Wisconsin Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has announced state senate committee chairmanships for the upcoming 2019-2020 legislative session. In a move that could be a game-changer, Fitzgerald appointed Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) to chair the Senate Health Committee, a position long held by Sen. Leah Vukmir, who gave up her state senate seat in a losing bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Testin, the senate author of last session’s legislation legalizing industrial hemp in Wisconsin, has been supportive of medical cannabis, something Vukmir consistently opposed throughout her entire Wisconsin legislative career dating back to her service in the State Assembly in the early 2000s.
Testin was first elected in 2016, defeating incumbent state Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) a longtime anti-medical cannabis politician who joined with Senate Health committee Republican colleagues Mary Lazich, Alberta Darling and Ted Kanavas in 2009 to kill state medical cannabis legislation, AB554/SB368, the Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act (JRMMA).
In another Senate committee appointment, Fitzgerald reappointed Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) as chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety. In the 2016-2017 session, the 2017 AB409/SB318 cannabis decriminalization bill sponsored by Rep. Adam Jarchow and Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) was assigned to this committee, where it died, without Wanggaard scheduling a public hearing.
Last week, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced his list of committee chairs for the upcoming 2019-2020 legislative session that begins Jan. 7, 2019 when members will be sworn in.
The chair of the Assembly Health Committee will again be Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin). 2017 AB75, the Assembly version of SB38, the medical cannabis legislation sponsored by Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), was assigned to the Assembly Health committee, where it did not receive a public hearing or a vote.
Speaker Vos also reappointed Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield) as chairman of the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee. In the 2017-2018, both Rep. Melissa Sargent’s 2017 AB482 adult use bill and the bipartisan 2017 AB409 cannabis decriminalization bill sponsored by Rep. Adam Jarchow and Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) were assigned to this committee where both bills died without a public hearing or a vote. Rep. Sargent’s bill did not have a state senate version and thus did not receive a senate committee referral.