Congressional bids for two open seats and a new medical marijuana bill are top September headlines in Wisconsin politics.
State Senators Announce Congressional Bids
Earlier this month, Congressman James Sensenbrenner announced he is not seeking reelection the the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020. A few weeks prior, Congressman Sean Duffy announced he would be resigning his seat in Congress in September. Both announcements sparked a flurry of speculation about who may run to fill the positions.
Speculation has since solidified into official announcements. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau) announced he will run to replace Sensenbrenner in 2020, and State Senator Tom Tiffany (R – Minocqua) is running in the special election to succeed Duffy. While not officially announced, State Senator Chris Kapenga (R – Delafield) is considering jumping in the Republican primary with Fitzgerald.
Sensenbrenner, who has twenty terms in the House of Representatives, leaves open the 5th Congressional district seat. The 5th is the most conservative district in the state, which means the real race will be in the Republican primary. Should Fitzgerald, Kapenga, or another Republican challenger win the primary, they would be shoo-ins in the general election. There is currently some speculation that former Governor Scott Walker’s son, Matt Walker, may also jump in the race.
Duffy’s retirement leaves the 7th Congressional district open. Duffy, a Republican, won the seat with at least 60% of the vote in the last three elections. Political spectators expect the seat to remain Republican. Governor Tony Evers announced a special election will take place on January 27 with primaries on December 30.
Bipartisan Group of Legislators Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill
On September 20, Senator Patrick Testin (R – Stevens Point), Senator Jon Erpenbach (D – West Point), and Representative Chris Taylor (D – Madison) introduced a bipartisan medical marijuana bill.
The legislation would legalize medicinal use of cannabis for specified diseases laid out in the bill. The legislation directs the Department of Health Services to develop a medical cannabis registry. In order for an individual to obtain cannabis, they must have a registry identification card and a recommendation from a physician.
Furthermore, the bill requires the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to develop a licensing system for growers, producers, and sellers in order to ensure quality and safety in medical cannabis products.
If passed, Wisconsin would join in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan in legalizing medical cannabis. However, passage appears to be a bit of a long shot. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau) told the media, “I don’t support this plan and I think it’s going to be a tough sell to a majority of my caucus.”
While there have been attempts in recent legislative sessions to legalize medical cannabis, this effort is somewhat different due to Republican Senator Patrick Testin being a coauthor of the bill. This is the first bipartisan attempt in recent legislative sessions.