Legislative Update – March 6

Legislative/Budget Overview

Joint Finance Committee Hearings
Tentative dates for Joint Finance Committee hearings on the budget have been released to Senate Democrats, who are reporting they will occur April 3, 5 and 7 and April 13, 14 and 17. Locations have not been released. Follow the committee online.

Analysis of Governor’s Budget Proposal
Analysis is slowly coming out on the governor’s 2017-19 state budget proposal, including a review this week from the Wisconsin Budget Project on higher education items. The governor recommends a 5 percent tuition cut, but several key GOP lawmakers are indicating they won’t sign off on using $35 million in taxpayer money to cover a UW System cut.

See the Wisconsin Budget Project’s report on the proposed PreK-12 public schools budget.

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The Real School Funding Story
While the governor tours the state promoting his “education support,” our public schools and educators know the real story. It’s being speculated that this could be a re-election budget for the governor, who may be considering another term since his failed presidential bid. Here are a few things we’re watching:

  • WEAC is concerned about a provision that would take away local control by withholding aid for students if school boards don’t force employees to pay at least 12 percent of health insurance costs.
  • We’re watching a proposal to create a lifetime license for teachers and administrators.
  • There are stark differences between the way public and voucher school students are funded. Public schools would receive a $200 increase per pupil in each of the two years, but that would be outside the school funding formula, only compounding the inequities between wealthy and poor districts. Voucher school tuition subsidies, however, would see an increase of $217 per year.

As the process continues, some of the items we’re on the lookout for, which might be introduced by legislators outside of the governor’s proposal include:

  • Expansion of voucher enrollment caps.
  • Any reduction of public school funding.
  • Additional moves to usurp local control, such as referendum limits.

Additionally this week, a bill that would weaken Wisconsin’s child labor laws (AB 25, with companion bill SB 11) moved from committee to the Joint Finance Committee. The bill makes it easier for businesses to use child labor without sign off by parents. Find out more and take action.

The governor’s budget is the starting point for legislative action. In the next step, the legislature’s budget committee, the Joint Committee on Finance, reviews the budget and holds hearings. Those hearings have not yet been set, and WEAC will alert you when they are. The budget committee usually approves a modified version of the budget in May, after which the budget needs to be approved by both houses of the legislature. If things go smoothly, the governor is expected to sign the final version of the budget and make small vetoes in June, and the new budget will take effect on July 1.

The Week in Review

March 3

  • Revenue Limit Adjustment. Senator Tim Carpenter, Milwaukee, began circulating a bill for co-sponsorship (LRB-1819Memo) to provide a revenue limit adjustment for a school district for costs incurred to replace lead pipe water service lines and exceptions from local levy limits for lead pipe water service line replacement purposes. The deadline to sign onto the bill is Friday, March 17.

March 2

March 1

  • Project Labor Agreements. A bill that would take away local control of municipalities to require project labor agreements for public contract (AB-24) was placed on the Assembly calendar for March 9. The companion bill is SB-3.
  • Prohibiting Sanctuary Cities.The Legislative Reference Bureau released a memo on a bill circulating for co-sponsorship that would remove local control from municipalities to create ordinances, resolutions, and policies that prohibit the enforcement of federal or state law relating to illegal aliens or immigration status, authorizing certain elective officeholders to commence an enforcement action, providing a reduction in shared revenue payments, and creating governmental liability for damages caused by illegal aliens. The deadline for legislators to sign onto the bill is March 17.

February 28

  • Eliminate Office of State Treasurer. A constitutional amendment that would eliminate the office of state treasurer in 2019 received a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Financial Services, Constitution and Federalism, and an executive session March 1 at the Assembly Committee on State Affairs. Once it clears the full Legislature, voters statewide would have to approve it in the April 2018 election before the constitution would be amended.
  • Tech Ed Equipment Grants. A co-sponsorship memo began circulating that would provide education equipment grants for school districts, along with an exemption from emergency rule procedures. The deadline to sign onto the bill is March 10.
  • Local Government Civil Service. Representatives Dianne Hesselbein and Dana Wachs and Senator Jon Erpenbach are reintroducing a bill from last session that would require a local government unit to create a civil service system with a just cause standard of discipline for its employees. Under Wisconsin’s anti-worker laws, public employees are vulnerable to discipline and dismissal with no ability to appeal. This proposal includes a grievance procedure that provides for a hearing before a mutually-agreed upon qualified impartial hearing officer. The deadline to sign onto the bill is March 10.

The Week Ahead

  • Monday, March 6: Hudson Listening Session, Senator Sheila Harsdorf, 1-2 p.m., Hudson City Hall Council Chamber, 505 3rd Street, Hudson.
  • Monday, March 6: Menomonie Listening Session, Senator Sheila Harsdorf, 4-5 p.m., Dunn County Justice Center Room 1402, 615 Stokke Parkway, Menomonie
  • Tuesday, March 7: The Senate will be in session. Topics include a vote on pushing a Constitutional amendment on removing the office of state treasurer to voters.
  • Tuesday, March 7: Assembly will be in session.
  • Wednesday, March 8: The Assembly Local Government Committee will meet for a hearing on AB-70, ending the requirement for school districts and municipalities to publish meeting minutes in a designated newspaper.
  • Thursday, March 9: The Senate Revenue, Financial Institutions and Rural Issues Committee will hold an executive session on SB-49, relating to broadband expansion.
  • Thursday, March 9: The Senate Education Committee will hold an informational hearing for a briefing from the DPI on the Every Student Succeeds Act. There will be no opportunity for public testimony.
  • Thursday, March 9: The Assembly will be in session. Topics include: Pushing to voters a Constitutional amendment to remove the office of state treasurer. (AJR-2); Project labor agreements (AB-24)
  • Tuesday, March 21: Brookfield Listening Session, Sen. Leah Vukmir and Reps. Dale Kooyenga and Robert Hutton, 6-7:30 p.m., Brookfield Public Safety Building, 2100 N. Calhoun Road, Brookfield.

Don’t see something in the wrap-up? Looking for more information? Contact Christina Brey.