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Capitol Update

New Laws Impacting Rural Wisconsin

I recently shared the successful legislation I authored on behalf of rural Wisconsin. There were many other bills, led by other legislators that impact rural Wisconsin. I was proud to support these initiatives and want to provide more information on changes to the law that will likely impact you, your community or someone you know.
ATV Signage - Assembly Bill 442 clarifies the requirements for signs placed to mark all-terrain vehicle (ATV) routes by municipalities.
If a municipality designates specific highways as ATV routes, they are required to put up signs at each point on the highway where the ATV route begins or where it intersects a highway that is not part of the route.  If a municipality designates all of the highways in their territorial boundaries as ATV routes, they only have to put up a sign at the entrances of their boundaries to alert motorists. This law streamlines and clarifies the rules so that the municipalities and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are on the same page.  It also saves municipalities significant money by requiring fewer signs.
AB 442 was authored by Senator Robert Cowles (R—Green Bay) and Representative Andre Jacque (R—De Pere), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a voice vote. It is Act 193.  It is effective immediately.
Producer Led Watershed Grants - Assembly Bill 946 provides one-time additional funding of $500,000 in both fiscal years 2018 and 2019 for increases to producer-led watershed protection grants.
I eagerly supported this bill because it provides additional funding to a program that is working well in our communities.  No one knows the land better than farmers who cultivate it. These grants encourage a coalition of farmers to coordinate to protect the watershed by learning land conservation strategies and applying new technologies at their own facilities.
Authored by Senator Robert Cowles (R—Green Bay) and Representative Joel Kitchens (R—Sturgeon Bay), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a vote of 32-0. It is Act 196. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will continue to administer this grant program and the funds are available immediately.
Grants for Teachers to learn how to teach Dual Enrollment courses - Senate Bill 711 provides $500,000 in grants to assist high school teachers with tuition expenses so that they can receive advanced training in order to teach dual enrollment courses.  Dual enrollment courses are courses taught in high school with college-level material and students receive college credit for them. Dual-enrollment helps engaged, ambitious high school students to learn in an accelerated environment and advance faster through college after they graduate. This saves money, reduces their time on campus, and advances their entry into the workforce.
High school teachers must receive advanced training in order to provide these classes. SB 711 creates a $500,000 grant program to support high school teachers who are seeking the training necessary to provide advanced instruction. The bill also requires that at least one grant must be awarded to smaller school districts each year through 2022, which are primarily located in rural communities.
Authored by Senator Luther Olsen (R—Ripon) and Representative Mike Rohrkaste (R—Neenah), the bill passed the Senate on a vote of 32-0 and was concurred by the Assembly on a vote of 92-1. It is Act 206. The Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) is creating and administering this grant program.
Lighting on horse-drawn vehicles - Assembly Bill 475 adds a lighting requirement for animal-drawn vehicles. From now on, animal-drawn vehicles, such as buggies, must be equipped with rear flashing yellow or amber strobe lights in addition to the lighting that is already required.  All of the lights must be illuminated during hours of darkness and periods of inclement weather.
In rural Wisconsin, especially in communities with Amish residents, buggy lighting is a serious issue on our rural roads. The rear red taillights are often deceiving for motorists who are driving at much faster speeds than the animal-drawn buggies. The amber or yellow strobe requirement is meant to add a lighting element that will be unique to buggies and other animal-drawn vehicles so that motorists will know that the vehicle ahead of them is likely moving at a much slower speed. 
It is important to note that law enforcement will be able to issue a warning for violations of this law, but cannot issue citations. This law is meant to encourage safety, not penalties.
Authored by Senator Jerry Petrowski (R—Marathon) and Representative John Spiros (R—Marshfield), the bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote and was concurred by the Senate on a voice vote. It is Act 228 and is effective immediately.
Green-Alert for Missing Veterans - Senate Bill 473 creates a system for alerts for missing veterans who have service-related health conditions. Similar to the Amber Alert for missing children or the Silver Alert for missing senior citizens, the Green Alert will be used to assist law enforcement in locating missing veterans.
This bill, also known as the Corey Adams Searchlight Act, was named for a Milwaukee Air Force veteran who passed away earlier this year after being missing for 18 days. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 veterans commit suicide each day. Some veterans with service-related health conditions become disoriented or disappear as they are struggling with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder. The Green Alert is designed to help to locate the veteran and provide support before it is too late. If you see or hear a Green Alert in your community, a veteran needs your help.
Authored by Senator Testin (R—Stevens Point) and Representative Kleefisch (R—Oconomowoc), the bill passed the Senate on a voice vote and was concurred by the Assembly on a voice vote. It is Act 175. It is effective immediately.
Again, this is just a small sample of the legislation that was signed into law this spring.  But these issues are important to rural Wisconsin and I was proud to support them on your behalf. 

For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have any questions or need assistance with any state-related matters.