Legislative Update – June 15

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Latest in the Legislature

Joint Finance Nixes Self-Insurance       
The Joint Finance Committee unanimously nixed the governor’s plan to move state workers to self-insurance, after halting meetings for over a week, saying it was risky and they can find other ways to insure schools. “I’m happy we were able to do that without sticking it to state employees,” Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, told Madison insiders.

JFC leaders also told insiders that they are getting close to an agreement on K-12 education. The Assembly Republicans have introduced their own education budget, while Senators have said they’ll likely work off the governor’s proposal. We’re still waiting for three biggies – education, transportation and taxes – to be taken up. The current state budget expires on June 30.

Assembly and Senate Floor Sessions

The Assembly and Senate were in session Wednesday – it was the last scheduled date for a Senate floor session. Senators will convene as necessary going forward, but so far no other floor sessions are on the docket. The Assembly is expected to meet on June 21, when campus speech might be taken up, along with:

  • AB-071 Pupil Data Inventory An inventory of pupil data.
  • AB-072 Pupil Data Security Responsibilities of state superintendent related to privacy and security of pupil data.
  • AB-250 Alternative Education Grants
  • AB-251 DPI Grant Programs Modifying rules related to various grant programs administered by the Department of Instruction.
  • AB-266 Technical Excellence Scholarship Program Eligibility for the Technical Excellence Higher Education Scholarship Program.
  • AB-280 Financial Literacy in Schools Incorporating financial literacy into the curriculum of public schools.
  • AB-299 Free Expression in UW System Providing an exemption from rule-making procedures, and granting rule-making authority.
  • AB-383 Parental Choice Programs The Special Needs Scholarship Program, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation.
  • AB-111 Threat to use Firearm Threat to use a firearm on school property to injure or kill a person and providing a criminal penalty.

Referendum Restrictions
Also today, the Assembly Committee on Education held a public hearing on three bills to restrict school boards’ ability to place referendum questions before district voters and limit the length of time a successful referendum can be in effect. Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, summed them up this way, “Public schools were told, if you don’t have enough money, go to referendum, ask your local voters. And now you don’t like that either. You’ve driven schools into this and now that they’re doing it, you’re saying we got to stop this. I don’t understand the philosophy.”

The three referendum restriction bills are:

  • Assembly Bill 282, prohibiting a school board in a unified district from voting on a resolution to exceed a school district’s revenue limit at a school board meeting that is not a regularly scheduled monthly meeting, and prohibiting voting in a common or union high school (UHS) district on a resolution to exceed a school district’s revenue limit at a school district special meeting. The bill would further provide that the electors of common and UHS districts may vote upon an initial resolution to raise money through a bond issue only at the school district’s annual meeting.
  • Assembly Bill 268, eliminating recurring referendums to exceed revenue limits and limiting the duration of successful non-recurring (temporary) operating referendums to 5 years, creating an automatic “cliff effect” when those referendums expire. The bill would also convert all previously approved recurring (permanent) operating expense referendums to non-recurring (temporary) operating referendums with a duration of 5 years, which would create a similar “cliff effect.” The five-year clock would begin ticking in the year the bill, if enacted as a new law, is published.
  • Assembly Bill 269, requiring, with certain exceptions (e.g., in cases of fire or natural disaster) that all referendum votes must be held on the dates of spring and fall General Elections. This would limit school boards to only two opportunities in an even-numbered year and only one opportunity in an odd-numbered year.

Vouchers
A bipartisan Senate bill (SB293)/Assembly bill (AB383) is on the fast-track, with a host of changes to the voucher program. It received an Assembly hearing Tuesday and was approved by the full Senate. It’s a mixed bag, but what’s grabbing headlines is that voucher schools would have to conduct background checks. Lawmakers say they’re looking to streamline Wisconsin’s four separate privatization programs, but there are still serious concerns that this prioritizes selective vouchers over the public schools that serve all children.

Merit Scholarships
A fiscal estimate was received for WI AB 338, on a plan for sale of public lands to fund merit scholarships.

DPI Scope Statement
SS 055-17. Red Tape Review of rules governing school district boundary appeals, pupil nondiscrimination, and school finance.

Appointments

Several appointments have been made government boards:

  • Board of Regents of the UW System: Robert Atwell, Michael Jones
  • State of Wisconsin Investment Board: Norman Cummings, David Stein
  • Wisconsin Technical College System Board: Hunter Kautz