The Legislature Has A Busy Day Tuesday. Here’s What’s On The Agenda

Electronic Voter Registration, Waterfront Development Are Among The Issues Being Taken Up For Consideration

Katie Wheeler (CC-BY-SA)

Wisconsin state lawmakers have a long day ahead of them Tuesday with an agenda that ranges from a rewrite of Wisconsin’s voter registration laws to a plan to allow for new sales taxes for road repairs. Here are some of the bills up for debate in the Assembly and the Senate:

Electronic Voter Registration (Passed)

What started out as a bipartisan bill to allow for online voter registration has turned into a partisan spate over a provision that would end what are known as special registration deputies. These deputies register voters in person during voter registration drives or at locations like nursing homes. Opponents say majority Republicans are getting rid of them to make it harder for likely Democratic voters to register. GOP sponsors say online registration eliminates the need for registration deputies.

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Senators are scheduled to debate the bill Tuesday. It has yet to pass the Assembly.

Sales Tax for Road Repairs (No vote occurred)

Counties could ask voters to raise their sales taxes to pay for roads under a bill poised to pass the Assembly later today. The measure would allow for a half-cent sales tax hike that would phase out after four years. It could only be used to fund repairs. Despite an aversion to new taxes by Republicans, this plan has strong GOP support and passed an Assembly committee unanimously.

Private Property Rights (Passed)

Assembly Republicans will take up a package of bills Tuesday that would shift the balance of power in land and waterfront development decisions from the Department of Natural Resources to private property owners. One of the most controversial plans that the Assembly passed Tuesday evening would make it easier for landowners to dredge lakes. It’s backed by a variety of business groups. A broad coalition of environmental organizations opposes the plan, worrying that it could lead to the destruction of fish and wildlife habitat.

Compensation For People Wrongfully Imprisoned (Passed)

Another bill, passed unanimously in the Assembly, increases how much the state can award people who were sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. Right now the maximum someone can receive from the state Claims Board is $25,000. This plan would raise that to a maximum of $1 million. During the public hearing on the plan, former inmates who were exonerated testified that they deserve compensation for the time and liberty they lost.

Managed Forest Land Tax Credit (Passed)

Landowners could close off more of their acreage to the public while still receiving a state tax break under a measure that passed the Senate Tuesday. Right now landowners can receive a tax credit if they agree to occasionally log timber. They get a larger tax credit if they allow public access to their land, but they can make up to 160 acres private. This bill would lift that 160 acre cap, meaning landowners could close off more acreage and still receive the tax break.

Other bills on Tuesday’s agenda include a plan to regulate kickboxing, a measure that aims to encourage more reporting of sexual assaults on college campuses and a bill that would prevent state and local governments from banning live Christmas trees in churches.

The Senate will convene at 11 a.m. The Assembly will convene at 1 p.m. in a session that could continue late into the night.

Editor’s note: This story is being updated to reflect votes on the various bills up for debate at the state Capitol Tuesday.