Lawmakers to vote on police reform, transgender athlete ban, and prohibiting vaccine mandates
MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- Assembly Republicans have set aside hours of debate on several bills up for a vote Wednesday afternoon, June 16, including police reform measures, banning transgender athletes from participating on female sports teams, and prohibiting businesses from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Police reform bills
The Assembly will consider several measures aimed at reforming how police departments operate which were introduced in wake of the death of George Floyd.
Lawmakers will vote on prohibiting police from using chokeholds, except in life-threatening situations. The proposal passed the Senate last week with bipartisan support and will head to Gov. Tony Evers desk if the Assembly approves it.
Some Milwaukee advocacy groups have argued the proposal doesn't go far enough and would rather see a complete ban on chokeholds which many police department across the state have implemented on their own.
Other bills include requiring law enforcement agencies to post their use of force procedures online, distributing grants to cities to pay for more community-oriented police houses, and mandating law enforcement agencies to share employee profiles with other departments during a hiring process.
Another bill would track the use of no-knock warrants, require drug tests for officers who shoot someone, develop training programs for school resource officers, require police officers to undergo a psychological exam before they are hired, and provide grants for departments to pay for body cameras.
An additional proposal would require Wisconsin’s Department of Justice to collect additional data on use of force incidents, including officer-involved shootings, and then publish an annual report.
A majority of the bills comes from a bipartisan Legislative Task Force on Racial Disparities which was created in wake of a Kenosha Police Department officer shooting a Black man, Jacob Blake, in August 2020. The goal was to create proposals that would reduce racial disparities in law enforcement policies. That commitment was met as the task force released 18 recommendations that seek to overhaul police policies.
Transgender Athlete Ban
Republican proposals that would allow students to only join sports teams that correlate with their biological sex are also up for debate on the Assembly floor.
One bill would bar transgender people from participating in women's sports teams at K-12 schools, another uses the same policy but would apply at UW campuses and technical colleges.
Supports say the bills would create a fair playing field, while opponents say the measures are discriminatory and hinder progress made for the transgender community in providing more opportunities.
Both proposals are bound for Gov. Tony Evers veto pen who said "it seeks a problem that doesn't exist," when weighing in on the legislation.
Prohibiting Proof of a Vaccine
Preventing businesses and employers from requiring proof of a vaccine is expected to pass the Republican controlled Assembly.
Top Republicans introduced the proposals because they said it's necessary to protect individual rights.
The move follows a national trend of governors and state legislatures taking action to ban so-called vaccine passports. The concept is a way some businesses, concert venues and sporting events are exploring as a way to show a certificate that confirms you no longer pose a risk to others.
Democrats argue the bill is not necessary since Gov. Evers stated he doesn't have plans to mandate vaccine passports in Wisconsin.
Redrawing new legislative maps would be delayed for a year or more under a Republican bill up for a vote in the Assembly.
Under the bill, city council and county boards could avoid redistricting deadlines and the current maps would remain the same heading into the 2022 election cycle.
Republicans believe it's imperative to keep the current district lines in place because the U.S. Census Bureau is behind schedule in gathering data that's needed to draw new maps.
Democrats called the proposal unconstitutional and unfair because maps wouldn't be updated for next year's U.S. Senate and other high-profile elections in Wisconsin.
Under law, states are required to draw new legislative maps every 10 years and the data they use is based on the 2020 census. The data was supposed to be complete by March, but now it's expected to be released in August or September.
The Assembly is schedule to begin debate on all these bills at 1 p.m.