Legislative Update – February 9 – FMLA bill ‘won’t move forward’

Senator Steve Nass, chairman of the Senate committee weighing a bill to end the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act, said he has “no intention of moving this bill forward in the remaining days of this session.” Nass made the statement in response to WEAC’s Save Wisconsin FMLA emails, showing that our collective action makes a difference. Don’t stop now! SHARE OUR ACTION ALERT WITH OTHERS WHO HAVEN’T EMAILED YET.

Low Revenue Ceiling and Sparsity Aid. The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) amended Senate Bill 690 before unanimously passing it Thursday. The amendment allows for nine school districts that would have been frozen under the proposal the ability to go to advisory referendum to use the low revenue ceiling increase. If the referendum passes, districts could raise the local levy using the low revenue ceiling adjustment. If the referendum fails, a new three-year freeze wouldn’t be enacted but the district would still have to wait the three years since the operational referendum failed to use the low revenue ceiling. The Assembly Education Committee has already passed companion bill AB 835, so the next stop for this one is in the full Senate and Assembly. Here are the details of the bill:

  • Low Revenue Ceiling: Would increase the low revenue ceiling from $9,100 to $9,400 in 2019. The bill also would increase the low revenue ceiling by $100 each school year, beginning in 2020, until the ceiling reaches $9,800 in 2023. The DPI estimates the statewide cost of this bill to be a maximum of $21.8 million in 2019, depending on whether nine additional school districts going to referendum this spring are successful.
  • Sparsity Aid: This would, beginning in 2019, increase the sparsity aid per pupil amount from $300 to $400. Under the bill, the appropriation for sparsity aid would be increased by $6.5 million in 2019. Sparsity aid was vetoed by the governor in the 2017-19 state budget, but he has said he supports the provisions now.

Gifted and talented vouchers. A bill to begin gifted and talented education savings accounts (AKA vouchers) was pulled before a committee vote this week, as an amendment was introduced to require repayments to the state in cases of fraud, but it’s back on the legislative track now. The bill would allow any type of school to define “gifted and talented” without oversight, and as is the nature of privatization, collect public money.  The bill is SB 725 / AB 830, the nation’s first attempt at vouchers for gifted and talented children. The measure would pay private school tuition and expenses for 2,000 families who meet requirements set forth. The program would provide $1,000 for each “gifted and talented” student who is already eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, which means the household’s annual income is at or below $45,510 annually for a family of four. Read national praise for this idea from privatizers at The 74.

Tax proposal. A one-time $100 per child tax credit, regardless of income, refunded by check in July and a sales tax holiday the first weekend of August for purchases under $100 are moving ahead. The governor is publicizing his agreement with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. The bill will likely be introduced and sent to committee next week.  Senator Scott Fitzgerald said his caucus will talk about the proposal, but noted that the sales tax holiday was removed from the budget last year. Assembly GOP leaders, who worked with Walker on the plan, said it would cost $172 million. That includes $122 million for the per-child credit and an estimated $50 million for the sales tax holiday.

Circulating for co-sponsorship:

Supplemental Sparsity Aid. LRB-5382 would provide supplemental sparsity aid for school districts with high property valuation and making an appropriation. Read the memo.

Teacher Grant Program. LRB-5386  would create a grant program for teachers employed by sparsely populated school districts and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority. Read the memo.

Higher Ed Scholarships. LRB-5387 would award academic excellence higher education scholarships to pupils of public and tribal high schools with enrollments of at least 20 but fewer than 80 pupils. Read the memo.

BILLS WE ARE WATCHING

Public hearings Wednesday:

Usurp local control on workplace standards. The Assembly Local Government Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday on AB 748 / SB 634. The bill preempts a local municipality from enacting a local living wage, fair scheduling standard, and a host of other measures that would improve the lives of working people. The bill has passed the Senate Committee on Labor.

