By Karen Stokes
Hours before the state senate was to be convened on Tuesday for the first time in 2023, Democrats posed a standoff.
Legislative Democrats put forth a substitute amendment on Senate Joint Resolution 4 to gather people’s viewpoint on eliminating Wisconsin’s 1849 criminal abortion ban.
The Republican controlled legislature wanted to ask voters if they approve of requiring welfare recipients to search for work while receiving state benefits.
Republicans rejected the call from Democrats to ask voters whether the state should continue to ban abortions, choosing instead to advance a ballot question on welfare eligibility.
The advisory referendum on welfare proposed by top Republicans wouldn’t change state law, but supporters said they just want the public’s feedback on the issue.
“They’re asking people to advise on a law that already exists,” said Evers in an interview. “Instead of actually having the people of Wisconsin respond to something that is not law.”
The measure now heads to the Assembly, which must pass it before it can be placed on the April 4 ballot for voter consideration.
Another amendment that will be included on the April 4 ballot is a constitutional amendment asking voters to give judges more discretion when making bail decisions.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The state Assembly on Thursday approved the proposal in a bipartisan vote 74-23, with 10 Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the measure.
The bail amendment was introduced last year following the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy. The man convicted, Darrell Brooks, had been released on $1,000 bail for a domestic violence offense just days before he drove through the parade route killing six people, injuring approximately 60 others.
The amendment passed the Assembly and Senate during the last session with bipartisan support. The legislation had been in the works for years before the attack.
Putting the amendment on the April ballot gives the Republican-controlled Legislature a chance to score an early win in the new legislative session while avoiding a veto from Gov. Evers. The proposal’s popularity with conservatives could also drive supporters to the polls in a pivotal election that will determine ideological control of the state Supreme Court.
The amendment would require a judge to consider a defendant’s potential risk to public safety, including his or her criminal history, when setting bail. Currently, cash bail is set only as a means to ensure the person appears in court. Democrats have argued the amendment could create further inequity in the criminal justice system by allowing wealthy defendants to more easily get out of jail.
Democratic lawmakers said they were concerned about the scope of the amendment, which lawmakers plan to clarify before April.