Legislature

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State lawmakers on the budget writing committee Thursday rejected Gov. Walker’s proposed switch to a self-insurance model for state employees. Instead, the panel came up with other ways to save money. One of those methods likely would lead to an increase in health care premiums for state workers.

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The subject of hair was a hot topic among Wisconsin state senators on Wednesday. They approved two pieces of legislation that would eliminate certain requirements for people who style hair. For example, the requirement for continuing education and for instructors to be licensed. Some people see the changes as a way to remove barriers to work, while others worry about potential health concerns.

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Wisconsin may soon join the list of states demanding a convention to change the U.S. Constitution. Wednesday, the state Assembly voted to request a meeting of states to amend the document, requiring a balanced federal budget.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos supports a balanced budget amendment. He says a constitutional change is necessary and blames former President Obama for increasing the national debt to $20 trillion. Vos wants people to visualize the huge number.

Justin W Kern

State budget talks have stalled in Madison, as has happened in the past. Wisconsin lawmakers hope to pass a two-year spending plan by June 30, but it appears unlikely.

The biggest problem the state faces is a $1 billion hole in its transportation budget; Gov. Walker and fellow Republicans who control the Legislature differ on how to plug it. The state collects money through its gas tax and vehicle registration fee. The state gas tax is 31 cents per gallon, while the registration fee is $75 per vehicle.

For an update on this story, read this post: Wisconsin Assembly Passes Measure Calling For Constitutional Convention

An Assembly committee has advanced the idea of Wisconsin joining a states-initiated constitutional convention to draft a federal balanced budget amendment. Thirty-four states are needed; Wisconsin could become number 30.

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Some GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin are looking to get tougher on juvenile offenders. Right now, the state can sentence them to no longer than three year behind bars, but a bill circulating in Madison right now would allow juvenile offenders to be locked up until age 25. While some Republican leaders say the move is necessary to curtail crime, some Democrats prefer a different approach.

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College campuses have long been hotbeds for protests during divisive political times. And they've invited speakers, some controversial, in an effort to offer multiple perspectives. But as rhetoric has heated up in recent months, some schools are struggling to accommodate such visits. Conservative Wisconsin legislators think they have the answer.

In recent years, Wisconsin has sent several thousand people back to prison, even though they did not commit new crimes. What they did was violated the rules of their release by committing what otherwise might be considered minor offenses. On Wednesday, a panel of legislators debated a bill that could increase the number of so-called “crimeless revocations.”

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If you look at the population of Wisconsin and then at the leadership in state government, you’ll notice at least one significant disconnect. Milwaukee is by far the state’s largest city, but the city itself has few residents in leadership roles - particularly in the Legislature.

Writer Joe Potente says it’s a sign of the city’s diminishing political clout at the statewide level. He wrote an article featured in the current issue of Milwaukee Magazine about this phenomenon. 

kwangmoo, flickr

A Senate committee held a public hearing Wednesday on a bill that would remove the work permit requirement for 16 and 17-year-olds in Wisconsin. Supporters of the plan say it would eliminate red tape, while opponents say they’re concerned about the teens’ safety.

Wisconsin restaurants have employed many 16 and 17-year-olds over the years, according to Ed Lump. He’s president of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

Justin W Kern

The Wisconsin Legislature gets back into action on Tuesday. All 99 members of the state Assembly will be sworn-in for another two years, while half the state Senate will take the oath of office for new, four-year terms.

Republicans secured even larger majorities in the November elections. The GOP picked up one more seat in the Assembly, increasing their margin 64 to 35, the largest Republican majority in 60 years. They’ve also taken a 20-13 lead in the state Senate, after knocking off Democrat Julie Lassa of Stevens Point.  

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Wisconsin turned a deeper shade of red, following last week's elections for the Legislature. Republicans gained a seat in the Assembly and picked up another vote in the Senate.

One big task facing state lawmakers in 2017 is to pass a new two-year state budget, and that includes addressing Wisconsin's $1 billion deficit in the transportation fund.

The nation continues to watch developments in the race for president, stemming from Donald Trump's offensive comments about women caught on tape in 2005. The fallout has Wisconsin state lawmakers talking. They're pondering whether the controversy surrounding Trump will affect races for the Legislature here.

Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has backed fellow Republican Trump for months. At a WisPolitics.com luncheon on Tuesday, he was asked about Trump's boasts that as a celebrity, he could freely kiss and grope women.

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A marathon session is in store Tuesday for the GOP-controlled state Senate. Lawmakers are scheduled to dispense with more than 100 bills before they adjourn for the years.

The Senate will vote on a measure that would have an impact on Milwaukee, making it tougher for cities to force lenders to sell zombie homes, or abandoned properties slated for foreclosure.

State Capitol
Justin Kern, Flickr

It’s been a busy session for Republicans who control the state Legislature. They passed several pieces of landmark legislation early in the two-year period. Those include a right-to-work law and a bill that is dismantling the Government Accountability Board. Yet, some hot button issues ended up dying in committee.

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