Monday, March 19, 2018

Special Session School Safety Bills Released

Governor Walker called a special session on school safety and introduced a package of six bills. There is disagreement between the Assembly and Senate about how to approach the issue—the Senate says they will take the bills up in regular session as amendments to already-introduced legislation. The Assembly will meet for one-day in a special session. This creates a complicated situation because bills need to be passed in identical form in order to become law.

The Assembly Education Committee is holding a public hearing Tuesday, March 20 on the special session version of the bills.

School Safety Grants: Special Session Bill 1 provides $100 million in funding to the Department of Justice for the purpose of issuing school safety grants in collaboration with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).  Public, private and charter schools could apply for grants to fund safety-related school upgrades, hiring armed security officers, and training school staff.

Office of School Safety: Special Session Bill 2 creates an office of school safety within the Department of Justice. The office of school safety would be required to work with DPI to develop model practices for school safety; compile blueprints and GIS maps for all schools; offer trainings to school staff on school safety. The bill requires school boards to provide blueprints  of each school building and facility in the school district to local law enforcement and the office of school safety.

Mandatory Reporting: Special Session Bill 3 requires professionals who must report suspected child abuse and neglect under current law to also report to a law enforcement agency a reasonable
suspicion that a person intends to commit an act of violence involving a dangerous weapon or explosive in or targeting a school. It requires school boards to provide training to school staff on this new reporting requirement.

Model Policy on Bullying: Special Session Bill 4 requires DPI to revise its model policy on bullying to specify that the parent or guardian of a student involved in a bullying incident be notified within 48 hours of the incident being reported.

School Safety Plans: Special Session Bill 5 updates current state law regarding school safety plans.  The bill requires schools to review and approve their safety plans every three years. School safety plans must be submitted to the Department of Justice. Any school that wants to update their safety plan to first work with local law enforcement to conduct an on-site assessment of all buildings and facilities. The bill requires the safety plan to include an individualized plan for each school building and policies and procedures related to specific events like school violence and attacks, threats of school violence and attacks, parent-student reunification, weather-related emergencies, fire, intruders, and threats to non-classroom events.  Schools would be required by the bill to hold annual drills in every building that is regularly occupied by students.

Safety Cam Footage: Special Session Bill 6 allows schools to share safety cam footage with local law enforcement if they determine that sharing the footage with the law enforcement agency serves a legitimate safety interest.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Urgent: Let Your State Senator Know that Unclaimed Property Changes Hurt the Common School Fund!

Contact your state Senator and ask them to remove changes to the unclaimed property program from Assembly Bill 773/Senate Bill 645. As drafted, these bills substantially weaken the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) ability to conduct third-party audits related to unclaimed property. The proceeds from these audits go to the Common School Fund.

The Senate plans to vote on this bill on March 20. 

The Assembly adopted an amendment to AB 773 and while it improves the bill it does not fix the issue. Even with the Assembly’s amendment:

·       DOR could not contract with anyone on a contingent fee basis to audit entities domiciled in the State of Wisconsin. This would lead to lost revenue.

·       Without adequate enforcement options, DOR would not be able to effectively do its job as the Administrator of the Unclaimed Property Program. Less money would be identified and returned to rightful owners and less money would go to the common school fund.

·       There are no examples of Wisconsin companies being subjected to unfair audits by a third-party auditor hired by DOR on a contingent fee basis.

Contact your State Senator and ask them to remove the unclaimed property changes from AB 773/SB 645 because they would hurt the Common School Fund. Let them know that BCPL, which administers the Common School Fund, voted to oppose this change because it would hurt school  libraries. Find out who represents you here: (click on “Who Are My Legislators?”)

Monday, March 5, 2018

April 3 Constitutional Referendum to Eliminate the State Treasurer

A statewide referendum on whether or not Wisconsin should amend its Constitution to eliminate the Office of the State Treasurer will be on your ballot April 3. If passed, Wisconsin would be the only state in the nation without a financial officer. 

Currently, the state treasurer sits on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) and oversees the Common School Fund. The office is independently elected by Wisconsin voters.

If the treasurer is eliminated, the lieutenant governor will become a member of the BCPL. We believe that replacing the State Treasurer with the Lieutenant Governor on the BCPL jeopardizes our founding fathers’ commitment to maintaining a constitutionally protected form of school library funding.

As envisioned by our founding fathers, current BCPL Commissioners do not play a leading role in K-12 school funding or the state budget process—this makes them ideal custodians of the Common School Fund and helps protect the integrity of the fund.  

WEMTA opposes this referendum and is asking people to VOTE NO because:

  • If passed, Wisconsin would be the only state in the nation without a financial officer.
  • Eliminating this constitutional office jeopardizes checks and balances within state government by transferring more power to the executive branch. 
  • We need more oversight of taxpayer dollars--not less! 
  • Wisconsin needs a dedicated and independently elected state treasurer to fight waste, fraud and abuse in state government. 
  • Public funds have been put at risk as a result of transferring the treasurer’s duties to state agencies.
    •  In 2016, the Legislative Audit Bureau found that the Department of Administration did not keep adequate cash records for the Employee Trust Fund. 
    • The 2016 Annual Financial Report did not contain accurate numbers. 
    • The Unclaimed Property Program is less effective—resulting in lost revenue for the Common School Fund. 
Vote NO on April 3. 

To see a sample ballot:

Find your polling place: