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May 25, 2020

3/7/2020 7:30:00 AM
Political Digest

Evers vetoes bill to allow paddlewheel and meat raffles for charities
Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a charity raffle bill this week that was unanimously supported in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature, and the veto drew immediate criticism from the bill's author, Sen. André Jacque (R-De Pere). "Senate Bill 43 would have allowed the popular use of paddlewheels for raffles across our state to continue without groups unknowingly and unintentionally committing a felony level offense," Jacque said. "Paddlewheel raffles are very common and successful fundraisers among many sportsmen's clubs, civic and veterans' organizations, and churches throughout the state." For example, Jacque said, a frequently used variation is the 'meat raffle,' a crowd favorite seen at events from church festivals to VFW fish fries. "However, groups who hold paddlewheel raffles at special events under their raffle license are being informed that they are fostering illegal gambling, and are subject to up to a Class I Felony penalty," he said. "It is extremely disappointing that Gov. Evers is interested in groups like ABATE and the VFW continuing to operate in the shadows and under threat of the Department of Revenue. I'm disappointed this bill was unanimously passed in committee and on the floor in both houses of the Legislature, just for Gov. Evers to veto it."
Legislation designed to deter 'swatting' becomes law
A bill designed to deter the use of swatting was signed into law this week. As defined in the new law, 'swatting' occurs when an individual reports an emergency to law enforcement, knowing no emergency exists, in an attempt to elicit a response from a SWAT team. Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) was the principal author of the bill. "I'm very pleased to see Wisconsin join other states like California, New Jersey, and Kansas in addressing the act of swatting," Cowles said. "This crime not only diverts police resources toward non-emergencies, it endangers the safety of both the innocent victims and the first responders. By increasing the penalties for those who decide to make swatting calls, we can help reduce the frequency of these dangerous pranks and ensure that the legal penalties align with the seriousness of the crime." A person found guilty of a knowingly false and severe prank will be guilty of a Class I felony. The new law also finds an individual guilty of a Class H felony if the violation resulted in bodily harm, and a Class E felony if the violation resulted in great bodily harm.
Suicide prevention bill signed into law
A bill authored by state Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) to raise awareness about suicides was signed into law by Gov. Tony Evers this week. "The number of lives taken by suicide among young people continues to grow across the state and country," Stafsholt said. "As a member of the Speaker's Task Force on Suicide Prevention, I am pleased that Gov. Evers signed this bi-partisan bill into law." AB 531 requires that all future student identification cards distributed by schools across the state to include the telephone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or, if the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ceases operations, another national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to individuals in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. "Printing these support numbers is a simple tool that schools can use to raise awareness among their students, and potentially save the life of a young person in Wisconsin," Stafsholt said.
Loudenbeck touts EMS, wetlands bills
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) said two bills she authored that were signed into law this week will help local communities. One bill, authored with Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), grants the same levy limit flexibility that exists currently for joint fire departments for the creation and operation of a joint emergency medical services (EMS) district. The law will allow local municipalities to form a joint EMS district, without forming a joint fire department. The intent of the law is to allow communities to band together, when appropriate, to potentially provide a higher level of fire protection and/or emergency medical services at a lower cost than would be possible for them to provide on their own. "Local communities are not only struggling to maintain adequate staff for fire and EMS services, they must also provide adequate resources for apparatus, tools, gear, training, fuel and other items needed to remain operational," Loudenbeck said. "In many cases cost savings can be achieved by sharing high cost equipment and personnel among neighboring communities. I've already had communities in my district reach out about possibly using this as a way to improve care and reduce costs. I look forward to working with them to make that possible." The second bill, authored with Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), aims to improve surface water quality by allowing lake and river management grant funds to be used for the strategic placement of floating treatment wetlands (FTW) to improve surface water quality and remove excess phosphorus and other nutrients from Wisconsin waterways. "Floating treatment wetlands are not new, or untested," she said. "The technology is passive but the impact is powerful. I hope water quality groups will consider FTW technology to reduce impacts of excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in our local lakes and lagoons."
Dairy group applauds bill to protect farmers from double loss on crop damage
A bill signed into law this week by Gov. Tony Evers will protect farmers from taking a double financial hit when their crops are damaged or cannot be planted due to weather or other natural causes. The Dairy Business Association applauded Gov. Evers along with the legislation's authors - Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), and Reps. Don Vruwink (D- Milton) and James Edming (R-Glen Flora) - for the bi-partisan effort. The new law adjusts the formula used to calculate the manufacturing and agricultural tax credit so that farmers can claim the full credit even though they receive federal crop insurance for the lost harvest. Without the change, farmers who lost revenue because of crop damage also had to pay more in taxes. The change will apply to tax filings for 2019. Tom Crave, president of the Dairy Business Association and a farmer and cheesemaker in south-central Wisconsin, said the significance of the legislation was underscored by the experience of many farmers who lost crops or couldn't plant them this past year because of extremely wet conditions. "Federal crop insurance helps offset the losses, but without the change made today, those farmers would not have had the opportunity to claim the tax credit and would have essentially taken two losses," he said. "We appreciate that our government leaders are attentive to issues that affect our dairy community and commit the time to understand how they can take practical steps toward improvements." Prior to the change in the law, the definition of "production gross receipts" used to calculate the manufacturing and agricultural tax credit did not include crop insurance payments. Therefore, a farmer who lost all or portions of a crop not only lost proceeds from the sale of the crop, but also had a significant reduction in allowable "production gross receipts" used in calculating eligibility for the tax credit. Crop insurance proceeds are counted as taxable income. This means a farmer who recouped part of the loss through a crop insurance payment might have had to pay income taxes on that reduced profit, whereas a farmer who planted, harvested and sold a crop would have been able to include proceeds for purposes of claiming the credit.
Four HOPE agenda bills signed into law
State Rep, John Nygren (R-Marinette), who is the author of 34 bipartisan pieces of legislation aimed at combating substance abuse in Wisconsin, hailed Gov. Tony Evers's signing of four additional pieces of the package. "Gov. Evers signed four additional HOPE Agenda bills into law, bringing the total to 34 bipartisan pieces of legislation," Nygren said. "While there is always more work to be done, more lives to save, and more avenues to recovery that need opening, today's actions are another arrow in the state's quiver to combat substance abuse." Since 2013, Wisconsin has passed 34 bipartisan pieces of legislation, Nygren said. Nygren said the four bills signed into law will expand access to safe and reliable recovery housing; ensure state employees protections while undergoing Medication-Assisted Treatment; extend the highly successful PDMP requirements; expand access to MAT in our corrections environments; and remove barriers to Recovery Coaches. "There are still two important pieces of the HOPE Agenda that are awaiting a floor vote in the state Senate," Nygren said. "Both Assembly Bills 648 and 651 passed the Assembly with broad bipartisan support and will expand access to non-addictive treatment for pain and continue portions of the highly successful Good-Samaritan law. I hope to see both of these bills scheduled for a floor vote soon."

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