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News & Press: Legislative

Senate and Assembly Back in Session

Thursday, October 31, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Erik Kanter, Hoven Consulting
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Earlier this month, both the State Senate and State Assembly were on the floor voting on a wide range of legislation. The activity marked the first floor days after the summer break. In total, the two houses took up over eighty bills and resolutions.


Both houses worked diligently throughout August and September in the committee process to prepare much of the legislation voted on this week.


The State Senate was in session on Tuesday, October 8. Debate was generally uneventful with much of the legislation passing on bipartisan voice votes or unanimously. Among the highlights was a bill from Republican Senator Patrick Testin regarding industrial farming of hemp. Specifically, the bill, Senate Bill 188, aims to take the state’s current hemp cultivation pilot program to a permanent program. The bill’s authors cited the 2019 numbers that show over 1,400 growers and 700 hemp processors applied for permits from the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection. The bill passed 30-2 with Republicans Steve Nass and Duey Stroebel voting in opposition.


The Senate also took up a piece of legislation known as the Lemonade Stand Bill, which seeks to legalize minors being able to sell certain non-hazardous foods. The legislation was introduced following some stories in Wisconsin and other states about children being cited by local law enforcement for operating food stands without permits. The bill, Senate Bill 170, passed on a unanimous voice vote.


The State Assembly convened on Thursday, October 10. Like much of the Senate calendar, many bills passed on simple bipartisan voice votes. However, the calendar included a somewhat controversial resolution that sought to change Assembly rules. The controversy stemmed from events last year in which Representative Jimmy Anderson (D – Fitchburg) sought changes to Assembly rules which would allow him to call into committee meetings. Anderson, a paraplegic, sought the rule change in order to participate in committee meetings while also tending issues related to his disability.


Assembly Republican port forth the bill, Assembly Resolution 12, to change the rules to allow an accommodation for Anderson. However, the resolution also included other substantive rule changes which Assembly Democrats called a “power grab.” For instance, the resolution included a provision which would allow the Assembly unlimited veto override attempts.


In comments to the media, Anderson said, “We’re on the cusp of providing these accommodations and what does [Speaker Robin Vos] do? A political stunt that’s going to force me to vote against my own accommodations, I think that’s ridiculous.”


Following hours of debate on the resolution and an impassioned speech by Anderson, Assembly Republican leadership introduced an amendment to remove most the language not regarding accommodations for Anderson. Anderson said in another floor speech he would extend an “olive branch” and vote in favor of the amendment. The amendment was adopted and the resolution passed.


The Senate and Assembly will meet again in November.  


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