It was a busy floor session on Tuesday in the State Senate, with dozens of appointments and bills on the agenda.
Senators started the session by approving all of Governor Tony Evers’ Cabinet picks. Those appointments had been held up for several sessions before making it to the floor.
One pair of bills will change how the state handles sexual assault testing kits. One bill lays out distinct procedures for what happens once a test is performed, something that State Senator Robert Cowles says was oddly not in place.
“We have no statutory procedures currently for sexual assault kit processing. We need to have that. We need to have a clear chain of evidence to prevent the kinds of problems that have occurred in the past.”
The other bill requires police and investigators to keep victims appraised on when their kits are being tested. State Senator Patty Schachtner says that’s vital after years of neglect when it came to DNA testing at the crime lab.
“It empowers victims and survivors, and we need to really support our victims, and this helps them track through the justice process. So I hope everyone supports it.”
Senators also approved a bill that would make the state’s industrial hemp program permanent and afford some protections to farmers who grow it.
The bill formalizes policies from the state ag department on how to handle growers of hemp, and would protect farmers who unknowingly grow hemp that contains too much THC.
Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee voted for the measure.
“This is an important industry that we want to be a part of. But without this bill, the federal government would be in control. Those of you who feel strongly about state’s rights? Today is the day that you should be voting for this if you support states rights, because otherwise you’re giving the federal government control over your farmers.”
The bill also modifies Wisconsin’s hemp laws to match language found in the new U S D A Farm Bill.
The families of officers and EMTs killed while on duty will not lose their health insurance coverage under another bill. State Senator Van Wangaarrd says it’s something that that state should have had in place a while ago.
“I’m sure that the law enforcement officers throughout the state and the EMTs will really appreciate the thoughtfulness in caring for their living spouses.”
State Senator Dave Hansen says the bill will match a measure that’s already in place for the surviving families of firefighters who died while on duty.
“We were able to do this for fire personnel several years ago. I’m very proud of being a co author of this. But this today is about doing the right thing together.”
The state will pay for that insurance through the Police and Fire Protection fee that residents pay on their phone and wireless bills.