Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Senate OKs bills on lemonade stands, F-35s
Most bills, including one making bestiality a felony, go to Assembly
MADISON - Lawmakers in the state Senate voted Tuesday to make sex with animals a felony and to legalize lemonade stands for children.
The lawmakers also approved bills that would provide health insurance to the spouses of cops killed on duty and help prevent delays in processing sexual assault kits.
And on Tuesday, the state Senate confirmed some — but not all — of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet appointees and passed a resolution backing a plan to bring new fighter jets to Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing based in Madison.
Unsuccessful Tuesday was another attempt by Sen. Chris Kapenga to pass language that would allow electric car manufacturers like Tesla to sell directly to consumers rather than go through dealers like other car manufacturers.
Kapenga and four other Republican lawmakers including finance committee Co-chairwoman Alberta Darling introduced the amendment to a bill related to state penalties for car manufacturers but it was withdrawn before the Senate had a chance to vote on it.
The language was vetoed in the state budget by Gov. Tony Evers after it was included in the GOP-written spending plan to capture the budget vote from Kapenga, who sells Tesla parts and rebuilds the electric cars.
Senators on Tuesday passed a resolution backing a plan to bring new F-35A Lightning II jets to the 115th Fighter Wing based in Madison. The sign of support — introduced by 16 Republicans and one Democrat — comes amid a divisive debate among Madison residents over whether the new jets should be placed here.
The Madison airfield is one of two preferred candidates to get the F-35s. The jets would eventually replace the F-16s currently used for training missions.
The resolution will gauge support for the jets among Madison-area lawmakers, some of whom who have avoided weighing in on the issue.
Residents of the city’s east side, near the airfield, are some of the most vocal opponents of the new planes, largely over the anticipated increase in noise over the F-16s. More than 500 homes near the field will likely be ineligible for soundproofing, according to an analysis by the City of Madison.
But supporters say the fighter jet program will create dozens of new jobs in the area and secure the field’s current positions for decades.
Wisconsin officials in 2017 promoted Madison’s Truax Field as a good choice for the F-35s because the base is close to the Volk Field airspace in central Wisconsin, which means the jets could quickly fly to an F-35 training location. The base also is near the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee, which provides airto-air refueling.
Assembly lawmakers are set to take up the resolution Thursday.
Senate Bill 266 aids the spouses and children of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty by requiring local governments to continue to pay the officers’ family health insurance premiums.
Under the bill approved Tuesday, municipalities would be reimbursed by the state for the cost of the health care coverage using the proceeds of an existing fee on phone lines that generates $62 million annually.
The legislation applies to families of police officers, including those at University of Wisconsin schools and Marquette University, a special agent employed by the Department of Revenue and state fair park police officers. It would not apply to a spouse who remarries or reaches the age of 65 or to surviving children once they turn 26.
The bill now goes to the Assembly.
Sexual assault kits
Senators also approved Senate Bill 200, which would require nurses and doctors to notify police within 24 hours that they had collected evidence of a sexual assault, provided the victim wanted law enforcement to be alerted.
The State Crime Laboratory would analyze the evidence and turn it over to law enforcement, which would have to keep it for at least 50 years.
If the victim did not want to report the assault, the evidence would be sent to the crime lab within 72 hours to be stored for up to 10 years in case the victim later decided to contact police.
The bill is in response to a backlog of sexual assault kits that featured prominently in last year’s race for attorney general.
Democrat Josh Kaul beat Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel after arguing he hadn’t done enough to address the issue — a claim Schimel disputed. Schimel used a $4 million federal grant to determine which of nearly 7,000 sexual assault kits to test, based on what the victims wanted.
The Senate also approved Senate Bill 332, which would create a database sexual assault victims can access to track where their sexual assault kits are and whether they have been analyzed.
Both bills would go to the Assembly.
Senators approved Senate Bill 139, which would make sex acts involving animals a felony. Now, those acts are misdemeanors in most cases, though animal cruelty is a felony in some instances.
This is the second time lawmakers have tried to pass the measure. The bill failed to gain support in the Senate last session amid a primary election between bill author Andre Jacque of De Pere and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s preferred candidate.
The legislation is in response to a serial horse rapist in the Green Bay area who has eluded incarceration because the crime of bestiality in Wisconsin is a misdemeanor. Tougher penalties, police say, will keep the man in prison longer and unable to molest more horses.
The bill now goes to the Assembly.
Senators hope four bills approved Tuesday will limit the spread of Lyme disease, which is transmitted by deer ticks and causes a skin rash, fever, headache and fatigue. The disease can spread to joints, the heart and nervous system if left untreated.
Senate Bill 296 would require the Department of Natural Resources to post signs about the disease in state parks and on state trails. Senate Bill 297 would ensure insect repellent was sold at state parks.
Senate Bill 298 would require the DNR to conduct a public information campaign about Lyme disease and tick bites each May. Senate Bill 300 would establish a committee to study Lyme disease and its spread over the coming years.
All four bills go to the Assembly.
Anyone under the age of 18 would be able to operate a lemonade stand on private property without getting a permit under a bill approved by the Senate Tuesday. The legislation limits sales from lemonade cups to $2,000 a year. Stands will not be allowed to sell any food that could spoil, like meat.
More than nine months in Evers’ term, senators voted to confirm the first of his cabinet appointees — the least controversial of Evers’ picks. Others will have to continue to wait for approval from the Senate.
Those who haven’t made the cut for confirmation so far include Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson, Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, Children and Families Secretary Emilie Amundson and Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim.
Thompson and Palm have been approved by Republican-controlled committees but Crim has not. An aide to Sen. Chris Kapenga, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State Federal Relations, said there are no plans to take a vote on Crim.
Republicans have resisted confirming Crim because in 2005 she repeatedly poked her 5-year-old son’s hand with a pen to punish him after he did the same thing to another child. She was charged with felony child abuse, but the case was dismissed as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.
Some Republicans are also opposed to Thompson because he lobbied for a gas tax increase before he joined Evers’ administration. Some of them oppose Palm because she chose a former Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin lobbyist as her deputy.
Evers’ appointees can perform all their duties without confirmation. But by not confirming his cabinet, senators have the ability to easily remove his appointees from office.
Democrats have contended Republicans have disrespected Evers by withholding the confirmation of his entire cabinet for so long.
Confirmed Tuesday were Administration Secretary Joel Brennan, Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr, Veterans Affairs Secretary Mary Kolar, Revenue Secretary Peter Barca and Financial Institutions Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld.