Senate Takes Up Changes To Major Elections Bills

Chamber Convenes In Extraordinary Session

AP Photo/Andy Manis, File

Update: The Senate has passed the campaign finance bill, 17-15. Read more here.

The state Senate is in extraordinary session Friday to pass bills that would dismantle Wisconsin’s elections agency and rewrite its campaign finance laws.

Republicans are proposing changes to both pieces of legislation, which have already been approved in the Assembly.

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The bill that would end the Government Accountability Board, which is run by six judges, would replace it with separate ethics and elections commissions run by partisan appointees. Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said the Senate is changing the bill to keep two judges on the ethics commission.

“I didn’t want to have a ethics board that’s just gridlock and can’t get anything done,” said Olsen.

The campaign finance bill will also undergo changes, although it appears that the legislation would still end a requirement for people to list their employers when donating to candidates. There previously had been expectations that a GOP amendment would drop that measure.

The campaign finance plan also still allows unlimited donations to political parties and legislative campaign committees.

Senate Minority Leader Jen Shilling said the bills, even with the proposed amendments, are full of problems.

“It still is going to lead to more coercion with special interest groups and candidates,” she said. “There’s going to be more money in the process.”

The special session will likely last fairly late into the night.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated after Republican lawmakers introduced amendments to the bills.