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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 April 7, 2008

Legislative Floorperiod

Pursuant to 2007 Senate Joint Resolution 1, the last general business floorperiod of the 2007 biennial session concluded on March 13. SJR-1 provides for a limited business floorperiod May 6 to 8, 2008, and a veto review floorperiod May 27 and 28, 2008. The legislature continues to meet in the December 2007 Special Session and the March 2008 Special Session.

Spring Election Results

On April 1, 2008, elections were held for judicial and local offices and various referenda. In the Supreme Court Justice race, Michael Gableman defeated incumbent Louis Butler by a 51% to 49% margin. Voters also approved the constitutional amendment prohibiting item vetoes that create new sentences (“Frankenstein” vetoes) with 71% voting in favor and 29% against. These results are not official until certified by the Elections Division of the Government Accountability Board.

Senator Roessler Will Not Run for Reelection

Senator Carol Roessler has announced that she will leave the legislature at the end of her term in January 2009. Senator Roessler (then Buettner) was first elected to the Senate in an April 1987 special election, after serving in the Assembly since 1983. Representatives David Travis, Barbara Gronemus, Carol Owens, and Eugene Hahn have already announced that they will not run for reelection in the fall.

Budget Deficit Special Session

On March 5, the governor issued Executive Order #241 calling a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature beginning on March 13 to address a budget shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, estimated by the Department of Administration at about $350 million. On February 15, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memorandum to legislators regarding authority to deal with fiscal emergencies. A review by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau on February 13 of the state’s financial condition projected a $652.3 million general fund deficit for the current biennium. Since then, the state has taken various actions to reduce the negative balance. March 2008 Special Session Assembly Bill 1 passed the Assembly on March 12. The Senate Committee on Finance adopted Senate Amendment 1 on March 20. On March 25, the Senate adopted the amendment, as amended by Senate Amendments 1 and 2, and concurred in the bill as amended, and the Senate version of the budget adjustment bill goes to the Assembly for consideration.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) published a comparative summary of the governor's, Assembly's, and Senate's versions of the bill. Earlier LFB publications on the budget adjustment are also available online.

Campaign Finance Reform Special Session

The governor called a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature for December 11 to take action on campaign finance reform. On January 22, December 2007 Special Session Senate Bill 1 was introduced by the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, by request of Governor Doyle, and referred to the Committee on Campaign Finance Reform, Rural Issues and Information Technology. The committee recommended passage of the bill on February 28, and the bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Finance on March 5.

Selected Recently Enacted Laws

2007 Wisconsin Act 111, introduced as 2007 Senate Bill 116, increases penalties for repeat drunken driving offenders.

2007 Wisconsin Act 116, introduced as 2007 Senate Bill 292, creates prohibitions on human trafficking of individuals and children.

2007 Wisconsin Act 117, introduced as 2007 Senate Bill 72 ratified the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact.

2007 Wisconsin Act 126, introduced as 2007 Senate Bill 86, creates a state government fraud hotline in the Legislative Audit Bureau.

2007 Wisconsin Act 127, introduced as 2007 Senate Bill 260, creates the new specific crime of strangulation and suffocation.

2007 Wisconsin Acts 133 through 158 are correction bills and remedial legislation recommended by various state agencies.

2007 Wisconsin Act 159, introduced as 2007 Assembly Bill 32, strengthens protections against employment discrimination for military personnel.

2007 Wisconsin Act 172, introduced as 2007 Senate Bill 393, changes laws on background checks for personal care workers.

2007 Wisconsin Act 186, introduced as 2007 Senate Bill 464, changes current laws on child adoption and placement.

2007 Wisconsin Act 187, introduced as 2007 Assembly Bill 685, changes procedures for filing parenting plans when legal actions such as divorce or paternity contest the placement of a child.

2007 Wisconsin Act 190, introduced as 2007 Assembly Bill 77, changes the how school levy and lottery and gaming property tax credit funds are distributed to counties.

2007 Wisconsin Act 200, introduced as 2007 Assembly Bill 400, recodifies and revises prior Military Affairs statutes in a new Chapter 321, Wisconsin Statutes.

2007 Wisconsin Act 203, introduced as 2007 Senate Bill 273, creates certain requirements for retail suppliers of liquefied petroleum gas.

Enrolled Bills Awaiting Executive Action

Governor Doyle has signed 204 bills into law and the remaining 22 bills were presented to him on April 3. The governor now has 6 days (excluding Sunday) to sign, veto, or partially veto the bills. If he does not take any action, they will become law without his signature. Among those pending:

2007 Senate Bill 396 allows virtual charter schools to operate after a December 2007 appeals court ruled that virtual charter schools in Wisconsin violate state statutes on open enrollment, charter schools, and teacher licensing.

2007 Assembly Bill 676 allows disclosure of juvenile court records to certain judicial and law enforcement agencies at their request instead of by court order.

2007 Assembly Bill 717 requires cigarettes sold in Wisconsin to meet certain fire safety standards.

Constitutional Amendments

2007 Senate Joint Resolution 5 proposes a constitutional amendment to prohibit item vetoes from effectively creating new sentences (so-called “Frankenstein” vetoes). The proposal was first considered by the 2005 Legislature in 2005 Senate Joint Resolution 33. During this past session, the Senate adopted the measure by a vote of 33-0 on December 15. It passed the Assembly on January 15 by a vote of 94-1. The measure was approved by voters on the April 1, 2008 statewide ballot.

Committee Activity

The Joint Committee on Audit will meet on April 10, 2008, for a public hearing to consider two proposals for audits, and to hear a report on a recent audit relating to 17-year-old offenders in the adult criminal justice system. Live audio of the hearing will be available online the day of the hearing, which begins at 10 a.m.

Please see the Schedule of Committee Activities to view the full monthly calendar and to obtain details regarding times and locations of committee meetings.

Recent Publications

On March 31, the Legislative Audit Bureau published Report 08-5, “State of Wisconsin Single Audit, 2006-07” detailing the administration of federal funding by the state. Other recent reports issued by the Legislative Audit Bureau include Report 08-4 on the Indian Gaming, Racing, and Charitable Gaming programs administered by the Division of Gaming in the Department of Administration and the February 2008 report on DOT’s Bridge Inspection Program.

On February 19, the Legislative Council released 2007 Annual Report on the Legislative Council Rules Clearinghouse.

The Legislative Reference Bureau recently issued Legislative Brief 08-02, "State Electrical Code and Electrician Licensing," Legislative Brief 08-1, "Emergency Contraception for Rape Victims," Wisconsin Brief 08-4, "Constitutional Amendment to be Considered by Wisconsin Voters, April 1, 2008," and Wisconsin Brief 08-3, "Real ID."

Blue Book Study Guides

Two Informational Bulletins were also issued by the LRB as companions to the 2007-2008 Wisconsin Blue Book: Informational Bulletin 07-1, "A Study Guide to the 2007-2008 Wisconsin Blue Book," and Informational Bulletin 07-2, "Inside the 2007-2008 Wisconsin Blue Book."

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Last revised: October 24, 2012