Assembly Approves Personal Property Aid Fixes
Last week, the Assembly in its final two floor periods of the session passed two bills fixing the personal property aid payment program.

Personal Property Aid after TIF District Closes. Last Tuesday, the Assembly passed by voice vote AB 620, a bill the League worked with Rep. Steffen (R-Howard) to introduce, making clear that personal property aid payments being made to a TIF district transfer to the municipality and other taxing jurisdictions after the district closes. DOR interprets current law to say that the payments discontinue once a TIF district closes. The bill was amended at DOR's request to also clarify that computer aid payments being made to a TIF district transfer to all of the other taxing jurisdictions when the district closes. Under current law, computer aid payments transfer to the municipality only. The measure must pass the Senate before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature. The Senate plans to meet for the final floor period of the session the third week in March.

Correcting Miscalculation of 2019 Personal Property Aid Distributions. Last Thursday, the Assembly passed a provision at the encouragement of the Department of Revenue (DOR) fixing the incorrect personal property aid payments the department made to TIF districts, municipalities, and other taxing jurisdictions in 2019. The League supports this effort. In 2018 DOR incorrectly calculated how much exempt non-manufacturing machinery, tools and patterns existed in each taxing jurisdiction in the state, which resulted in an inaccurate distribution of personal property aid payments in 2019. As a result, some jurisdictions received more personal property aid payments than they should have while other jurisdictions, including many TIF districts, were paid less than they should have. Recently, Sen. Petrowski (R-Marathon City) and Rep. Tusler (R-Harrison) introduced SB 797 to correct the inaccurate 2019 aid distributions by authorizing DOR to spend $10 million to make the underpaid jurisdictions whole in 2020. Without this bill passing, DOR would be required by a circuit court decision to correct the 2019 distribution by clawing back any over-payments it made to correct any underpayments. Last Thursday, the Assembly added SB 797 to AB 753 before passing the amended bill by voice vote. The Senate needs to pass this provision before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

The League thanks Sen. Petrowski for drafting this fix, and Rep. Steffen (R-Howard), Rep. Tusler, and Rep. Macco (R-DePere) for working to incorporate SB 797 into a bill that the Assembly would pass. (AB 753 modifies the tax treatment of tax-option corporations that elect to pay taxes at the entity level. WMC and other business groups support the bill.) We also want to thank DOR Secretary Peter Barca for lobbying the Assembly to pass this fix to the personal property aid program.
Assembly Approves Room Tax, Workforce Housing, and other Bills impacting Municipalities
Last week, the Assembly passed the following bills of interest to municipalities:

Room Taxes. The Assembly passed a watered down version of AB 683, a bill the League supports. The substitute amendment makes the following changes to the room tax law:

  • Replaces the term “lodging marketplace” with “marketplace provider," incorporates the definition of "marketplace seller" throughout the room tax statute, and applies certain administrative provisions of the state sales tax law to administration of the room tax.
  • Requires a marketplace provider to collect the room tax and file it with the municipality, on a form specified by DOR, on a quarterly basis. The Substitute Amendment also specifies that a municipality may not impose the room tax on a marketplace seller if it collects the tax from a marketplace provider. The form prepared by DOR shall contain at least the following:
--Total sales for properties located in a municipality with a room tax.
--Total number of nights properties were rented.
--The rate of the room tax applied to total sales.
--Total tax collected for properties located in a municipality with a room tax.
  • Directs DOR to create a website, by July 31, 2020, that contains contact information and the room tax rates for each municipality that imposes a room tax.
  • Applies the current law penalty of the lesser of 25% of taxes owed, or $5000 annually, to a marketplace provider who fails to file a return or pay the required tax.
  • Delays the effective date of the bill, except for the DOR website creation, to January 1, 2021.

The Senate still has to pass this bill before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature. The League thanks Rep. Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) for introducing this bill and working with many different stakeholders on a compromise version able to advance within his caucus.

Expanding use of TIF for Workforce Housing. AB 859
makes two key changes to TIF law to benefit workforce housing initiatives:

1.   It increases from one year to three years the amount of time a city or village may extend the life of a tax incremental district to improve its affordable and workforce housing. This has been a somewhat underutilized option in the TIF law. Making the option available for three years will increase its effectiveness and as a result more communities will use it to help fund workforce housing initiatives.
2. Increasing the percentage of newly platted residential areas devoted to workforce housing allowable in a mixed-use development TID. Under the bill, newly platted residential areas may exceed the current 35 percent limit of the real property within the TID if the newly platted residential use that exceeds 35 percent is used solely for workforce housing. The bill establishes a 60% cap on the total amount of platted residential area that is real property within a mixed-use TID.  

