May 5th, 2017

Both the Senate and Assembly met this week to take up a series of bills. Bipartisan efforts to address opioid abuse were adopted in the Senate while Republicans in the Assembly passed legislation expanding high capacity wells that threaten groundwater sustainability.

This week also marked the first executive session meeting of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. This committee will continue to meet over the next several week to consider changes to Gov. Walker’s proposed state budget.

The Senate and Assembly will be in session again on Wednesday May 10th.

Follow Along!

Follow the Democratic Members of the Joint Finance Committee as they navigate the budget:

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Budget Update

The Joint Finance Committee held its first executive session on the 2017-19 biennial budget last Monday, May 1st. To view the votes on each provision, please click the link below.


Judicial Commission and Judicial Council:

  • The Governor proposed to eliminate both, and JFC voted unanimously to remove the governor's proposal and keep current law.

Employment Relations Commission:

  • The committee voted to cut $390,000 and several positions at the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, which administers labor relation law in the state. The budget reduced the number of commissioners from three to one and cut staff from seven to five. The commission's workload has dropped dramatically since 2011, with the passage of Act 10. However, some cases increased for the Commission, such as issues that used to be settled in collective bargaining agreements (discipline, policies) now being appealed directly to WERC. Additionally, the new civil service legislation passed last session gives employees' rights to appeal to WERC and sets tighter timelines for decisions.

    JFC Democrats offered a motion to eliminate the Governor’s proposal, but it failed along a party-line vote. Republicans, without Democratic support, ultimately passed a motion resembling the Governor’s proposal but making a few technical fixes, as well as requiring Senate confirmation for the appointment of the one remaining commissioner.

Board on Aging and Long-Term Care, IRIS Ombudsman Services:

  • Currently IRIS participants under 60 years old have an Ombudsman Program through Disability Rights of Wisconsin, and participants of Family Care over 60 years old have an Ombudsman Program through the Board on Aging and Long Term Care (BOALTC), but there has not been funding provided for the IRIS participants over 60 years old. The Governor’s budget created 4 positions and provided funding for 4 Ombudsman positions for this purpose. Democrats introduced a motion to support these new positions, which failed on party-lines. Republicans, on a party line vote, cut two of the four proposed positions.

Environmental Improvement Fund:

  • The Democrats on the committee introduced a motion to extend the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program until all lead laterals were replaced which failed on party lines. The Governor's recommendation to increase bonding authority by $5.8 million for this program unanimously passed.

    The committee voted to decrease interests rates for municipal projects in the Clean Water Fund Program from 70% to 55% of the market interest rate, to eliminate the Financial Hardship Program by June 30, 2017, and to extend repayment of loans in the Clean Water Fund program to be extended from 20 years to 30 years.

The Supreme Court relating to judicial compensation, and Insurance relating to the local property insurance fund were not taken up as scheduled and will be revisited at a later date. 

The next scheduled executive sessions are Tuesday, May 9 and Thursday, May 11. The executive sessions will be held on the following agencies:

Tuesday, May 9

Thursday, May 11

What Democrats Are Saying
Democratic Proposals

LRB 2277 Deer Farm Fences (Reps. Wachs & Milroy) Implements heightened fencing requirements for deer farms where there has been a positive CWD test.

LRB 3346 Defining Consent (Rep. Sargent) If an actor removes a sexually protective device such as a condom before or during sexual intercourse or other sexual contact without his or her partner's permission, there has been no valid consent to that sexual act.

LRB 2615 Modification of Voter Registration (Reps. Taylor, Kessler, & Zamarripa) Eliminates the Elections Commission's responsibility to change the registration status of electors who have not voted within the previous four years from eligible to ineligible under certain circumstances.

LRB0630 Community School Act (Sens. Larson & Johnson, Reps. Sinicki, Crowley, Mason, Brostoff, Pope & Taylor) Requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to create a community school start-up grant program, under which DPI awards competitive grants to school boards to plan and implement community schools.

This Week in the Senate

Senate Session

The Senate held a floor session on Tuesday, May 2 to take up senate bills, agency appointments, senate joint resolutions, and special session senate bills.

The Senate approved appointments to the ethics and elections commissions, the Public Service Commissioner and secretaries for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and Safety and Professional Services.

The Senate also brought up and passed several bills to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating families and communities across our state. While Democrats have been advocating to increase funding for opioid prevention, Republicans have punted on these challenges for the past six years. The Republican plan is now more than a few days late and several dollars short.

Previous Republican budget cuts have unfairly targeted substance abuse prevention efforts even as demand for services to combat opioid abuse have increased. To add insult to injury, this issue could have been helped by accepting the federal Medicaid expansion. Rejecting the expansion eliminated the opportunity for thousands of residents to access affordable insurance for treatment services.

