Legislature Takes Action on Municipal Bills

Last week, the Senate met on Wednesday and passed the following bills of interest to municipalities:

SB-434, Municipal Raze Orders. This bill, introduced by Sen. Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) at the request of the insurance industry, modifies the process municipalities must follow to issue raze orders for certain insured dwellings. The League initially opposed the bill but worked with Sen Stafsholt and Rep. Steffen (R-Howard) on an amendment addressing our concerns. After the amendment was introduced we changed our position to neutral. The Legislative Council has written a memo explaining the bill and the changes made by the amendment to the bill. Read the memo here

The Senate passed SB 434 by voice vote. The Assembly is expected to concur when it meets on Tuesday.

SB-506, ATV and UTV Local Speed Limits. This bill, introduced by Sen. Petrowski (R-Marathon), authorizes cities, villages, towns and counties to post
a speed limit that is applicable only to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) that is lower than the statutorily established
speed limit for that street. The League supports this bill. The Senate passed SB 506 by voice vote. The Assembly will likely concur on passage of the bill this week.

SB-518, Environmental Remediation TIDS. This bill, introduced by Sen. Cowles (R-Green Bay) and supported by the League, expands the definition of environmental pollution in an environmental remediation TIF District to include substances that, if released into the air, land, or waters of the state due to the redevelopment of an existing structure, would be harmful to public health or harmful for commercial or recreational use. The Senate passed SB 518 by a vote of 29-2, with Senators Stroebel (R-Saukville) and Nass (R-Whitewater) voting against passage. The Assembly will likely concur on passage of the bill this week.

More municipal bills up this week. This week, the Senate meets today while the Assembly returns to the floor on Tuesday and Wednesday. There are no municipal bills on today's Senate calendar.

The Assembly's agenda for Tuesday's floor period includes the following bills impacting municipalities:

  • AB-152, Commercial Building Plan Reviews. Creates an exemption for certain buildings from the requirement that building plans for commercial buildings and plumbing plans for plumbing systems be examined for compliance with the rules promulgated by the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). The League has not taken a position on this bill.
  • AB-287, Local reporting requirements related to general transportation aids. Reduces and caps the penalty imposed on villages and towns that miss the deadline for submitting reports relating to general transportation aids. The League supports this bill.
  • AB 399, Interest on Property Tax Refunds. This bill, which the League initiated, makes the following two changes: (1) Changes the amount of interest municipalities must pay to a taxpayer who successfully files a claim to recover an unlawful property tax; and (2) Allows a municipality, after it has paid interest on a property tax refund, to collect from the other taxation districts (e.g., county and school district) their proportionate share of the interest paid.
  • AB-603, Housing Development Sites. Creating a shovel-ready workforce housing development site program. The League is neutral on this bill.
  • AB-604, Housing Grants. Creating pay for performance grant requirements, housing navigator grants, and regulating use of public lands to provide temporary residence for the homeless. The League opposes this bill.
  • AB-605, Requiring municipalities to use portion of ARPA moneys toward workforce housing projectsThe League opposes this bill.
  • AB-607, Housing Rehab Loans. Creating a workforce housing rehabilitation loan program under WHEDA. The League supports this bill.
  • AB-608, Mandating local approvals of certain workforce housing projects. The League opposes this bill.
  • AB-609, Allowing municipalities to create and fund a local housing investment program. The League worked with the author, Rep. Armstrong (R-rice Lake), to help draft this bill.
  • AB-610, Prohibiting certain well established property tax assessment practices. The League opposes this bill.

Nonpartisan Agency Releases Election Audit

Last Friday, the state's nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau released its much anticipated audit report of the 2020 general election. The audit did not identify any widespread fraud in the state but did make dozens of recommendations on how the state might improve election administration, including 30 recommendations to Wisconsin Election Commission staff for various improvements and 18 issues for legislative consideration.

The recommendations include suggestions that the Elections Commission should promulgate administrative rules if it believes municipal clerks should be allowed to fill in missing information on absentee ballot envelopes or to use drop boxes. GOP lawmakers have argued the commission overstepped its authority in allowing clerks to add missing information to absentee ballot envelopes and locate multiple drop boxes for absentee ballots. The GOP led Legislature could block any guidance the Elections Commission issues through the administrative rules process.

The audit also suggested the Legislature could consider modifying statutes to clarify whether absentee ballots can be returned via drop boxes. 

The Wisconsin Elections Commission stressed in its initial statement on the audit report that the review made clear the 2020 vote totals were accurate and “no processes were identified that could have changed the outcome, and that no evidence of widespread fraud of any type was discovered.” “We’re gratified to see the report and to know that it really supports the hard-working and dedicated state and local elections officials across Wisconsin,” said WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe.

Read the full report.

Summary of the 123rd League Annual Conference

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities celebrated its 123rd Annual Conference last week in Green Bay at the KI Center. Attendees participated in three sessions via Zoom October 12-14 and the in-person Conference in Green Bay October 20-22.

Watch Todd Schmidt, Waunakee Village Administrator and outgoing League President, thank everyone and lead the League's Business Meeting Watch the video.

Watch Justin Nickels, Mayor of Manitowoc and incoming League President, accept the nomination and set the tone for the upcoming year. Watch the video.

Browse the League's Conference Photo Album on Facebook and watch the Facebook videos including the bus tour good morning video and the teeter totter.

The League would also like to send THANK YOU's out to all our speakers, partners, exhibitors, and attendees for making this a very successful conference. Special thanks to our key decision makers in state government including our luncheon address by Governor Evers and the Breakfast and Politics Friday morning session with Majority Leader Senator Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), Assembly Majority Caucus Chair Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth) and host community Senator Wimberger (R-Green Bay). We also were treated to insights from legislative leaders who have transitioned from municipal offices to the state legislature including Representatives David Armstrong (R-Chippewa Falls), Sue Conley (D-Janesville), Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), and David Steffen (R-Howard).

Thank you to all of our guests representing state government and local government! Remember you share a constituency so communicate often with your state legislators on important events, issues, projects or policies in your community. The partnership you forge will be beneficial in long term advocacy efforts.