February 13, 2016

Hunter harassment bill heads to Governor Walker

Wisconsin hunters would have more rights to be left alone, under a bill that’s heading to Governor Scott Walker.

The Assembly gave final legislative approval Thursday on a voice vote to a bill that expands the legal definition of harassing hunters. The measure would make it illegal to confront or take pictures of a hunter more than twice and staying in a hunter’s target sight.

Supporters say it will prevent a repeat of what happened in 2014, when wolf-hunting opponents tailed and filmed hunters in Wisconsin and Montana.

Bill cutting Planned Parenthood funding heads to Walker

Republicans in the state Assembly have advanced a bill requiring providers to bill Medicaid only for the actual acquisition costs and dispensing fees for birth control drugs. The measure, which passed Thursday on a 61-35 vote, is now ready for Governor Scott Walker’s signature.

GOP Representative Andre Jacque (R-DePere) insisted during Thursday’s floor debate that the legislation does not prohibit access to birth control. “But it is something that interfaces very well with the modus operandi of Planned Parenthood nationally, which is to bilk taxpayers out of more and more dollars, where they operate at tremendous profit,” Jacque said.

The change would cost Planned Parenthood an estimated $4.5 half million per year, and Democrats charge it will restrict access — in keeping with Republican goals. This is Madison Representative Chris Taylor

“This bill is a very targeted attempt to limit women’s access to birth control,” said Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison), adding that Jacque has voiced opposition to birth control on numerous occasions. “Policy after policy that we see in this body is aimed at rolling back access to birth control. The result is increasing the unintended pregnancy rate, and increasing the abortion rate.”

Landlords could be the judges for criminal activity in their units, under another measure passed by the Assembly on Thursday. Supporters say landlords could remove tenants who pose dangers to other tenants. But opponents say the building owners would not have to prove such harm, and there’s no indication of how serious the offenses would have to be.

Representative Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton), cited the hypothetical where a domestic abuse victim could end up on the street because of actions by an abuser. “They don’t actually need to be convicted or charged with anything under this bill. A neighbor or a landlord could just say that they were engaged in this, and all of a sudden they have five days to be out of their home, with their children and their belongs.”

The bill, from Representative Robert Brooks (R-Saukville), passed on a 60-31 vote and now is ready for action by the state Senate.

Online voter registration heads to Assembly

Wisconsin voters will be able to register online, under terms of a bill passed by the state Senate Tuesday night. The bill also ends the practice of allowing clerks to deputize people to run group registration drives. The Senate voted 19-to-13 to send the Republican-authored package of election law changes to the Assembly.

Opponents said elimination of the special registration deputies would limit voter access. But Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald pointed out that groups can still hold drives where leaders can teach people to use electronic devices to register online.

The bill also allows federal veterans’ I-Ds for voting, and requires absentee ballots to be returned by the time the polls close on election nights.

Bill prohibiting ‘double dipping’ in elected office set for hearing

A bill that would prohibit holding legislative office and a seat in the legislature simultaneously is scheduled for a legislative hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday. The measure’s sponsor, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), has said that the measure is needed to prevent elected officials from “double-dipping” — drawing two taxpayer-funded salaries at the same time.

Democrats have called the timing of the bill suspicious, noting that it comes as Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, a Democrat, is planning to run for an open seat in the senate next fall. Democratic state Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) is also running for Milwaukee County executive this spring.

Several state lawmakers have run for county executive offices in the past, although most have given up their legislative seat shortly after winning those races. Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, a Republican, briefly held onto his state Senate seat after being elected county executive in 2015. Former state Representative Bob Ziegelbauer, a Democrat who later switched to an Independent, served in both the legislature and as the Manitowoc County executive for nearly six years, between 2006 and 2012.

The bill is on the agenda of the Senate Government Operations and Consumer Protection Committee, which meets beginning at noon.

Assembly approves bill raising payments for wrongful convictions

Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield)

Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield)

The state Assembly has signed off on a bill that would increase the amount of compensation available to those wrongfully convicted of crimes.

Current law caps the payout to those who spend time in prison for a crime they didn’t commit at $25,000, with no more than $5,000 per year they were wrongfully incarcerated. The bipartisan legislation from state Representative Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) would set the limits on payout at $25,000 for each year, with a cap of $1 million.

The Brookfield Republican said the bill will not provide justice to those who were wrongfully sent to prison. However, he argued “it allows them to catch up with their life for the time lost.”

The bill passed the Assembly unanimously Tuesday. It now heads to the state Senate.