MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Republican-backed bills to limit absentee voting hours and make other election-law changes are scheduled for votes next week in the Wisconsin Senate as lawmakers rush to finish their work for the year.
The bills were included on the agenda released Friday for the Senate session on Tuesday. They are among more than 50 bills to be voted on by the Senate in what is expected to be one of its last days in session before adjourning either later this month or the first week of April.
A number of other high-profile bills – including one that would allow the Legislature to write new academic standards for Wisconsin’s public schools to replace Common Core standards – were not scheduled for debate, increasing the odds they will not pass this year.
Also in limbo are bills to toughen the state’s drunken driving laws, loosen regulations on high-capacity wells, increase the speed limit and prohibit local governments from creating new sand mine regulations.
One of the election bills up for a vote Tuesday would limit in-person absentee voting to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays in the two weeks before an election. A similar version passed the Assembly in November.
Democrats oppose it because it would reduce the hours that Milwaukee and Madison polls could be open. Both cities, which are Democratic strongholds, held extended nighttime and weekend hours in 2012 when President Barack Obama carried Wisconsin.
Another bill up for a vote would create buffer zones for election observers. And a third would allow lobbyists to make campaign donations starting on April 15, rather than June 1, in an election year.
The lobbyist change was introduced late Monday and had a public hearing Wednesday. It was done to reflect earlier primaries, which moved from September to August, but critics worry it creates problems because lobbyists could be giving donations while the Legislature is still in session.
Another election-related bill – which would enshrine in state law a rule that exempts issue advocacy groups from disclosing campaign finances – was not scheduled for a vote Tuesday. That measure has opposition from some Republican senators and its prospects are uncertain.
The Common Core bill was the subject of a 10-hour hearing Thursday that attracted hundreds of people. Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Luther Olsen said he would not schedule the bill for a vote until its backers assured him it had enough support to pass the Senate.
Olsen said Friday no one had approached him yet to say they had the votes. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Thursday that the measure was unlikely to pass in its current form.
Bills must pass both the Senate and Assembly in identical form, and be signed by Gov. Scott Walker, to become law. The Assembly is expected to be in session only a couple of more days this month before quitting for the year.