The bill also creates incentives for communities to carry out various workforce housing initiatives by granting priority status for housing grants to municipalities that implement at least three of the workforce housing initiatives listed in the bill. 

The League worked with the authors of AB 859, Rep. Brooks (R-Saukville), and Sen. Feyen (R-Fond du Lac), and the other groups in support to help draft this legislation. The Senate still has to pass this bill before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Buying and Selling water pollution credits through a central clearinghouse. SB 91, a bill the League supports that was introduced by Sen. Cowles (R-Green Bay) and Rep. Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) adds two new options for facilitating water pollution credit trading to help communities comply with phosphorous and other water quality standards. Specifically, the bill authorizes trades to be facilitated by: (1) a third party; or (2) a clearinghouse operating under a contract negotiated by the Department of Administration (DOA) and approved by DNR. The bill sets forth requirements for the contract and duties of the clearinghouse. The bill also establishes a minimum credit trading ratio of 1.2 to 1 for trades through the clearinghouse and directs the DNR to allow clearinghouse facilitated trades to be made over the largest geographic area allowed under state and federal law. The Senate passed SB 91 in 2019. It will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Law Enforcement Body Cameras. SB 50, which was recommended by the Legislative Council Study Committee on the Use of Police Body Cameras, creates requirements for law enforcement agencies that use body cameras on law enforcement officers. Under the bill, if a law enforcement agency uses a body camera, the agency must have a written policy on the use, maintenance, and storage of the cameras and the data recorded by the cameras. The bill also requires that the law enforcement agencies retain data from the recordings for at least 120 days and specifies the circumstances in which that data must be retained
longer. The Senate passed this bill in 2019. It will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Delegating to Clerks the ability to issue operator's (bartender's) licenses. SB 203, which the League supports, allows municipal governing bodies to authorize by ordinance a designated municipal official to issue operator's licenses. The Senate passed this bill in 2019. It will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

In-Person Absentee Voting by Electronic Voting Machine. AB 203 allows a municipality the option of using an electronic voting machine to cast a vote with an in-person absentee ballot. The Municipal Clerks Association sought passage of this bill. The League supports AB 203. The Senate still has to pass this bill before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Raising tobacco age to 21. AB 422 raises the legal age for sale, purchase, and possession of cigarettes and tobacco products to mirror federal law and provides a legal age for sale purchase, and possession of vapor products involving nicotine. The Senate still has to pass this bill before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Multi-jurisdictional BIDs. AB 538 authorizes the creation of multi-jurisdictional business improvement districts and changes the annual reports for neighborhood improvement districts. The City of Milwaukee sought this legislation. The League supports this bill. The Senate still has to pass AB 538 before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

PTSD worker's Compensation Claims by Public Safety Officers. SB 511 makes changes to the conditions of liability for worker's compensation benefits for a law enforcement officer or a professional fire fighter who is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).The bill provides that if a public safety officer is diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist and the mental injury that resulted in that diagnosis is not accompanied by a physical injury, that public safety officer can bring a claim for worker's compensation benefits if the conditions of liability are proven by a preponderance of the evidence and the mental injury is not the result of a good-faith employment action by the person's employer. Under the bill, such an injured public safety employee is not required to demonstrate a diagnosis based on unusual stress
of greater dimensions than the day-to-day emotional strain and tension experienced by all employees as required under case law.
The bill also limits liability for treatment for a mental injury that is
compensable under the bill's provisions to no more than 32 weeks after the injury is first reported. The League was neutral on this bill. The Senate passed this bill earlier, but the Assembly amended it. As a result, the Senate needs to concur in the amended version of the bill before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

PFAS. While the Assembly did not pass AB 843, a bipartisan PFAS bill the League supported after it was amended to address our concerns, it did pass a watered down PFAS testing provision. The Assembly amended an unrelated bill, SB 559, and added the following items relating to PFAS:

  • Require a study that would include the health effects of PFAS, along with their safe destruction and disposal. 
  • Test water supplies for PFAS, offer remediation and provide potable water or treatment systems in affected areas.
  • Require the DNR to establish baselines for the labs that would test for PFAS. 
  • Require the DNR to include in its next budget request money to address PFAS. 
  • Allow the DNR to recover the costs of testing, investigations and providing temporary water from a responsible party who has used a firefighting foam containing PFAS. 

