The Wisconsin Senate adjourned abruptly Tuesday night after the chamber failed to take up a bill that would allow the sale of cannibidioid (CBD) oil without a prescription.
The oil, derived from marijuana plants, has been used to treat seizures in children. Its use was legalized in 2014, but under current law only licensed providers can obtain it. This legislation would have eased those rules to allow easier access for parents.
But some lawmakers are concerned it would open the door to unintended consequences, including full legalization of marijuana.
Those concerns prevented the bill from being scheduled for a vote, said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. The proposal previously passed the Assembly on a voice vote.
"We have people in our caucus that feel very strong about this issue on both ends, and some that are indifferent," Fitzgerald said.
Democratis attempted to force a vote on the bill despite its absence from the calendar. But Fitzgerald had scheduled it for a committee hearing on Thursday, making it unavailable for such a motion.
That conflict led to a heated procedural debate as the Senate neared the end of its session shortly before 10 p.m.
"I would rather deal with an uncomfortable senator than deal with an uncomfortable family," said Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee. "I think we can navigate procedural motions here so the people who are suffering out there can get the medicine we promised them two years ago."
Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said in a statement he is "disappointed and angry" by the Senate's failure to pass the bill.
"This is why people hate politics and why politicians have a bad name. It is, literally, tragic," Wanggaard said.
Fitzgerald said he understands why people would be frustrated by the bill's fate, acknowledging that it "probably doesn't make much sense." But, he said, the polarization on the bill was too much to overcome. He told reporters earlier in the day he expects lawmakers to revisit the issue when they return in January.
Overall, Fitzgerald said, he feels the Senate had a "good day."
Asked what he hopes people will remember from the session Fitzgerald listed the passage of right-to-work legislation, the partial repeal of prevailing wage laws, changes to the state's civil service system and changes to worker's compensation.
He said all four are "major reforms that reach back in history in Wisconsin" that Republicans believe will help business expand throughout the state.
He said there were several "missed opportunities" because the revenue wasn't available to fund them, specifically citing a bill that would have eliminated the cap on the state's tax deduction for student loan interest. That bill was the only one included in Gov. Scott Walker's college affordability package not taken up by the Senate.
Fitzgerald said he doesn't anticipate the Senate will return this session, because the Assembly has no plans to reconvene.