Pubdate: Wed, 16 Mar 2016
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2016 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Authors: Jason Stein and Patrick Marley


Online Voter Registration, Other Measures Approved

Madison- In a final marathon of voting, the Senate adjourned Tuesday 
by sending Gov. Scott Walker a bill to allow people to register to 
vote online and by blocking a proposal to make it easier for parents 
to get a drug to treat child seizures.

Senators also approved a bill that would prevent up to $5 million in 
property tax increases by public schools outside Milwaukee that lose 
students to voucher schools.

Also Tuesday, the Senate passed a different version of a bill on 
high-capacity wells than one the Assembly approved last month. That 
appeared to kill the measure since the Assembly has already ended its 
work for the year.

The other bills that were taken up Tuesday have already passed the 
Republican-controlled Assembly, so they would next go to the GOP 
governor for final approval.

Senators from both parties had hoped to use a pulling motion to force 
a vote on a bill that would make it easier to get a drug derived from 
marijuana used to treat children who suffer from severe seizures. The 
measure, AB 228, passed the Assembly last month and has broad backing 
in the Senate.

But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) scheduled a 
hearing on the bill for Thursday - after the Senate's adjournment. 
That hearing, which will likely not be held, blocked a floor vote on 
the legislation because bills can't be brought to the floor if they 
have a hearing pending.

Fitzgerald said that the bill had split his Republican caucus and 
that he used the parliamentary rule to keep some GOP senators from 
having to vote against a bill that they support. When Democrats tried 
to take a two-thirds vote to override that rule, Fitzgerald abruptly 
adjourned the Senate before the vote could be held, ending the 
session before the body could congratulate its departing members who 
aren't running for re-election.

The proposal's lead sponsor, Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), said in a 
statement he was "disappointed and angry."

"Despite opponents' intentional misinformation and fear-mongering, 
CBD (cannabidiol) oil is legal and problem-free in 21 other states 
and should be here," Wanggaard said. "This is why people hate 
politics...It is, literally, tragic."

Fitzgerald said that three Republicans, Senate President Mary Lazich 
of New Berlin and Sens. Duey Stroebel of Saukville and Leah Vukmir of 
Wauwatosa, had adamantly opposed the bill out of concerns it could 
lead to the legalization of marijuana in Wisconsin.

"I understand why people would be frustrated because, from the 
outside looking in, it probably doesn't make much sense," Fitzgerald said.

On a voice vote, senators signed off on SB 295, which would let 
people register to vote online but eliminate special deputies who 
help people sign up to vote. The Assembly approved the bill last 
month on a vote of 56-38, with three Republicans joining all 
Democrats in opposing the proposal.

Walker plans to sign the bill on Wednesday, according to a memo from 
the Government Accountability Board, which runs elections.

The bill would allow state residents to register online for election 
day if they had a current and valid state driver's license or 
state-issued ID card. They would have to use the same name for voter 
registration that appears on their state license or ID.

The online voter registration system would be set up by spring 2017.

Once that system takes effect, the bill would end the ability of 
political parties, nonprofit groups and others to use special 
registration deputies to help people to sign up to vote. These 
workers and volunteers often stake out college campuses and street 
corners to make sure people are registered to vote.

While they could no longer operate as they have in the past, they 
would have the option of using computers or other electronic devices 
to help people sign themselves up to vote online in real time.

Republicans have generally supported the trade-off in the bill but 
Democrats have said there's no need to eliminate the special 
registration deputies.

State residents have long been able to register to vote on election 
day at the polls, and that practice would not be changed by the proposal.

The bill includes other elements, including one that would allow 
people to use ID cards issued by the federal Department of Veterans 
Affairs to vote.

Voucher schools. On a party-line 19-13 vote, the Senate approved a 
bill, SB 615, that would block up to $5 million in property tax 
increases by public schools outside Milwaukee that are affected by 
state voucher school programs.

When students use the voucher program to attend religious schools or 
other private institutions at taxpayer expense, public school 
districts can recover lost state aid by raising property taxes. The 
bill, as amended last month by the Assembly, would limit those 
increases to the amount of the voucher going to the private school, 
since that is typically lower than the total amount of state aid and 
property taxes taken in by a public school for each student.

Because of the funding change made by the Assembly, the bill had to 
return to the Senate.

Wells. Senate Republicans approved a high-capacity well proposal on a 
19-13 party-line vote. Among its many provisions, SB 239 would allow 
large wells to live on indefinitely by letting their owners rebuild 
them and move them slightly without permits. Farm and business groups 
say that the bill by Sen. Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) gives them 
needed certainty while water advocates say it can amount to a 
perpetual permit to dry out the landscape.

Fitzgerald said senators planned to go along with that bill, rather 
than a different version of it approved by the Assembly. He 
acknowledged that would likely kill the bill, but said it would send 
a message to farmers and businesses that Senate Republicans want to 
address the issue eventually.

Homes in foreclosure.The Senate passed, 18-14, AB 720. The proposal 
would make it tougher for cities to force lenders to sell zombie 
homes - that is, abandoned properties that are being foreclosed.

The bill is supported by lenders and the Wisconsin Bankers 
Association and opposed by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who argues it 
would make it more difficult for the city to battle zombie homes.

Student debt. Republican senators decided Monday not to take up a 
bill backed by Walker that would have eliminated a $2,500 cap on the 
state tax deduction for student loan interest. But the Senate did 
approve 19-13 AB 740, which would increase grants for technical 
colleges by $1 million over two years.

Dementia. The state Department of Health Services would have to write 
a plan to create pilot programs for dementia crisis units for two or 
more counties, under AB 786. The measure was approved on a voice vote.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom