As Wisconsin’s 2023-24 state legislative session nears an end, we are grateful for your support through hard fought battles against a barrage of harmful legislation.

The Assembly introduced a total of 1156 bills, and the Senate introduced 1088 bills during this session, which began in January 2023 and lasted through the Senate’s final floor votes held on March 12, 2024. So far over 120 bills have been signed into law, 7 bills have been vetoed by Governor Evers, and many bills have now passed both houses and await the governor’s signature or veto.

Here are our initial takeaways from the session on key civil rights and liberties issues: 

LGBTQ+ Rights

Over the past year, we witnessed attacks on LGBTQ+ rights and the existence of trans people across statehouses nationwide. Wisconsin was not immune to these targeted bills. In fall of 2023, our legislature introduced a package of bills targeting the trans community, including: 

  • AB-377 proposed excluding trans kids from sports teams at K-12 schools. Status: Passed Assembly and Senate, awaiting signature or veto 
  • AB-378/SB-377 proposed excluding trans students from UW and technical college sports teams. Status: Passed Assembly, failed to receive Senate committee vote
  • AB-447/SB-438 would force trans and intersex incarcerated people into placements that do not match their gender, increasing the likelihood of abuse. Status: Failed to receive Assembly and Senate committee votes
  • AB-465 proposed a ban on medically necessary gender-affirming care for all transgender youth. Status: Vetoed by the Governor 
  • AB-510, the so-called “Parental Bill of Rights,” would create a chilling effect on classroom instruction about race, gender, and sexuality and require school staff to deadname and misgender students. Status: Passed Assembly and Senate, awaiting signature or veto 

Also in early 2023, the Joint Committee on Review of Administrative Rules blocked a ban on conversion therapy, allowing this torturous practice to continue. A multitude of bills were introduced this session attempting to censor information and expression, following the nationwide trend of bills censoring the histories of marginalized communities, LGBTQ+ expression, and preventing young people from accessing information in online spaces and libraries.

Racial Justice

Mirroring legislative and executive actions nationwide, Republican legislators in Wisconsin waged a war on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in state government and the University of Wisconsin system this session. After Assembly Speaker Robin Vos held hostage over $100 million in already-approved pay raises for the UW system unless UW eliminated DEI positions across campuses, the UW Board of Regents ultimately voted to approve a deal with Republican lawmakers to “reimagine” DEI efforts on campuses in exchange for releasing the funds for staff pay raises and infrastructure projects. 

As of March 12, a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to ban state and local government entities from using race, sex, ethnicity, and other factors in hiring decisions, public education, and public contracting, AJR-109, has now passed both houses. This measure would eliminate identity-conscious initiatives that address longstanding inequalities in access to public education, employment, contracting, and administration in an attempt to advance the ongoing crusade against diversity, equity, and inclusion. If an identical joint resolution is passed during the 2025-26 legislative session, a referendum would be placed on a statewide ballot to amend the state constitution. 

One victory for Wisconsin students was the passage of AB-232, which will ensure the unique history and experiences of Hmong Americans and all Asian Americans are included in K-12 instruction in Wisconsin public schools. After passing the Senate during its final floor session, the bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. 

Police, Prisons, and Criminal Legal Reform

As Wisconsin’s prison crisis looms large and worsens by the day, many legislators in both parties ignored evidence-based opportunities for reform, police oversight, and policies that actually create safer communities, instead opting for an outdated “tough on crime” approach that fuels our mass incarceration problem: 

  • SB-101 (now 2023 Act 29), signed into law by Governor Evers after passing with bi-partisan support, imposed harsher penalties for those who supply drugs that lead to an overdose. SB-101 ignores the reality that friends and family members of overdose victims are most likely to be prosecuted under the “death by distribution” law and flies in the face of research showing fear of prosecution prevents people from making critical 911 calls that could save lives.  
  • SB-75 (now 2023 Act 3) was also signed by the governor after passing the legislature with bipartisan support, exacerbating inequities in the pre-trial detention system. 
  • The legislature also brought back the presence of police in Milwaukee Public Schools with Act 12, reinforcing the school-to-prison pipeline in Black and Brown communities. Act 12 also gutted the policy-making authority of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission.

Despite significant bi-partisan support over the course of multiple sessions, many bills failed to make it across the finish line yet again, including: 

  • AB-17/SB-11 would have expanded eligibility for Treatment Alternative and Diversion (TAD) programs to individuals with a mental illness. Status: Passed Senate, failed to receive Assembly hearing
  • AB-37/SB-38 would have expanded criminal record expungement and reduce obstacles facing people with past convictions. Status: Passed Assembly, failed to receive Senate floor vote
  • AB-48/SB-55 would have prevented minors from being prosecuted for “committing an act of prostitution.” Status: Failed to receive Assembly and Senate committee votes

Voting Rights

Extremist conspiracy theories and election denial fueled debates on voting rights issues this session. Attempts to remove the the nationally recognized administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), steps to subvert the will of Wisconsin voters by threatening to impeach a newly elected Supreme Court Justice before she decided her first case, and legislation proposing to dissolve WEC – the bipartisan entity responsible for election administration in the state – altogether demonstrate our legislature’s resolve to undermine democracy and Wisconsinites’ faith in elections.

The bipartisan AB-567 – known as the “Monday processing bill” – would have allowed local clerks to begin processing absentee ballots on the day before Wisconsin elections, allowing for a speedier vote counting process on Election Day. Despite calls from Assembly leaders for the Senate to take up the measure during its final floor session, the Senate did not allow the bill to be voted on, leaving conspiracy theories about “late night ballot dumps” to flourish

As an end-run around the governor’s veto and an affront to voting rights, the Republican-led legislature also passed a slew of joint resolutions that could amend the Wisconsin Constitution. Two binding referendum questions will appear on the April 2nd statewide ballot that, if passed, will amend the state constitution to make it more difficult for local governments to administer elections and uphold our democracy.

By the Numbers

  • Total bills we closely monitored this session: 617
  • Total bills on which we registered a position (support/oppose/other): 178 
  • Total bills for which we provided testimony or written comments: 37

For a full list of legislation we took positions on this session, visit our Legislation & Advocacy Hub.