The state Senate reconvened for a two-hour long floor session today.
One bill passed today changes how the state regulates the hemp industry.
Wisconsin legalized hemp in 2017, but this bill makes hemp regulations consistent with last year’s federal farm bill.
One change in the bill makes the state agriculture department’s current pilot program for hemp permanent. It also changes the process for testing THC content within hemp.
Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee stressed that the bill is necessary for keeping the hemp industry under state control.
“I just want to say that this is an important industry that we want to be a part of, but without this bill the federal government would be in control,” Taylor says.
“So, for those of you feel strongly about states’ rights, today is the day that you should be voting for this if you support states’ rights, because otherwise you’re giving the federal government control over your farmers,” Taylor adds.
State Senators Steve Nass and Duey Stroebel both voted “nay” and did not return a phone call seeking comment on their vote.
Another bill passed today creates clear protocols for the transmission, processing, and storage of sexual assault kits to address the backlog of untested kits in the state.
Senator Robert Cowles of Green Bay introduced the legislation alongside Senator Patty Schachtner of Somerset.
“We have no statutory procedures currently for sexual assault kit processing. We need to have that. We need to have a clear chain of evidence to prevent the kind of problems that have occurred in the past,” Cowles stresses.
According to the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, the state is responsible for nearly 7,000 unsubmitted kits. Another 4,000 kits are still designated for testing that hasn’t been completed.
A related bill drafted by Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills would create a Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System.
“When the victim is talking to the police or the DEA, they take a sample and put it in a kit, and this bill tracks the kit because right now the victims cannot tell where their sexual assault kit is,” Darling says.
“This bill would track where it is. The kits are used to identify the perpetrator and I think this is a very important bill because the victim…can be a part of detecting her perpetrator.”
Other bills passed by the state Senate would make it a felony to have sexual contact with an animal as opposed to a misdemeanor under current law, allow minors to process and sell food at temporary stands without a permit or license, and allow members of an unidentified religious group to receive a certificate of self-insurance from the Department of Transportation.
The Senate also confirmed five of Governor Tony Evers’ cabinet secretaries, the first confirmation votes for any of the Governor’s agency secretaries since he took office.
And, Republicans shared changes to assembly rules allowing Representative Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg, who is paralyzed, to call in to committee meetings. The change to assembly rules follows a back-and-forth with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who claimed the request was merely a political tactic.
Anderson has publicly voiced his request in the past, but the rules were made without his direct input and are just a first step, he says.
“The accommodation resolution is being smooshed into a resolution with a bunch of other provisions that would, for example, make it easier for them to overturn vetoes of the Governor, and so I think if they’re really serious about providing these accommodations, I hope they do it as a standalone resolution,” Anderson says.
Anderson also says that the two hour notice required to access the disability accommodation is unreasonable as complications may appear suddenly, and that individuals who have temporary disabilities should also be given access to the accommodation.
The Assembly will consider the rule changes during its floor session Thursday.