The Wisconsin state Senate’s final floor session of the year came to a sudden end Tuesday night, following a procedural fight over a bill that would expand access to a drug used to treat seizures.
The dispute focused on legislation that would legalize the possession of CBD oil, a marijuana extract, which proponents argue can help provide relief to children suffering from seizures. Critics say there are safety concerns about broadly opening up access to the drug though, while also noting that federal law still prohibits transporting it across state lines.
Despite overwhelming support in the chamber, three Republicans opposed the bill, and Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) used a procedural move to prevent a vote. The Juneau Republican scheduled a committee hearing on the bill for Thursday, which kept it from being brought to the floor during Tuesday’s debate. Democrats attempted to work within the rules to still call for a vote – but Fitzgerald adjourned the session rather than allow one to take place. During remarks on the floor, Fitzgerald said it has been a “difficult issue” for his caucus, and argued forcing a roll call vote would “put some senators in a very difficult position.”
Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), the sponsor of the bill, said he was “disappointed and angry” by the tactics used to keep the bill from a vote. “This is why people hate politics and why politicians have a bad name. It is, literally, tragic,” he said in a statement.
Wanggaard said he plans to continue pursuing the bill next session, and will also work on a federal officials on a solution.
The sudden end to the floor period came after members worked their way through a lengthy calendar, sending dozens of bills to Governor Scott Walker’s desk. Legislation passed by the chamber included several pieces of a college affordability agenda touted by the governor, the creation of an online voter registration system, and multiple bills sparked by an Alzheimer’s and dementia task force in the state Assembly.
Other bills acted on would prevent local governments from passing ordinances that prevent the use of live Christmas trees in churches or the Capitol, or that ban the use of plastic shopping bags. Several pieces of legislation targeting prescription opiate abuse also cleared the chamber.
Senators also approved a bill along party lines that makes changes to permitting rules for high capacity wells. However, the chamber took up a different version that one passed by the Assembly earlier this year, which makes it unlikely it will become law. The Assembly has already adjourned for the year and Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has said he has no intention of coming back to the floor – a position a spokeswoman said Tuesday remains unchanged.