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Wisconsin Legislative Bulletin Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on April 21, 2010

The Legislature is in the midst of the final days of the legislative activity for 2009. Like college students in final exam days, lawmakers are scrambling to get their bills scheduled for votes by the full Assembly or Senate (or both houses) before the clock runs out April 22.  There are literally hundreds of bills under consideration this week, but many bills will fail to make it through the legislative process.

To get a sense of the scope and the tone of legislative activity, check out some key web sites : and To view the proceedings (even after the fact), go to Wisconsin Eye at   Here’s an update on the most recent legislation of interest to AFSCME members:

Retiree dues deduction
:  the Assembly has passed AB 916, the Retiree Dues Deduction Act.  The bill now goes to the full Senate. As of this writing, it is not certain that AB 916 will be included on the Senate’s agenda for a vote on Thursday.

The Wisconsin Voter Protection Act, AB 895: this legislation, which modernizes Wisconsin’s voter registration laws, including allowing for electronic voter registration, was scheduled for a vote by the Assembly, but was removed from the agenda at the last minute and put on Thursday’s calendar.  This action makes passage of the bill by both houses before adjournment unlikely.

Apprenticeship program to operate crane and heavy equipment: (SB 665 and AB 928):  The Senate and Assembly Labor Committees were scheduled to vote on these two bills on Tuesday.  That didn’t happen because AFSCME raised concerns regarding the impacts on local governments, and pointed out that the legislation does not account for training programs already in place for public employees. AFSCME worked with the bill authors to create an exemption for employees of local governments, but an agreement could not be reached, so the bills will not pass.

Prohibiting unfair labor practices:  SB 523 would prohibit the UW System from using UW resources to discourage the exercise of collective bargaining rights.  SB 523 was approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor for his signature, after Assembly passage, on April 20.

Strengthening Wisconsin’s thrower’s law:  Under current law, a person who throws a bodily substance on a public safety worker and who intends to harm the public safety worker is subject to a Class I felony. AB 775 removes the element of intent to cause harm.  (A Class I felony is a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed three years and 6 months, or both).  AB 775 now goes to the Senate.

Unemployment benefits:  A bill crafted by the state Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council was approved by the Assembly and Senate, and will be sent to the Governor.  The legislation (AB 884 and SB 649) makes modest changes in UI benefits.

Regional Transit Authorities: AB 282, which creates RTAs, was scheduled for a vote on April 20, but was removed from the calendar and remains in limbo.  A similar Fox Valley-only RTA bill, AB 723, also had been placed on the agenda and then was later held off.

Optional holiday for state workers: AB 467 requires state agencies to designate March 31 as an optional holiday for state employees that can be taken in place of receiving a paid holiday on one of the other established paid legal holidays.  March 31 is the birthday of Cesar Chavez.  AB 467 does not create another new state holiday.  AB 46 passed on a party line vote and now heads to the Senate.

Green to Gold: Legislation to create a $100 million revolving loan fund that will enable Wisconsin’s industries to lower their energy costs, make products that support the green economy and create and retain jobs.  The bill passed on a strong bipartisan vote of 78-20.  SB 651 was approved by the state Senate, and now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign it into law.

Using safe cleaning products: Legislation that would require the use of safe, environmentally-friendly cleaning products in all state and local government buildings, AB 578, was on the April 20th agenda. After considering many amendments, the Assembly decided to table the bill.

State School Superintendent:  A bill that empowers the top school educator to intervene in school districts was approved by the state Senate, and is awaiting action by the Assembly.

Aging and Disability Resource Centers:  Two bills affecting ADRC operations have been approved by the Senate and Assembly.  One would allow nonprofits to operate ADRCs.  The other, SB 494, would allow ADRCs to screen for individuals who choose to participate in self-directed long-term care services.

Also on the Legislature’s docket included legislation requiring training of foster parents, telephone land line deregulation, prohibiting the use of race-based nicknames, logos or mascots by schools and more.

Truth in Contracting Bill Ok’d by Joint Committee on Finance

Senate Bill 447 and Assembly Bill 792, legislation offered by Senator Lassa and Representative Jorgenson to reform Wisconsin’s state contracting out system, passed the Joint Committee on Finance on April 19th.  The legislation has now received the support of two standing committees in each house of the Legislature, as well as the powerful Joint Finance Committee.  It is unclear whether either bill will be scheduled for a vote by the full Assembly or Senate, but AFSCME is lobbying hard to make this happen.

The Assembly’s agenda for Thursday, April 22

The long-sought Worker Wage Protection bill has been scheduled for a vote by the state Assembly on Thursday.  That bill, SB 2, makes payment of unpaid wages to workers a priority when a company goes out of business.   This bill is a top priority for the AFL-CIO.

County nursing homes: Legislation to allow multiple counties to collaborate on the operation of county nursing home is moving at lightning speed.  The bills, SB 684 and AB 644, were introduced last week, sent to committees in both houses, received public hearings, and are likely to be approved by both the Assembly and Senate this week.  At this writing, AB 644 is scheduled for a vote by the Assembly.  SB 684 is expected to be on the Senate’s calendar Thursday as well.  This legislation, which was drafted at the request of the Wisconsin Counties Association with extensive input from AFSCME, removes barriers to allowing counties to accept residents from other counties and allows Medicaid payments to follow the residents.  It allows counties to form commissions to run the multiple county homes.

Homeowner property tax break: A little noticed resolution, Assembly Joint Resolution 8, proposes to allow the primary homes of state residents to be taxed differently from other properties, such as farms or corporate-owned land.  Due to tax breaks granted over time to special interests, homeowners have begun to pay way more than their fair share of the property tax.  AJR 8 would allow future Legislatures to look at how the property tax responsibility is distributed among all payers.  AJR 8, which proposes to amend the state Constitution, would have to be approved by the next Legislature and go before the voters before any breaks to homeowners could be considered.

Also on the Assembly’s agenda are AB 367, which prohibits employment discrimination based on credit history, and SB 585, which bans discrimination against a worker who declines to attend an employer-sponsored meeting or to participate in any communication regarding the employer’s religious or political views.

AFSCME will issue reports in the coming weeks on the outcome of legislation of interest to our members.

For more information, go to or call the AFSCME office at 608-836-6666.


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