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Wisconsin Legislative Spotlight

Maintained by the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), this page provides an overview of recent and upcoming activities in the Wisconsin Legislature. The LRB revises its content weekly during legislative floorperiods. Links to more detailed information are highlighted in the text.

The Week of June 8, 2009

The next floorperiod is scheduled to commence June 9 and continue until June 30 or budget passage. The schedule of floorperiods for the 2009-2010 Legislative Session was established by 2009 Senate Joint Resolution 1.

Budget Bill Heads to Full Legislature This Week

After a marathon session on May 28 and 29, the Joint Committee on Finance completed work on the 2009-10 budget and passed it by a 12-4 vote. The budget passed by JCF includes increased taxes on cigarettes, oil companies, and the state’s highest earners. It also cuts funding for local governments, schools, and state agencies. The state is facing a deficit of $6.6 billion through the next biennium.

The budget must now pass both the Assembly and Senate and be signed by the governor. Lawmakers have said they hope to pass the budget before the new fiscal year starts July 1. The Assembly plans to take up the budget during the Wednesday and Thursday floorperiods. Amendment introductions and debate will take place at this time. The budget will come before the Senate after it is passed by the Assembly.

Navigating the Executive Budget Bill, 2009 Assembly Bill 75

Every budget bill is composed of hundreds of individual bill drafts, each dealing with a particular topic or program. The Budget Index Report guide is designed to help find topics within AB-75 and, using the links, connect with the text of a specific budget component draft. This guide has been posted on the Budget Index Report 2009-10 publications page, as well on the Wisconsin Legislature's home page. On the Legislature's page, click: "Searchable InfoBase". After opening the Searchable InfoBase, click: "33. Miscellaneous Budget Documents" to access the Budget Index Report and all of the drafts that created AB-75.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has prepared an Informational Paper on the State Budget Process, which explains the budgeting process in both plain language and technical detail.

Tax and Fee Increases. On March 18, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memorandum titled: “State Tax and Fee Modifications Included in the Governor’s 2009-11 Budget Recommendation.” According to a summary in the memo, the changes in the governor’s budget would increase net taxes by about $1.47 billion during the biennium and would increase net fees by about $237 million during the two years covered by the budget. In addition, measures to enhance the collection of current taxes and fees would generate an estimated $61 million.

Local aids. On March 19, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released estimates for 2010 County and Municipal Aid Payments under AB 75. The bill would reduce local aid payments by a total of about 1%, or $8.5 million.

Property Tax Estimates. On April 8, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memorandum that provides an estimate of the effects of the budget bill on property taxes, updating the property tax estimates for the 2008(09) tax year based on nearly complete reports filed with the Department of Revenue.

More Budget News

On May 11, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that it now believes that general fund tax revenues will be lower than January’s estimates by $408 million in 2008-09, $573 million in 2009-10, and $622 million in 2010-11. The three-year reduction is $1,603 million, or approximately -4.3%.

On May 21, the Doyle administration announced additional proposals for reductions in state spending to offset the projected shortfall:

The above proposals are expected to yield an additional $1.629 billion in savings.

On May 13, Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald said that assembly legislative staff will be put on furlough for 16 days over the next two years to match the order by Governor Doyle for executive branch employees. Representatives Sheridan and Fitzgerald also announced they will each return 16 days of their legislative pay to the state treasury, as the governor previously said he would do.

Recently Signed Into Law

Child Safety Alarms in Child Care Vehicles

On May 29, Governor Doyle signed Senate Bill 141 into law as 2009 Wisconsin Act 19. The law requires certain vehicles that transport children to and from a child care provider to have child safety alarms installed. The alarm system prompts the driver of a child care vehicle to inspect the vehicle for children before exiting. The law was written in response to incidents of children dying after being left alone in child care vehicles.

Insurance Coverage of Cochlear Implants

Senate Bill 27, signed into law by Governor Doyle as Act 14 on May 21, requires insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids and cochlear implants for people under 18 years old.

Statewide Smoking Ban

A compromise between advocates and opponents of a statewide smokefree workplace law for certain retail establishments provides for a smoking ban to take effect on July 5, 2010, prior to which local ordinances will remain in effect. The compromise allows businesses to establish outdoor smoking areas for their customers and provides limited exceptions for preexisting retail tobacco shops and tobacco bars. Senate Bill 181 passed both houses on May 13 and became 2009 Wisconsin Act 12 when Governor Doyle signed the bill on May 18.

