- Views & Opinions
Wisconsin lawmakers are due to resume the 2015-16 legislative session with a Senate floor debate on Jan. 12.
Majority Republicans are sifting through an agenda that includes bills overhauling the state’s civil service system, banning research on tissue from aborted fetuses and banning transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
Here’s a look at some other proposals Republicans are trying to push through before the session ends in April:
NUCLEAR POWER: Lifts Wisconsin’s moratorium on new nuclear power plants. The bill’s author, Rep. Kevin Peterson, R-Waupaca, says nuclear power is a clean, affordable option as utilities work to meet new federal greenhouse gas rules. The Assembly is set to vote on the proposal on Jan. 12.
DRUNKEN DRIVING: Republicans are pushing a pair of bills that would require the state Department of Transportation to strip repeat drunken drivers of their licenses for at least a decade and increase maximum prison sentences for repeat offenders.
MANAGED FORESTS: Allows landowners in the state’s managed forest program to close off as much land as they want to the public while still enjoying property tax breaks. Right now, landowners who enroll in the program get huge property tax breaks if they keep their land open to the public for recreation and abide by a timber management plan. Non-industrial landowners can close only 160 acres to the public. Property owners complain the bill doesn’t let them lease closed land to hunters.
FIGHTING HEROIN: Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, has four bills designed to help curb prescription drug abuse in hopes of slowing heroin abuse. Dubbed the Hope Agenda, the bills would require opiate dispensers to enter prescriptions into a statewide database within 24 hours; require police who find an opiate prescription at an overdose scene to enter it into the database; require methadone and pain clinics to register with the state; and require methadone clinics to report staffing rations, patients receiving the medication and average mileage a person travels to the clinic to the state. The Assembly is set to vote on the package Jan. 12.
SCHOOL REFERENDA: School districts would be barred from bringing failed spending referendums back to the voters for a year. Supporters say the measure is about protecting taxpayers from districts’ repeated attempts to pass referendums. School officials are strongly opposed to the proposal, saying legislators shouldn’t tie their hands.
BLAZE PINK: Allows gun hunters to wear fluorescent pink rather than blaze orange. Supporters say the measure will encourage more women to take up hunting and give apparel manufacturers a boost. The Assembly passed the bill in November. The Senate has yet to vote.
HUNTER HARASSMENT: Prohibits people from harassing hunters by remaining in a hunter’s sight, photographing a hunter, using a drone to photograph a hunter or confronting a hunter more than twice with the intent to interfere with or impede their activities. Republicans say they’re worried about hunters’ safety after the Wolf Patrol, a group of animal rights activists, followed and filmed wolf hunters in Wisconsin and Montana in 2014. Opponents say the measure might violate nature lovers’ free speech rights.
WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS: Increases state compensation for the wrongly convicted to $50,000 for every year behind bars with a total payout of $1 million with adjustments for inflation every five years. Wisconsin currently offers people who are exonerated $5,000 per year of incarceration up to $25,000.
LEGALIZING SWITCHBLADES: The Assembly passed a bill that would legalize switchblades and allow people to carry them as concealed weapons in October. The bill is now in the Senate.