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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 March 20, 2006

Session Schedule

Senate Joint Resolution 1 establishes the 2005-2006 Session Schedule. The Senate and Assembly are adjourned until April 25.

Rep. Jensen Convicted

On March 9, Representative Scott Jensen (R-98th District), former speaker of the assembly (1997-2002), was convicted of three felonies and a misdemeanor in his trial for using state resources to conduct campaign activities. He will be sentenced in May. He has stated that he will resign his seat in the assembly on March 21. The seat will not be filled until the November general election.

Rep. Gottlieb to Joint Finance

Representative Mark Gottlieb (R-60th District) has been named to fill Jensen’s seat on the Joint Committee on Finance by Speaker Gard.

Bills Signed into Law

Drivers License ID

On March 14, Governor Doyle signed Assembly Bill 69, creating 2005 Wisconsin Act 126, requiring non-U.S. citizens to provide additional documentation to obtain a Wisconsin drivers’ license.

Milwaukee "School Choice"

On March 13, Governor Doyle signed Senate Bill 618, creating 2005 Wisconsin Act 125, to raise the caps in the Milwaukee private school voucher program from about 15,000 to 22,500 students.

Consumer Credit Security Freeze

On March 16, Governor Doyle signed Assembly Bill 912, creating 2005 Wisconsin Act 140, relating to allowing individuals to restrict release of credit reports, also known as a "freeze". With certain exceptions, an individual will be able to prohibit a consumer reporting agency from releasing his or her consumer report for any purpose related to the extension of credit without the individual’s prior authorization.

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

Bills Awaiting Action by the Governor

Medical Malpractice Cap

The Senate voted 25-8 on March 7 to approve 2005 Assembly Bill 1073, relating to recovery of noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. The Assembly voted 74-22 on March 2 to approve the bill, which sets a cap at $750,000 for pain and suffering. A previous cap was ruled unconstitutional by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Wisconsin Disaster Relief Fund

The Senate voted 32-1 on March 9 to concur in Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to 2005 Assembly Bill 1028, relating to creating the Wisconsin Disaster Relief Fund. The bill would allow the adjutant general to distribute money from a newly created fund to local governments who have been denied or do not meet the requirements for FEMA assistance. The local government would be responsible for 30% of the costs. The bill would be retroactive to January 1, 2005, and would help those affected by tornadoes last summer. The Assembly passed the substitute amendment on March 7.

Women-Owned Businesses

The Assembly passed 2005 Senate Bill 515 on March 9, which would require the Department of Commerce to implement a program to certify businesses that are at least 51% owned, controlled, and actively managed by women. The bill would not create preferences in state contracts for such businesses. The Senate passed the bill March 7 by a vote of 31-1.

State Spaceport Authority

On March 9, the Assembly passed 2005 Senate Bill 352, relating to creating the Wisconsin Aerospace Authority (WAA). The WAA would be responsible for establishing a spaceport in Sheboygan and promoting and developing the aerospace industry in Wisconsin. The Senate passed the bill on March 2 by a vote of 26-6.

Nighttime Speed Limit for Snowmobiles

The Assembly voted 91-5 on March 9 to approve 2005 Assembly Bill 840 as amended by the Senate. The bill would set the nighttime speed limit for snowmobiles at 55 mph. The Senate concurred in the bill 31-2.

A list of 2005-2006 enrolled bills can be viewed online.

Death Penalty Referendum

On March 7, the Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 5, providing for an advisory referendum on the question of enacting the death penalty in Wisconsin, by a vote of 20-13. If adopted by the Assembly, the referendum question will be on the September 2006 primary election ballot and asks voters if they would support the death penalty for a person convicted of “first-degree intentional homicide, if the homicide is vicious and the conviction is supported by DNA evidence”. The resolution was introduced by Senator Alan Lasee in February 2005, but has recently gained momentum because of the circumstances in the homicide case allegedly involving high-profile defendant Steven Avery.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Same Sex Marriages

2005 Senate Joint Resolution 53, a proposed constitutional amendment on marriage, was adopted on second consideration and will go to the voters for consideration in November. 2005 Senate Joint Resolution 53 proposes to amend the Wisconsin Constitution to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman be legally recognized in Wisconsin. It would prohibit granting identical or similar legal rights to any unmarried couples, effectively banning civil unions and domestic partnerships. 2005 Senate Joint Resolution 53 passed the Senate on December 6 by a vote of 19-14, with the Assembly concurring on February 28 by a vote of 62-31.

"Taxpayer Protection Act"

2005 Senate Joint Resolution 63 and 2005 Assembly Joint Resolution 77, introduced on February 14 for the first consideration needed to pass a constitutional amendment, limit the amount of revenue from taxes and fees that the state or a special purpose district, school district, technical college district, county, city, village, or town may receive in any year, based on various factors. Generally, revenue from taxes and fees that the state receives in excess of its limit must be placed in an emergency reserve, with any remaining excess returned to the taxpayers. All revenue that other governmental units receive above their limits must be returned to the taxpayers. On March 13, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau prepared a memorandum discussing the possible fiscal impact of this amendment.

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

Also in the News

Dan Schooff

Former Representative Dan Schooff was named Governor Doyle’s campaign manager on March 15.

Contraceptive Lawsuit

Attorney General Lautenschlager has asked that Wisconsin be added as a plaintiff to a lawsuit challenging the refusal of the federal Food and Drug Administration to grant “Plan B” contraceptives over-the-counter status.

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Last revised: October 18, 2012