Wisconsin Assembly votes to outlaw local bans on gas engines

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State and local governments in Wisconsin would not be allowed to ban gas-powered vehicles, snow blowers, lawnmowers and other machines under a pair of bills the Republican-controlled Assembly passed Tuesday along party lines.

The bills’ GOP sponsors hope to outlaw measures similar to a law passed in California last year requiring that all new cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state run on electricity or hydrogen by 2035. That decision left 17 states with vehicle emissions standards tied to California laws facing tough decisions on whether they would adopt the same ban on gasoline-fueled vehicles.

Wisconsin was not among those states. But in a message to lawmakers seeking cosponsors, the Republican authors of the Wisconsin bills stoked fears of “runaway state bureaucrats and excessive local governments” taking matters into their own hands to ban gas engines.

“This just protects consumer choice,” Rep. Ellen Schutt, who co-authored the bills, said in a news conference before the vote.

But Democrats said they had no plans to pursue a gas-engine ban in Wisconsin and accused the bill sponsors of fear-mongering. “These are bills that are not necessary. We should not be wasting our time on them,” Democratic Rep. Christine Sinicki said.

Gas stations and fossil fuel industry groups such as Kwik Trip and the American Petroleum Institute have thrown their support behind the measures. Meanwhile, environmental advocates and the American Lung Association oppose them.

The measures still need approval from the Senate and from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who is likely to veto them. Evers has been at odds with Republicans when pushing to use state money to build out electric vehicle charging stations.

The governor’s spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, did not immediately respond to an email Monday asking whether he would veto the measures. But at an event in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Evers said he didn’t believe a ban on gas engines was necessary for the state to slowly transition to using electric vehicles.

Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Venhuizen on Twitter.

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