A state Senate committee has advanced a pair of bills that will make controversial changes to the state elections agency and campaign finance laws, although the future of the proposals remains unclear.
Both bills, which cleared the committee on party-line votes, are identical to those approved in the state Assembly earlier this week. One would replace the Government Accountability Board with two partisan commissions to oversee elections and ethics issues. The other would make numerous changes to campaign finance laws, include raising contribution limits and clarifying in state law that candidates and third party issue advocacy groups can coordinate their efforts.
While both bills had near unanimous Republican support in the Assembly, Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin says their prospects in the Senate remain unclear because of concerns raised by at least a few Republicans in the chamber. He said there are indications that at least the changes to the GAB may lack the support needed to pass as currently proposed.
With Republicans holding a 19-14 majority in the chamber, the loss of three votes would be enough to derail either proposal.
While no specific amendments to either bill have been offered yet by Republicans, Heck expects a lot of discussions will be going on behind closed doors in the final weeks of the fall session to address those issues. “I expect their will be some arm-twisting,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Republicans do still hope to have both bills on the floor for a vote before the fall session ends on November 5th.