Last week, the Assembly met on the floor on Tuesday and Thursday and passed the following bills of interest to municipalities:

AB 285, Highway Improvement Bidding. The Assembly passed an amended version of this bill on a party line vote (61-35). The bill was amended to increase the competitive bidding threshold for city, village, town and county public construction contracts other than highway projects, from $25,000 to $50,000. The bidding threshold for highway construction projects remains $25,000. The League teamed up with the Counties Association and the Towns Association and Rep. Rob Brooks (R-Saukville) to include this long sought after change in AB 285.

The bill has been sent to the Senate for action. The Senate plans to take it up on Wednesday.

SB 152, Defines, authorizes, and creates a framework for the operation of electric scooters on roadways, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and bicycle ways. Under the bill as amended and passed by both the Senate and the Assembly, a local government may restrict or prohibit:

  • The operation of scooters on roads with speeds in excess of 25 miles per hour.
  • The operation of scooters on sidewalks and bicycle ways.
  • The short term commercial rental of scooters to the general public.

Also, a local government may establish requirements for and limitations on the parking of scooters on roadways, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and bicycle ways.

The bill has been sent to the Governor for his signature. The League supports this bill.

AB 235, Creating a Levy Limit Exception for Municipalities Receiving Reduced Utility Aid Payments After a Power Plant has Closed. The bill has been sent to the Senate for action, hopefully this week. The League supports this bill, which was introduced by Rep. Kerkman (R-Salem) and Sen. Wanggaard (R-Racine), at the request of the Village of Pleasant Prairie.

SB 239, 5G Small Cell Deployment. On June 18 the Assembly by voice vote concurred in the Senate's passage of an amended version of  SB 239, legislation sought by the cell phone industry.

Earlier in May, the League agreed to take a neutral position on the 5G small cell bill after the industry offered to make changes to the bill that we sought. The Counties Association and the Towns Association also moved to neutral for the same reasons.

The bill has been sent to the Governor for his signature. 

Last week, Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Mason), Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), and Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), introduced a bill, SB 291 , helpful to local governments considering going to a referendum to exceed levy limits. Under current law, referendums to exceed levy limits may only be conducted in November, either at the general election or at a special election. The reason such referendums must be conducted well into local government budget preparation time is that the referendum question must indicate the allowable levy increase as determined by the community's net new construction number, which isn't available from DOR until August 15.

SB 291 allows a local government to use its best estimate of its net new construction number, based on the most current data available to it, in order to adopt a resolution and hold a referendum to increase its levy beyond the allowable limit. The local government may call a special referendum to consider the resolution. Otherwise, the referendum would be held at the spring primary or election or partisan primary or general election. The bill does not prescribe the exact wording for the ballot, but instead provides that the question include the following:

1. The name of the political subdivision to which the levy increase applies.
2. The purpose for which the increase will be used.
3. If the increase is for the next fiscal year only, the percentage increase in the levy from the previous year's levy and the amount of the increase.
4. If the increase is on an ongoing basis, the amount of the increase for each fiscal year for which the increase applies.
The League joined with the Counties Association in seeking this legislation and applauds the bi-partisan authors of SB 291: Sen. Marklein, Sen. Bewley, Rep. Novak, and Rep. Shankland.

The Assembly will be on the floor from 12 noon to 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday to debate and vote on the state budget, AB 56 .

The Assembly plans to make a few amendments to the Joint Finance Committee's (JFC's) version of the budget before passing it probably late on Tuesday. Speaker Vos said last week that one amendment will focus on ensuring that the budget passed by the Legislature reduces property taxes on the median value home by more than the Governor's budget. It's not clear what changes will be made to accomplish that goal.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has published a comparative summary of the Governor's budget proposal and the Joint Finance Committee's version of the state budget. Read the document here .

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau identified just seven policy provisions in the budget that emerged from the Joint Finance Committee. 

That's down from 69 items in the 2017-19 budget approved by the JFC. 

Republican lawmakers looked to limit policy added to the proposed budget to avoid giving Gov. Tony Evers room to use his veto pen. 

