Legislative Update – June 28

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Latest in the Legislature

While behind-the-scenes negotiations are getting tense among GOP leaders, the governor is confident the budget will be finished in mid-July. Today, he met with leaders of both houses, and now they say talks are back on track. Remember, there’s the governor’s budget, which the Joint Finance Committee is working off of, along with an Assembly Republican proposal, and the Senate is still saying there is the possibility of doing its own budget. Democrats also forwarded their education plan last week, and don’t forget about the Budget for All, which WEAC signed onto earlier this year.

Insiders say the biggest hang-up now is about transportation funding. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is challenging Senator Scott Fitzgerald’s position on borrowing another $850 million to pay for roads, $350 million of which would be paid for through the General Fund.

While Republicans have some basic agreements in place to boost revenue for low-spending school districts – while meeting Walker’s property tax demand and fund his increase in per-pupil categorical aids – there are still outstanding issues. These include raising the income limit on the voucher program to 300 percent of the federal poverty level and making changes to caps on enrollment. Senator Fitzgerald has said there was no agreement yet on those possibilities, saying they play off each other.

On the Issues

Campus speech. Senator Sheila Harsdorf introduced an amendment to SB 250 (companion bill AB 299), the bill that would require the UW System adopt a policy on freedom of expression and suspend or expel those who violate the policy twice. Republicans say the bill is needed to ensure people can listen to constitutionally protected speech from speakers on campus, no matter how controversial they may be. But others say the bill creates a safe space for racists. Harsdorf’s amendment changes some of the language around the proposal, but not much, and also requires a formal investigation and disciplinary hearing after a second offense. In any event, it’s expected the Senate will not move on this bill before the fall.

Character Education. A new bill would administer grants for professional development training in character education for teachers, principals and school district administrators. SB 329 would authorize the Department of Public Instruction to award grants to school districts for the PD. The bill also requires DPI to count professional development training in character development toward any professional development requirements for teacher or administrator licensure. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Education, and there is no companion bill at this time. View Bill History

Referendum Restrictions. Educators are urging their school boards to join them in opposing referendum restrictions moving through the state Legislature. Many boards are passing resolutions against measures that would limit when they could go to referendum to support students, as well as what the actual questions would look like. Baraboo is the latest to speak up.

UW Degree Credit Internships. A fiscal estimate was received for AB 373 (companion bill SB 289), which would require UW System schools to offer degree credit internships for each academic major.

Wisconsin-Minnesota Reciprocity
The Joint Finance Committee has approved the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board request for the 2017-18 Administrative Memorandum for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Interstate Tuition Reciprocity Program.

Administrative Rules
DPI. EmR1711. Stakeholder workgroup’s revisions to licensure. (June 19, 2017 – November 13, 2017)