The Senate needs to concur in this amendment before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Extending Tavern Closing Time During DNC. The Assembly passed an amended version of AB 869 allowing communities in south central Wisconsin counties ( Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, Rock, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Jefferson, Dane, Ozaukee, Washington, Dodge, Columbia, Sheboygan, or Fond du Lac) to opt to extend the closing hours for Class “B” beer, “Class B” liquor, and “Class C” wine-only retail licensed premises during the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Specifically, from July 13 to July 17, 2020, the closing hours may be between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., if the municipality that issued the license establishes a process to authorize, upon application, the extended closing hour for any Class “B” beer, “Class B” liquor, or “Class B” wine-only retail licensee. The League is neutral on this bill. The Senate needs to pass this bill before it can ba sent to the Governor for his signature.
Senate Passes Levy Limit Changes, including Referendum Scheduling Flexibility
Last week, the Senate met for its second to last time of the session and passed three bills affecting municipalities:

AB 310 , Scheduling Levy Limit Referendums. Allows municipal governing bodies to conduct a referendum to exceed levy limits earlier in the year than November, which is the only time such referendums may be held currently. Under the bill as amended, a municipality may use its best estimate of its net new construction number, based on the most current data available to it. The bill allows communities to conduct levy limit referendums on the same dates as the spring primary or election or partisan primary or general election following the adoption of a resolution, except that a referendum may not be held sooner than 70 days after the filing of the resolution. The League and the Wisconsin Counties Association worked with Rep. Novak (R-Dodgeville), Rep. Shankland (D-Stevens Point), and Sen. Marklein (R-Spring Green) to introduce this bill. The Assembly passed this bill in 2019. It will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

AB 472 , Levy Limit Exception for Joint Emergency Medical Services. Modifies the levy limit law to treat joint emergency medical services districts the same as joint fire departments. The levy limit law currently exempts from levy limits amounts levied by a municipality to pay for charges assessed by a joint fire department, to the extent such charges would cause the municipality to exceed the limit that is otherwise applicable. The exception only applies if the joint fire department’s total charges increase at an amount less than or equal to the consumer price index plus two percent, and if the governing bodies of all the municipalities served by the district adopt a resolution in favor of exceeding the levy limit. AB 472 expands the joint fire department exception to also include payments for charges assessed by a joint emergency medical services district. The League supports this bill, which was introduced by Rep. Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) and Sen. Nass (R-Whitewater). The Assembly passed this bill in 2019. It will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

AB 661 , Compliance with Public Notice Requirements. AB 661 makes several changes affecting town government only, but the following two changes in the bill apply to all local governments and relate to notifying the public of governmental body meetings:

  • Open Meetings Law Clarification. The open meetings law requires under sec. 19.84(1)(b) that public notice of governmental body meetings must be given by communication from the chief presiding officer or that person's designee to the public, to news media who have filed a written request for such notice, to the official newspaper, or if none exists to a news medium likely to give notice in the area. AB 661 clarifies that notice to the public must be accomplished by using one of the following methods:

  1. Posting a notice in at least 3 public places likely to give notice to persons affected.
  2. Posting a notice in at least one public place likely to give notice to persons affected and placing a notice electronically on the governmental body's Internet site.
  3. By paid publication in a news medium likely to give notice to persons affected.

  • Notice of Board of Review Meetings. Current law under sec. 70.47(2) requires the clerk of the Board of Review to notify the public about the first session of the Board of Review by publishing, at least 15 days before the Board meets, a first class notice under ch. 985, place a notice in at least 3 public places, and place a notice on the door of the town hall, of the village hall, of the council chambers or of the city hall. AB 661 deletes all of the above except publishing a first class notice under ch. 985.

The Assembly passed this bill earlier. It is now being sent to the Governor for his signature.
Both Houses Pass Tax Package that Includes Expansion of Personal Property Tax Exemption
Last week, both the Senate and the Assembly passed a tax relief package, AB 910/ SB 821, which is the GOP plan for spending the higher than anticipated sales and income tax revenue the state is receiving. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau announced last month the state is expected to take in $818 million more in tax revenue than previously expected. The bill includes a provision exempting manufacturing machinery, tools, and patterns from the personal property tax and reimburses the taxing jurisdictions where this property is located for the the loss of property tax revenue, based on 2019 assessed values of such property. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the bill exempts another $45 million in personal property.

The bill also clarifies that following the termination of a tax incremental district the amount that would have been paid to the tax incremental district under current law and under the bill is distributed to the other applicable taxing jurisdictions.