The senate voted on numerous bills the most contentious bills were Senate Bill 144 and Senate Bill 15.

  • Senate Bill 144 would add non-renewable resources to the list of eligible practices for renewable energy credits. This waters down the effectiveness of our Renewable Energy Portfolio by expanding the number of energy technologies that count towards it without increasing the overall percentage. As a result, there is likely to be even less incentive for Wisconsin to decrease its fossil fuel use and transition to cleaner energy sources. Passed along party lines, 20-13.  

  • Senate Bill 15, also known as the REINS Act, would change state agency rules, requiring significantly more legislative approval on agency matters. Similar bills have been introduced on the federal level and in other states. Passed, 19-14.   

Senate Committees 

Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform
The committee held an Executive Session to vote on Senate Bill 216 which eliminates the state prevailing wage law and the highway prevailing wage law. Generally, under the current prevailing wage laws, laborers, workers, mechanics, and truck drivers employed on the site of certain projects of public works must be paid the prevailing wage rate, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor and may not be required or permitted to work more than 10 hours per day and 40 hours per week, unless they are paid 1.5 times their basic rate of pay (commonly referred to as overtime pay) for all hours worked in excess of the prevailing hours of labor. Bill passed, 3-2. 

Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations
The committee held an Executive Session to vote on three Senate Bills:

  • Senate Bill 78 would amend the statutes relating to program sponsors for chiropractic continuing education to include the following established and reputable organizations: Chiropractic Society of Wisconsin (CSW), the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB) and the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Bill passed, 5-0.

  • Senate Bill 108 would make two changes to the regulation of cosmetology and barbering practitioners. This bill requires those applying for licensure in Wisconsin to have a license in good standing in another state. Also, it removes the continuing education requirement for both barbering and cosmetology. Bill passed, 3-2.

  • Senate Bill 109 would make three changes to the regulation of cosmetology and barbering practitioners.

    • Requires the Cosmetology Examining Board and DSPS to promulgate rules that allow cosmetology, barbering, aesthetics, and manicurists to practice outside of licensed establishments.

    • Eliminates the cosmetology and barbering manager's license, formerly need to open an establishment, and instead requires that a licensed barber or cosmetologist be designated the manager of the establishment.

    • Eliminates the instructor's license for barbering, cosmetology, and related fields. Bill passed, 3-2.

Senate Transportation and Veterans Affairs
The committee held an Executive Session to vote on Senate Bill 85 which would require the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) to implement recommendations from an audit that was presented to the legislature January 2017. Bill passed, 5-0. 

The committee also held a Public Hearing to discuss four bills:

  • Senate Bill 18 / Assembly Bill 56 would allow a business that sells less than 15,000 gallons of motor fuel per year to advertise motor fuel prices by the half-gallon.

  • Senate Bill 99 would commemorate the bridge on the Hank Aaron State Trail in Milwaukee as the Richard A. Grobschmidt Memorial Bridge. 

  • Senate Bill 110 would allow for advertising on previously approved bus shelters along state trunk highways.

  • Senate Bill 98 would allow the WI Department of Transportation to award  grants to a county, municipality, or nonprofit corporations to cover the costs of advertising a safe-ride service.

Senate Economic Development, Commerce and Local Government
The committee held a Public Hearing to hear testimony on four Senate Bills:

  • Senate Bill 122 would eliminate the requirement that a city, town, or village must provide bonding to certain officials (treasurer, comptroller, chief of police, municipal judge, etc). The municipality may still provide bonding if they so choose, but would no longer be required to.

  • Senate Bill 123 would require municipalities to either enact an ordinance guaranteeing proper distribution of property taxes to other taxing jurisdictions, or to attain a surety bond in an amount not less than the total state and county property tax levy

  • Senate Bill 131 would change the information that a county register of deeds must assign to a document that is submitted for filing or recording. A register of deeds may, but is not required to, assign a volume and page number to each document/statute.

  • Senate Bill 158 would allow for an individual to contest the assessed value of a property if they have previously refused a written request to view the person's property.

Senate Revenue, Financial Institutions and Rural Issues
The committee held an Executive Session to vote on three Senate Bills and one executive appointment:

  • Appointment of Jason Rothenberg to the Deferred Compensation Board.

  • Senate Bill 89 would make several minor policy changes to tax laws and lottery administration. Bill passed, 4-1.

  • Senate Bill 120 would change the process the UW and technical colleges use to procure materials for building projects and would make changes to tax collection on those projects. Bill passed, 5-0.

  • Senate Bill 121 would allow an individual to roll over up to $100,000 per year from a Roth IRA account to a qualifying charitable organization. Bill passed, 5-0.

