Assembly continues flurry of last-minute votes on bills

Front of Madison Capitol in fall/winter

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Latest on action in the Wisconsin Assembly (all times Central):

10:55 p.m. - Right to Try

People with life-threatening diseases in Wisconsin could get access to experimental drugs more quickly under a bill headed to Gov. Scott Walker.

The state Assembly passed the so-called "right to try" bill Thursday. The proposal would allow certain patients to be prescribed drugs that have yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Supporters say too many patients can't get into clinical trials and it takes the FDA too long to approve experimental drugs that could help seriously ill patients.

The Senate passed it earlier this week, so it will become law with Walker's signature.


9:45 p.m. - Straw man gun purchases

A bill strengthening the penalties for legally buying a firearm with the intent to provide the weapon to someone barred from having a gun is headed to Gov. Scott Walker.

The Assembly passed the bill targeting the practice known as "straw" purchases Thursday. The Senate passed it earlier this week.

Under current law it's a misdemeanor, punishable by up to nine months in jail, for someone to knowingly give a firearm to someone prohibited from possessing one. The bill makes it a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison.

The measure is supported by law enforcement agencies and Milwaukee officials who say it will help combat the problem in Wisconsin's largest city.


9:30 p.m. - Kimberly-Clark tax credit

A tax break package designed to stop consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark from cutting 600 Wisconsin jobs has cleared the state Assembly.

The Assembly passed it 56-37 Thursday and it now goes to the state Senate.

Democrats say the move is just a political ploy, especially since Kimberly-Clark did not ask for the incentives. The company has been noncommittal on whether the tax breaks would entice them to reverse a decision to close two plants in northeast Wisconsin.

The tax credit on jobs alone could cost the state between $100 million and $115 million over the 15 years.

The incentives are modeled after a multi-billion incentives deal to entice electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group into building a flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant.

A coalition of conservative groups opposes the Kimberly-Clark deal. They say it's bad economics and sets a bad precedent for economic development.

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8 p.m. - Drunk drivers' driver licenses

Repeat drunken drivers could lose their licenses permanently under a bill the state Assembly has passed.

The Assembly approved the measure 84-10 Thursday. It now heads to the Senate, which passed a nearly identical proposal unanimously last year.

Under the bill, the state Department of Transportation would be required to permanently revoke the license of anyone caught driving drunk four or more times. The agency also would be required to permanently revoke a person's license after a second offense in conjunction with other related vehicular offenses, including vehicular homicide.

People who lose their license wouldn't qualify for occupational licenses but could petition the DOT after a decade for reinstatement.


6:30 p.m. - Teacher assaults and contracts

The state Assembly has passed a watered-down bill that would ensure teachers could terminate their contracts without penalty if they're assaulted.

The chamber passed the proposal 58-36 Thursday. It now goes to the Senate.

The bill originally would have required police to notify the school and teachers when they take a student into custody for a violent crime. Teachers would have been allowed to petition school boards to suspend students if administrators refused to do it and clarified teachers have a right to inspect student behavioral records.

The bill's author, Republican Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, stripped those provisions out after he encountered intense resistance from school administrators, teachers, school boards, student advocates and others. They argued those provisions would have done nothing to solve the root causes of student violence, lead to more suspensions and increase student contact with police.


5:50 p.m. - Funds for new prison

The state Assembly has passed a bill that would authorize $350 million in borrowing for a new prison, $4 million to hire 54 additional prosecutors across Wisconsin and send more people to prison on parole revocations.

The Assembly passed the bill 59-35 Thursday, sending it to the Senate where its prospects are uncertain.

Democratic opponents objected to a provision that would require the Department of Corrections to recommend revoking probation, parole or extended supervision for anyone charged with a felony or violent misdemeanor. That's expected to send hundreds more people to prison every year, adding $57 million in costs to the state annually.

Adding the new prosecutors is also expected to result in more people being sent to prison.

