Wisconsin Assembly To Vote On Bills Limiting Transgender Athletes

Wisconsin lawmakers are scheduled to vote Wednesday on Republican bills that would bar transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity.

The bills have gotten strong pushback since their introduction earlier this year and face a certain veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, if they pass the Legislature. 

Under one proposal, K-12 public schools and private schools that participate in Wisconsin’s taxpayer-funded voucher program would be required to divide all sports teams by sex and officially bar any student who was designated male at birth from playing on girls teams. 

A second bill would require the same policies at University of Wisconsin System schools and state technical colleges for women’s teams.

The proposals mirror similar efforts around the country. The plans are up for a vote Wednesday in the state Assembly. They have yet to be voted on in the state Senate.

At a public hearing in the Capitol last month, supporters of the bills argued the changes would protect other female athletes from injury and competitive disadvantage. Opponents said the proposals are unnecessary and psychologically harmful to transgender students.

Transgender advocacy groups, Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, Wisconsin Education Association Counsel and the State Bar of Wisconsin’s civil rights and liberties section have registered their opposition to one or both of the proposals

Some legal experts have also questioned whether the bills would stand up in court. Last year, a federal judge in Idaho issued a preliminary injuction against that state’s law limiting transgender participation in sports. The American Civil Liberties Union brought that lawsuit.

In 2016, GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. The bill did not pass.

Lawmakers Also Consider Ban On So-Called ‘Vaccine Passports’

A bill that would bar businesses from requiring customers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is also up for an Assembly vote Wednesday. 

Under the bill, government entities and businesses would be barred from requiring any person to provide proof of vaccination in order to receive services or enter a facility. 

At a public hearing earlier this month, supporters of the proposal argued such measures infringe on individual freedom. Opponents cite the public health benefits of more people being vaccinated and contend businesses should be able to impose such requirements, if they so choose.

The plan has yet to be voted on in the state Senate. If approved, it could be vetoed by Evers. The governor hasn’t committed to a veto of the plan, but has said he believes “in some instances it is a reasonable request” for businesses, health care institutions and universities to require proof of vaccination.

This spring, the governor vetoed a Republican bill that would have barred the government from requiring people to get vaccinated.

Plan Would Delay New Maps For Some 2022 Local Elections In Wisconsin

Assembly lawmakers will also consider a bill that would delay implementation of new district maps for some county and municipal elections in Wisconsin until 2023 or 2024, a move some Democrats and advocacy groups argue could spur lawsuits.

Under the bill, the deadlines for counties and municipalities to draw new election maps based on 2020 census data would be extended from this summer and fall until next spring and summer. Additionally, new local government maps, once they’re drawn, wouldn’t apply to city aldermanic elections until 2023 and county supervisor elections until 2023 or 2024.

Supporters of the plan say the extensions are necessary because of a delay in the federal government sending states 2020 census data. Under the initial government timeline, states would have received the data by March 31 of this year. However, because of delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the data isn’t expected until sometime between now and Sept. 30.

However, opponents of the bill raised concerns with the existing local election maps, which were drawn in 2011, staying in effect longer than they were intended to.

The plan has yet to be voted on in the state Senate. 

A spokesperson for the governor said his office is reviewing the legislation and reiterated previous comments from Evers that “bills making it harder for people to cast their ballots or to have fair maps in Wisconsin are likely going to be non-starters for him.”

Policing Bills Up For Vote Include Partial Ban On Chokeholds

Assembly lawmakers are also set to vote Wednesday on several bills aimed at changing policing laws in Wisconsin. 

Under one bill, police use of chokeholds would be banned statewide, except in life-threatening situations or in self-defense. 

The change was recommended by a bipartisan task force on policing, which released its suggestions earlier this year. The task force was created last summer in the wake of widespread unrest following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and severe injury of Jacob Blake in Kenosha at the hands of police officers. 

The measure passed the state Senate earlier this month. If approved, it would move to Evers’ desk for his signature. The governor hasn’t said whether he will sign it. 

Another bill up for a vote would create a statewide standard for use of force. Under the standard, “officers are required to make every effort to preserve and protect human life and the safety of all persons.” It says deadly force may be used only as a “last resort when the law enforcement officer reasonably believes that all other options have been exhausted.”

The bill also requires law enforcement who witness what they believe to be an inappropriate use of force incident to report it, and creates whistleblower protections for those reporters. The bill passed the Senate earlier this month. 

Another policing bill under consideration would study the prevalence of no-knock warrants in Wisconsin. Some activists have pushed for a ban on the warrants, arguing a study doesn’t go far enough. The bill has not yet been voted on in the Senate.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.