Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

March 1, 2024


An Insider’s View of Legislation Moving Through WI

As the legislative session comes to a close, a lot of legislation is moving through the legislative process and heading to the Governor’s desk. I usually focus this column on my bills that are moving, but there are a lot of other impactful ideas, led by other legislators, that will make a big difference in the future.  Over the next several weeks, I will highlight some of these bills to give you a well-rounded, insider’s understanding of our work on your behalf.
SB 145 – Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Licensing - This legislation creates a separate license for Registered Nurses (RN) who meet the criteria to practice as an APRN. Wisconsin faces a critical shortage of healthcare workers, especially in rural areas. Currently, Wisconsin has placed artificial, and often unnecessary, barriers in the way of APRNs. This legislation would allow APRNs to practice independently, while still ensuring these individuals are highly trained and qualified for the role. Recognizing APRN’s will help ease the provider shortage we feel all across our state and make Wisconsin a more attractive place for these professionals to practice. 
I was proud to cosponsor this bill. It passed the Senate 23-9 and the Assembly on a voice vote; both with bipartisan support.  Despite the workforce need and bi-partisan support, the Governor has indicated that he will probably veto this bill. If you support this idea, I encourage you to call the Governor’s office and share your input right away!
SB 222 – Pre-Disaster Flood Resilience Grant Program - This legislation directs the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) to create a grant program for local units of government to plan and perform interventions to make the landscape more flood resilient. Several of our communities have managed serious floods over the last several years and this grant program may be useful to prepare, rather than just respond.
The goal of this legislation is to fund pre-disaster flood resilience projects rather than continuing to fund costly repairs for flood damage in areas where flooding is common. Grants may be used to understand flood flows and erosion hazards and to fund projects that mitigate these hazards by restoring healthy wetlands, streams, and floodplains. We set aside $2 million in the most recent state budget to fund this grant program. It passed unanimously in the Senate and on a voice vote in the Assembly.  I am hopeful that the Governor will sign this bill.
SB 431 – Overweight Permits for Transporting Whey – This bill updates Wisconsin’s dairy hauling regulations by adding liquid milk byproducts, including whey, as part of the definition of dairy products that can be transported at higher weight limits. Currently, milk haulers are allowed to transport fluid milk at a heavier weight limit, but they are not able to do the same with whey. Whey is a byproduct of the cheese making process, and it is further processed into value-added dairy ingredients, like protein powder. In short, this legislation will allow the truck entering the processing plant with fluid milk to leave the processing plant with whey at the same weight levels. This will significantly reduce the number of trucks on the road and save on fuel costs for producers. With less trucks on the road, companies can more efficiently utilize the number of drivers available to transport more products.
I cosponsored this bill to provide relief for ag producers who requested this common-sense change. It passed both houses of the legislature on a bi-partisan voice vote. I am optimistic that the Governor will sign this bill.
SB 546 - Admission of spouses to Veterans Homes – This bill allows a veteran’s spouse to be admitted to a state-run Veterans Home even if the veterans has not yet been admitted.  Under current law, spouses of veterans cannot be admitted to state-run veterans homes before the veteran. Senator Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan), who authored this bill, visited the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King and learned that some veterans are entering the home for care, even though they do not need it, to ensure their spouse can be admitted!
This simple clarification is the right thing to do and it makes sense. A veteran’s spouse is entitled to care at a Veterans Home, but the veteran should not have to unnecessarily enter the home in order to seek care for their spouse. The bill passed both houses of the legislature on bi-partisan voice votes and is headed to the Governor’s desk.
Again, these are just a few of the bills that were authored by other legislators that have made their way through the full legislative process. I will continue to provide summaries of other legislation that I think is relevant and interesting over the next several weeks. I hope that this insider’s view is interesting and useful.

As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance. Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.