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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. Links to more detailed information are highlighted in the text.

The Week of August 1, 2011

The Legislature reconvened in Extraordinary Session on July 19 to consider redistricting bills among other items. The Senate is scheduled to meet again on August 1. Following the Extraordinary Session, the next scheduled floorperiod begins on September 13, 2011, though the January special session is ongoing and special session bills may be taken up in the interim.

Redrawing of State Legislative and Congressional Districts

Three senate bills relating to redrawing state legislative and congressional lines passed the Senate and Assembly last week. 2011 Senate Bill 148 redraws the state senate and assembly district lines, Senate Bill 149 redraws boundaries of congressional districts, and Senate Bill 150 relates to dividing municipalities into wards and appointing panels to hear challenges to state and congressional redistricting. Governor Walker signed SB-150 on July 25, and it became 2011 Wisconsin Act 39. The other two bills are awaiting action by the governor.

Maps in several formats related to these proposals can be found at the Legislative Redistricting Web page. A public hearing on the bills was held jointly by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce, and Government Operations and the Assembly Committee on Homeland Security and State Affairs on Wednesday, July 13. Video of that hearing can be found in the archives section of WisconsinEye.

For more information on the census data used to create the new districts, see our entry below.

Extending Unemployment Benefits

On July 19, the Senate passed an amended version of 2011 Senate Bill 147, 30-3. The bill would extend federally funded unemployment benefits, retroactive to unemployment beginning on December 17, 2010. Senate Amendment 2 was adopted, which would remove the one-week waiting period for those initially obtaining benefits, a measure that was included in the executive budget bill. On July 20, the Assembly took up the amended Senate bill and adopted Assembly Amendment 1, reinstating the one-week waiting period. This version of the bill passed the Assembly, 81-16, putting it at odds with the Senate’s version. The Senate adjourned the Extraordinary Session until Tuesday, July 26, and then to Monday, August 1, to give Republican leaders time to work out a plan to resolve differences between the two versions.

Recall Elections

In the Senate District 30 recall election, Senator Dave Hansen (SD-30) retained his seat in the Senate after defeating Republican challenger David Vanderleest on July 19.

August 9 Recall Elections

Six incumbent Republican Senators will face recall elections on August 9:

August 16 Recall Elections

Two incumbent Democratic Senators will face recall elections on August 16:

More information about recalls can be found in the LRB's Wisconsin Brief 11-5, "Recall of Elected Officials". Official information related to recalls and special elections can be found at the Government Accountability Board's Web site. Background information on these events can be found in the Spotlight archive.

Special Election

In the July 12 Democratic primary election for the vacant 48th Assembly District seat, Chris Taylor defeated several other candidates and, with no Republican opponent, is expected to be elected in the special general election of August 9.

Recently Signed Into Law

Concealed Weapons. 2011 Wisconsin Act 35 allows Wisconsin residents to carry concealed weapons when licensed. The law takes effect November 1. The Wisconsin Department of Justice will be responsible for creating the permit procedure. More information on this law can be found in the Legislative Council's Information Memorandum "Carrying and Possessing Firearms in Wisconsin".

Appointment of Veterans Affairs Secretary. 2011 Wisconsin Act 36 changes the procedure for selecting the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to gubernatorial appointment, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Until now, the secretary had been appointed by the department's board. The governor will be required to consult with members of the board before making the appointment. The act also increases the number of board members from 7 to 9.

Development Opportunity Zone. 2011 Wisconsin Act 37 creates a development opportunity zone in Beloit.

Earned Release. 2011 Wisconsin Act 38 repeals sentencing modification laws passed in the 2009-2010 legislative session, including the repeal of earned release programs that use “positive adjustment time,” “risk reduction sentences,” earned release within 12 months of the inmate’s eligible release date, and early release after serving two years of extended supervision.

Introduced Legislation of Interest

The Legislature's new beta site for proposals has RSS feeds for both recently introduced legislation and recent session activity.

School Choice. 2011 Assembly Bill 94, making changes to the Milwaukee Schools Parental Choice private schools voucher program, passed the Assembly on May 10. A public hearing was held by the Senate Committee on Education on May 25.

Deer Hunting. 2011 Senate Bill 75, which prohibits the Department of Natural Resources from establishing certain restrictions, such as the “Earn a Buck” rule, on hunting antlered deer and regulating the establishment of fall open seasons for hunting deer with firearms, passed the Senate on May 17, and was received by the Assembly and referred to its Committee on Natural Resources on the same day.

Presidential Primary. 2011 Assembly Bill 162, which would move the date of Wisconsin’s primary elections from the third Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in April during years in which the president and vice-president are elected, was introduced on May 27. After a public hearing on June 2, the Assembly committee on Election and Campaign Finance Reform offered Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to the bill.

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. Be sure to select "Jan 2011 Special Session" as the session to be able to view Special Session bills.

Budget Signed

2011 Assembly Bill 40, the biennial budget bill, passed the Assembly 60-38 on June 14. The Senate passed AB-40, 19-14 on June 16. Governor Walker signed the budget into law as 2011 Wisconsin Act 32 on June 26 in Ashwaubenon.  The governor made various vetoes to the bill, which are discussed in his veto message. The Secretary of State published the act on June 30.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued several documents analyzing the signed budget, as well as a Summary of Partial Vetoes of 2011 Wisconsin Act 32.

Committee Activity

Legislative committee activity is available on the Schedule of Committee Activities.

Census Data

The Census Bureau has released detailed census data from the 2010 census. Wisconsin’s population on April 1, 2010 was 5,686,986. The ideal population of a senate district in a senate of 33 members will be 172,333. The ideal population of an assembly district in an assembly of 99 members will be 57,444. The largest senate district in terms of the 2010 population is the 27th senate district, with a population of 197,815, an increase of 35,452 since 2000. The smallest is the 6th senate district, with a population of 152,758, a decrease of 9,931 since 2000. The largest assembly district is the 79th assembly district, with a population of 76,116, an increase of 21,554 since 2000. The smallest assembly district is the 18th assembly district, with a population of 48,387, a decrease of 5,749 since 2000.

The Legislative Reference Bureau published an Informational Bulletin on Guidelines for Adjusting Municipal Wards Following the 2010 Census. The bulletin provides information on the ward subdistricting process, the statutory requirements and legal deadlines that must be met, and the relationship among state, county, and local governments in establishing and using municipal wards to form election districts.

From the LRB Library

The Wisconsin Workers' Compensation Act passed in 1911. The following titles from the library’s collection highlight its history.

For information on the nationwide celebration, visit the U.S. Workers' Compensation Centennial Web site.

Recent Publications

For more information about Legislative Service Agency publications, see the left panel of the Spotlight index page.

Spotlight Home

Prior Spotlight issues

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Last revised: November 19, 2012