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Senate GOP says they have agreement on elections board (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican state senators said Friday they are ready to vote on a bill that would put retired judges on a commission overseeing ethics and campaign finance laws, but still undecided about whether to require donors to disclose who they work for.

The Senate session, which was expected to go deep into the night, is focused on bills doing away with Wisconsin’s nonpartisan elections board and rewriting campaign finance law. If the Senate makes changes to the bills, as planned, the Assembly will return on Nov. 16 for a final vote.

That would send them both to Gov. Scott Walker.

Republican senators said they were confident the elections board bill was ready to be voted on, but negotiations were ongoing about whether to require donors to campaigns to disclose who they work for. Amendments spelling out changes to the bills had not been made public, a sign that negotiations were fluid.

The campaign finance bill passed by the Assembly did away with the requirement that people giving money to political campaigns disclose who they work for. Under current law, anyone giving over $100 has to disclose that information.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said senators were still debating whether to require disclose for donations over $200, or some variation of that. Current law requires employer disclosure for all donations over $100.

Fitzgerald said that was the only outstanding issue in either bill, and he said the vote would take place later Friday.

The Assembly version doing away with the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board created separate ethics and elections commissions with an equal number of Republican and Democratic appointees.

Under the Senate version to be voted on Friday, two retired judges would serve on the ethics commission and be appointed by the governor from a pool of candidates, several Republican senators said. No retired judges would be on the new elections commission.

As passed by the Assembly, the bill would double contribution limits that candidates can accept, make clear in state law that candidates and issue advocacy groups can work closely together, and allow for unlimited corporate and union donations to political parties and legislative campaign committees.

Democrats have decried both bills — along with one already signed into law by Walker doing away with secret John Doe investigations into political misconduct — as opening the door to more corruption. But they don’t have the votes to stop them.

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