Having signed 30 bills into law early last week, Gov. Scott Walker will receive another stack of legislation to sign later this week following the Senate’s last session Tuesday.
Though the official list of bills to be taken up in the Senate has not yet been released, the chamber will decide the fate of approximately 70 bills following a reception for the Senate’s retiring members, according to a tentative calendar released by the office of Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee.
Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Assembly met for what was likely the last time this session earlier this month, where several controversial bills including legislation to limit early voting hours were passed and sent to Walker’s desk for his signature. The Assembly made amendments to other bills that the Senate has to sign off on before those bills can be sent to Walker for final approval.
The Senate is expected to take up several important bills, including legislation to make oral chemotherapy treatment more affordable for some cancer patients, a pair of bills designed to combat heroin use, as well as legislation to restrict the use of drones and a measure to require police departments to bring in outside investigators when people die in their custody, according to the tentative calendar.
The oral chemotherapy treatment bill, initially introduced by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, had already passed the Senate but was later amended in the Assembly. The Senate must approve those changes, which include a $100 co-payment cap for the treatment, to ensure the bill does not die this session.
Some legislators have expressed concern about the amendments.
“I’m deeply concerned about the amendment to the bill but I think it is better than current law,” Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, said.
Walker has said he would sign the amended version of the legislation if it is approved by the Senate.
Legislators from opposing parties had varying perspectives on the last floor period, as well as the work the Legislature has done over the course of the session.
“From my perspective I think it has been a very successful session primarily because we were able to reduce taxes for Wisconsinites,” Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, said. “We are putting more money back into the hands of the taxpayers.”
Tiffany spotlighted the fact that the Legislature had cut taxes three times during the session, including the recently signed “Blueprint for Prosperity.”
Tiffany also pointed to the discovery of nearly $650 million in undesignated funds at the University of Wisconsin System and the resulting tuition freeze as important moments of the legislative session.
Tiffany’s controversial non-metallic mining legislation, which would have grandfathered in regulations on existing sand mines, is dead for the session, he said.
On the other hand, Jauch expressed strong opposition to the Legislature’s actions this session, criticizing the recently signed legislation involving early voting and lobbyist contributions as attacks against Wisconsin’s democratic system.
“To wish for a good public policy under this Legislature is to wish for a miracle,” Jauch said. “When you have a Legislature that is so reckless with democracy I want us to adjourn – the public will be better off.”