The state Senate closed the legislative session Tuesday, sending a number of bills to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk, which included oral chemotherapy and expanded strip searches for individuals in police custody.
The Senate’s passage of an oral chemotherapy bill in a 26-7 vote came after receiving an amended version from the Assembly. Five Democrats and two Republicans opposed the final passage of the bill, which Walker has said he will sign.
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said the amended bill may not have been the bill everyone would have liked to pass, but the legislation to make oral chemotherapy treatment more affordable for some patients was better than nothing, even with the changes the Assembly made.
A number of other bills passed narrowly or along party lines, including legislation expanding the number of strip searches permitted of individuals in police custody, limiting usage of doctor apologies in medical malpractice suits and refunding companies who pay sales taxes on customer debt gone bad.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, was critical of the passed strip search bill in an interview with The Badger Herald.
“[The strip search bill] violates individual rights from due process and searches and seizures … and I think it kind of takes a dangerous path for people, where they’re going to have to give up personal liberty without knowing why, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they overturn this on constitutional grounds,” Larson said.
However, Larson praised the bill on sales tax refunds and said it provides parity, as refunds are given to larger credit card companies in the state and the bill will give small companies similar treatment.
Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, applauded the doctor apologies bill, which would prohibit doctors’ apologies in medical malpractice suits. He said many doctors are told not to apologize for loss in the case of a possible lawsuit and that there is “no sympathy at all, [doctors] don’t say anything.”
Multiple other bills also passed, including bills providing cannabis oil treatment to children with seizures, limiting drone usage in the state and increasing funding for rural heroin addiction treatment.
However, other bills the Legislature did not take up are likely dead since the session is over. This includes legislation to raise the state speed limits on highways, limiting items that can be bought with food stamps, prohibiting sex-selective abortions, strengthening first-offense OWI penalties, grandfathering in sand mining regulations for existing mines, allowing some workers to work seven-day work weeks and repealing Common Core standards.
As legislators gear up for reelection campaigns, Republican and Democratic lawmakers had split outlooks on the success of the most recent legislative session.
“Democrats came to Madison this session ready to strengthen Wisconsin’s middle class with a bold, vibrant agenda … but Republicans decided to ignore real people’s needs, priorities and long-term economic security for the sake of their partisan political benefit,” Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said in a statement.
Cowles countered the Democrats’ argument on lack of action on job creation in the state by Republicans and said the economy is improving. He said Republicans did focus on job creation this session, offering his own bill as an example, which creates waste-sorting jobs in Wisconsin. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.