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Mar 27, 201812:49 PMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

Most votes in the Legislature are bipartisan, even when the debate is not

(page 1 of 2)

In what may have been the closing bell for the current edition of the Wisconsin Assembly, lawmakers took on three bills that appeared fractious based on the debate leading up to votes on the floor.

Instead, all three passed with bipartisan support — in two cases, overwhelmingly so. Sending $100 million to schools for security upgrades passed, 78–8; closing the state’s troubled youth prison sailed through, 90–0: and tax cuts aimed at families were endorsed, 59–31. All three need Senate approval.

So much sound and fury, yet relatively united votes at the finish line. What explains the relatively close consensus?

Recent history is a good part of the answer, according to legislative records. Beginning with the 2011–2012 legislative session and running through this spring, well over 90% of the 1,200-plus bills passed by the Assembly and Senate have garnered bipartisan votes. In fact, the lowest bipartisan approval rate for any one house was 89.5% in the Senate in 2011–2012.

The definition of “bipartisan” includes some bills that passed with only one vote from an opposing party, but the numbers are generally a reflection of the fact that while lawmakers may strongly debate issues, they often come together at the end if there’s compromise somewhere along the way. It is more relevant when the economy is involved.

That was reflected in two bills, passed in the closing month of the session, important to the state’s emerging tech sectors.

The first was AB-489, which will lift the lifetime “ceiling” on investments in Qualified New Business Ventures that are eligible for state tax credits. Wisconsin’s credit program for early stage companies, known within the tech investment world as “Act 255,” was launched in 2005 with bipartisan support and has stimulated more than a half-billion dollars in private investment and the jobs that come with it.

The program provides tax credits to qualified Wisconsin investors who put money into young companies with some sort of technology base, even if the company is aligned with a more traditional sector such as manufacturing or agriculture.

It’s a rigorous vetting process that, once completed, earns the angel and venture capital equivalent of a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for young companies. Potential investors in Wisconsin often won’t consider companies that are not QNBV-certified because they trust in the process enough to know it’s worth taking a closer look.

(Continued)

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About This Blog

Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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