The Vernon County Democratic Party said in a statement Feb. 19 it is “dismayed” over the large number of bills the Wisconsin legislature passed hastily last week, some after midnight, in the waning days of the current session.
Under the state’s “special order of business” provision, the Assembly posted 107 bills for consideration last Thursday (Feb. 18) alone. This provision eliminates the minority party’s ability to object to a bill coming to the floor.
“Many of these bills concern issues of great importance to the people of Wisconsin and several do away with safeguards, leaving the state’s communities and environment vulnerable to corporate exploitation,” said co-chairman Scott Champion. “The repercussions go far beyond private property lines. This isn’t what Wisconsin residents have historically expected of our government, and it’s a deplorable way to run a democracy.”
State Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby) was among several legislators who introduced a bill that would permanently allow companies including frac sand mine operators, farmers, and food processors to refurbish or replace high capacity wells without a state review on how the wells are affecting ground water, lakes and streams. The Assembly voted 57-35 along party lines for the bill last Thursday, with Nerison among Republicans voting in favor.
Another bill introduced by Republicans would limit local governments’ ability to enforce zoning ordinances and prohibit them from enacting development moratoriums. Nerison was among Assembly members voting for this on Feb. 9. The Senate approved it last Tuesday (Feb. 16) along party lines with state Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) voting against it, and the Assembly passed it on voice vote Thursday.
The legislature also approved more changes to Wisconsin’s election laws. Nerison voted for the bill, which approves on-line voter registration, but eliminates the ability of election clerks to deputize groups such as the League of Women Voters to help people register to vote. An amendment added by the Assembly last week also sets new campaign contribution limits. Shilling voted against the bill.
“Nerison’s votes show disregard for the concerns of his constituents who cherish Wisconsin’s environment and support local control and voter rights,” Champion said. “It appears he is responding to commercial interests rather than communities’ right to govern themselves and our right to preserve Wisconsin’s natural environment for ourselves and future generations.”
The Assembly was expected to end the session Thursday (Feb. 18), but could call the Assembly back into session. The Senate has one tentative additional day scheduled for March 15.