What you need to know: State legislature in session

Topics include aviation sales tax break, gunshot sensor expansion, propane loans, cellphone tracking
What you need to know: State legislature in session

The Wisconsin State Assembly and State Senate are in session Tuesday and taking up numerous newsworthy issues. Here are some of them. They will be updated throughout the day.

Senate passes cellphone tracking ban

Police would be prohibited from tracking cellphone locations without a warrant under a bill headed to Gov. Scott Walker.

The Senate passed the measure on Tuesday on a voice vote. The Assembly approved it last week.

Under the bill, police would have to submit details about their investigation in the application for a warrant to track a cellphone.

That information would include the subject of the investigation, a statement of the crime and a statement of probable cause to believe there is criminal activity. Police would also have to decide how tracking the phone would yield relevant information.

Senate passes bill to delay phosphorus rules

The Wisconsin state Senate has passed a bill that would allow for delaying implementation of costly phosphorus reduction rules.

The Republican-sponsored proposal now heads to the Assembly, which plans to vote on it Thursday.

The bill gives communities and the industry more options and time for reducing the pollutant which causes algae.

Municipal treatment plant operators and business groups have been lobbying for changes to current law, saying the regulations are too expensive, difficult to meet and won’t work as hoped to cut down on algae growth in public waters.

The state approved phosphorus regulation in late 2010, under then-Gov. Jim Doyle, but current Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans have been looking at scaling them back.

The bill passed on a voice vote.

Senate votes to expand informed consent

A Wisconsin state law covering what information doctors are required to tell patients would be expanded under a bill that has passed the Senate.

The Legislature last year changed the law to no longer require doctors to give patients as much information about available alternative treatments. The law was changed from a “reasonable patient standard” to a “reasonable physician standard.”

The bill passed Tuesday would expand the “informed consent” law to apply to chiropractors, dentists, podiatrists and optometrists.

The change was made in reaction to a 2012 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that said a doctor’s “informed consent” duty includes telling a patient about medical tests and treatments that may be appropriate for a patient’s symptoms, even if the doctor doesn’t believe the patient has the underlying condition or disease.

Senate passes school accountability bill

The Wisconsin state Senate has passed a limited school accountability bill that would not impose sanctions on poor performing public or private voucher schools.

The vote Tuesday comes as the Assembly is reviving another bill that would call for closing poor performing public schools and stopping private schools from accepting students who receive taxpayer subsidized vouchers.

The measure passed by the Senate on a 29-3 vote would require any school that takes taxpayer money to report test scores and other data to be included on report cards starting in the 2015 school year.

Democratic opponents say the bill doesn’t go far enough to hold voucher schools accountable. Republican sponsor Sen. Luther Olsen says he doesn’t know if there’s support in the Senate for the more expansive Assembly bill.

Assembly passes gun injunction standards

The Wisconsin Assembly has approved a bill that would establish a standard process for confiscating guns in domestic abuse cases.

Current state law requires people to surrender their guns if they’re subject to a domestic abuse injunction. But the law doesn’t spell out exactly how.

Republican Rep. Garey Bies introduced a bill that would require the subject of an injunction to fill out a form documenting his or her weapons. A judge would hold a hearing to order the person to surrender the weapons. The director of state courts would have to develop a form the subject could fill out requesting the weapons be returned when the injunction expires.

The Assembly passed the bill on a voice vote with no debate Tuesday. The measure now goes to the state Senate.

Lawmakers propose propane loan program

A new loan program would be created under a bill introduced by a group of Republican state lawmakers to help Wisconsin residents who are struggling with high prices this winter.

The bill introduced on Monday is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

Loans would be up to $2,500 per person to purchase propane or other heating supplies. The borrower’s household income could not exceed 200 percent of the median household income of their county.

Republican sponsors say it would help middle class propane users who don’t qualify for low income assistance through another program would be targeted.

