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 final scheduled floorperiod of the 2009-10 legislative session ended on May 26. The legislature has entered an interim period for the remainder of the biennial session. The schedule for the current legislative session was established by 2009 Senate Joint Resolution 1. Senate and Assembly committees will meet during the interim to consider administrative rules.
Representatives Annette Polly Williams (D-10), Scott Newcomer (R-33), and Pedro Colon (D-8) announced last week that they will not seek reelection to the Assembly. With 30 years of service, Williams is the longest-serving woman in the Assembly, and second in seniority in the Assembly to Representative Marlin Schneider. Representative Colon is retiring after 12 years of service, and by the end of the session, Representative Newcomer will have served in the Assembly for five years.
To date, at least 23 members of the legislature have announced plans to retire or seek other office this fall. They include 9 Democrats, one Independent, and 13 Republicans.
2009 Senate Bill 530, which proposed to regulate the payday loan industry, was approved with a partial veto by Governor Doyle on May 18, becoming 2009 Wisconsin Act 405. The governor's partial veto effectively banned auto title loans in Wisconsin, and is explained in his veto message. SB-530 passed by the Assembly April 22 on a 72-55 vote. The Assembly approved the bill with an amendment from the Senate, which had passed the bill earlier that day. The senate amendment deleted language that banned auto title loans, but the bill still provided for the regulation and restriction of those loans.
On May 19, Governor Doyle vetoed 2009 Senate Bill 434, which would have allowed for sales of raw (unpasteurized) dairy products. The governor noted the concerns of public health community in his veto message. The bill was passed by the Senate on April 15 by a vote of 25-8, and approved by the Assembly by a vote of 60-35 on April 22.
The governor approved 2009 Assembly Bill 333 on May 19, creating 2009 Wisconsin Act 400, which provides journalists with protection for their confidential sources of information. Under the law, only a court would be able to issue a subpoena to compel a journalist to testify about a confidential source under specified conditions. The proposal was first passed by the Assembly in September. The Senate concurred in the passage of AB-333 on April 20.
The governor vetoed 2009 Assembly Bill 371, related to changes in bear hunting and bear hunting licenses, on May 19. In his veto message, the governor noted that the changes, which included allowing a Class B hunter to shoot and kill a bear already wounded by a Class A hunter in the same hunting party, allowing persons under 16 to participate in certain Class B activities, and establishing a bear hunt on Labor Day, were against the wishes of those who participated in the 2010 Conservation Congress spring hearings.
On May 19, Governor Doyle signed the final bill of the legislative session, 2009 Wisconsin Act 406, related to the creation of renewable resource credits by electric providers. It was introduced as 2009 Senate Bill 273. The law allows the new credit to be used or sold similarly to current credits, and the new credit is based on the electric provider’s use in a year of the following resources: solar energy, including solar water heating and direct solar applications such as solar light pipe technology; geothermal energy; biomass or biogas. The provider's displacement of traditional energy sources must be verifiable.
2009 Senate Bill 616, related to conservation or "green" building standards for state buildings, was vetoed on May 19. In his veto message, Governor Doyle said that he supported the underlying goals of the bill, but that some of its language was unworkable and would create problems in the state building program. He also stated that he would direct the Department of Administration to incorporate goals and processes similar to those in SB-616 into the next budget.
On May 18, 2009 Wisconsin Act 363, related to emergency interim provisions for the state legislature, was approved. The law, originally 2009 Senate Bill 227, allows for interim successors for legislators, virtual meetings of the Senate, Assembly, and committees, and the establishment of a temporary seat of government, all in the case of an emergency resulting from an enemy action or disaster.
Bittering Agents in Antifreeze - 2009 Wisconsin Act 381 requires certain antifreeze and engine coolants sold in Wisconsin to contain a bittering agent. The bittering agent is applied to make the product less appealing to children or animals that might consume it. The original proposal was introduced as 2009 Assembly Bill 842.
Text-messaging While Driving - 2009 Wisconsin Act 220 was signed into law on May 5. The law prohibits electronic text messaging while driving. It was introduced as 2009 Assembly Bill 496 and was approved by both houses in April.
Race-based Mascots - 2009 Wisconsin Act 250 was also signed on May 5. Under the law, a school district resident may object to use of a race-based mascot by filing a complaint with the state superintendent. Generally, the law requires the superintendent to make a ruling after gathering information and conducting a hearing on the complaint. The proposal was introduced as 2009 Senate Bill 25.
Mental Health Background Checks for Handgun Purchases - 2009 Wisconsin Act 258 was signed into law on May 7. The law requires a mental health check as part of a Department of Justice background check for handgun purchases. The original legislation was 2009 Senate Bill 44.
DNA Samples from Felons - 2009 Wisconsin Act 261 was also signed into law on May 7. The law strengthens the requirements for submission of DNA samples by certain inmates and individuals who have been placed on probation. It was introduced as 2009 Senate Bill 631.
"Green to Gold" Bill - 2009 Wisconsin Act 332 was signed on May 13. Popularly known as the "Green to Gold" bill, it authorizes loans through the Department of Commerce that would be granted to manufacturing businesses for implementing energy efficient measures, retooling to manufacture products that support a green economy, expanding or establishing clean energy processes, and hiring or retraining workers to take part in the above activities. It was introduced as 2009 Senate Bill 651.
In the 2009 legislative session, 406 bills have been signed into law. Of those, 6 bills have been vetoed in their entirety, and 5 bills have received a partial veto. All legislation passed this session had to be acted on by Thursday, May 20.
There were 978 assembly bills and 708 senate bills introduced during the 2009 session. Additionally, one senate bill was introduced during the June 2009 Special Session, and 2 assembly bills were introduced during the December 2009 Special Session. All introduced legislation can be found on the Legislature's Searchable Infobases site, or by using the Request text and history of legislative proposals function on the home page.
On May 27, the Legislative Council released a list of proposed study committees with the results of the balloting of the council. The committees are to report to the 2011 legislature.
For more information about Legislative Service Agency publications, see the left panel of the Spotlight index page.
Last revised: November 13, 2012