In the last Senate session of the year Tuesday, more than 80 bills were scheduled for a vote, including most of Gov. Scott Walker’s college affordability package and a bill that would provide victims of sexual assault with amnesty from underage drinking tickets.
A number of key bills were also not taken up for a vote in the Senate, which means they are most likely dead this session. These bills include the “sanctuary cities” bill, which brought thousands of protesters to the Capitol and a key bill in Walker’s college affordability package.
Majority of college affordability package passes
The majority of Walker’s college affordability package passed through the Senate Tuesday.
Four bills passed. The first, which passed on a 18-13 vote, would increase grants for students in technical colleges. The second, which also passed 18-13, would provide emergency grants to students faced with unexpected financial crises. The third, which passed 19-13, requires the Department of Workforce Development to increase internship opportunities for college students. The fourth bill, which passed 19-13, aims to provide students with financial literacy.
University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross thanked the Senate for passage of the package, stating the bills will help students in UW colleges.
“Students and their families will see immediate benefit from these bills through new grants available to help UW college students overcome obstacles, such as unexpected car repairs that might otherwise make it difficult to attend classes, and the provision of regular, easy-to-understand updates on loan obligations,” Cross said.
But Democrats expressed disappointment with the affordability package. Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said the bills were “crumbs” that would impact just a small percentage of college students. Shilling said the internship program won’t actually help solve student debt because most of the internships will probably be unpaid.
Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, said the affordability package was “too little, too late.” He said many of the bills need more funding to be effective. Hansen also criticized Republicans for not taking up a bill that would allow for student loan refinancing.
The four bills now head to Walker’s desk to be signed.
The Senate did not take up a bill that would have allowed students to have tax deductions on student loan interest past $2,500.
Barry Burden, University of Wisconsin political science professor, said the tax deductions bill was likely not taken up because of the cost. According to the fiscal estimate, the bill would have cost $5.2 million every year beginning in 2017.
Exemptions from underage drinking tickets
A bill that passed on a unanimous voice vote would provide amnesty from underage drinking tickets for victims of sexual assault. The bill would also provide exemptions from citations for bystanders who are helping the victim.
Proposed bill would give sexual assault victims amnesty from drinking citations throughout WisconsinAdvocating for sexual assault victim safety and strict law enforcement against perpetrators, the sexual assault amnesty bill was introduced to Read…
The bill now heads to Walker’s desk.
Online voter registration passes
Under the online voter registration bill, residents could register online to vote starting during the spring 2017 primary election. The bill has fallen under opposition because it would eliminate special registration deputies that help people register to vote.
Another concern is the bill will prevent voters without technology from voting.
Move to online voter registration could pose problems for Wisconsin, student votersA bill that passed through the state Assembly Feb. 17 would make Wisconsin the next state to put voter registration online, Read…
UW students ‘black out’ Capitol in protest of online voting registration bill passed by AssemblyUniversity of Wisconsin student protestors gathered at the Capitol Tuesday night to demonstrate their opposition to a bill amended by the Assembly that Read…
The bill passed on a voice vote and now heads to Walker’s desk.
More bills to combat heroin epidemic pass
A package of four bills that aim to address opioid abuse in Wisconsin all passed on a voice vote. The bills would criminalize the possession, use and distribution of masking agents used to hide drugs in body fluids, increase access to treatment programs and change guidelines for prescribing controlled substances.
The package was part of the Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education Agenda, an effort sponsored by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, which aims to provide treatment programs and prevent opioid use in the state.
It’s ‘our’ problem: The growing heroin epidemic across WisconsinIn 2006, as an incoming college student traveled from Massachusetts to begin her freshman year at University of Wisconsin, she struggled Read…
The bills now head to Walker’s desk to be signed.
Only three bills to address Alzheimer’s and dementia pass
Out of a package of 10 bills to address the Alzheimer’s and dementia health crisis, only three bills were taken up for a vote, which all passed on a voice vote.
The first bill requires the Department of Health Services to draft a proposal for a pilot program to create crisis units. The second provides $1 million to fund respite care programs that allow patients to be treated in their homes. The last bill provides $250,000 in grants to provide training for mobile crisis teams.
The three bills now head to Walker’s desk.
A bill that would provide $50,000 in grants to UW for researching cures was not taken up for a vote and neither were bills to finance additional hiring and training of dementia care specialists.
Legislation package aims to combat Alzheimer’s and dementia health crisisThe new Wisconsin Cares bill package addresses the rising number of Wisconsin residents who will face Alzheimer’s and dementia, two incurable diseases, Read…
Additional bills that were not taken up for a vote
Sanctuary cities bill stalled
One of the bills that brought thousands of protesters to the Capitol Feb. 18 for being “anti-immigrant” was not taken up in the Senate.
The bill would allow law enforcement to inquire about citizenship status for those who have committed a crime. Those opposed to the bill are concerned it would allow police to target undocumented immigrants and deport them.
[Updated]: Thousands gather at Capitol for ‘Day Without Latinos’ protestThousands from all over Wisconsin gathered at the Capitol Thursday to protest two bills they believe would make life difficult Read…
Protesters were present in the viewing gallery at the Senate session to make sure the Senate did not take up the bill.
Burden said the bill likely did not pass because of the controversy surrounding the issue.
Increased compensation for wrongful convictions not on calendar
A bill that would have increased compensation for those who were wrongfully incarcerated was also not taken up for a vote in the Senate.
Fighting for a ‘fresh start’: Wrongful conviction compensation bill would seal court recordsA bill to increase compensation for wrongfully convicted persons and allow them to seal court criminal records has raised concerns Read…
Since it is the last Senate session of the year, the bills that were not taken up for a vote will not be passed this session. It is not yet clear when the Senate will reconvene.