Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly say they finished their work for the two-year legislative session on Feb. 18, but things aren’t going to quiet down at the state Capitol.
Senate Republicans plan to return for at least one more day in March. They’ll have to decide whether to take final votes on several bills that passed in the Assembly last week. Some other contentious measures that neither chamber has touched need action or they will die, too. Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, didn’t immediate respond to a message inquiring about Republicans’ plans.
Here’s a look at the most notable legislation the Senate faces as well as some of the bills in limbo:
IN THE SENATE
DRUNKEN DRIVING: The Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill that would strip repeat drunken drivers of their licenses for at least a decade.
DEMENTIA CARE: The Assembly approved a 10-bill package designed to help people cope with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The package, developed by a task force Assembly Speaker Robin Vos created, would devote more money to dementia specialists, research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the state’s Alzheimer family and caregiver support program.
‘SANCTUARY CITIES’ BAN: The Assembly passed a bill that would prohibit municipalities from banning police from asking about someone’s immigration status if they’re charged with a crime. The bill and a companion proposal that prohibits local governments from issuing identification cards drew about 20,000 protesters, most of them Latino, to the Capitol on Feb. 18. Tanck told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the bill was “not a high priority” for Senate Republicans, suggesting they are unlikely to take it up.
COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY: The Assembly passed a set of bills Republicans say are intended to help college students with debt. The proposals include plans to lift the cap on tax-deductible student loan interest, boost grants for technical college students and two-year students in the University of Wisconsin Colleges, create internship coordinators and require colleges to update students annually on their debt levels. Democrats say the bills are little more than GOP campaign talking points and won’t do much to contain student debt.
VOUCHER SCHOOL FUNDING: The Assembly approved legislation that would limit public school districts’ ability to recoup their losses when students leave for schools in the state’s voucher program. The program subsidizes private school tuition. The state pays for it by cutting aid to public schools that lose students to the program. Under language in the state budget, districts can recoup those losses and more by raising property taxes. The Assembly proposal would allow districts to raise taxes enough to recoup only actual losses.
FETAL TISSUE RESEARCH: Republicans have drafted a bill that would ban research using tissue from fetuses aborted after Jan. 1, 2015, and prohibit the commercial sale of such tissue. Researchers say the measure would chill work on life-saving cures and treatments. Neither house has voted on it. Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, has said such research should continue. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group and a big Republican supporter, also opposes the bill. If the Senate were to pass the measure the Assembly would have to return to concur. That seems unlikely. Vos told reporters the Assembly won’t come back to deal with any new issues.
TRANSGENDER BATHROOMS: Another GOP bill would require public school students to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to their physical gender at birth. The bill’s authors argue Wisconsin needs such a law to create a unified standard. Neither house has taken up the bill; Fitzgerald has said he thinks individual schools should deal with the issue as they see fit. Even if the Senate were to vote on the bill, the Assembly would have to return to concur.
GUNS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS: Several Republicans support a bill that would allow people with concealed carry permits to carry their guns on school grounds. Vos said in January the bill was going nowhere in his chamber, saying he hasn’t heard anyone clamoring for it, and neither house has voted on it.
CONCEALED CARRY IN UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS: Another GOP bill would let people carry concealed weapons in university classrooms, buildings and stadiums. That measure has gone nowhere in either house amid scathing opposition from UW System leaders.