This month saw a torrent of legislative activity in Madison, most of which did nothing to help create jobs or boost the economy for working families. In total, the Assembly considered 326 bills, resolutions, and motions over the course of just four floor sessions. The Senate considered 135 bills, resolutions, and motions in just two floor sessions.
The Capitol has essentially turned into an all-you-can-eat buffet for special interests and lobbyists under Gov. Scott Walker, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Leader Robin Vos. Many of the bills were rushed through with little to no debate, and came with pre-arranged times for discussion.
Below are a few legislative highlights from the past three weeks. Although the vast majority of the bills passed will not help working families move forward, there was some good news from the legislature that you should know about.
Worker’s Compensation: Passage of the Agreed-Upon Bill (AB 724)
At the request of the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council, the Worker’s Compensation Agreed-Upon Bill was introduced into the Senate and Assembly and passed unanimously by both houses. The Agreed-Upon Bill is the product of the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council which advises the Legislature on policy matters concerning the development and administration of the worker’s compensation law and is composed of representatives from both labor and management. This bill, which was supported by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, will help preserve Wisconsin’s well-respected Worker’s Compensation System supporting workers who are injured on the job.
This session was a potentially dangerous time for Wisconsin’s workers. You may remember the Worker’s Comp Destruction bill (AB 501), which would have caused irreparable harm to our worker’s compensation system. Fortunately, this bill was never given a hearing or moved out of committee in either the Assembly or Senate.
Defeat of the Fast Path to Water Privatization Act (AB 554)
Because of your quick action, sending thousands of emails and messages to Wisconsin’s legislators urging them to stop the privatization of our water, the Fast Path to Water Privatization Act (AB 554) was stopped. The labor movement joined environmentalists, local cities, municipal water and sewer operators, and concerned citizens in sending a strong message that we value clean, safe, quality water and will not stand silently while our water is easily sold to the highest bidder.
In a rare move, when the bill was called for a vote the Senate Majority Leader pulled it off the floor. While the Fast Path to Water Privatization Act could be rescheduled for a Senate vote, Senator Fitzgerald has stated that he no longer has the votes for the bill.
Bills of Note:
Among the 461 pieces of legislation considered in February, there are a few other notable bills:
- Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council’s bill (AB 819) passed the Assembly on Thursday, February 18 via a voice vote. It awaits a vote in the Senate.
- A bill that will attach Criminal Penalties to Unemployment Errors/Fraud(AB 533) passed the Assembly on Tuesday, February 16. It awaits a vote in the Senate.
- Workers' Memorial Day Resolution sponsored by Rep. Kahl (AJR-108) passed the Assembly on Tuesday, February 16. It awaits a vote in the Senate.
- A bill that will allow local government employees to ask those chargedwith any crime about their immigration status (AB 450), one of the bills that prompted the “Day Without Latinos” protest, passed the Assembly on Tuesday, February 16. It awaits a vote in the Senate. However, news reports have stated that passage in the Senate is not certain.
- A bill that will allow libraries to use collection agencies to collect overdue fines and notify law enforcement of overdue fines (SB 466) passed the Senate on Tuesday, February 9 and passed the Assembly on Tuesday, February 16. It is now headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.
- On Tuesday, February 16, Assembly and Senate Democrats each attempted to move out of committee the Workers’ Rights Restoration Act (AB 900 & SB 666), a bill to repeal Act 10. Both votes failed on party lines.
- A bill that will prohibit local governments from issuing photo identification cards that could be used for the purposes of voting or receiving state benefits (SB 533). On Tuesday, February 16 both the Senate and Assembly passed this bill. It is now headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.
- A dangerous bill that would repeal the restriction of pedestrians on railroad tracks (AB 876). It passed the Assembly on Thursday, February 18. It awaits a vote in the Senate.
Assembly is Finished; Senate will convene for one more floor session
The conclusion of the Assembly’s floor session on Thursday, February 18 marked the likely end of the Assembly’s legislative session. Speaker Vos issued a statement concluding the Assembly’s legislative session, even though the legislative session technically concludes on January 2, 2017. The Senate is scheduled to return to the floor on Tuesday, March 15 for its last floor session of the legislative session.