Legislators Complete Last-Minute Bills As Session Ends

As the legislative session is about to wrap up at the state Capitol, kawmakers are dealing with a number of odds and ends on Thursday night.

Major pieces of legislation, such as measures pertaining to mining and venture capital, failed to make it through.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Assembly and Senate chugged along with bills about crime victims’ rights, cost-benefit analysis, home brewing and even abortion legislation..

In the waning hours of a 15-month session that most agree was largely unforgettable. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said that despite the controversy that erupted since the session began, the GOP-majority in both chambers of the Legislature have achieved much.

“If you look at the list of items that these majorities and the governor have accomplished going back to January of last year, it’s pretty amazing the amount of stuff that we did accomplish,” Fitzgerald said.

Republicans call their session successful despite the demise of legislation that would have streamlined mining and created funds for venture capital.

“The problem is I think we did so much, so soon and so quick that people forget what we did starting out that new session,” said Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. “We had 10 bills signed into law in the month of January was over in our first year of session.”

However, the leader of Senate Democrats has a list of criticisms for the legislation passed and blames it for the state’s continuing economic woes.

“The effects of the Republican budget decisions began six-straight months of job losses,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller.

Democrats charge that those January bills didn’t do enough to spur job creation, and state job figures back up the party’s contention.

“Obviously, the solutions they have put forward, while they might feel proud of them, they’re not enough,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca. “They’re totally inadequate, and we’re failing.”

Now, lawmakers will head to the campaign trail to defend their records. Scott Fitzgerald said that he believes the Republicans have earned a return to the Legislature.

“I’m not sure what else the Republican majority could have done in this biennium,” he said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle point to the collective bargaining legislation as either a major win or a setback. They said that the measure had a huge effect on their agenda for the year.

Other measures that failed to pass include a scholarship for students with disabilities to go to charter schools, or a bill preventing so-called “double-dipping” in state jobs didn’t get Senate approval and won’t advance this session.

While talk of reviving the mining bill continues, the fate of the legislation is unclear. Scott Fitzgerald said he’s not sure what will come out of a meeting on Monday, but he believes that the Legislature should still figure out how to change mining laws with or without a mine in northern Wisconsin.