Gov. Scott Walker last month declared a state of emergency due to the propane shortage and established a $3 million loan guarantee program to help propane dealers.

Assembly OKs amendment convention request

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a resolution calling for a convention of states to develop a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The group Citizens for Self-Governance, led by Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, has launched a national push for a convention to craft the amendment.

The group contends Congress will never move such an amendment forward on its own.

Thirty-four states must request such a convention before Congress can authorize it. The Wisconsin resolution’s author, Republican Rep. Chris Kapenga, says about 20 states have already passed a convention resolution.

Assembly Republicans passed the resolution on a 58-38 party line vote Tuesday. They also passed a Kapenga bill establishing a five-person convention delegation by the same margin.

Both proposals now go to the state Senate.

Senate to vote on expanding informed consent

A Wisconsin state law covering what information doctors are required to tell patients would be expanded under a bill in the Senate.

The Legislature last year changed the law to no longer require doctors to give patients as much information about available alternative treatments. The law was changed from a “reasonable patient standard” to a “reasonable physician standard.”

The bill up for a vote Tuesday would expand the “informed consent” law to apply to chiropractors, dentists, podiatrists and optometrists.

The change was made in reaction to a 2012 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that said a doctor’s “informed consent” duty includes telling a patient about medical tests and treatments that may be appropriate for a patient’s symptoms, even if the doctor doesn’t believe the patient has the underlying condition or disease.

Assembly passes injunction bill

Attorneys could appeal temporary rulings that put Wisconsin laws on hold under a bill the state Assembly has approved.

The Assembly passed a measure in June that would allow lawyers to nullify rulings that block statutes if they appeal within 10 days. Republicans introduced the bill after Dane County judges struck down portions of Gov. Scott Walker’s public union restrictions and invalidated the GOP’s photo identification requirements for voters.

The Legislature’s attorneys, though, warned the bill might violate the separation between the legislative and judicial branches. Senate Republicans revised the bill last week to allow lawyers to appeal rulings issued ahead of a final judgment and dropped the nullification language.

The Assembly concurred with the changes 60-36 Tuesday. The bill now goes to Gov. Scott Walker.

Assembly OKs gunshot sensor expansion

The Milwaukee Police Department would get state dollars to buy more gunshot sensors under a bill the state Assembly has passed.

The Republican-authored measure would hand the department $175,000 in state aid to expand the ShotSpotter program, a system of audio sensors placed in neighborhoods that captures the sound of gunshots and transmits their location to officers. Police say the system allows them to respond quickly to crime scenes and analyze patterns.

The sensors currently cover 3 square miles; police want to use the state money and a matching $175,000 in the Milwaukee County budget to encompass 10 square miles.

The Assembly passed the bill 95-1. The proposal now goes to the state Senate.

Assembly to vote on elections bills

The Wisconsin state Assembly is scheduled to vote on a pair of Republican-backed bills affecting elections.

One measure up for a vote Tuesday would specify that only a chief election inspector and an inspector from a different political party than the chief can secure ballot containers on election day.

The other bill would require an equal number of Republican and Democratic inspectors to perform poll functions.

The proposals stem from a 2012 recall election pitting incumbent Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard against Democrat John Lehman. Wanggaard lost his seat but complained the election was marred by irregularities.

The Senate passed the bills in October.

Senate passes aviation sales tax break

Aviation companies in Wisconsin would be exempt from having to pay sales taxes on aircraft maintenance parts and labor under a bill that has passed the state Senate.

The Senate voted 24-8 on Tuesday to pass the bill.

It would benefit companies like Gulfstream in Appleton and Cessna in Milwaukee.

Those companies and others say having to pay the sales tax puts them at a competitive disadvantage because aircraft owners are taking their business to other states that don’t charge the tax.

Bill sponsor Sen. Mike Ellis, a Republican from Neenah, says the tax cut would cost about $3 million a year in lost revenue, but it would generate more than twice that much in increased business for the aviation companies.

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