Legislative Session Sprints to a Finish

There’s been a whirlwind of action in the State Legislature over the past few weeks. With Assembly leaders insisting on finishing business in February and Senate leaders scheduling just one more floor session in March, legislators are rushing to get their bills through the legislature before the 2017-18 session ends.

Last week, the State Assembly took up nearly 200 bills over the course of three days. The bills addressed issues across the board, including opioid abuse, direct primary care agreements, wetlands, and criminal justice.

Of the more high profile bills was Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to provide a tax credit of $100 per child to Wisconsin families. Assembly Democrats attacked Republicans by calling the proposal a bribe ahead of the general election in November.

“We’re witnessing a last-ditch effort to buy votes. A hundred dollars is too little, too late,” said Democrat Melissa Sargent.

The bill also included a provision for a sales tax holiday for families to purchase school supplies.

Despite protest among Democrats, the bill passed 51-35 with two Democrats voting in favor and two Republicans voting against.

The State Assembly also passed a financial incentive package to encourage papermaker Kimberly-Clark not to leave the state.

The Assembly has no plans to return for another floor session and considered the Thursday session as their last day for the year.

The State Senate held a floor session on Tuesday, February 20. The body took up nearly 80 bills, including nine special session bills on welfare reform.

Senate leaders have said they will be in one more day in March. On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald complicated matters by telling the Associated Press that he was cut out of negotiations between Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Governor Scott Walker. He also told the AP that many bills passed by the Assembly last week may not pass the Senate at all this session.

Fitzgerald has provided little, if any, information on which bills may be on the floor in March.