WEAC Legislative Update – February 1

Foxconn dominated headlines this week as company officials told national reporters they were shifting focus. Governor Tony Evers stepped up to lead, and Foxconn officials are now assuring Wisconsin that nothing’s unraveling. Republican Legislative leaders Sen. Scott Fitzgerald and Rep. Robin Vos quickly played the blame-game, saying the Foxconn fallout is Evers’ fault, instead of the result of a hasty deal arranged as a campaign stunt for Scott Walker, who lost despite the bad deal.

State Revenue Projections Drop. The Evers’ administration said it’s time for “an honest conversation” about the challenges facing the state after the Legislative Fiscal Bureau Wednesday dropped revenue projections through mid-2021. GOP leaders jumped on it to say Wisconsin can’t afford to move on funding education or other priorities. Projected tax revenues look to come in about $280 million less through the end of the 2019-21 budget than what the Department of Administration had projected.

Evers hires law firm in a Lame Duck Lawsuit. The decision comes after AG Josh Kaul earlier this month declined to represent Evers in the case, in which a coalition of groups are arguing the December extraordinary session laws are unconstitutional because they stemmed from an unlawful legislative session. Under the contract between the guv’s office and Pines Bach, provided to WisPolitics.com today by Evers’ office, the lawyers will be paid $275 per hour, in addition to reimbursements for expenses such as travel and mileage. But the document notes the costs are capped at $50,000, though the figure could be amended “if litigation requires additional resources.”

WEDC Meets. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Board met the first time this week since the lame duck session made changes to the make-up of the jobs creation panel. Majority leaders in each house each get five appointments to the board now. The board drops to 16 members Sept. 1 as the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader each lose one appointment. The remaining six are chosen by Gov. Tony Evers. On Sept. 1, the guv will regain the power to pick the head of the WEDC. When it met this week, the board will review an audit bureau report finding Foxconn could collect tax credits for workers employed outside of Wisconsin.

Study Committee on the Investment and Use of the School Trust Funds completes report. In the report, submitted to the Joint Legislative Council Committee, several bills are recommended for introduction in the 2019-20 legislative session.

Bills Introduced:

  • Tech Ed Grants. SB16 would increase school district career and technical education incentive grants awarded by the Department of Workforce Development by $3.5 million in each of the next school years. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Trade. There is no Assembly companion bill at this time.
  • Pre-Existing Conditions. There is now a companion bill in the Senate for the Republican pre-existing conditions bill (AB1/SB2).

Bills Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:

  • Comprehensive Health Care Protection Bill. This comprehensive proposal includes all the most popular provisions of the ACA. It would ensure Wisconsin has codified those health care consumer protections into state law for those that are covered by health insurance plans regulated by the state. Here’s an overview:
  1. Prohibits insurance companies from discrimination based on a pre-existing condition.
  2. Prohibits lifetime and annual limits on health insurance coverage.
  3. Requires coverage of, and prohibits, cost-sharing for preventive services.
  4. Requires coverage of certain essential health benefits with limits on cost sharing.
  5. Requires health insurance companies to enroll consumers regardless of health, gender and other factors. It also prevents discriminatory rate setting.
  • Republican Middle Class Tax Cut. This plan would use state surplus revenues to fund a middle-class tax cut, as a Republican alternative to the tax cut proposed by Governor Tony Evers. The surplus represents revenue collections that are higher than were expected at the close of the 2017-19 budget coupled with lower than expected expenditures.
  • Series of Bills to Limit Special Interests in Elections.
    • Sensible Limits Bill. Limits the influence of special interest money by limiting contributions to no more than $10,000. The candidate self-funding allowance would still exist. This proposal will also eliminate the segregated fund shell game that has allowed political parties and legislative campaign committees to avoid donation limits.
    • Restoring Reasonable Limit Act. Would decrease the individual and candidate committee contribution limit from $20,000 to $10,000 for statewide candidates.
    • Special Interests Limitation Act. Would establish Campaign Contribution Limits. This series of bills is being re-introduced by Democratic legislators, to reduce by half the donation limits on political action committee contributions to candidates. The limits under the bill are generally the same as those that applied to political action committee contributions prior to the 2016 legislation that radically increased the financial influence of special interest groups and their political action committees.
    • Close the PAC Loophole Act. Would change the definition of a PAC for campaign finance purposes. Currently, a political action committee is defined as a person, other than an individual, that either has express advocacy as its major purpose or spends more than 50 percent of its total spending in a 12-month period on expenditures for express advocacy, expenditures made to support or defeat a referendum, and contributions made to a candidate committee, legislative campaign committee, or political party. This allows groups to influence issues and elections without having to register with our state. This bill defines a political action committee, for campaign finance purposes, as a committee that includes a person, other than an individual, that spends more than $1,000 in a 12-month period on expenditures for express advocacy, expenditures made to support or defeat a referendum, and contributions made to a candidate committee, legislative campaign committee, or political party.
    • Coordination Control Act. Would place the same financial limits on coordinated expenditures between candidates and groups as are currently in place for direct contributions. This bill also defines mass communication related to campaigns and creates new definitions for coordination that apply to expenditures for express advocacy and to expenditures for a mass communication.
    • Contribution Sunshine Act. Would change current Wisconsin law to require the disclosure of any donor’s place of employment, and require the reporting of the donor’s occupation at the $100 and up level.
    • No Corporate Campaign Bribes Act. Would prohibit a corporation, cooperative association, labor organization, or federally recognized American Indian Tribes from making contributions to segregated funds established and administered by a political party or legislative campaign committee.
  • Safe Harbor for Trafficked Youth. This would take a final step in recognizing children as victims of exploitation by removing the ability to charge a child with prostitution. Wisconsin law would no longer conflict with the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which treats coerced children as victims, even if they have engaged in criminal prostitution activity. This recognizes that these children are victims of sexual exploitation and should not be treated as criminals.
  • Prostitution Crime Surcharge. Would create a prostitution crime surcharge for people found guilty of operating prostitution rings.
  • Ban the R-word. This would ban the “R-word” from administrative code. LRB-1327 explains that a 2012 law deleted this offensive term from our statutes, however did not go far enough. This offensive terminology is still found in some of administrative code. LRB-1327 will instruct the DHS, DCF, PSC, DSPS and DWD to strike “mentally retarded” and similar phrases found in their rules and replace them with the phrase “intellectual disability.”
  • Apprenticeship Tax Deductions. This would create a tax deduction for individuals or corporations that have individuals participating in apprenticeship programs is circulating for co-sponsorship. LRB 1159/1 is identical to a 2017 bill that passed the Assembly with wide support. Currently, all tuition for schooling programs that are approved by the Department of Workforce Development qualifies as tax deductible, but not apprenticeship programs are not included. Supporting the 2017 bill were building organizations and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #139 and the Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association.