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What’s dead, what’s likely to become law in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos speaks to reporters in the Assembly chamber ahead of their final day in session on Thursday in Madison,. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos speaks to reporters in the Assembly chamber ahead of their final day in session on Thursday in Madison. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Legislature is hurtling toward the end of its two-year session with various prominent bills still in limbo, including a plan to reduce income taxes by $250 million, a plan to allow bars to stay open until nearly dawn during the Democratic National Convention and a bill to ban anyone under age 21 from vaping.

The Assembly met for its final planned day of the session this past week, and the Senate was to return for one last day in late March. Here’s a look at what’s dead, what’s barely alive and what has a shot at becoming law:


— MORE MONEY FOR SCHOOLS: Republicans rejected Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ call to spend $250 million from a budget surplus on K-12 schools, including $130 million to reduce property taxes. Republicans said school spending would be taken up next year when the next state budget is written.

— FACTORY FARM-SITING CHANGES: Republicans wanted to change the process for approving and regulating requests to site and expand large factory farms. They wanted to set up a new panel, consisting of agriculture groups, one that would have to give its stamp of approval before the state would proceed. But the bill, made public in the final days of the session, couldn’t overcome questions about how much say local communities should have. It never got a vote in the Legislature.

— SEXUAL ASSAULT TESTING: A bipartisan plan to avoid backlogs of untested sexual assault kits seemed poised for quick approval. Law enforcement, victim advocates, the former and current attorney general and various lawmakers all agreed on a plan that the Senate easily passed last year. But Republicans in the Assembly had other thoughts. They changed the bill to include new provisions that were opposed by Democrats, and some Republicans, in the Senate. Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said there’s not support for the Assembly bill, meaning it’s dead.

— WHAT ELSE: Various other measures discussed during the year didn’t cross the finish line in one house or the other. They include bills to legalize marijuana; increase penalties for carjacking and eluding police; allow lottery winners to remain anonymous; criminalize the harassment of high school referees; pay college athletes; make English the official language; and legalize the taking of selfies with a marked ballot, even though there’s no evidence of anyone being prosecuted for doing that now.


— 4 A.M. BAR CLOSING: Bars in 14 counties in and around Milwaukee could stay open until 4 a.m. during the four nights of the Democratic National Convention in July under a proposal that passed the Assembly with bipartisan support. It may take Democratic votes to pass the Senate, where Fitzgerald said support among some Republicans has waned.

— FARM AID: Tax cuts for farmers and other self-employed people totaling $36 million a year are pending in the Senate, along with other measures designed to help the state’s struggling dairy industry. Fitzgerald said something helping farmers will pass, but he hasn’t said what.

— WATER QUALITY: The Assembly passed 13 bills directing $10 million toward fighting water pollution. Fitzgerald said some, but not all, will pass the Senate.

— DRUG COSTS: A proposal designed to reduce prescription-drug costs by increasing the regulation of pharmacy benefit managers passed the Assembly unanimously and is awaiting a Senate vote.

— CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: A resolution calling for a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution to impose term limits on members of Congress and limit the federal government’s power passed the Assembly and is pending in the Senate.

— HOMELESSNESS AID: The Senate passed one of eight bills designed to fight homelessness in the state, but conservative Republicans have shown no interest in taking up the other seven, which easily cleared the Assembly.

— WHAT ELSE? Various bills passed by the Assembly have an uncertain future in the Senate, including requiring the teaching of the Holocaust and cursive writing; banning smoking and vaping for anyone under age 21; bolstering efforts to fight pollution from chemicals known as PFAS; and prohibiting the labeling of food as meat, milk or dairy if it doesn’t contain those products.


— TAX CUT: Every Republican, and two Assembly Democrats, voted for a plan to reduce income taxes by $250 million. Evers has signaled that a veto is likely because he wanted lawmakers to spend that much on K-12 schools instead.

— TOUGH ON CRIME: Evers has been sent tough-on-crime bills that, if passed, would probably put more people in prison longer and require the building of two new prisons. Vetoes are likely given that Evers campaigned on criminal-justice reform and reducing the state’s prison population.

— BODY CAMS: A proposal prescribing how long police-camera footage needs to be retained, and the public’s right to access the material, cleared the Legislature and is awaiting action from Evers.

— BESTIALITY: A new felony would be created for bestiality under a bipartisan bill that Evers is likely to sign.

— DRUNKEN DRIVING: The minimum mandatory sentence for fifth and sixth drunken-driving offenses would increase from six months to 18 months under a bipartisan bill sent to Evers. Wisconsin remains the only state where a first offense for drunken driving is treated as a traffic offense and not a crime.

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