Monday, January 29, 2018

WEMTA Alert: Public Hearing this WEDNESDAY on Common School Fund Bill!

A public hearing on Senate Bill 713 has been scheduled by the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection for this Wednesday, January 31 starting at 9:30 a.m. in room 201 Southeast of the State Capitol. Senator Stroebel, the chair of the committee, is also the lead author of SB 713, along with the Vice-chair of the committee, Senator David Craig (R-Big Bend).

We know this is short notice, but it is very important to have a good turnout in opposition to this bill, which would end the requirement for Common School Fund dollars to be used for school libraries. It would also end the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands Trust Fund Loan program, which supports schools, public libraries, technical colleges and local governments.

If you can make it to the public hearing, please let a member of WEMTA’s legislative committee know by emailing We will be on hand the day of the public hearing and can help you with logistics. If you are unable to present testimony at the hearing you can just stop by and fill out a hearing slip and register in opposition and leave. It only takes a few minutes!

If you can’t make the public hearing, you can still submit written comments to the members of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection.

When drafting your testimony, please:

1.   Include your name and contact information
2.   Address it to the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection and Cc your own State Senator if they are not a member of the Committee.
3.   Clearly state your ask—i.e. Please oppose Senate Bill 713
4.   If you are attending in person, please bring copies of your written testimony (7-10 copies)

Here are some talking points you can use:

·                     Common School Fund stakeholders want to maintain the current structure that has been working well since the founding of our State.

·                     Over the past 10 years, the BCPL State Trust Fund Loan program has invested over $1 billion in communities throughout Wisconsin. Earnings from these loans are deposited into the Common School Fund. Ending the BCPL loan program would eliminate this important economic development funding from our communities and eliminate a major source of revenue for the Common School Fund. 

·                     With school districts across the state facing increased budget constraints, distributions from the Common School Fund are often the only dollars available for school libraries to purchase informational materials including books, newspapers and periodicals, web-based resources, and computer hardware and software. This bill would remove the requirement that the Common School Fund be used for libraries, thus ending the only dedicated source of school library funding in Wisconsin. 

·                     The bill also gives the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) more authority to invest BCPL trust fund dollars. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, if SWIB had been managing the Common School Fund dollars in the same way they manage their other investments during the financial crash of 2008, the Common School Fund would have suffered a devastating loss of between $195 million and $290 million. No funding would have been available for school libraries for several years following a loss of that magnitude. 

·        It is also important to note that while proponents say that SWIB would be able to get higher returns, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says that it is unlikely that SWIB would be able to do any better than BCPL because they would need to adhere to the constitutional and statutory requirements of the trust fund. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a memo that stated “under the constraints of the trust funds, it would be reasonable to assume that SWIB would not take on significantly more risk than BCPL, if any, in investment of the funds.” According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, SWIB would “be required to manage the trust funds prudently, and be subject to the same constitutional and statutory constraints as the BCPL.”

How to Contact Your Legislators:

The first step in contacting your legislator is knowing who your legislator is. The easiest way to do this is the tool found on the Legislature’s home page, at In the right-hand side of that page is a link that says Find My Legislators!  Type your address in the box below that link to get the names of your state representative and senator.
·                     Phone.  You may leave a message for your legislator’s Capitol office or indicate your position on legislation through the toll free Legislative Hotline, at 1-800-362-9472.
·                     Email. The email addresses of members of the Wisconsin Legislature all have the same format. For members of the Assembly, the form is; for members of the Senate, the form is

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