Wisconsin's adult prisons are 30 percent over capacity. Republicans say it's a foregone conclusion a new prison will be needed.


4:38 p.m. - Funds for more prosecutors

The Wisconsin Assembly has approved spending nearly $4 million to hire 54 additional prosecutors across the state, but not in Madison or Milwaukee.

Republican Rep. John Nygren said Thursday where the prosecutors will go is based on a 2014 workload need study done by the Legislative Audit Bureau, not politics.

But Democrats say needs have increased since then and it makes no sense not to add prosecutors in Dane or Milwaukee counties.

District attorneys and others have long complained about being short-staffed. The new prosecutors would go to the 40 highest-need, mostly rural, counties.

Public defenders have also long lobbied the Legislature for additional staff and funding, but the Assembly was not doing anything to address that need.

The funding was added to a bill that would increase revocation of parole, sending more people to prison


4:15 p.m. - Sales tax holiday

The state Assembly has approved a Republican bill that would provide parents with a tax credit and create a sales tax holiday.

The measure would give parents a $100 per-child tax credit and set a sales tax holiday for the first weekend in August.

The Assembly approved the bill 61-35 Thursday. It now goes to the state Senate. The measure is one of Gov. Scott Walker's top priorities but its fate in the Senate is uncertain. The tax holiday provision lacks support in that chamber, putting the entire bill in jeopardy.

Any changes the Senate might make to the bill would likely kill it. Both houses must pass an identical bill and the Assembly is expected to adjourn for the year after finishing its work Thursday, leaving nowhere for any Senate changes to go.


2:45 p.m. - Sales tax holiday changes

The state Assembly has amended Gov. Scott Walker's sales tax holiday plan to allow retailers to opt out.

Walker has proposed legislation that would establish a sales tax holiday during the first week in August and provide parents with a $100 per-child tax credit funded with the state's surplus. Assembly Republicans have embraced the plan but their counterparts in the state Senate have been skeptical. They don't support the sales tax holiday portion of the plan.

Assembly Republicans began a floor debate on the bill Thursday by amending the measure to let retailers opt out of the sales tax holiday. The chamber adopted the change on a voice vote.

It was unclear when the body would vote on the full plan. Democrats blasted the plan as an election year gimmick and said the state should spend the surplus on other needs such as road repairs and public schools.

Republicans countered that the surplus belongs to taxpayers and they should get it back.


1:10 p.m. - Family tax credits face changes

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says his members plan to tweak a Republican bill that would provide parents with a child tax credit and create a sales tax holiday.

The bill would provide parents a $100 per-child tax credit and establish a sales tax holiday during the first week in August. The measure is one of Gov. Scott Walker's top priorities.

The Assembly was set to vote on the bill Thursday. Its prospects look uncertain in the Senate, however. The tax holiday lacks support in that chamber.

Vos said during a news conference that Assembly Republicans plan to amend the measure to allow retailers to opt out of the sales tax holiday. Vos said some small retailers may not be able to adjust their cash registers or software to delete the sales tax for one weekend.

He also stressed that the original bill allows parents to donate their rebate to charity or reject it outright.

He said the Senate can take the bill or leave it.


This item has been updated to correct that the original bill allows parents to reject the tax credit, not an amendment.


11:20 p.m. - Assembly's final day

The Wisconsin Assembly plans to finish its work for the year by approving $350 million to build a new prison and provide all parents a $100 per-child tax rebate.

The Assembly scheduled a marathon last day in session on Thursday that's expected to go deep into the night.

It plans to vote on Gov. Scott Walker's proposed $100 child tax rebate that also includes an August sales tax holiday. The tax holiday idea doesn't appear to have support in the Senate, putting the entire tax cut in jeopardy.

Another bill up for approval includes $350 million in borrowing to pay for a new adult prison. Its fate in the Senate is also unknown.

A tax incentive package designed to entice Kimberly-Clark to not cut 600 jobs in northeastern Wisconsin was also slated for approval.