, , , , , , , ,

State Senate Ends Ban On Home Baking Sales, Requires Background Checks At Voucher Schools

Chamber Also Passes Increased Penalties For Carjacking, Bills Related To Fighting Opioid Epidemic

Wisconsin state Capitol
Laura Zimmerman/WPR

The state Senate has approved a plan to increase penalties for carjacking in Wisconsin.

Under the proposal, carjacking would be assigned its own felony charge. Penalties for the crime would be a fine of up to $50,000 and imprisonment for up to 15 years.

The bill would also increase penalties for repeated offenses of car theft and operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

During Wednesday’s floor debate on the measure, state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said carjacking has become a “badge of honor” for some offenders.

“I’ve talked to many women that fueled their cars in urban areas Milwaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, those areas and they’re afraid,” Wanggaard said. “They’re afraid to go and fill their car up because they’re worried about the potential of being carjacked.”

Opponents argued increased penalties will not deter people from committing a carjacking or theft and will only increase the state’s prison population.

“We do it all the time in Wisconsin let’s get tough on crime, let’s increase our penalties,” said Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee. “It’s what we always do. We want different outcomes, but we keep doing the same thing. You know what they say about that, right? It’s called insanity.”

The measure passed with a bipartisan vote of 25-7. Two of four Milwaukee senators voted for the bill.

The bill now goes to the state Assembly.

Home Baked Goods Bill Moves Forward

The state Senate also passed a bill Wednesday that brings Wisconsin home bakers closer to being able to legally sell their pies, cakes and muffins.

The Senate passed a bill on a voice vote and with no debate that would allow home bakers to sell without a license. They could only sell face-to-face, they’d have to register with state consumer protection officials and sell less than $25,000 a year.

The Senate passed a similar bill last session but it died in the Assembly, where it’s been blocked by Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester. He’s introduced a competing proposal this year that would do away with all licensing for bakers, no matter their size.

An identical bill must clear the Senate and Assembly and be signed by Gov. Scott Walker to become law.

A Lafayette County judge two weeks ago struck down the law requiring home bakers to get a license as unconstitutional.

Voucher Schools To Do Background Checks

Private schools participating in Wisconsin’s voucher school program would have to conduct employee background checks under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The bipartisan measure passed Wednesday includes a number of changes to the state’s voucher program. It’s supported both by advocates for school choice and the state Department of Public Instruction. No one has registered against the measure, which makes mostly technical changes.

The bill would do away with certain academic benchmarks that choice schools must currently meet, but DPI backs that change because the private schools are still subject to state report cards.

It also changes numerous deadlines and application requirements that backers say will improve the administration of the program.

It passed on a bipartisan 28-5 vote. The Assembly was to vote on it next week.

Bills Targeting Opioid Abuse

The Senate approved a pair of bills designed to help fight drug abuse and addiction.

One bill the Senate passed on a voice vote Wednesday would allow emergency and involuntary commitment for drug addicts. Supporters say that would be a tool to help put someone on the road to recovery.

The other approved would ensure someone who overdoses would be immune from probation or parole revocation if he or she enters a treatment program. Backers say the change would encourage people to call for help in an emergency. It passed 32-1 with Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, voting no. He said it goes too far in granting immunity.

Both measures were sponsored by Republican Rep. John Nygren, of Marinette. They now head to Walker for his consideration.