By Todd Richmond
MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Senate is unlikely to take up bills that would outlaw so-called sanctuary cities for immigrants, increase compensation for the wrongly convicted and allow students to deduct debt from their income taxes when it convenes Tuesday for what’s expected to be the last floor period of the two-year legislative session.
Republicans who control the chamber released the agenda Monday. The Assembly finished its work for the session last month; if Senate Republicans stick to the agenda, the immigration, wrongful conviction and student debt bills, as well as a number of measures to combat dementia, are all probably dead. So, too, are a handful of other contentious proposals, including banning research using fetal tissue and forcing students to use bathrooms assigned to their biological sex.
The “sanctuary cities” bill would prohibit local governments from blocking police from inquiring about a person’s immigration status if that person is charged with a crime. Thousands of people, mostly Hispanic, marched around the Capitol in protest when Assembly Republicans approved the bill last month. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said the measure doesn’t have enough support in his chamber.
The Assembly also passed a bill that would dramatically increase compensation for the wrongfully convicted from a maximum of $25,000 to $50,000 per year spent in prison with an overall $1 million limit.
Wrongful convictions have gained more attention following the release of the Netflix series “Making a Murderer,” which tells the tale of Manitowoc County native Steven Avery, who was convicted of killing a photographer after he was released from prison for a sexual assault he didn’t commit.
The bill’s supporters said the measure has nothing to do with Avery. But Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said in an email Monday that Senate Republicans’ concerns about the bill have been “exacerbated by the recent increase in public attention.”
The Assembly also passed Gov. Scott Walker’s college affordability package in February. The package includes bills that lift the cap on tax-deductible student loan interest, boost grants for technical college and two-year students at University of Wisconsin Colleges to help them deal with emergencies, create internship coordinators and require colleges to update students annually on their debt.
The Senate calendar doesn’t include the income tax deduction bill; Tanck cited fiscal estimates that show the measure would cost the state more than $5 million in revenue annually.
The Senate also plans to take up only three of 10 Assembly bills designed to help people deal with dementia.
The bills that didn’t make the calendar include measures to fund virtual dementia tours, provide more funding for Alzheimer’s research at University of Wisconsin-Madison, require informed consent before administering psychotropic medications in nursing homes and require reviews of Silver Alert subjects’ driver’s licenses. Silver Alerts are public bulletins about missing senior citizens. Tanck said those bills are too expensive.
The three bills up for a Senate vote would create training grants for mobile dementia crisis response teams, provide about $1 million more for the state’s Alzheimer’s family and caregiver support program and require reports on where dementia sufferers are placed in crisis situations.
The bills that would ban research using tissues from aborted fetuses and require public school students to use bathrooms and locker room assigned to their biological sex didn’t get out of the Assembly.