Senate Republicans moved three election-related bills through committee last week, removing a controversial provision from one and taking no action on a fourth bill that was criticized by election watchdog groups. The caucus is also balking at other controversial election reforms such as doubling campaign contribution limits, an Assembly-approved bill requiring voters to present photo identification and a constitutional amendment to change the recall process. Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, also added an election reform idea to the mix: ending same-day voter registration; however, he immediately acknowledged the bill had no chance of passing this session. Of 15 election-related bills still under consideration, eight have Democratic support, while the prospects for at least four remain up in the air, said Dan Romportl, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.
Those four include a bill that would limit in-person absentee voting in the two weeks before an election to weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.; set buffer zones for election observers; and allow lobbyists to make campaign donations starting April 15, rather than June 1, in an election year.
The lobbyist change, which was introduced late Monday and had a public hearing Wednesday, was done to reflect earlier primaries, but critics worry it overlaps with the legislative session. The bill originally allowed lobbyists to funnel donor money to candidates, but Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, removed that provision after negotiating several changes with Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, on Thursday.
The fourth bill, which would have enshrined in law an exemption for issue advocacy groups from campaign finance disclosure, did not have enough Republican support to pass and its future is murky, Lazich said.