Four Municipal Bills the Senate Needs to Take Up Before Adjourning
More than 100 bills that the Assembly passed earlier this session are available for the Senate to take up when it meets on the floor next week.

But it remains to be seen if the Senate will meet next week and take up those measures. 

According to, Senate Republicans plan to caucus on Wednesday to plan the remaining weeks of the legislative session. Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, reports, has asked lawmakers to hold March 24 and 25 open for the final floor days of the session, “but [the GOP Senate caucus] will discuss contingency plans [on Wednesday] should the public health crisis continue to worsen.”

If they meet, senators will be able to consider at least 103 of the 158 bills passed by the Assembly before it adjourned on February 20. Those 103 bills have won approval from various Senate committees and are eligible to be scheduled for a full vote of the Senate.

The list includes the following four bills critically important to municipalities. The League supports these bills and is urging GOP leadership to include them on the Senate's March 24 floor calendar:

AB 620, Personal Property Aid after TIF District Closes. This bill makes it 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.

AB 753, Correcting Miscalculation of 2019 Personal Property Aid Distributions. On February 20 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. 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. The Assembly added SB 797 to AB 753 on the floor before passing the amended bill by voice vote. Unless the Senate concurs in AB 753 as passed by the Assembly, DOR will be required by a circuit court decision to correct the 2019 distribution by clawing back any over-payments it made to correct any underpayments. 

AB 683, Updating the Room Tax law to help municipalities collect from online lodging reservation services. The amended version of AB 683 that the Assembly passed makes the following helpful changes to the room tax law:

  • Requires an online marketplace provider, like Airbnb or Expedia, to collect the room tax and file it with the municipality, on a form specified by DOR, on a quarterly basis.
  • Specifies that a municipality may not impose the room tax on a marketplace seller, like a hotel, if it collects the tax from a marketplace provider.
  • Specifies that the form prepared by DOR shall contain at least the following:

  1. Total sales for properties located in a municipality with a room tax.
  2. Total number of nights properties were rented.
  3. The rate of the room tax applied to total sales.
  4. Total tax collected for properties located in a municipality with a room tax.

  • Directs DOR to create a website, by July 31, 2020, containing contact information and the room tax rates for each municipality that imposes a room tax.

AB 859, Expanding use of TIF for Workforce Housing. The bill 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. 

Action Step for Municipal Officials: Contact your state Senator and urge him or her to support scheduling and passing these four bills when the Senate meets next week.
COVID-19 Resources and News
Local Government actions to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus are happening incredibly fast. The League will share information as quickly as we can through a variety of means, including newsletter updates on the Coronavirus (look for one later today in your inbox) and a web page devoted exclusively to the pandemic.

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act - On Saturday, March 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. Bill 6201) . The U.S. Senate will likely pass it today or tomorrow. President Trump supports the legislation. Among its many provisions, the bill creates three new components of federal leave for employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees and all governmental employers. The Michael Best law firm has published a newsletter outlining the employee leave provisions in the bill. The newsletter is posted on the firm's website here :

Complying with the open meetings law during the COVID-19 health emergency. We have received many questions on the ability of municipal governing bodies to dissuade the public from attending otherwise open meetings and/or use technology to conduct virtual meetings during the health emergency. We have asked the Governor to issue an executive order relaxing certain aspects of the state's open meetings law during the COVID-19 health emergency similar to steps taken in California and Massachusetts. Read our letter here .

Spending to address COVID-19 and the Expenditure Restraint Program.
Question:   Will municipalities that buy additional supplies and make other unanticipated expenditures in 2020 associated with responding to the COVID-19 Coronavirus national and state declared public health emergencies jeopardize their eligibility to receive expenditure restraint program (ERP) payments in 2021?
Answer:   No.    The Expenditure Restraint Program law (Wis. Stat. § 79.05(2)(c)) expressly exempts unreimbursed expenses related to an emergency declared under Wis. Stat. § 323.10 from the ERP spending limits. Governor Evers’  Executive Order #72 , declaring a health emergency in response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus, expressly states that the emergency is being declared under authority provided by Wis. Stats. § 323.10. Therefore, unreimbursed expenses associated with providing unanticipated health and safety services in response to the Coronavirus pandemic are exempt from the ERP spending limit. We anticipate that DOR will at some point publish guidance on this issue and how best to document unreimbursed expenses related to the Coronavirus public health emergency.

COVID-19 Information for Election Officials (Including a sample news release encouraging absentee voting)

White House INVITATION: State & Local Briefing Call on COVID-19 On Wednesday, March 18, at 12:00 PM CST , please join Senior Administration Officials for a briefing call on COVID-19 (coronavirus). Registration instructions are below. Please note that this call is intended for state and local elected officials.

Important Note: Call-in lines are limited. Please register only if you are able to join the call. State and local leaders (especially staff) working in the same office are encouraged to register once as a group and use one call-in line to maximize the number of people who can join.

Call-In Registration : CLICK HERE
Note: You must RSVP to join the call. Upon successful registration, you will receive dial-in details to the email address you use to register. Note that multiple people cannot dial-in using the same registration information.

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now
Politicians, Community Leaders and Business Leaders: What Should You Do and When?
Here’s what I’m going to cover in this article, with lots of charts, data and models with plenty of sources:
  • How many cases of coronavirus will there be in your area?
  • What will happen when these cases materialize?
  • What should you do?
  • When?
When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away:
  • The coronavirus is coming to you.
  • It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
  • It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
  • When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
  • Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
  • Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
  • They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now. Read the article...

Toolkit offers local governments a guide to harnessing clean energy
Local government officials often hear from constituents who want a shift to clean, locally-produced energy sources, but many communities lack the resources and support to make that transition, said Jennifer Giegerich, government affairs director for Wisconsin Conservation Voters.

And in the absence of federal action, Giegerich said, local governments are more interested in tackling climate change.

“Local communities are often on the front line of dealing with the impacts,” she said. Read the article...

The Local Perspective - PFAS
PFAS is in the air, food containers, stain repellents, cosmetics and is used in manufacturing as well firefighting foam. It’s also in the water. What is the municipal responsibility and ability to mitigate? Paul Kent , Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, who literally wrote the book on water law in Wisconsin is Jerry Deschane’s guest on the League’s Local Perspective. They talk about all of these issues plus the science. Watch it here. Thanks to FACTv in Fitchburg for hosting!

#LocalGovMatters 2.0 Episode 5: The Rural Challenge: Depopulation and Its Economic Consequences
In the latest Forward Analytics report, “The Rural Challenge: Depopulation and Its Economic Consequences,” it was reported that from 2010-2018, two thirds of rural counties in Wisconsin lost population.

That percentage was up from 44% during 2000-10, and in rural counties across the nation, a similar pattern has emerged. Listen here and subscribe on your favorite podcast app.

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.