This Week in the Assembly

Assembly Session

This Assembly considered legislation on the floor Tuesday this week. On a party-line vote, the Assembly passed Senate Bill 76, which awarded life-time permits for high capacity wells. Democrats offered two amendments to the bill: one would require the Department of Natural Resources to consider the cumulative effect and have a 10-year staggered phase in creating periodic review of well permits, and the other amendment offered a 30-year review. Both were rejected on a party-line vote.

The Assembly also passed several bills to address homelessness, although the bills don’t go nearly far enough. On Assembly Bill 234, which creates an interagency council on homelessness, Democrats offered an amendment that would require council to facilitate a study that looks at funding mechanisms to build new housing for low income individuals. On Assembly Bill 235, related to housing grants, Democrats offered an amendment that would allocate $1 million for WHEDA and local housing authorities to provide eviction prevention funds and allocate $2.5 million to expand housing grants, prioritizing Rapid Rehousing and Housing First programs.

On Assembly Bill 236, related to waiting lists for housing choice vouchers, Democrats offered an amendment that would allocate $500,000 for WHEDA and local housing authorities to provide or contract case management services for individuals to find, obtain and maintain housing and allocate $2.75 million for WHEDA to replicate section 8 vouchers and proportionally distribute them to WHEDA balance of state and local housing authorities to get individuals off waiting lists. On Assembly Bill 237, which gives grants to municipalities to connect homeless individuals with permanent employment, Democrats offered an amendment to provide an additional $1 million per year for the program.

 All of the Democratic amendments were voted down on a party-line vote.


Assembly Committees

Assembly Committee on Local Government
The committee held a public hearing to discuss Assembly Bill 169, which would ensure that a municipal treasurer must execute a surety bond that guarantees the payment of the taxes to the county treasurer; Assembly Bill 168, which will change the requirement that certain city and village officials must execute and file an official bond; Assembly Bill 139, which would authorized county clerks and clerks of court to copy certified birth certificates for certain purposes; Assembly Bill 145, which is related to the notification of special meetings of the common council of a city; Assembly Bill 229,  which allows local governments to invest surplus money; and Assembly Bill 253, which expands the process for confirming a foreclosure sale.


Assembly Committee on Rural Development and Mining

The committee held a public hearing to discuss Assembly Bill 255, which would have DHS distribute $100,000 in grants to the Wisconsin Hospital Association Foundation Quality Improvement Fund; Assembly Bill 224, relating to DHS grants for education and training of allied health professionals; Assembly Bill 222, relating to DHS grants for the creation of rural wellness facilities and programs; Assembly Bill 227, relating to DHS grants for advanced practice clinicians; and Assembly Bill 175, which would change the information that a county register of deeds must assign to a document that is submitted for filing or recording .

Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy
The committee held a public hearing to discuss Assembly Bill 184, which will enact a criminal penalty for using certain professional credentials without proper accreditation, and Assembly Bill 199, which increases DWD workforce training grant amounts, known as “Fast Forward,” by $1,000,000 each fiscal year.

Assembly Committee on State Affairs
The committee voted to approve Assembly Bill 60, which would mean the title of a classification in the classified service may not include the word “engineer” unless the classification requires that an individual employed in that classification, and Assembly Bill 42, which enacts various changes regarding administrative rules and rule-making procedures as part of the REINS Act.

The committee also held a public hearing to discuss Assembly Bill 205, relating to the DOA entering into or renewing a lease, and the committee discuss changes to regulations regarding the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

Assembly Committee on Insurance
The committee voted to approve Assembly Bill 110, relating to surplus lines insurance policies issued by domestic insurers.

Next Week in the Legislature

The Senate and Assembly will be holding floor sessions on Wednesday, May 10th. To watch from home, visit WisconsinEye

Senate Committees

Senate Judiciary and Public Safety
The Committee will hold an Executive Session to vote on Senate Bill 52, Senate Bill 53, Senate Bill 54, Senate Bill 55, Senate Bill 56, Senate Bill 57, Senate Bill 58, Senate Bill 59, and Senate Bill 101

The Committee will also be holding a Public Hearing on Senate Bill 90, Senate Bill 133, Senate Bill 139, and Senate Bill 189.


Assembly Committees

Assembly Ways and Means

The Committee will hold a Public Hearing on Assembly Bill 108, Assembly Bill 174, Assembly Bill 176, and Assembly Bill 259.



To view updated committee notices, visit the legislative website and click on Committee Schedule: Wisconsin State Legislature.

 The State Capitol Update is provided by the Senate and Assembly Democratic Caucuses. For additional information, please send an email to WisconsinDemocrats@legis.wi.gov or call toll free: 888.385.3385.

Capitol Update - Under the Dome May 5th, 2017