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Friday, February 23, 2024

Assembly sends amended election bills to governor

Amended overhauls of the state’s election system passed the state Assembly Tuesday, clearing the last hurdle on the bills’ path to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk.

One proposal would alter state campaign finance law by increasing contribution limits for campaign donations and loosening restrictions on political action committee giving. The second measure is designed to split the state’s nonpartisan election board into two entities comprised equally of Democrats and Republicans.

The bills passed the Assembly for a first time last month, but had to be approved again after the Senate approved key changes, including adding two former judges to the new election board in an effort to reduce partisan gridlock, a compromise among Senate Republicans to ensure the bill’s passage.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, blocked Democratic amendments and debate on the campaign finance legislation after the minority recused themselves during the first vote.

Vos argued they missed their opportunity to make changes to the bill.

“Unfortunately for them, they will have an opportunity to watch but not participate, because they chose to recuse themselves," Vos said.

That measure passed 59-0.

Attention soon turned to the bill designed to restructure the state election board after a failed Democratic resolution to delay implementation of the bills.

Proponents of the measure argue the Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in Wisconsin, is nonpartisan in name only and needs restructuring.

“We see the GAB as a failed experiment, a well intentioned one, but now a colossal failure,” said state Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, the bill’s co-author.

Democrats argued the bill unfairly targets an agency that has been lauded as a nationwide model.

“You are breaking down a system which is working for your own benefit,” said state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. “The people of the state think you don’t care about them and today you’re proving them right.”

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The GAB proposal passed 56-37, with state Reps. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, and Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, joining Democrats to oppose the Senate amendments.

Both measures will now head to Walker’s desk to be signed into law. He has expressed support for the legislation.

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