Dual Enrollment. The Assembly Education Committee will hold its public hearing on AB 851. The bill requires the University of Wisconsin System to award grants to school districts, independent charter schools and voucher schools to support dual enrollment programs taught in high schools. Under the bill, grants are awarded to assist high school teachers in meeting the minimal qualifications necessary to teach dual enrollment courses. The grants would end after June 30, 2022. The Senate version, SB 711, received a public hearing Tuesday.

Ready for votes:

Firearm Possession at School. The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee will vote on AB-496, regarding suspending and expelling a pupil for possession of a firearm at school. Its companion bill, SB-402, has passed out of committee.

County jailers and the WRS. AB 676 / SB 577, which would classify county jailers as protective occupation participants under the Wisconsin Retirement System and under the Municipal Employment Relations Act, is ready to be scheduled for an Assembly vote. While the bill would likely not have a cost impact on the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, there is insufficient knowledge as to whether this bill would increase or decrease county costs. Fiscal estimate

Grants to schools for public safety training. The Assembly Committee on Workforce Development will vote Tuesday on AB 872, which would create an incentive grant program for school districts that provide training for certain public safety occupations and provides completion awards for students who complete those programs. The companion bill, SB 746, is set for a Senate committee vote on Thursday.

Drug abuse awareness, prevention in school. SB 767 lists requirements for counselors and specialists to be certified, and also goes beyond current law to require school boards to incorporate drug abuse awareness and prevention in health instructional programs.

Passed through committee:

Career and Tech Ed Grants. An Assembly committee unanimously passed AB-872, which would provide career and technical education incentive grants for school districts and completion awards for pupils. The Senate version, SB-746, is up for a public hearing Thursday.  Read the fiscal estimate.

Votes scheduled:

Merit scholarships. The Senate Government Operations, Technology & Consumer Protection Committee will vote Thursday on SB-700, which would provide merit scholarships for certain University of Wisconsin System students.

Bill circulating for co-sponsorship:

Local Minimum Wage. LRB-4544 would allow for the enactment of local minimum wage ordinances. Currently, in Wisconsin, local units of government are preempted by state statute from establishing a local minimum wage. Wisconsin’s minimum has stayed stagnant since 2009 at $7.25 an hour. Twenty five percent of Wisconsinites are working low wage jobs that pay less than $11.56 per hour which, even working full time, cannot keep a family of four out of poverty. Read the memo.

LRB-2581 Memo DOA Duties (Vinehout, Kathleen) The duties and function of the Department of Administration, the Department of Revenue, and the Office of the State Treasurer and making appropriations. Deadline: Friday, February 16, 3 pm

Public hearings held Tuesday:

College Credit in High SchoolSB 677 / AB-805 would exclude certain college credit in high school programs from the Early College Credit Program. The bill was approved by the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee this week.

Expanding 4KSB 663 would allow the Department of Children and Families, as a pilot project, to award grants to organizations, including school boards, with existing four-year-old kindergarten programs for the purpose of expanding those programs.

Repealing rules around large-area supplemental aid. SB 685 / AB 477 would repeal the administrative rules promulgated by the Department of Public Instruction to administer a supplemental aid program for a school district having 500 or fewer pupils and that is at least 200 square miles and incorporates the repealed provisions into current law. The bill also changes, from enrollment to membership, the terminology used to refer to the number of pupils counted to determine the school district’s eligibility to receive the supplemental aid.

Human Trafficking + Drivers Ed. The Senate Universities & Tech College Committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday on SB 444 / AB 540, which would require education instruction on human trafficking in drivers education courses, along with two Wisconsin Technical College System Board appointments.

Other updates:

LEGISLATIVE AUDIT BUREAU RELEASES UW SYSTEM AUDIT. The Legislative Audit Bureau has released an audit of the UW System. According to the audit, LAB “have reported concerns related to information technology (IT) security policies, procedures, and controls at UW System since the early 1990s. Such weaknesses increase the risk that unauthorized or erroneous transactions could be processed or changes could be made to accounting, payroll, and student data. We continued to identify weaknesses and reported these weaknesses as a significant deficiency in internal control in our Independent Auditor’s Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting and on Compliance and Other Matters.”