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Lassa Revolving Door & Senior Housing Protection Bills Pass Senate

Bills prohibit legislators from lobbying for 12 months after leaving office and allow seniors to stay in their homes

Madison–Legislation introduced by State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) to prohibit Wisconsin lawmakers from taking lobbying jobs within one year after leaving office passed the Senate today by a vote of 30 to 3. Another bill introduced by Lassa, Senate Bill 35, increases the amount of money senior citizens can borrow from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Authority (WHEDA) to pay their property taxes.

Senate Bill 23 addresses the “revolving door” between government and special interests, which critics have decried as a major factor in government corruption. The bill prohibits any legislator from accepting a job as a lobbyist for 12 months after leaving office. The bill establishes fines of up to $5,000 per offense and up to one year imprisonment.

“When legislators and regulators know they can count on receiving cushy jobs from the same corporations and groups they are supposed to oversee, people start to wonder whose interests they really represent,” Lassa said. “These bills send a clear message: When you do the people’s business, you need to serve the people’s interests.”

“Former state officials such as department secretaries are currently prohibited from influencing their former departments for one year,” said Lassa. “It is only sensible to extend this prohibition to those people that make policy – legislators – from influencing their former colleagues on policy items.”

“Last November, the voters made it very clear that they’re tired of special interests having a stranglehold on their government, and they want something done about it,” Lassa said. “I am pleased that my colleagues have chosen to forward this bill to the Assembly for action.”

Senate Bill 35, the Senior Housing Protection Bill, increases loan amounts for the WHEDA Property Tax Deferral Loan Program. Property tax deferral loans are reverse mortgages for low to moderate income senior citizens who own their own home. The loans are then paid back when the house is sold. Under the program, seniors convert home equity into income to pay property taxes and special assessments on their homes. Deferring property taxes is beneficial for seniors who have little disposable income and a significant amount of home equity. Senate Bill 35 increases the loan amount from $2,500 to $3,525 a year.

“The average income of seniors who apply for the Property Tax Deferral Loan Program is $12,645,” said Lassa. “An increase of over $1,000 in the amount that Wisconsin’s senior citizens can borrow to pay their property taxes or special assessments will mean that more seniors will find it easier to remain in their own homes.”

The Property Tax Deferral Loan program was first created in 1985 and transferred to WHEDA in 1992. The annual loan amount of $2,500 has not been increased since 1993.

Senate Bill 35 has been messaged to the Assembly for action.