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Senate will consider bills on campaign donations from lobbyists, in-person absentee voting

Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio

 The state Senate will consider bills today that would provide more time for lobbyists to donate campaign funds to political candidates and less time for voters to cast in-person absentee ballots.

Right now, lobbyists have to wait until June 1 of an election year before they can personally write a check to a candidate for state, local or federal office. A plan before the Senate would bump that up to April 15.

The plan was introduced only a week ago and was one of a few bills attacked by left-leaning groups at a state Capitol news conference.

“These bills collectively are evidence of big money being placed ahead of the peoples' voice,” said Scott Foval of the national organization People for the American Way.

The bill involving early in-person absentee voting would affect cities like Madison and Milwaukee that offer extended voting hours in the two-week run-up to an election. It would prohibit clerks from opening earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 7 p.m. Backers say it's fairer to smaller communities that can’t afford to hold late voting hours. Opponents say it will result in less voting in urban areas, especially among minority and low-income voters.

Many other controversial items are conspicuously absent from the Senate's agenda, involving everything from frac sand mining and high capacity wells to changes to Common Core academic standards. While that doesn't necessarily mean they're dead for the year, the odds of their passage are getting slim. The Legislature is scheduled to wrap up its business the first week of April.

For more Wisconsin Public Radio news, go to the website www.wpr.org/.

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