A list of enacted legislation from the 2009 session can be viewed at:

Recent Bill Introductions

Assembly Bill 266, introduced on May 12, relates to the provision of support services information to employees who are affected by a business closing or mass layoff.

Senate Bill 202, introduced on May 14, relates to school policies on bullying.

Senate Bill 205, introduced on May 18, would allow local governments to create regional transit authorities.

Senate Bill 209, introduced on May 18, proposes to increase the fermented malt beverage (beer) tax from $2 to $10 per barrel.

Senate Bill 213, introduced on May 20, relates to alternative dispute resolution in foreclosure actions. A companion bill introduced on June 4 is Assembly Bill 305.

Assembly Bill 283, introduced on May 27, relates to making changes to the penalties for drunk driving.

Senate Bill 218, introduced on May 27, relates to increasing penalties for telephone solicitors who violate do-not-call restrictions.

Senate Joint Resolution 37, introduced on June 2, is a proposed amendment to the state constitution, which would require the state to budget and account for all funds and expenses in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

Senate Bill 223, introduced on June 2, would make changes to the composition of the UW Board of Regents. The bill would divide the state into seven geographical regions and require at least one citizen membership from each geographical district.

Senate Bill 225, introduced on June 2, would allow for the designation of smoking rooms in lodging establishments. Under newly signed Wisconsin Act 12, establishments may no longer designate smoking areas at indoor locations. This bill would authorize the owner of a lodging establishment to designate up to 25 percent of the guest rooms in the lodging establishment as guest rooms in which smoking is permitted. If the lodging establishment has fewer than four guest rooms, the owner may designate one guest room as a guest room in which smoking is permitted. A companion bill, Assembly Bill 295, has also been introduced.

Assembly Bill 291, introduced on June 2, would allow for a parent to have the right to recover for loss of society and companionship if the parent’s adult child is injured as the result of medical malpractice, and for an adult child's right to recover for loss of society and companionship if the adult child’s parent dies as the result of medical malpractice.

Assembly Bill 299, introduced on June 2, relates to the regulation of certain products containing mercury.

Assembly Bill 302, introduced on June 2, would provide a property tax exemption for the personal property of a snowmobile club that is a nonprofit organization.

Assembly Bill 304, introduced on June 2, relates to the ineligibility of convicted felons for licensure as lobbyists. Under this bill no person who is convicted of a felony is eligible to be licensed as a lobbyist for a period of five years from the date of conviction.

Budget and Economic Resources — News from the LRB Library

A new, monthly publication is available from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) ( Wisconsin Job Watch provides a snapshot of Wisconsin's job picture and reports on key recession trends. To read the April 2009 issue, click here.

The LRB Library has created a list of items available through its online catalogue on a variety of subjects of current interest. The most recent addition to "Noteworthy Titles" is on "Historical Economic Forecasts."

The National Conference on State Legislatures has recently compiled a nationwide list of cuts proposed or enacted to help compensate for budget shortfalls: FY 2010 Actions & Proposals to Balance the Budget: Across the Board Budget Cuts & Other Cuts of Note. NCSL also produces annual updates to their report on state budgets and the 2009 report is now available in paper or electronic form through the library. An interactive map shows the current and estimated budget gaps across the U.S.

Committee Activity

See the Schedule of Committee Activities to view the full monthly calendar and details on times and locations of committee meetings.

Recent Publications

The Legislative Reference Bureau recently issued the following publications:

The LRB is on Twitter

You can now access updates from the LRB on Twitter, including information on new LRB publications, new acquisitions by the LRB Library, and general information about the legislature, and the current legislative session. To find the LRB on Twitter, go to:

LRB Podcasts

The LRB has also released a new Podcast about the online library catalog system (LRBCat) and one about Conflict in the Wisconsin Legislature.

Recent Publications by Other Legislative Service Agencies

Blue Book Study Guides

Two Informational Bulletins were also issued by the LRB as companions to the 2007-2008 Wisconsin Blue Book: Informational Bulletin 07-1, “A Study Guide to the 2007-2008 Wisconsin Blue Book,” and Informational Bulletin 07-2, “Inside the 2007-2008 Wisconsin Blue Book.”

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Last revised: November 08, 2012