Of the seven included in the proposed budget, four are related to restricting local regulations for quarries, which were added as part of the JFC transportation package. 
The Senate is scheduled to take up the budget on Wednesday. After it passes both houses, the budget will be sent to Governor Evers, who could sign it, veto it outright, or use his line item veto authority to make changes before signing it into law.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Transportation, Veterans, and Military Affairs held a public hearing on a series of bills designed to increase efficiencies within the DOT and save money on state highway projects. The package included the following two bills negatively affecting local governments. The League testified against both bills.

SB 282, requiring voter approval in a referendum before a municipality may impose or continue a local vehicle registration fee.

SB 276, exempting from local zoning ordinances the siting of aggregate excavation and concrete batch plant sites associated with state highway projects.

While the committee is scheduled on Tuesday to vote on some of the DOT efficiency bills that it heard last week, SB 282 and SB 276 are not on the committee's executive session agenda. The Assembly Transportation Committee similarly did not schedule a vote on the Assembly companion bills to SB 282 and SB 276 the week prior. It appears these bills are dead for now.

Property taxes go up same under Evers, Republican plans
Property taxes would increase the same on average under  Gov. Tony Evers' budget proposal  as they would under the alternative Republican plan.

That is  the conclusion reached Tuesday  by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Read the story...

Wisconsin grapples with 'green' waste plants that spread hazardous PFAS
Wisconsin wastewater plants were built to keep pollutants out of the environment, but state regulators have come to realize the facilities may be spreading hazardous industrial chemicals in ways that increase health risks.

Normal sewage treatment processes kill bacteria, but they can’t touch highly fluorinated chemicals known by the acronym PFAS (pronounced “pea-fass”), which have been described as one of the most seminal public health challenges of coming decades. Read the story...

Wisconsin Assembly passes electric scooter regulations
The state Assembly has signed off on a bill to regulate electric scooters on roads and sidewalks.

Under the bipartisan measure , scooters must weigh less than 100 pounds and abide by a 15 mph speed limit. Local governments could prohibit use on sidewalks or streets with speed limits of more than 25 mph as well as restrict public rentals. Read the story...

Livestock Siting on #LOCALGOVMATTERS This week, Gwyn is joined by Tressie Kamp, a staff attorney from Midwest Environmental Advocates, and Chris Clayton, program manager for the livestock siting program at the Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Listen on your PC or wherever you get your podcasts...

AB 300/ SB 266, Requiring local governments to pay health insurance premiums for survivors of a law enforcement officer who dies in the line of duty. Requires a city, village, town, or county to pay health insurance premiums for the surviving spouse
and dependent children of a law enforcement officer who dies in the line of duty if the local government paid such premiums for the law enforcement officer. Current law provides similar benefits to the surviving spouse and dependent children of a fire fighter who dies, or has died, in the line of duty if the municipality paid such premiums for the fire fighter while he or she was employed.

Under the bill, if a local government pays such health insurance premiums, it must file a request for reimbursement for its costs with the state. The reimbursement payments are funded by the “police and fire protection fee,” which communications providers and prepaid wireless retailers are required to collect from their customers. By Sen. Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. Spiros (R-Marshfield). The League is neutral on this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

AB 302/ SB 287, Creates three refundable tax credits for training and mileage costs incurred by volunteer fire fighters, emergency medical responders, emergency medical services practitioners, and ambulance drivers. The Wisconsin Towns Association worked with the authors of this bill to create financial incentives for encouraging more emergency responder volunteers. By Rep. Pronschinske (R-Mondovi) and Sen. Testin (R-Stevens Point). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League on this bill

SB 291, Making it possible to conduct levy limit referendums earlier in the year before knowing the community's net new construction number. By Sen. Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Rep. Novak (R-Dodgeville). The League helped initiate this bill along with the Wisconsin Counties Association. Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 305, Use of School Bus Warning Lights. Eliminates exceptions in current law to requiring school buses to use warning lights when stopped and loading or unloading children. By Sen. Shilling (D-La Crosse). The League has no position on this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

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