February Legislative Update

The Final Countdown of the 2021-22 Legislative Session

  • The Wisconsin 2021-22 legislative session is almost over! Both houses were on the floor this past week to take up a variety of bills and will reconvene against next week, February 21st. The last available week for the legislators to be on the floor on March 8-10.
  •  After the legislature finishes their floor periods in March, they are not expected to reconvene in session until January 2023.
  • During the remainder of the year, legislators will return to their districts to campaign.

Gov. Evers Delivers Fourth State of the State; Calls Special Session on Surplus Spending

  • Gov. Tony Evers (D) delivered his fourth annual State of the State address on the evening of February 15 before a joint session of the Wisconsin Legislature.
  • The address was delivered in the Assembly Chambers of the Wisconsin Capitol Building. It was the final address of Gov. Evers’ first term as governor; he is seeking reelection this November.
  • The governor’s office has released the full text of his prepared remarks as well as some excerpts.
  • The core of Gov. Evers’ address outlined his plan for spending some of the state’s projected surplus revenue.
  • The state is expected to end the current fiscal biennium on June 30, 2023 with a $3.8 billion surplus, nearly $2.9 billion more than the most recent projection. Most of this is attributable to large increases in expected sales, income, and corporate tax collections.
  • The Legislature is expected to quickly end the special session without action. Shortly after the Gov. Evers announced his proposal in January, Republican legislative leaders including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) indicated that they will wait until 2023 to spend any surplus funds

WPRA Engaging on Boat Launch Legislation – No Movement in the Senate

  • Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R – Fond du Lac) and Sen. Andre Jacque (R – DePere) have authored legislation to waive the boat launch fees for veterans.
  • The bill (SB 324/AB 285) received a committee hearing in the Assembly earlier this year and recently passed out of the Assembly Committee on Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
  • In the Assembly Committee, the bill was amended providing that DNR, municipalities, public lake protection and rehabilitation districts, and town sanitary districts may not require a veteran over the age of 65 to pay any fee for the use of a public boat launch owned or operated by the state or any of these local entities.
  • Under the amended bill, a veteran who is over the age of 65 must attests his or her veteran status to either DNR or the local entity that owns or operates the boat launch to have the fees waived.
  • WPRA requested the bill be amended to further clarify that the waiver of the boat launch fees only apply to annual fees, not daily.
  • The legislative author, Rep. Thiesfeldt believes the bill’s language provides the flexibility for local entities to determine how they want to waive the boat launch fee exemption.
  • The bill is not included on any of the February floor calendars and there continues to not be any movement in the Senate.

Still No Senate Movement on the National Anthem Legislation

  • Recall that as currently written, Assembly Bill 226/Senate Bill 244 would require the national anthem be played or sung at any sporting event held in a venue constructed entirely or in part with taxpayer funds. The bill does not include penalties, enforcement mechanisms, or any specifics as to how the anthem must be played or sung at any event.
  • The Senate Committee held a public hearing on June 29th. The bill has not received a Senate committee vote yet and has remained in the Senate committee since the public hearing in June. Since then, there have been no movement on this legislation advancing.
  • The bill moved very quickly through the Assembly, passing with bipartisan support (74-22) on May 11, less than two weeks after it received a public hearing.
  • WPRA was the only organization to provide written testimony on the bill during that hearing. WPRA expressed concern that the bill would be a burden on the many small, recreational, and children’s sporting events that our members host.
  • WPRA requested the bill’s Senate author, Sen. Pat Testin (R-Stevens Point), consider an amendment so that the bill would only apply to events at venues with a capacity of 500 or more. Sen. Testin declined to amend the bill.
  • WPRA continues to advocate for the common-sense amendment and discuss with interested legislators.