The Senate and Assembly plan to vote on the last floor today before recessing until mid-January

Supporters of legislation to reform the state’s alcohol policies are considering bringing the proposal to the Senate floor today by offering it as an amendment to another bill already on the calendar, according to multiple sources.

The sources indicated that this tactic may face several obstacles. The bill, co-authored by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, was assembled in committee by Chairman Rob Houghton, and there are a few other options to introduce it before the Senate recesses until mid-January. The Brookfield Republican has not yet set an executive date on the legislation after an Aug. 17 public hearing.

The legislation, which would overhaul the state’s 1930s-era three-tier system, won House approval by a 90-4 vote in June. But several Senate Republicans expressed reservations about the bill, especially provisions that would place new restrictions on wedding barns.

Today’s Senate calendar includes SB 268, which would make changes to several provisions in state law dealing with tobacco and alcohol under the Department of Revenue’s enforcement powers. This includes the definition of fermented malt beverages and the deadline for submitting changes to an application or permit to sell alcohol.

The alcohol bill, with a legislative reference desk summary spanning more than 150 pages, could be introduced as an amendment to SB 268, sources said.

Under that scenario, opponents could argue that the amendment has no connection to SB 268, which could lead to a ruling from Senate President Chris Kapinga, R-Delafield. Typically, these questions are asked by a member of the majority party when the minority party offers an amendment, and the president quickly rejects it.

In this case, if Kapinga decides that the amendment is not relevant, supporters of the alcohol bill will appeal that ruling. Supporters would need a majority of the 33 members present to overturn this ruling.

The strategy would likely need Democratic votes to work even with a 22-11 GOP majority, sources noted. This is due to objections from many Senate Republicans, especially regarding the wedding coop provisions.

Discussions included potential changes related to wedding barns, including the number of events that could be held before obtaining a license, as a way to attract more support in the Senate and make the strategy more likely, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the Assembly State Affairs Committee has scheduled a public hearing today on that chamber’s version of the revenue bill, SB 268. The Assembly typically holds a public hearing on the bill before voting on it. A late call for a public hearing on AB 273 would play a role in that process, allowing the Assembly to take up the Senate version of the bill with alcohol provisions added if it passes in that chamber. The Assembly can then approve the amended Senate bill and send it to the government.

Sen. Dan Fein, R-Fond du Lac, said this morning that there would be an amendment to the Brewers’ bills that would increase the ticket tax on non-baseball events to reduce the state’s contribution to the package.

The amended bill on the Senate calendar today includes a $2 tax on general admission tickets and an $8 tax on luxury suites. The new structure will increase those fees twice during the 27-year contract, Fine said.

In total, it will generate about $30 million. The $2 and $8 fees were expected to generate $14.1 million over the life of the deal.

Under the Brewers’ revised bills, the state would contribute $382.5 million. The additional fees will negate that.

The upcoming amendment would also address Democrats’ concerns that the board overseeing the stadium district does not have local representation, Fine said. Now, the government will appoint four members to the board, while the majority leaders of each board will get four more. The team will submit a list of three people to the government for the ninth and final spot on the board.

If the bills are approved in the Senate, the Assembly is expected to consider them and approve the changes. This would pave the way for the bills to reach Gov. Tony Evers’ desk before the end of the year.

“I think we have the votes,” LeMahieu told WisPolitics in a brief interview before the hearing this morning.

The two chambers are not expected to meet again after today until mid-January.

The Senate calendar also includes SB 312, which proposes several measures to combat PFAS pollution.

The General Assembly plans to accept the $2.2 billion tax cut package that the Senate passed earlier this fall.

See the Senate calendar here.
See the association calendar here.

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