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Politics & Government

State Lawmakers Prepare For Busy Fall Session

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Ann Althouse, Flickr
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State lawmakers plan to tackle issues related to jobs, abortion and drunken driving in the fall session.

The Legislature’s fall floor period begins Tuesday.

But only the Senate plans to meet this month. Its agenda includes voting on a bill to restrict public access near a proposed mine in northern Wisconsin. The goal is to keep protesters away from the workers.

Assembly leaders are still setting their agenda. Republican representatives want to nudge Gov. Walker closer to his campaign promise of creating 250,000 jobs.

One item the GOP will push is crowdfunding. It allows people to contribute money on line to business ventures. Republican Assemblyman Dale Kooyenga says the arrangement could help jump-start small companies.

“For example, if you’re just going to do a little experiment, let’s say microbrew or some sort of small business idea and you want to do what they call crowdsourcing, raising some capital among friends or online or Facebook, just trying to get rid of some regulation there,” Kooyenga says.

Democrats say they want to give people who invest in small startup companies, tax refunds. Any business creation ideas the Assembly passes will head to the Senate.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos expects to send over bills raising the speed limit on freeways to 70 and toughening drunken driving penalties. Six bills are on the docket. They include making the first offense a crime if a driver’s blood alcohol content is .15 or above, and turning the third offense into a felony.

Another issue he predicts will reach the floor of both houses is metal health. Vos convened a task force in February to recommend ways of leading more people to treatment.

“It could be a chronic condition, it could be stress or depression but much more often than not it’s something people don’t treat as seriously as you would if you broke your leg or if you had some sort of traditional medical condition,” Vos says.

Vos says his group will likely suggest ways to address mental health issues among prisoners and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. He also anticipates the Assembly will vote on a bill, requiring the state to publish all documents in English only.

Democrat Jon Richards bristles at the English-only bill.

“I think it’s mean spirited and unnecessary and again a huge distraction away from the things we should be talking about like jobs, public education and health care,” Richards says.

Among bills the Assemblyman expects his party to push -- re-tooling the way Wisconsin distributes money to public schools.

“Right now our school funding formula unfairly benefits wealthy districts at the expense of districts that need extra help. We are pushing for Superintendent Tony Evers’ plan for fair funding for our public schools,” Richards says.

Richards says what alarms him is news that the Assembly won’t even convene until October. He says it gives the appearance of a “do nothing” Legislature.

Speaker Robin Vos says Republicans needed the delay, because they have a new Majority Leader, Bill Kramer. He’s taking over for Scott Suder who just took a job in the Walker Administration.

Vos says it’ll take a few weeks for Kramer to hire staff and settle into the position. It helps schedule bills for final votes.

The Legislature’s fall session includes only one week in September, but then two in October and two in November.