Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

January 19, 2024

Session Day Success

The Senate and Assembly were in Session on Tuesday, January 16, 2024 with the Assembly also holding a session day on Thursday, January 18, 2024.  We had major session day success throughout this week.
On Tuesday, five of my bills were passed by the Senate.  Two of them are headed to the Governor for signature:
EMS Board Expansion – I authored this bill with Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City). It adds two rural members to the state’s EMS Board to give rural, volunteer EMS departments a voice on a board that makes policy that directly affects our local EMS providers.  The bill is now before the Assembly.
Electric Vehicle Charging – In a great show of bi-partisan agreement, nearly all of my colleagues in the State Senate voted for my bill to enable the private sector to participate in the future of electric vehicle charging. Whether you like the idea of electric vehicles, or not, I think it is important to allow the private sector to address consumer demands and allow the market to determine the future of the industry. I appreciate the collaboration behind this bill.
Senate Bill (SB) 791 primarily allows private sector businesses to construct and sell electricity by the kilowatt hour. Current law says that anyone who sells electricity in Wisconsin must be regulated as a utility. This change will also enable Wisconsin to capture nearly $78 million in Federal funding that will be distributed to private-sector businesses to help construct electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The bill also creates an excise tax of $.03 per kilowatt hour to contribute to the state’s Transportation Fund, which pays for road maintenance and construction in Wisconsin. This creates parity for electric vehicle charging with the gas tax for people who charge outside of their homes. These bills are now before the Assembly.
Medflight Staffing – this legislation aligns rules for medflight helicopters with those that already exist for medflight airplanes. It allows a Respiratory Therapist to be counted as a required healthcare provider on a flight for a pediatric patient. This is already law for airplanes, but it is not for helicopters. This very simple change will save lives.  The bill is on its way to the Governor.
IMD Waiver – finally, this legislation instructs the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to seek approval from the federal government for an Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) waiver for inpatient mental health services. The vision for this change is that this waiver will expand the number of beds for in-patient mental health patients in Wisconsin. This bill is also on its way to the Governor for signature.
In addition, the Assembly passed the Wisconsin Interoperable System for Communications (WISCOM) Grant program bill I authored with Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc). WISCOM is a radio system that permits emergency responders from public safety agencies to communicate across jurisdictions. State and local agencies, such as Juneau County, may choose to use WISCOM as their primary radio system. The 2023-2025 State Budget provided $2 million a year to fund a grant program to help municipalities pay for new radios. Our bill created the structure for this grant program. This bill is now headed to the Governor for signature.
I am very proud of my collaborative work on behalf of the people of the 17th Senate District. We are making strong progress on important legislation that will make a difference for the people and communities I serve. I am optimistic that we will continue to move our bills forward as the legislative session continues.

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.