Legislative Update – September 6, 2019

As predicted at the start of the legislative session, things are moving slowly. The Senate and Assembly will not meet in September, next convening again instead October 8-10. According to Capitol insiders, the 18 laws enacted in 2019 equal about a third of the number from back in 2017.

Lame Duck Showdown. Attorney General Josh Kaul is urging the state Supreme Court to overturn requirements GOP lawmakers approved in the December lame-duck session requiring him to seek legislative approval to settle cases. Many settlements are waiting on approval, but JFC members from both parties refused to sign confidentiality agreements that Kaul requested. Due to that, he declined to provide the committee with many details on the case. 

Sensenbrenner Retirement Announcement. A long line of candidates is already forming now that U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner has announced his retirement. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, former state Senator Leah Vukmir, state Senator Chris Kapenga, and state Representative Adam Neylon have already expressed interest to represent Congressional District 5. 

Bills We’re Watching

  • Medicaid Expansion (AB-394). This bill to expand eligibility under the Medical Assistance program was referred to Assembly Medicaid Reform and Oversight.
  • UW Tuition Exemptions (AB-413). This bill, adding to the University of Wisconsin System nonresident tuition exemptions, was referred to the Assembly Colleges and Universities CommitteeThis bill creates an additional exemption for an alien who is not a legal permanent resident of the United States and who 1) graduated from a Wisconsin high school or received a declaration of equivalency of high school graduation from Wisconsin; 2) was continuously present in Wisconsin for at least three years following the first day of attending a Wisconsin high school or immediately preceding receipt of a declaration of equivalency of high school graduation; and 3) enrolls in a UW System institution and provides the institution with an affidavit stating that he or she has filed or will file an application for permanent residency with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as soon as the person is eligible to do so.

Circulated for Co-Sponsorship

  • Repeal lame-duck requirement on legal settlements (LRB-4110Memo). The Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee are circulating a bill to repeal the changes done in the extraordinary session regarding the attorney general. This is another step in the showdown between Republicans and Democrats over lame-duck changes. Last week, Attorney General Josh Kaul asked the Joint Finance Committee to meet in closed session to discuss ongoing cases, but said he needed the legislators to sign non-disclosure forms before he could tell them anything. No agreement was reached, and nothing was settled. This week, again Kaul asked for JFC to meet in closed session, and while the committee scheduled a meeting it was canceled when JFC co-chair Rep. John Nygren said the AG had not provided any new information that could help the committee members move forward. At the Joint Finance meeting on Wednesday, Nygren said he was disappointed with the information Kaul had given the members pertaining to the cases before them, that he had provided them two sheets of information while members of the Claims Board are given entire binders of information on cases before the state for settlement. 
  • Tech College Board Elections (LRB-3579Memo) Would require popular elections for members of technical college district boards. 
  • Aid for consolidation or grade sharing (LRB-1271). This would create a categorical aid for school boards that enter into a whole grade sharing agreement and adopt a resolution to consider school district consolidation. Under the bill, the Department of Public Instruction pays an eligible school board an amount equal to $150 per pupil enrolled in a grade included in the whole grade sharing agreement. A school board may not receive this aid for more than five school years.
  • Feasibility studies for consolidation or grade sharing (LRB-1275). This would require the Department of Public Instruction to award grants of up to $10,000 each to consortia of school districts to be used for a professional financial analysis of how school district consolidation or entering into a whole grade sharing agreement would affect the school districts.
  • UW System nonresident tuition exemption for tribal members (LRB-3433). This creates a new exemption for students who are members of tribal entities recognized by and eligible for funding and services from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
  • Four-year-old kindergarten enrollment counts (LRB-4056). This changes how a pupil enrolled in a four-year-old kindergarten is counted by a school district for purposes of state aid and revenue limits. Under current law, a pupil enrolled in a four-year-old kindergarten program is counted as 0.5 pupil unless the program provides at least 87.5 additional hours of outreach activities, in which case the pupil is counted as 0.6 pupil. Under the bill, if the four-year-old kindergarten program requires full-day attendance by pupils for five days a week, a pupil enrolled in the program is counted as one pupil.
  • Age a child can attend four-year-old kindergarten (LRB-4057). This would allow a child to attend four-year-old kindergarten if the child is four years old on September 1 or will be four years old on December 31 in the school year that the child proposes to enter school. In addition, a child would be admitted to the first quarter or semester of a four-year-old kindergarten beginning after January 1 of that school year if the child is four years old on January 1 or will be four years old on June 30 in that school year.
  • Cursive writing (LRB-4065). This bill would require cursive writing in the model academic standards for English language arts. This bill would also require a school board, independent charter school, and private school participating in a parental choice program to include cursive writing in its respective curriculum for the elementary grades. Specifically, each elementary school curriculum must include the objective that pupils be able to write legibly in cursive by the end of fifth grade.