It took me awhile to assemble the pieces of this post, which pulls together information on the 10 distinct pieces of cannabis-related legislation introduced in the Wisconsin legislature in the 2015-2016 session. With most bills having originated in the Assembly, I’ve chosen to focus on that chamber.
It’s a sad fact most cannabis-related legislation ever introduced in the Wisconsin legislature has been sponsored only by Democratic lawmakers, mostly from the Assembly. The 2015-2016 session followed that pattern, with eight of the ten bills introduced originating in the Assembly, and only one sponsored by Republicans, AB221/SB228, the CBD bill. Even so, of the 23 Assembly sponsors/cosponsors for that legislation, the majority, 12, were Democrats with only 11 Republicans signing on. (Reps. Krug, Macco, Craig, Brandtjen, Tittl, Kitchens, Spiros, E. Brooks, Murphy, Meyers and Weatherston,)
Here’s a list of the ten bills with links to more info on the legislature website.:
AB224: Adult use
AB228/SB221: Cannabidiol (CBD)
SB772: CBD production
SB789: Medical Use
AB944: Nonfelony pot record expungement.
AB945: Removes 2nd offense felony
AB994: 2nd offense a misdemeanor
AB995: Pot penalties
Here’s a chart showing support by party affiliation:
Two of the ten bills were Senate bills with no Assembly companion bills, while five Assembly bills had no Senate companion bill. Outside of a single Republican cosponsor on AB215, Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake), the Democratic-sponsored hemp bill, no other Republicans sponsored or cosponsored any Democratic-sponsored cannabis-related bills.
GOP chairs to whose committees the cannabis related bills were assigned held hearings and votes only for the GOP-sponsored CBD bill. All other bills did not receive public hearings and all those bills died in committee without further action. Rep. Rob Swearingen, GOP chair of the committee the hemp bill was assigned to twice ignored letters from bill sponsor Considine pleading for public hearings.
Assembly Democrats varied widely in number of bill supported:
With most Wisconsin pot-related legislation introduced by Assembly Democrats, I took a look at who sponsored and cosponsored legislation, and who didn’t. Below is a chart I created showing the ten bills introduced in the 2015-2016 session and which Assembly Democrats were sponsors/cosponsor, along with a listing of those who sponsored/cosponsored no cannabis-related bills.
Between extreme gerrymandering that is currently being federally litigated and a steady loss of seats since the 2010 elections, there are currently only 36 Democrats in the 99-seat State Assembly. Of the 36, at least 29 sponsored or cosponsored one bill. 50 votes are needed to pass a bill.
The top Assembly Democrat for bills sponsored/cosponsored was Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) with 9 of 10 bills cosponsored. Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) was second with 8, followed by a 3-way tie for 7 with Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), Rep. Evan Goyke and Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha), Six bills were cosponsored by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison, Rep. Robb Kahl (D-Monona) and Rep. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) in another 3-way tie. Reps. Kahl and Johnson are not seeking reelection this year. 21 other Assembly Dems sponsored/cosponsored 5 or less bills.
7 other Assembly Democrats did not sponsor/cosponsor any bills in the 2015-2016 session. Those seven are Reps. Barca, Billings, Hintz, Mason, Riemer, Stuck and Young.
Rep. Peter Barca (D- Kenosha) is the minority leader, and as is tradition for leadership roles, cosponsors very few bills. Rep. Leon Young (D-Milwaukee) has cosponsored medical bills in past sessions. Perhaps the late introduction of SB789 at the very end of the session and the lack of an Assembly version at were factors.
Reps. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) and Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee) were both cosponsors of the 2013-2014 CBD bill, AB726, a very narrowly focused bill that was passed by both houses and signed into law by Gov. Walker. Records seem to indicate this is their only foray into publicly supporting cannabis-related legislation. Hintz replaced Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh) when he did not seek reelection in 2006. Underheim was a string supporter of medical cannabis his last two terms, introducing legislation and as chair of the Assembly Health committee, holding a public hearing. It’s quite odd in politics for a pro-medical cannabis Republican to be replaced by a Democrat with little apparent interest in doing what the majority of Wisconsinites support, passing medical cannabis.
Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) was elected to the State Legislature in November of 2011 in a special election following the recall election of Jennifer Shilling to the State Senate. Reelected in 2012, Rep. Billings apparently has yet to cosponsor or sponsor any cannabis-related legislation. The same appears to be true for Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton).
Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) has never sponsored or cosponsored any cannabis-related legislation throughout his legislative career, which began in 2006. Mason claimed in a recent discussion on Facebook that he could not recall a single cannabis-related constituent contact over his entire time in the Assembly. We filed an open records request with his office to test this claim. Mason was quite hostile and exhibited a high degree of cannabigotry regarding supporting cannabis law reform during the discussion, which will be the subject of a forthcoming Cannabadger post once Rep. Mason has complied with the open records request, filed over 5 weeks ago as of this writing.
Updated: 2016-06-29 12:40:15