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Senate To Take Up GAB, Campaign Finance Overhauls Friday

GOP-Controlled Assembly Passed Measures Weeks Ago

Wisconsin state capitol building dome
Jeff E. (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Republican state Senators will meet in extraordinary session Friday to pass bills that would reconfigure the state’s elections agency and rewrite its campaign finance laws.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s office announced the move after Senate Republicans met privately to discuss the bills Tuesday. Spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said both proposals would undergo changes in the Senate, though she wouldn’t get specific.

The Assembly passed both bills weeks ago. One would dismantle the Government Accountability Board, replacing the nonpartisan judges who oversee it with two new commissions run by partisan appointees. Fitzgerald has indicated that some Republicans had issues with that move and wanted to keep judges on the board.

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The campaign finance bill that passed the Assembly would allow for unlimited corporate contributions to political parties. It would also codify a recent state Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for near-unfettered coordination between candidates and interest groups who keep their donors secret.

Groups on both sides of these bills have focused their attention on a handful of Republican senators, suggesting Sens. Luther Olsen of Ripon, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Jerry Petrowski of Marathon and Robert Cowles of Green Bay were key to either passing or blocking the legislation. Republicans hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate.

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