It is widely expected that the Governor will veto the bill.
DOR and League Hosting a Webinar on MyDORGov - March 5
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities are hosting a webinar on My DOR Government Account (MyDORGov) for City and Village officials. DOR will provide a refresher on how to get started, discuss the latest enhancements, and much more.

March 5, 2020 from 10-11:00 a.m.
Registration Required. Space is limited. Register here.

Webinar topics
• Getting started/accessing the system
• Updating your contact information
• Managing your own access (requesting an office/access)
• Managing others to file on your behalf (approving, denying and removing access)
• Resetting your account – multiple email addresses
• Form specific review
• Q&A

Don’t see a topic listed above? Send additional topics to View the Flyer that includes the registration link.

Assembly approves pollution credits bill
“Today’s vote helped to set Wisconsin on a course to create the first statewide water quality pollutant trading clearinghouse. While the goal is to create a reduction in nutrients entering waterways to help clean up our waters, these Pollution Prevention Partnerships would be beneficial to all Wisconsinites by having numerous ecological, financial, and recreational benefits. By bringing more farmers to the table and incentivizing them to implement proven land conservation strategies, coupled with the opportunity for industry to comply with permit requirements in a more cost effective manner, this bill has the potential to make a positive impact on our state’s environment and economy. (The League supported this legislation.) Read the article...

Late-night Assembly push targeting PFAS could face roadblocks in Wisconsin Senate
A hasty push early Friday morning to target PFAS contamination may have cleared the Wisconsin Assembly, but it appears likely to face hurdles in the state Senate. 

Lawmakers just after midnight voted 62-35 along party lines to amend a bill to add in the language aiming to combat PFAS pollution before quickly adjourning during the chamber's final planned floor period of the session.  Read the article...

Most Adults Aware of 2020 Census and Ready to Respond, but Don’t Know Key Details
As the 2020 census gets underway, most U.S. adults are aware of it and are ready to respond, but many do not know what it asks or how to participate. A majority incorrectly believes a citizenship question is on the questionnaire, and only about one-in-five know they will have the option of answering online, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Read the article...

Greater Than The Sum
A Scan of Municipal Service Sharing Opportunities in Jefferson County
In Wisconsin and across the nation, local governments are increasingly challenged by enhanced service demands and expectations produced by new technologies, aging populations, and economic growth. Yet, at the same time, many face service constraints resulting from stagnant state and federal aids, limits on local taxation, and human resources limitations.

Municipalities in Jefferson County are not immune from these challenges. In fact, municipal officials have expressed concern over the sufficiency of resources to hire new employees, the availability of workers, and the hindrance that geographic distance between communities creates in their ability to offer timely support to one another. These growing issues have generated interest among local governments in considering possibilities for enhanced collaboration in the provision of key municipal services.

In response, leaders from Jefferson County commissioned the Wisconsin Policy Forum to conduct a high-level scan of municipal services in the county. This report describes the results of our analysis, which is intended to convey to policymakers those service areas that hold the greatest potential for service sharing or consolidation. See the Wisconsin Policy Forum report...

By the Book
How Wisconsin’s libraries are adapting in 2020 and beyond
Despite a shifting media landscape, the state’s public libraries still play a critical role, especially for those who are low income, rural, and people of color. Some library usage trends have fallen from their peak during the recession. Others – including the use of public Wi-Fi, electronic materials, and attendance at various programs – are rising sharply. However, libraries face challenges from shifting staffing trends and an increasing reliance on local government revenues. See the Wisconsin Policy Forum report...

WisDOT Secretary-Designee Craig Thompson on the League's Local Perspective From weight limitations, to favorite potholes, to rail and ports, bikes and buses, from the DMV and Real ID to the State Patrol, Jerry Deschane, talks with WisDOT Secretary Thompson about all things transportation. Watch it on the League's YouTube Channel here... Comment on the League's Facebook page here... Thanks to FACTv in Fitchburg for hosting us!

Revitalizing Wisconsin's Downtowns - LocalGovMatters 2.0 Podcast
Errin Welty, Downtown Development Program Manager with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). As our guest says, downtowns are not competing with the town next door anymore, they’re competing with a couch and Netflix. Listen here or subscribe on your favorite platform...

LocalGovMatters is back as a partnership between the League and the Wisconsin Counties Association. Episodes will be available every two weeks.

Since the 2019-2020 legislative session is nearly over and no bills introduced at this time will have a chance of passing both houses, no newly introduced bills will be reported in the remaining issues of the Legislative Bulletin for this session.

No public hearings on municipal bills are scheduled for this week.