March 23, 2018

Much like during the 2017-19 state budget stand-off, Republicans are once again fighting among themselves instead of addressing the important issues facing our state. Both the Senate and Assembly adjourned their floor sessions this week, passing different versions of a variety of bills, including school safety. Without a consensus between the GOP leaders, these problems will remain unaddressed.

Wisconsin families do have several reasons to celebrate this week, however. In a major ruling for voter rights, a Republican-appointed judge declared Gov. Walker must call special elections for vacant legislative seats. Gov. Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel had fought to block these elections and deny residents equal representation in the Legislature after Republicans were dealt a string of election defeats in races around the country. The court’s ruling reaffirms the right to representation and prevents partisan efforts to rig elections moving forward.

Additionally, Democratic efforts to reform Wisconsin’s juvenile justice system received a boost after bipartisan legislation passed both the Senate and Assembly. For years, Democrats have worked on a major overhaul to protect youth offenders and correctional officers in the state’s juvenile correction system. Assembly Bill 953 passed both houses unanimously and is now waiting to be signed into law.

You can read more about these developments below.

What Democrats Are Saying

​ Democratic Proposals

LRB0833 Wisconsin Violent Death Reporting System (Rep. Genrich) would increase funding for the Wisconsin violent death reporting system by $150,000 per fiscal year.

LRB5624 Sales Tax on Planning and Counseling Services (Rep. Spreitzer, Sen. Ringhand) would exclude from taxable landscaping services the planning and counseling services for the restoration, reclamation, or revitalization of prairie, savanna, or wetlands, if such services are provided for a separate and optional fee distinct from other services.

LRB5654 Blue Ribbon Commission for the University of Wisconsin System (Rep. Shankland) would create a 19-member Blue Ribbon Commission would bring a cross-section of voices together for an in-depth and comprehensive study of the UW System.

This Week in the Senate

Senate Session

The Senate held a floor session on Tuesday where they took up over 100 bills. 

Democrats offered amendments to several bills including AB748, which would limit the ability for employees to seek damages for workplace discrimination. Democrats offered an amendment that would strengthen statewide worker protections. SB798, a one-time $100 tax rebate for each qualifying child of an individual, would cost the state over $122 million per year and would leave the overall state fund balance dismally low. Democrats proposed replacing it with a child care tax credit that targets long-term tax relief to working families who need help the most. AB811, which would spend millions of dollars to lure millennials that live in large cities to Wisconsin. Democrats offered amendments to expand opportunities for young adults to live and work in Wisconsin. The Democrats proposal included job training programs to develop valuable job skills for a family sustaining career and the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill, which would allow students to refinance their student loans.

Democrats also introduced proposals that would have addressed gun safety and background checks. Last week, hundreds of thousands of students walked out of school to protest gun violence in solidarity with students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, whose campus suffered a horrific shooting last month. Unfortunately, GOP leadership hid behind parliamentary rules to avoid taking votes directly on the Democratic amendments. Legislative Republicans refused to enact or even discuss commonsense measures that a vast majority of Americans support.

Throughout the floor session, Democrats pushed to address important issues that the GOP continuously rebuffed. Democrats introduced a fix to the Dark Store issue that is plaguing local taxpayers by ensuring large corporations and big box stores aren’t dodging their responsibility and shifting more taxes onto Wisconsin homeowners and Main Street businesses. They also introduced a proposal that would prohibit pharmaceutical companies from price gouging, cracking down on the companies that are unfairly targeting families and seniors with excessive price increases.

Given that it was the last regular session scheduled by Republican leadership, Democrats also proposed amendments that would restore $90 million in statewide highway funding that has been diverted to road projects for Foxconn and provide additional funding for local road projects. It is unfortunate that during this whole legislative session, Republicans have failed to deliver a comprehensive transportation funding solution that addresses our crumbling infrastructure. 


Senate Committees

The Senate held no committee meetings this week. 

This Week in the Assembly

Assembly Session

The assembly was in session this week for an extraordinary session taking up Walker's school safety proposals. 

Assembly Committees

Assembly Committee on Education
The committee held a public hearing on AB 1028, which creates a grant program, administered by the Department of Justice, to award grants to school districts, operators of independent charter schools, governing bodies of private schools, and tribal schools to improve school safety. AB 1029, which creates an office of school safety in the Department of Justice. AB 1030, which requires professionals who must report suspected child abuse and neglect under current law to also report to a law enforcement agency if a reasonable suspicion that a person intends to commit an act of violence involving a dangerous weapon or explosive in or targeting a school. AB 1031, which requires the Department of Public Instruction to develop a model school policy on bullying by pupils. AB 1032, which relates to school safety planning and AB 1033, which creates a specific exception to the requirement that pupil records be kept confidential for safety camera footage that is made available to a law enforcement agency if sharing that footage serves a legitimate safety interest.

Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy
The committee held an informational hearing on artificial intelligence and other disruptive digital technologies, and their impact on Wisconsin businesses, workforce needs, and educational programming.

Next Week in the Legislature

Senate Committees

There are no committee meetings scheduled at this time. 

Assembly Committees

 There are no committee meetings scheduled at this time. 

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 To view updated committee notices, visit the legislative website and click on Committee Schedule: Wisconsin State Legislature.

 The State Capitol Update is provided by the Senate and Assembly Democratic Caucuses. For additional information, please send an email to WisconsinDemocrats@legis.wi.gov or call toll free: 1.800.385.3385.