WEAC Legislative Update – January 18

Governor Tony Evers’ State of the State Address is set Tuesday night. All eyes are the governor’s budget timeline, and the Assembly plans to amend its session calendar to extend the deadline for Evers to deliver his budget to March 5.

Early voting victory. WEAC is applauding a ruling by a federal judge late Thursday that finds limits to early voting were unlawful. The judge agreed to issue an order enforcing injunctions against time limits for in-person absentee voting, restrictions on the use of student identification cards for voting and time limits on the validity of temporary identification cards issued under a process called the ID Petition Process. Assembly leader Vos dismissed the ruling, saying the judge was a liberal from Dane County.

GOP makes moves to lure voters with so-called middle-class tax cut. It is conceptually similar to what Evers called for during the campaign, but it would be paid for through state reserve funds instead of by capping a tax credit for manufacturers and farmers, as Evers proposed. The governor’s sustainable plan to cut taxes for middle-class families — which is funded by rolling back tax giveaways for millionaires — would provide relief for 86 percent of taxpayers without adding to the deficit or relying on one-time funds.

Marsy’s Law & the April Ballot. A bill that spells out rights for crime victims, which was expected to be up for floor votes Tuesday, may not come before the Assembly, Majority Leader Robin Vos said late Thursday. Vos said the caucus hasn’t finished its discussion yet. A constitutional amendment, it cleared the Legislature last session, and needs to get second approval by Tuesday to make the April ballot.

Private attorneys to defend the Legislature at taxpayer expense. The GOP-controlled Joint Committee on Legislative Organization voted along party lines to hire private attorneys to defend the Legislature in several lawsuits filed over the lame duck session. The pending legal actions include Dem Rep. Jimmy Anderson’s complaint accusing Assembly Republicans of violating the open meetings law by failing to give proper notice before the votes on extraordinary session bills last month. Also, a coalition of groups says the lame-duck laws are unconstitutional, because they stemmed from an unlawful legislative session.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski elected chair of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. The board — which consists of Godlewski, Secretary of State Doug La Follette and Attorney General Josh Kaul — unanimously voted Godlewski chair. The board manages a fund furnished by the sale of public lands and hands out earnings to the state’s K-12 public school libraries. The post was previously held by former AG Brad Schimel.