2005-06 Reform Initiatives

Posted: February 23, 2005
Updated: May 5, 2006

Reform bills dealing with campaign financing, ethics enforcement and other democracy reform topics from the 2005-2006 legislative session of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Campaign Finance Reform
Redistricting Reform
Ethics and Campaign Finance Law Enforcement
Other Reform Legislation

Campaign Finance Reform Legislation

Senate Bill 538/Assembly Bill 392, Assembly Bill 626, and Senate Bill 46/Assembly Bill 226

Assembly Bill 392 is the same as last session’s Senate Bill 12, which was sponsored by seven Republican and 16 Democratic legislators, and was supported by the Democracy Campaign.

AB 392 is based on step two of the Democracy Campaign’s “Power to the Voter” agenda. It is also a reform priority of the People’s Legislature

AB 392 was introduced on April 27, 2005 and was referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. A companion bill to AB 392 was introduced in the Senate as SB 538 on January 31, 2006 and was referred to the Senate Campaign Finance Reform and Ethics Committee.

Another bill that meets or exceeds the standards set by the Democracy Campaign and the People’s Legislature is Assembly Bill 626, which is modeled after the highly successful campaign finance systems in Arizona and Maine.

AB 626 was introduced on August 24, 2005 and referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. Companion legislation to AB 626 was introduced in the Senate on December 16, 2005 as Senate Bill 479 and referred to the Senate Campaign Finance Reform and Ethics Committee.

Senate Bill 46 is similar but not identical to 2003 Senate Bill 12. Unlike last session’s SB 12 and this session’s AB 392, Senate Bill 46 does not require full disclosure of special interest campaign ads and allows unlimited corporate campaign contributions. It also does not adequately fund the public grants for which candidates would be eligible if they agree to limit their campaign spending. To see WDC’s analysis of this session’s SB 46, go here

SB 46 was introduced on February 8, 2005 and referred to the Senate Campaign Finance Reform and Ethics Committee. It received a public hearing on March 2 and was approved by the committee on a 5-0 vote. Two amendments supported by the Democracy Campaign - one creating a guaranteed funding source for the bill and the other requiring full disclosure of the funds used by interest groups to pay for their campaign ads - were rejected by the committee on 3-2 votes. Read WDC’s testimony.

SB 46 was debated by the full Senate on March 16 and was rejected on a 20-13 vote. Before the vote on final passage, a WDC-backed amendment to require full disclosure of special interest campaign ads was tabled on an 18-15 vote and another amendment supported by the Democracy Campaign to provide adequate funding for the bill was tabled on a 19-14 vote.

Legislation identical to SB 46 was introduced in the Assembly as AB 226 on March 16, the same day SB 46 was rejected by the Senate. AB 226 was referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. It received a public hearing on September 1 and was reported out of committee on February 22. On March 2, the committee approved legislation (Assembly Bill 1058) authorizing the use of general state tax money to guarantee adequate funding for public grants candidates would be eligible to receive under AB 226. This addresses one of the Democracy Campaign’s major concerns about AB 226.

Legislative Redistricting Reform Legislation

Assembly Joint Resolution 22 and Assembly Joint Resolution 41

Assembly Joint Resolution 22 directs the Joint Legislative Council to study and recommend legislation providing for congressional and legislative redistricting by an independent citizen commission.

The proposal directs the Legislative Council to consider the systems in Arizona, Iowa, New Jersey and any other states that have successfully redistricted using independent citizen commission or similar structures.

AJR 22 is based on Step 4 in the Democracy Campaign’s “Power to the Voter” agenda. It is also a reform priority of the People’s Legislature.

AJR 22 was introduced on March 10, 2005 and referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee.

Assembly Joint Resolution 41 is a proposed constitutional amendment that establishes standards for state legislative redistricting that includes a requirement that Assembly and Senate districts be as politically competitive as possible.

AJR 41 was introduced on May 12, 2005 and referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee.

WDC testified in support of both AJR 22 and 41 at a public hearing on May 26, 2005 . Read WDC’s testimony.

Independent Ethics and Campaign Finance Law Enforcement

Senate Bill 1

Senate Bill 1 aims to promote more vigorous enforcement of the state ethics code and Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws by abolishing the state Elections Board and Ethics Board and replacing them with a more politically independent Government Accountability Board with expanded enforcement authority.

SB 1 is based on Step 3 in the Democracy Campaign’s “Power to the Voter” agenda. It is also a reform priority of the People’s Legislature.

The bill was introduced on January 11, 2005 and referred to the Senate Campaign Finance Reform and Ethics Committee, where it received a public hearing on May 18, 2005. Read WDC’s testimony.

The bill was approved by the committee on June 15, 2005 on a 3-2 vote. It was approved by the Joint Finance Committee on October 27, 2005 on a 13-3 vote. The full Senate passed SB 1 on November 1, 2005 on a 28-5 vote. The bill was sent to the Assembly, where it received a public hearing on January 25, 2006 in the Campaigns and Elections Committee. Read WDC’s testimony.

The bill was approved by the committee on a 5-1 vote on March 2, 2006 and moved to the full Assembly where the Assembly voted 53-43 on May 2, 2006 to reject a motion to pull SB 1 from the Rules Committee and bring it up for a vote.

Other Reform Legislation

Assembly Bill 66, Assembly Bill 289, Assembly Bill 452 and Assembly Bill 435

Assembly Bill 66 bans fund raising during the state budget process. It is similar to a Senate proposal introduced last session that died in committee, and is a part of a WDC-backed comprehensive reform proposal, AB 392. AB 66 was introduced on February 1, 2005 and referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. WDC registered in support of AB 66 at a public hearing on February 3, 2005. The committee took action on the bill on May 26, 2005, amending it to extend the fund-raising restriction for the governor and lieutenant governor to include the period immediately after the general election when they are involved in drafting the governor’s proposed budget and to apply the ban to all registered campaign committees. The committee then voted 3-3, but despite the tie vote committee chairman Steve Freese advanced the bill to the full Assembly.

Assembly Bill 289 bans fund raising during the entire legislative session (January 1 of even number years through May 31 in odd number years). AB 289 was introduced on April 4, 2005 and referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. WDC registered in support of the bill at a May 26, 2005 public hearing.

Assembly Bill 452 also bans fund raising for the duration of a legislative session. AB 452 was introduced on June 1, 2005 and referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. The bill is different from AB 289 in that it also prohibits elected officials from spending campaign funds raised while holding one office to promote their candidacy for another office. WDC supports AB 452.

Assembly Bill 435 strengthens disclosure requirements for certain campaign ads. AB 435 was introduced on May 19, 2005 and was referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. This “Stand By Your Ad” legislation is modeled after a provision in the federal McCain-Feingold law requiring candidates or organizational representatives to be featured in broadcast advertisements and state that they approve the ad’s message. WDC supports AB 435.

Assembly Bill 689 allows preferential voting systems or instant runoff voting (IRV) for local nonpartisan races. Free choice voting systems like IRV ask voters to rank candidates in order of preference. AB 689 is based on Step 5 in the Democracy Campaign’s “Power to the Voter” agenda. It is also a reform priority of the People’s Legislature. The bill was introduced on September 26, 2005 and referred to the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee. The Democracy Campaign testified in support of AB 689 at an October 13, 2005 public hearing.