Hemp To Lyme Disease: Wisconsin Senate Takes Up & Passes Many Bills

Oct 9, 2019

The Wisconsin Senate took up 50 bills and joint resolutions in its floor session Tuesday.

Many of the bills passed unanimously and with significant bipartisan support. They addressed issues ranging from electric bicycles to human trafficking and loan forgiveness for minority teachers.

Here are some highlights:

Sexual assault test kits

Two bills that easily passed will help establish protocols for handling sexual assault evidence kits.

A backlog of untested kits has been an issue in Wisconsin and across the country for years. One bill, SB 200, mandates time limits for nurses and police to handle the kits.

The other bill is SB 332. It would require the state Justice Department to track kits.

State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, says tracking is important.

"Because right now, the victims cannot tell where their sexual assault kit is, and this bill would track where it is. The kits are used to identify the perpetrator and I think this is a very important bill," Darling says.

"Because right now, the victims cannot tell where their sexual assault kit is, and this bill would track where it is." - State Sen. Alberta Darling

The kits are used to identify the perpetrator, and I think this is a very important bill," she says.

Hemp industry  

Another bill, SB 188, changes the state's hemp law. It passed on a vote of 31 to 2.

Growing hemp has been legal in the state since late 2017. The bill would make laws regulating Wisconsin's fledgling hemp industry consistent with federal law. It also makes a variety of changes to help farmers, hemp processors, retailers, and consumers.

State Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, encouraged her colleagues to pass it.

"For those of you who feel strongly about state's rights, today is the day that you should be voting for this if you support state's rights. Because otherwise, you're giving the federal government control over your farmers," says Taylor.

Hemp is a form of cannabis, but, unlike marijuana, it doesn't have enough of the active ingredient THC to get people high.

Lyme disease

The Senate also approved a package of bills — SB 296, 297, 298, 300 — meant to combat Lyme disease. The average number of Lyme disease cases in Wisconsin has more than doubled over the last decade.

READ: Illnesses From Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes & Ticks On Rise

State Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Mason, says, "Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are of debilitating and oftentimes long term. We need to be able to protect ourselves and those who work in the woods."

The bills would require the state Department of Natural Resources to post Lyme disease warnings on state land and sell insect repellent at state parks and forests. The bills also would mandate a public awareness campaign and a tick-borne disease study committee.

Lemonade stands

In addition to taking up a number of bills on other topics — electric bikes, wetlands, and loan forgiveness for minority teachers — the Senate also passed a bill on lemonade stands.

SB 170 is titled "Allowing Minors To Operate Temporary Stands Without A Permit Or License."

Children in Wisconsin could legally operate lemonade stands. But only if they don't make more than $2,000 over a year — the equivalent of 8,000 cups at 25 cents each. And they can't sell food items that contaminate easily, like egg salad sandwiches.

The bills still would have to pass the Assembly and be signed by Gov. Tony Evers in order to become law.