Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

February 16, 2024


This Week In the State Senate

 The Senate and Assembly have been in session several days in February. We are moving a lot of legislation through the legislative process with hopes of wrapping up formal floor sessions in March.  After floor sessions end, we will continue committee work, constituent casework, research, communications and planning for the future. I hope you will continue to communicate with me.

It is important to note that the vast majority of the legislation that passed the State Senate this week was bi-partisan – and some of it was unanimous! I often hear that voters are frustrated that the two parties in our government can’t get along, but this is not true. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t share stories about agreement, consensus and collaboration. Conflict is much more interesting. But these stories are very misleading. We agree on a lot of very good legislation that serves the people of Wisconsin.


On Tuesday, February 13, 2024, four of my bills were passed by the Senate:
Campus Community Transition Grants – This bill was written in response to the UW’s decision to close the UW Platteville Richland campus last year. It provides up to $2 million to counties where a UW campus has closed to in person instruction. These grants are intended to help the county pay for economic development and re-development of the campus property. The bill passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, 26-5. The State Assembly will likely vote on this bill next week. I am optimistic that the Governor will sign this bill without vetoes in order to help our local communities transition and move forward.
Department of Revenue (DOR) Law Reforms – As one of several CPAs in the legislature, I have a unique relationship with the DOR because I can speak their language. I am usually approached by the agency to author legislation that updates our state statutes so that the department can administer the tax codes. This bill is an example of strong collaboration between parties. My team and I worked with the Governor’s agency to write this bill. It passed the State Senate with bi-partisan support, 30-2. The Assembly still needs to pass it and then the Governor is certain to sign it.
Evansville TIF – This bill incentivizes CHS, a Minnesota-based agribusiness company, to build a brand-new, $700 million soybean processing facility in the City of Evansville, WI by modifying the 12% Tax Incremental District (TID) cap set in statute and providing for various other TIF law modifications. Evansville has created a TIF district (TID 10) to reimburse a portion of the infrastructure costs as an incentive for CHS to build there. This will make the Evansville site cost competitive and the project economically viable for the region. While I do not represent Evansville, I believe this is a good project for our ag community and Wisconsin’s economy. I collaborated with Rep. Todd Novak (Dodgeville) and Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) to make it happen. It passed the Senate unanimously, 32-0 and is bound for the Assembly. Again, I am optimistic that the Governor will sign this bill into law.
Constitutional Amendment for Federal spending authority – finally, the Senate advanced two constitutional questions that will be on your ballot in November. I wrote about this last week, but there were several follow-up questions I would like to address here.
The questions that will be posed to voters follow:

  • QUESTION 1:  “Delegation of appropriation power. Shall section 35 (1) of article IV of the constitution be created to provide that the legislature may not delegate its sole power to determine how moneys shall be appropriated?"
  • QUESTION 2:  “Allocation of federal moneys. Shall section 35 (2) of article IV of the constitution be created to prohibit the governor from allocating any federal moneys the governor accepts on behalf of the state without the approval of the legislature by joint resolution or as provided by legislative rule?”

I have three follow-up comments on this after hearing from many of you after my column last week:

1.      I know the questions are confusing. They are written in statutory jargon. In plain language - question #1 is asking you if the legislature should have to play a role in deciding how all taxpayer money is spent. If you agree, the vote is “yes.”


2.      I have been asked if I would support this amendment if we had a Republican governor in office. The answer is absolutely YES! In fact, during the Walker Administration, the legislature passed a law called the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. This was 2017 Act 57. This law, which Governor Scott Walker signed, strengthened the legislature and improved transparency and accountability in the rule-making process. In other words, it gave the legislature a say in the rule-making process in order to represent the people’s voice when the government makes rules that affect us. The changes made in the REINS Act are very similar to the changes we are asking all voters to consider about spending decisions.


3.      These questions are not asking to give the legislature authority to overrule the Governor for spending decisions. We want voters to decide if the legislature, which is elected by the people and represents the people, should have a role in deciding how to spend the people’s money, like we do in the state budget process. It’s that simple. 

I am very proud of my collaborative work on behalf of the people of the 17th Senate District. We are making strong progress on important legislation that will make a difference for the people and communities I serve. I am optimistic that we will continue to move our bills forward as the legislative session continues.

As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance. Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.