Legislative Update – July 14

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Latest in the Legislature
It’s all transportation, all the time these days in the statehouse, with some elected officials calling for solutions while others are drawing lines in the sand around no new borrowing. The latest is an omnibus budget amendment that proposes sweeping changes to the Department of Transportation – and also includes a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage. Taxes and voucher school spending are also getting some attention in the back of the room.

Voucher income limit boost?

The Assembly Speaker this week told a Capitol insider that “anything’s possible” when it comes to raising income limits for voucher school eligibility to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, ($73,800 for family of four). Representative Robin Vos said his caucus supports the move being pushed by voucher lobbyists, even though it’s been rejected by Senate Republicans.

Now, the income eligibility limits in the Milwaukee and Racine voucher programs have already been rasied to 300 percent. But Senator Alberta Darling, who said she and her Senate colleagues oppose upping the income limit on statewide vouchers, said the statewide program is because Milwaukee and Racine have different struggles.

Lifting of enrollment caps?

While Republican Senators oppose increasing income limits, the word is that they would support lifting enrollment caps for the statewide voucher program. Assembly Republicans, however, have said their caucus is against that move.

Either way – it is clear Republican lawmakers want to repay the loads of campaign cash they received from voucher lobbyists by making it easier to pour more tax dollars into unaccountable private school tuition subsidies. Contact your legislators and tell them both ideas are bad ones.

A voucher is a voucher is a voucher…

Swirling around the Capitol – along with transportation funding, taxes and voucher expansion – is a voucher-by-another-name: special needs scholarships. We’ll keep you posted on any movement here if expansion of this additional method of siphoning resources from public schools gains traction.

On the Issues

Campus Speech.
With a bill to either suspend or expel students who interrupt, heckle or intimidate speakers with whom they disagree circulating in the Legislature (SB 250/AB 299), the UW System Board of Regents unanimously approved a resolution affirming the system’s commitment to free speech. The regents called their resolution a “guidepost” on free expression on campus. The resolution doesn’t contain punitive measures included in the Republican-supported bill that passed the Assembly on a party line vote of 61-36. The Senate is not expected to take up the bill until the fall.

Energy Efficiency Exemptions.
Capitol insiders indicate that a move to eliminate Act 32, which allows school districts to move forward on energy efficiency projects outside of revenue limits, may still be in the works. If this passes, school districts would need to go to referendum for such energy efficiency projects outside operational budgets.

Guns and Schools.
A Senate companion bill (SB 340) was introduced to AB 427, which would create a comprehensive firearm education curriculum to be offered as an elective to high school pupils. The bill requires the state superintendent to jointly develop the curriculum with the Department of Natural Resources, a law enforcement agency, or an organization that specializes in firearms safety or that certifies firearms instructors. Both bills were referred to their respective education committees.