held a public hearing on November 19 for 2015 Assembly Bill 469, which requires school boards to designate pupil restrooms and changing rooms for the exclusive use of only one sex. Video of the hearing is available at WisconsinEye. Submitted testimony is archived by the Legislative Council.

Upcoming Activity

As of Friday, November 20, two public hearings have been scheduled by Senate committees for this week. The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety has scheduled a public hearing for November 24 on 2015 Senate Bill 221, related to the inclusion of cannabidiol (CBD oil) in the definition of tetrahydrocannabinols (THC). A hearing was held on its Assembly companion bill, AB-228, in June. The Senate Committee on Elections and Local Government will hold a public hearing on several bills November 23. Check the committee schedule for updated information throughout the week.

Recently Introduced Proposals

2015 Assembly Bill 533 increases penalties for fraud related to unemployment insurance benefits.

2015 Assembly Bill 529 creates an Office of Civil Service attached to the Department of Administration.

2015 Assembly Bill 524 directs the Department of Public Instruction to develop a model policy regarding transgender students and requires school boards to adopt a policy on transgender students.

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

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Last revised: November 20, 2015