Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
The Wisconsin legislature is currently in session. With 769 Assembly Bills and 603 Senate Bills so far listed on the legislature's web site, it is hard to keep up. Many of the bills regulate some obscure area of commerce, such as shooting ranges, tattoo parlors, or mobile dentists. Some make good sense, such as increased penalties for drunk driving. Still other bills are evil, crazy, or downright silly. This blog lists just a few bills that we should all be aware of.
Most of the bills we discuss here were acted on in the Assembly rather than the Senate. Scott Fitzgerald, the Senate Majority Leader, seems to be a bit more cautious than Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. As part of his "ix-nay on the azy-cray" approach, Fitzgerald has stated that he won't bring-up several controversial bills, such as changes to the Common Core standards or bizarre new anti-abortion bills, that have already passed the Assembly. His approach is similar to that of the US Republican House-that it is best to do nothing until after November. That voters shouldn't be reminded how nutty their party really is this close to the elections.
A favorite dream of the Tea Party is a national Convention to re-write the US Constitution, including a balanced budget amendment. Assembly Joint Resolution 81 requests such a Convention. Both of Germantown's elected representatives, Rep. Dan Knodl and Sen. Alberta Darling sponsored this piece of work.
The Republican legislature appears to be very serious about throwing this bone to the crazies. They also submitted AB 635, which outlines exactly how the Wisconsin delegates to their little convention would be appointed and provides for removal of any delegate who proposes an "unauthorized" Constitutional amendment. Rep. Knodl also sponsored this bill.
In another nod to the their wack-a-doodle base, several Republican-sponsored Assembly Bills addressed the Tea Party's fixation on Common Core State Standards. AB 617 requires the DPI to come-up with a new set of academic standards (meaning anything but the dreaded Common Core). And the bizarre AB 616 prohibits schools from hooking-up students to biofeedback devices in order to monitor their minds. Never mind that such a thing does not actually happen. This kooky fantasy of a bill was sponsored by Rep. Knodl.
At the center of an odd push to return workplace laws to the 1890's, Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-Neolithic) has been on a tear. He sponsored AB 611, which allows an employer to give workers comp-time instead of overtime pay. He sponsored AB 750, which will repeal local living wage laws for government contractors. And his SB 508 would repeal a state law requiring at least one day off each week. An employee could "volunteer" to work without days off.
Arguably one of the stinkiest recent bills is the infamous child support bill, AB 540. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Joel ("cranes are the rib-eyes of the sky") Kleefisch who was aided in drafting by multi-millionaire Kleefisch donor, Michael Eisenga. The provisions would have substantially lowered Eisenga's own child support payments. After much public outcry, this bill was discreetly withdrawn.
I don't want to make it sound as though Republicans are the only ones sponsoring legislation. Democrats have been very active, sponsoring many bills. However, under the current regime, few Democratic proposals even get a hearing, let alone a floor vote.
For example, there has been an active national movement to repeal the Citizen's United decision. In Wisconsin, there have been C-U referenda on many local ballots. AJR 50 is a bill to put a statewide advisory referendum on November's ballot. However, you won't get to vote on C-U. In a February 11 procedural vote, the Assembly decided 39-60 to not allow the referendum to be considered. Rep. Knodl was one of those voting against letting you having a say on this important matter.
Among other important bills sponsored by Assembly and Senate Democrats are:
A non-partisan board to do the next (2020) legislative redistricting (AB 185/SB 163).
Establishment of a council to recommend a state minimum wage (AB 720).
A requirement that any state return of federal funds be approved by the legislature. This would prohibit a governor from unilaterally rejecting federal money (AB 588/SB 323).
Unsurprisingly, none of these Democratic bills have much hope of becoming law.
However, a bill that will no doubt become law allows games-of-chance rubber ducky races. (I am not making this up.) We can be proud that this duck "bill" (AB 422) has Rep. Knodl as one of its sponsors.
Examining the output of the current legislature, it is clear that the public must be ever-vigilant about what is being considered by our elected officials. Many of the bills under consideration could affect our state in adverse or beneficial ways. In order to have a chance to voice concern over pending bills, we need to keep a close eye on these people.
As Will Rogers once said, "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer." That also seems true of the Wisconsin Legislature.