MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Senate reconvened for the first time since June on Tuesday and promptly passed a bill that changes many of the state's landlord-tenant laws.
The Assembly passed a nearly identical bill in the spring, but that bill included a major amendment Senate Democrats had to fight to get passed.
SB 179 gives Wisconsin landlords far more leeway when it comes to how they deal with tenants over everything from security deposits to evictions.
"Mr. President, this legislation is not fair. Its not even close to fair," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) prior to introducing several amendments to the bill.
One of the things Sen. Erpenbach wanted to change was a provision in the bill that allows landlords to evict a tenant if a crime is committed in their unit, even if they aren't the ones who committed it.
"This bill changes those sections of the statute to make it easier to evict the victim of a crime, including domestic violence victims," said Sen. Erpenbach.
That's something the Assembly fixed before passing its version, but Sen. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue) insisted his bill did not put domestic violence victims at any greater risk.
"While what the Senator from the 27th (Erpenbach) said was all very nice and good, it isn't that this bill removes protections currently available to crime victims," said Sen. Lasee.
But after discussions with Republican leadership, Sen. Lasee agreed to Sen. Erpenbach's amendment less than two hours later.
"This amendment makes this bill better and I appreciate the work from the Senator from the 27th and I recommend adoption," said Sen. Lasee.
The Senate also gave local governments more authority to enforce ordinances banning possession of marijuana and, more importantly to some Democrats, synthetic marijuana.
Sen. Bob Jauch and five other Democrats joined Republicans in passing the measure, which allows municipalities to go after people who possess the drugs as long as a local district attorney does not choose to prosecute the case. Current law already allows local governments to enforce such ordinances for amounts up to 25 grams, but this bill allows the enforcement of ordinances on any amount.
"These communities are appealing for every possible tool they can to address it," said Sen. Jauch. "Not to get hard on somebody who's smoking a little marijuana, but to look at something as serious as synthetics and say 'we've got to use every tool to shut down these businesses.'
Jauch says several northern Wisconsin communities are seeing an increase in the number of people using synthetic marijuana, leading to more emergency room visits.
Wisconsin already has a ban on synthetic marijuana that Sen. Jauch himself authored, but producers have found ways to skirt that ban by changing their ingredients. Sen. Jauch wants to use the bill that was passed today, as well as a more comprehensive ban he's currently writing, to curb the problem once and for all.