By TODD RICHMONDMADISON, Wis. (AP) â¿¿ Wisconsin businesses would be allowed to sell stock online under a bill the state Assembly overwhelmingly approved Tuesday. The Republican measure would let businesses use a model popularized by crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which allow the public to donate money to help finance projects. Contributors often receive a gift or sample product such as T-shirts and bumper stickers. Under the bill, interested investors from Wisconsin could purchase stock and equity in a business through a state Department of Financial Institutions-approved Internet portal. Investors who aren't accredited or certified could purchase up to $10,000 in stock. Accredited and certified investors could invest unlimited amounts. Businesses could raise up to $1 million or up to $2 million if they supply investors with audited financial statements. Supporters have dubbed the measure a job creation bill that won't cost the state anything. The bill's chief sponsor, Rep. David Craig, R-Big Bend, said the bill would give small businesses access to a much broader web of investors. The Assembly passed the bill on a unanimous voice vote with almost no debate. The measure goes next to the state Senate. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the bill could get a vote as early as next week. Republican Gov. Scott Walker hasn't taken a position on the legislation. A spokesman said the governor would evaluate the bill if it reaches his desk. Wisconsin would be one of the first states to offer stock sales through crowdfunding. Only two other states â¿¿ Kansas and Georgia â¿¿ have passed similar laws allowing it. North Carolina is considering approving the practice as well. "Today the Wisconsin State Assembly stated loud and clear that Wisconsin is going to lead the nation in access to small business capital," Craig said in a statement.
The state's largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and BioForward Inc., an association that represents Wisconsin's bioscience industry, have both registered in support of the bill, according to state Government Accountability Board records. The National Federation of Independent Business and the Wisconsin Economic Development Association have as well, the records show.No one has registered against it.