UPDATE: Assembly works into Friday morning to pass more bills; D - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Assembly works into Friday morning to pass more bills; Democrats unhappy with session's end

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Democratic and Republican state lawmakers weighed in after the Assembly ended its session early Friday morning. 

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he was proud of the conservative agenda in the Assembly this session. "Wisconsin became the 25th Right to Work state. We approved prevailing wage reforms and modernized the civil service system. The Governmental Accountability Board will soon be replaced, the John Doe statutes were reformed, and the campaign finance laws were updated.

“Assembly Republicans followed through on our promises that were set out in our Forward Agenda. We balanced the budget, cut taxes on middle class families, and held the line on property taxes. Wisconsin continues to have a record amount in the state’s rainy day fund.

“We also invested in important priorities for the state:  education, health care for the poor and the prescription drug program for seniors. The Assembly voted to expand resources for individuals with dementia and their families, approved legislation to increase access to mental health care, and continued efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic with the H.O.P.E. Agenda.

“I want to thank the members of the Assembly for working together. The latest Legislative Reference Bureau analysis shows that roughly 94 percent of the laws passed this session received bipartisan support in the Assembly.

“It’s clear that our legislative work is making a difference in Wisconsin.  Our economy is thriving, more people are finding work, our schools are excellent and Wisconsin continues to move forward.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) says the session ended the way it started; with broken promises and wrong priorities from the GOP. 

"On the heels of Governor Walker failing to come close to his 250,000 jobs promise, legislative Republicans continued their downward economic spiral and spent their time de-funding Planned Parenthood, cutting and gutting our public schools and changing campaign laws to pad their own campaign coffers. 

“After passing three budgets and being in control of the Assembly, Senate and Governor’s office for the last six years, the GOP cannot blame anyone else but themselves for our anemic economy and stagnate wages, which the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ranked one of the worst in the nation.  Instead of investing in our children and in our people, Republicans chose to dole out billions in tax cuts for big corporations and millionaires.  Because of their poor choices, Republican leaders are now already warning of another cut and gut budget coming our way. 

“I’ve been asked why the State Assembly is adjourning so early compared to other sessions and with so much work left to do?  The answer is simple – Republicans need as much time as possible to start working on their re-elections and explaining why they ignored the needs and priorities of the people.  The people will not forget.” 

Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) called it the "worst legislative session ever" while Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton) decried Republicans for ending the session in February, with more than nine months left in the calendar year. “I wasn’t elected to leave work early with unfinished business remaining,” Jorgensen said.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly has passed a bill that would strip repeat drunken drivers of their licenses for at least a decade.
   Under the bill, the DOT would be required to permanently revoke the license of anyone caught driving drunk for a fifth or subsequent offense. The drivers wouldn't be eligible for occupational licenses but could petition the DOT for reinstatement after 10 years.   The Assembly approved the measure on a voice vote Thursday evening, sending the bill to the state Senate.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill that would ban county executives from serving concurrently in the Legislature.
   The Republican bill stems from Democratic Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris' announcement he would run for an open Senate seat. The bill would require him to quit his $102,834 county job if elected. He would make $50,950 as a senator.
   Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who introduced the bill, has raised issues with a county executive drawing two salaries from taxpayers and potential conflicts of interest.
   Democrats criticize the move as purely partisan, saying it's aimed at keeping Harris from running for the Senate seat, which a Republican currently holds.
   The bill cleared the Senate Tuesday. The Assembly passed it 53-40 Thursday, sending it to Gov. Scott Walker for signing.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Assembly has approved on a plan adjusting how public schools recoup their losses when students leave to attend voucher schools.
   The state's voucher program subsidizes private school tuition. The state funds the subsidies by reducing aid to districts that lose students to voucher schools. Under language in the 2015-17 state budget, those districts can compensate for those losses and more by raising property taxes. According to state fiscal analysts, 142 districts that lost $16.1 million in aid this school year raised their taxes to generate $21.4 million.
   Assembly Speaker Robin Vos proposed amending another voucher school bill Thursday to limit those property tax increases to the actual aid loss. The body approved the amended bill 56-37 Thursday and sent the bill to the Senate for final passage.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly has approved a bill to relax state oversight on high-capacity water well repairs and transfers.
   Under the Republican measure, people wouldn't need Department of Natural Resources approval to repair, replace or transfer ownership of an existing well.
   The measure would require the DNR to study the central sands region's watershed and recommend whether special measures on groundwater withdrawals are needed to protect water levels. New well owners and people who replace, rebuild or transfer wells in the region would have to submit water usage readings.
   People harmed by shrinking water levels caused by another person's withdrawal could bring a nuisance action against the withdrawer.
   The Assembly approved the bill 57-35 Thursday. Republican Rep. Scott Krug voted against his own proposal, saying he thinks it still falls short.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Assembly began a push Thursday to get tougher on rogue drone use, passing one bill that would prohibit flying the machines over prisons and another that would create penalties for using them in crimes.
   That follows a series of incidents across the country in which smugglers flew drugs, pornography or other contraband over prison walls. Wisconsin has not yet had similar issues with drone smuggling, but legislators say they want to be proactive.
   The first bill would impose a $5,000 fine for flying a drone over a state correctional institution. The second would enhance the penalty for a crime if a drone is used to commit it.
   The Assembly passed both proposals on voice votes Thursday, sending them to the state Senate.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Assembly has passed a bill Thursday that would re-shape Wisconsin's managed forest program.
   Program participants receive property tax breaks if they follow timber management plans and open their land to the public. Participants who close their land get a smaller tax break and must pay a fee.
   The bill would cap closed land at 320 acres, reduce the fee for withdrawing from the program early and allow property owners to lease their land. It also would eliminate local taxes on timber harvested from the land. Local governments would instead keep 80 percent of closed acreage fees, which currently all go to the state forestry account.
   The bill cleared the Senate earlier this month. The Assembly passed it 62-32 Thursday. It goes now to Gov. Scott Walker.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin legislators have put the finishing touches on a bill that would require state agencies to develop plans for cutting or maintain their budgets.
   Currently, agencies submit budget request for the next two years to the governor by Sept. 15 of every even-numbered year. Under the Republican bill, agencies would have to include plans in their request for cutting their operations budget by 5 percent and for maintaining operational spending levels for the biennium. Operational spending wouldn't include aid to local governments, individuals and organizations, spending on debt and spending federal dollars.
   The Assembly passed the bill 61-33 Thursday. The Senate passed the measure on Tuesday. It goes next to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

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