The Senate held their final floor vote of the 2015-16 legislative session on Tuesday while the Assembly held their final vote on February 18. While it is possible that either house could return to tie up loose ends, it appears unlikely at this time. With both houses finished for the session, that means any legislation that didn’t make it to the Governor’s desk this week is considered “dead” and will need to be re-introduced next session. The 2017-18 session will begin in January 2017.
Here is a summary of what happened to legislation that was of interest to WEMTA this session:
Bills that Were Signed into Law
Deleting the State Treasurer from the Constitution (Rep. Schraa and Sen. Gudex): Assembly Joint Resolution 5 does not need to be signed into law, but it’s passage this session is significant since it marks an important first step in officially deleting the state treasurer from the constitution and replacing the treasurer with the lieutenant governor on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. The resolution must be approved by both houses of the legislature again next session and then it can be voted on in a statewide referendum. Since it has now been passed by the Legislature once, it will likely be on the fast-track next session.
Unclaimed Savings Bonds into Common School Fund (Rep. Katsma and Sen. Marklein): Assembly Bill 721 was passed by the Senate on Tuesday, so it has not yet officially been signed into law but it is making its way to the Governor’s desk. AB 721 allows the state to claim savings bonds that haven't been cashed in within 5 years. The money would go into the Common School Fund. A fiscal note released by the Department of Revenue said that the fiscal effect of the bill on the Common School Fund is indeterminate. However, they estimate that they currently have possession of $500,000 worth of savings bonds that they consider unclaimed property.
Exceptions to Gun Free School Zones (Rep. Kleefisch and Sen. Wanggaard): 2015 Wisconsin Act 23 creates an exception to the state’s gun free school zone’s law to for certain off-duty, retired or out-of-state police officers.
Federated Library Board Membership (Rep. Horlacher and Sen. Nass): 2015 Wisconsin Act 99 reduces the minimum board membership of a federated public library system that has territory in two or more counties from 15 members to 11 members.
Delinquent Library Accounts (Rep. VanderMeer and Sen. Harsdorf): 2015 Wisconsin Act 169 allows a public library to provide a collections agency or law enforcement agency with information about patrons who have delinquent accounts. Under the bill, a delinquent account must total $50 before it can be referred to law enforcement.
School Safety Pilot Program (Rep. Skowronski and Sen. Lazich): 2015 Wisconsin Act 228 requires DPI to develop a one-year pilot tracking program to operate in three school districts during the 2016-17 school year. The three school districts must include: (1) a school district with fewer than 3,000 pupils; (2) a school district with 3,000 to 6,999 pupils; and (3) a school district with 7,000 pupils or more. Participating school districts will keep track of crimes, harassment, bullying and other violations of the law that take place on school property and report them to DPI.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness for Rural Schools (Rep. Quinn and Sen. Darling): Assembly Bill 793 was passed by the Senate on Tuesday so it has not yet been signed into law, but it is making its way to the Governor’s desk. AB 793 extends the teacher loan forgiveness program to teachers who take positions in rural counties. Currently, the program only applies to Milwaukee.
Bills that Did Not Pass This Session
BCPL Land Bank Authority (Rep. Sanfelippo): Assembly Bill 71 would have eliminated the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands’ authority to purchase land. Although this may not have directly impacted the Common School Fund, it would have affected other funds that the BCPL manages. No action was taken on this bill this session.
Making Superintendent Political Appointee (Rep. Sanfelippo): Assembly Joint Resolution 84 would have made the state superintendent a political appointee instead of an elected official.
Under AJR 84, the governor would nominate a state superintendent and the state senate would approve the appointment. No action was taken on AJR 84 this session.
Broadband Expansion Grant Eligibility (Rep. Billings and Sen. Bewley): Assembly Bill 63 / Senate Bill 33 would have made school districts, technical college districts and public libraries eligible to receive broadband expansion grants. No action was taken on these bills this session.
Increase Broadband Grant Funding (Rep. Quinn and Sen. Tiffany): Assembly Bill 798 / Senate Bill 674 would have increased funding for broadband expansion grants from $6 million to $10 million. It would also would have allowed PSC to issue the entire $10 million appropriation in 2015-16 and 2016-17. A public hearing was held on the Assembly version of the bill, but no further action was taken on either proposal.
Forfeitures into Common School Fund (Rep. Tauchen and Sen. Nass): Assembly Bill 537 / Senate Bill 521 would have updated the state’s forfeiture law so that all proceeds from the sale of forfeited assets would go into the common school fund, however, the bill did narrow the circumstances under which the state could keep assets that were forfeited in relation to a crime. A public hearing was held on the Assembly and Senate versions of the bill but no additional action was taken.
STEM Grants for Schools (Rep. Tranel and Sen. Tiffany): Assembly Bill 799 / Senate Bill 661 would have created a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) grant program for rural schools. AB 799 would provide grants between $3,000 and $20,000 to schools with less than 1,000 students to establish, maintain, and expand educational programming related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. AB 799 was approved by the Assembly Committee on Mining and Rural Development, but no further action was taken on either proposal this session.
Referendum Prohibitions (Rep. Schraa and Sen. Strobel): Assembly Bill 481 / Senate Bill 355 would have prohibited a school district from holding a referendum for two years following a failed referendum. The proposal applied to loans and bonds, revenue limit adjustments, state trust fund loans issued by BCPL, temporary borrowing, and promissory notes. School districts that experience a natural disaster would have been exempt from the ban for six months following the disaster. In addition, the proposal would have only allowed a school district to schedule a referendum on the April spring election day or the November general election day. A public hearing was held on both versions of this bill, but no further action was taken this session.
WRS Retirement Age (Rep. Sanfelippo and Sen. Strobel): Assembly Bill 397 / Senate Bill 329 would have increased the minimum WRS retirement age to 57. The minimum retirement age for protective occupations would have been increased to 52. No action was taken on these bills this session.
School Cyberbullying (Rep. Kahl and Sen. Ringhand): Assembly Bill 496 / Senate Bill 473 would have required DPI’s model policy to include a definition of cyberbullying and an appropriate response to bullying that occurs off school grounds. It would have also required school district employees to refer bullying incidents that violate the law to law enforcement. No action was taken on these bills this session.