As Legislative Session Nears End, A Number of Bills Up for Vote - WBAY

As Legislative Session Nears End, A Number of Bills Up for Vote

Madison -

As the legislative session nears an end, lawmakers will try pushing a number of proposals through the Assembly and Senate.

This week the Assembly is expected to finalize Governor Walker's half-billion dollar property and income tax bill. The average homeowner will save $131 on December's bill, and the average income tax filer will save $46 in April 2015.

At a news conference in Green Bay Monday, three Assembly Democrats urged Republicans to debate and pass a bill raising the minimum wage.

"We'll be able to see later this week whether or not Republican legislators are in step with the electorate or not," Rep. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) said.

The proposal, which Democrats will try bringing to the floor Tuesday, is expected to go nowhere.

What Assembly Republicans hope to pass is a school accountability bill. The Assembly version would require the same standards for public and vouchers schools receiving taxpayer money along with sanctions for schools deemed low-performing for several years in a row.

"Every school that takes taxpayer funding will be subject to the same report card, and if they fail it will all be subject to interventions," Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukuna) said, one of the bill's major advocates.

Supporters are pushing for a bipartisan vote.

"While I don't support taxpayer funds going to unaccountable private schools, if it is going to happen we should make sure they're getting evaluated on the same grounds," Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) said.

Senate Republicans passed smaller changes in their own accountability bill earlier this session, opposed to sanctions in the Assembly version.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said, "It's unclear if the amended bill will have the votes to pass the senate.  We will discuss it in caucus this week, but I would prefer that the Assembly concur in the version we passed to ensure some transparency and accountability measure passes this session."

Monday Governor Walker urged passage.

"My goal the last two years has been working with lawmakers in both parties, with parents, with business owners, with educators to make sure that every school that gets any sort of public funds in this state would be accountable," Walker said.

On election bills, it's unclear yet whether the Assembly will take up the Senate's early voting measure.

A discussion among the Republican caucus is expected Tuesday.

The Senate's version, which passed last week, would end early voting on weekends and limit hours between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Senate version would also provide some money to rural municipalities offering early voting, which some Assembly Republicans question.

"We'll have a discussion tomorrow about that in our leadership meeting," Steineke said. "And we'll see where that goes from there."

Democrats call the measure strictly political.

"This is nothing more than an effort to suppress the vote," Hintz said. "And really the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves."

Assembly leaders plan to finish the session Thursday. The Senate is expected to go through April 1.

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