Legislative Update – January 27

The Legislative Week in Review

January 26

  • The Assembly announced it will be in session on Wednesday, February 8.
  • A bill to delete the office of the State Treasurer from the Constitution (SJR-003), introduced by Senator Daniel Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, was referred to the Senate Financial Services, Constitution and Federalism Committee.

January 25

  • The Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee held a hearing on SB-003, Project Labor Agreements, sponsored by Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) which would ban project-labor agreements on tax-funded projects. Labor called the bill “wrongheaded,” and MKE County Exec Chris Abele weighed in, saying it could hinder the successful training programs that the building and construction trades provide.
  • The Joint Legislative Audit Committee held a hearing on reports completed on the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) and the Wisconsin Retirement System, Department of Employee Trust Funds (WRS/ETF). The committee was largely focused on asking technical questions about the high risk investments made by SWIB, the relatively low rates of returns and the overall diversification of investments, something that Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) also asked about. Representative Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) raised the possibility of privatizing ETF management, which the ETF strongly advised against because there would be no cost savings, and because the WRS is already the tops nationally. The Committee said it will review SWIB/ETF in six months, and Representative Samantha Kerman (R-Salem) said there will additional opportunities for discussion during the budget process. Committee members used criticisms of the audit to point to changes they’d like to see, including moving the WRS from a defined-benefit model to defined-contribution. The Legislative Audit Bureau was asked to look into whether a state has ever backed out of their investment fund and turned the whole thing over to the private sector. (Link: Minutes 202-208). WEAC is working in coalition with other groups to protect the WRS, as the WRS is financially sound and provides retirement security to attract and keep quality educators in our public schools.
  • Governor Scott Walker announced that he will tour Wisconsin with a plan to better support rural schools. Few details were available, but he did mention transportation costs, declining enrollments and teacher shortages. The next day, he canceled his tour because of a cold. News outlets said he had planned to touch on broadband expansion and initiatives to improve the teacher pipeline. The governor has said he would propose a budget that includes a $35.5 million increase in expanding the broadband access grant program. The money would also be used to upgrade technology and train teachers in small and rural districts. The other items in his overview included sparsity aid, transportation aid; and administrative efficiency. His budget may also include a provision that would allow school districts to apply for TEACH grant funding for mobile hot spots for buses.
  • Representative Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton) began circulating LRB-1613 for co-sponsorship, to change the way state aid payments are made to school districts. The bill would require 25 percent of state aid to be paid in each of the four current installments.

January 24

  • Governor Walker set his budget address for 4 p.m., Wednesday, February 8. Last week, he hinted at what he has in store for public schools in his State of the State Address.
  • Assembly Education Committee chairman, Representatives Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee), and Senators Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) and Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) are asking fellow lawmakers to sign on to a proposal (LRB-0506) to update and modernize the requirement for government entities to publish meeting proceedings (minutes) in local newspapers.

Coming Up:
Joint Legislative Council Hearing, 8:30 am, Wednesday, February 1

The Council will receive the study committee reports including:

  • Rural Broadband
  • School Data