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  • Quality of Life Alliance

Legislative Update 1/27/11

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on January 29, 2011

Voter ID Requirement Bill Making its Way through the Legislative Process

Lawmakers held a public hearing January 25 on a bill that would require all citizens to present photo identification before they vote. The bill, offered by state Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greenfield) and state Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan), has been introduced in previous legislative sessions and either did not make it through the legislative process or, as in the 2007 session, was vetoed by former Gov. Jim Doyle.  Such requirements make it much harder for college students, elderly, disabled and low-income citizens to vote.  Regardless, the voter ID bill has now appears to have enough legislative support and is likely to pass within a few weeks and be sent to Gov. Scott Walker, who has indicated that he will sign it into law. Backers of the proposal have said they hope the bill can become law before the spring elections take place on April 5. AFSCME opposes SB 6.

Lawmakers Take Aim at the Wisconsin Version of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) has circulated a draft bill to change Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act to conform to the federal FMLA.  The state law offers more protections for workers than the federal law. The bill, which has not been assigned a bill number at this writing, will make it harder to qualify for FMLA benefits. For example, the Olsen proposal would increase the number of hours an employee must work to be eligible for FMLA from 1,000 hours to 1,250 hours.  The proposal would also bar in-laws and domestic partners from taking FMLA-protected leaves of absence.  Finally, the proposal would tip the scales in favor of the employer, who would have the power to decide whether a worker could use earned paid leave time or would be forced to take unpaid leave. The draft of this legislation was originally scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, January 25th, but was later removed from the agenda.

Stay Informed!  Tips on How to Keep Up with the Lightning Speed of Events in the Capitol

It is almost too early in this legislative session to predict what will happen on issues important to AFSCME members, given that legislators are having their bills drafted and given that the mega-policy vehicle- the state budget bill- is still weeks from being introduced.  Gov. Walker and most of the 132 legislators are putting out ideas or bills on a daily basis, the sheer volume of proposals can be difficult for citizens to monitor.

This week we thought it might be useful to share links to some of those key sources of information about the legislative process and issues that might surface.  The Wheeler Report posts key stories of things happening around Wisconsin, including press releases from the Governor’s office and legislative offices -www.thewheelerreport.com.  WisPolitics is another valuable resource, complete with a blog and postings of interviews, press releases, conferences, etc. – http://www.wispolitics.com

The Legislature’s own website has tons of useful information for the public. That website is http://legis.wisconsin.gov.  Within that website, AFSCME members can find the schedule of public hearings on all bills.  Please note that hearings are often scheduled only a few days (if that) before the hearings take place, so those interested in keeping abreast of what is going on at the Capitol are encouraged to check the site frequently.  That specific site, known as the “Committee Schedule”, can be found here:  http://committeeschedule.legis.wisconsin.gov/

Many AFSCME members contact us to find out the number of a specific bill they’re interested in because they have found the legislature’s bill website somewhat less than useful.  That’s because the website requires the user to know the bill number to do the search.  There’s a way to get around this problem.  Those interested in a specific topic can sign up for the Legislature’s “Notification Service”, which enables users to track legislative activities on proposals, committees, legislators, and subjects of legislation.  It is an invaluable tool and AFSCME members are strongly encouraged to use it to keep informed on issues of concern. The Notification Service is located on the Legislature’s website, but here is another way to get access to it – http://notify.legis.wisconsin.gov/Home.aspx

As always, we encourage members to contact their legislators to voice their opinions on specific bills or issues.  Email is a legitimate way to contact your legislator, as is a phone call.  To find out your legislators’ email addresses, go to the same legislative website and click on “Who Represents Me?”   Please note that each legislator has a toll free number, and you can get that number by going to the Legislature’s website.

For more information, or to share any insight or feedback AFSCME members have had with the new Legislature, please contact your AFSCME lobbyists at 608-836-6666 or go to http://www.wiafscme.org

 

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