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Clock is ticking for lawmakers

Madison - The State Assembly is still in the thick of a marathon session that got started Tuesday morning and ran through the night. Of the slew of bills Assembly lawmakers were scheduled to debate, perhaps none was bigger than a major renewable ...

Madison - The State Assembly is still in the thick of a marathon session that got started Tuesday morning and ran through the night.

Of the slew of bills Assembly lawmakers were scheduled to debate, perhaps none was bigger than a major renewable energy bill. It would require the state to generate 25-percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

As of this morning, that issue remains unresolved. It was supposed to be voted on last night but got bumped to tomorrow's schedule. That's the last day of session, which does not help its chances. But Assembly Sponsor Spencer Black says there's still time to make this plan law. The key, he says, is a sign from Senators that they'll vote for it, too. But those signs of progress have been all but non-existent of late. Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker has said he's worried about the cost of the plan to ratepayers.

Another big bill also got bumped to Wednesday that would make sweeping changes to Wisconsin's election laws. There were signs that it might also be a close call. The plan would make it easier to register to vote in Wisconsin, and would let people register to vote online for the first time.

Eau Claire Sponsor Jeff Smith told reporters he was still confident the bill would pass because many people are already banking and shopping online, and sharing more valuable information with vendors than they would through the registration process.

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The Assembly and Senate did agree on a bill that could force schools to get rid of what any district resident feels is a racist mascot, logo or nickname. That plan now heads to the Governor's desk.

The Assembly also agreed to most of a bill that would set up a state run insurance program for people on a waiting list for Medicaid.

And within the past half hour, the Assembly was debating whether to expel or censure Chippewa Falls Independent Jeff Wood, the lawmaker charged repeatedly with driving under the influence.

Whitewater Republican Steve Nass wanted his colleagues to kick Wood out of the Assembly, arguing that while they may not be able to prevent further dangerous behavior by the representative (Wood), "we do have the power to make sure he can't do it as a serving member of the peoples' house."

But Democrats who run the Assembly signaled that expelling Wood was too harsh, and moved to censure him instead. Assembly Democrat Mark Pocan said Wood struggled with addiction and mental health issues.

"And if that's the way we treat someone like in our body - to expel them - I don't know a single person in this body who'd be mean-spirited enough to actually believe that," said Pocan.

Without an expulsion resolution, Wood gets to keep his job -- and his pay -- until his term ends early next year.

But other big issues got put off, and the clock is ticking. The Assembly did not vote on bills to create Regional Transit Authorities for bus and rail. It did not vote on a plan to regulate issue ads. And it put off a vote on a major education reform bill that would give the State School Superintendent the power to intervene in struggling districts.

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