The Wisconsin Senate passed dozens of bills and resolutions Tuesday in its first floor period of the fall, including legislation to update the state's hemp program, make sexual contact with an animal a felony and support the location of F-35 jets at Madison's Truax Field.
Most of the measures received widespread bipartisan support and passed with little, if any, discussion, including votes on bills that would lay out a framework for collecting, testing and tracking evidence from sexual assault kits; and legislation that would make tweaks to laws governing the state's hemp industry, after lawmakers last session authorized the growing and processing of industrial hemp.
The new update would align the state's program with the requirements under the 2018 federal farm bill, among other things.
The chamber also successfully passed legislation that wasn't taken up in the full Senate last session to make sexual contact with an animal a felony. Currently, it’s a misdemeanor. Another bill that would allow children to operate lemonade stands on private property without a permit also got through the Senate, after it failed to do so last session. Those bills and others now head to the state Assembly.
Meanwhile, the chamber also acted on legislation that previously passed the Assembly on electric bikes to allow riders to operate them on the state’s bike paths and trails; and a bill to broaden a loan forgiveness program seeking to bolster the number of teachers from underrepresented communities.
Those bills, along with a handful of others, now head to Gov. Tony Evers' desk for his signature.
Also approved on Tuesday with a voice vote was a nonbinding resolution backing the Air Force's plan to base a squadron of F-35 fighter jets at Madison's Truax Field.
The language, which Republican lawmakers touted in a news conference ahead of the floor session, was again touted by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, who said the addition of F-35 jets is "critical to maintaining Truax and all of the elements that make up that installation right now."
Democratic Sens. Fred Risser of Madison and Jon Erpenbach of Middleton proposed an amendment to ask that the Air Force further look at the environmental impact of locating the F-35 jets in Madison "with special emphasis on the health effects of the noise concerns" before a final decision is made. But the language was dismissed.
Risser noted that while proponents of the plan tout the number of jobs the addition would bring to the area, he added the F-35 jets would impact those who live near Truax Field and "are very concerned, quite frankly" about noise and other implications.
The Assembly is expected to meet on Thursday, and both chambers will likely convene again next month before the conclusion of the fall session.