June 19, 2017          No. 24

2017-18, No. 24
June 19, 2017

In this Issue:

League Bills Sent to the Governor

June 29 Hearing on Dark Store Bills Tentatively Scheduled

Lead Pipe Replacement Bill Advances

JFC Rejects Gov's Self-Insurance Plan

Local Government Property Insurance Fund Killed

Small Cell Wireless Bill Voted out of Committee

In the News

Recently Introduced Legislation

Public Hearings
League of Wisconsin Municipalities
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League Bills Sent to the Governor for Signing 

Last week, both the Senate and the Assembly passed the following two League bills by voice vote:

SB 122, Making it optional that certain municipal officials execute and file an official bond as long as the municipality has purchased employee dishonesty insurance.  

SB 94 , Allowing a  mayor to call a  s pecial meeting of the common council by notifying members in a manner likely to give each member notice of the meeting. The bill deletes the requirement under current law that notice of a special meeting be by  written notice delivered personally to each member or left at the member's usual abode.

Both of these bills have been sent to the Governor for his signature.

In addition, the Assembly passed by voice vote AB 229 , another League initiated bill, which allows  local governments to invest money in financial  institutions' time deposits, like certificates of deposit, without limit on the duration of the investment. Current law places a three year limit on CDs.  This bill eliminates the three-year maturity limitation. The bill has been sent over to the Senate, which will probably pass it in September.  
Public Hearing Tentatively Scheduled for June 29 on Dark Store and Walgreens Reversal Bills  

League staff has learned that the Assembly Ways and Means Committee will likely hold a public hearing on AB 386 (the dark store bill) and AB 387 (reversing Walgreens v. City of Madison) on June 29 in the state Capitol.  The time and room have not yet been announced.  As soon as we have confirmation of the time and location of the hearing we will let you know.
Lead Pipe Replacement Bill Advances out of Committee -- Barely 

Last week, the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities voted 12-3 to recommend passage of a significantly amended AB 78, the bill the League supports allowing municipal water utilities to establish financial assistance programs to help private property owners replace lead service pipes. 

Prior to recommending passage, the committee adopted Assembly Amendment 4 to Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 by a vote of 8-7.  Three Republican members joined four of the five Democrats on the committee in voting against the amendment.  

The amendment makes several changes to the original bill, including:

-- Limits the amount of a grant that a municipal water utility may provide to a private property owner to 50% of the cost of pipe replacement.

-- Requires that communities establishing a financial assistance program must require all property owners with lead service laterals to replace such pipes.

-- Requires that if a community offers grants it must offer grants in the same amount to all properties with lead service laterals, regardless of income or ability to pay.

-- Specifies that if a utility rate increase is necessary to fund a financial assistance program, the rate increase shall apply only to those classes of property receiving the financial assistance (i.e., residential).  

While the bill is now available for Assembly leadership to schedule for a floor vote, that won't likely happen, if at all, until the fall.
JFC Maintains Existing Group Health Insurance Program

Last week, the Joint Finance Committee voted 16-0 to maintain the current state group health insurance program, rejecting Governor Walker and the state Group Insurance Board's plan to move to a self-insurance model of health insurance for state employees. (The Group Insurance Board was also considering proceeding with a self-insurance model for the local government health insurance program it operates.)

The motion JFC adopted:
  • Specified that the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds must use $68.8 million in state group health program reserves over the 2017-19 biennium to reduce state group health program costs.
  • Specified that GIB attempt to find cost savings of $63.9 million through other means, such as negotiation savings, reserve draw-downs, and plan design changes that could include increases in employee costs via co-payment, premiums and deductibles.
  • Directed the Group Insurance Board to review its policy relating to reserves for fully insured health plans.
  • Established five health plan tiers in statute (rather than three).
  • Increased legislative input and oversight authority through Senate confirmation of certain GIB members and the addition of four GIB members appointed by legislative leadership of each party in both houses.
  • Requested that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee direct the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct an audit of the state's group health insurance programs.
Read the motion here.  
JFC Votes to Eliminate Local Government Property Insurance Fund

Last week, the Joint Finance Committee continued deliberating on the 2017-2019 state budget bill and voted along party lines to approve the Governor's recommendation to cease operations of the state's local government property insurance fund.  

Under the motion:
  • No insurance coverage may be issued under the local government property insurance fund program after July 1, 2017.
  • No existing coverage may be renewed after December 31, 2017.
  • No coverage may terminate later than December 31, 2018.
  • All claims under the program must be filed by no later than July 1, 2019, and no claim filed after that date will be covered by the fund.
JFC Votes to End Domestic Partners Program for Same Sex Couples

Last week, the Joint Finance Committee passed a budget amendment along party lines that discontinues an 8-year program giving same sex couples some of the same benefits of married couples. The GOP members of JFC said the state's domestic partnership program was unnecessary given the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision holding that same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

On another party line vote, the committee approved a related motion disallowing local governments from providing health care and other benefits to domestic partners of local government employees. The motion specifically:
Read the full text of Motion 367 here.  
In the News

Statewide poll on transportation aids
Two thirds of the public say it's time to give local voters tools to #JustFixItWI. The poll, commissioned by the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin also found that "(t)he importance of transportation on economic growth is a universal opinion." See the poll slide deck here...

Menards 'dark store' suit against Howard headed to trial in 2018
Menards' lawsuit is one of more than 200 filed in Wisconsin by retailers citing "dark-stores theory," according to figures from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. Dark stores theory enables retailers to pay lower taxes by arguing that their stores are similar in value to vacant stores - even if those stores are in other parts in the state.  Read the article here...

Communities reviewing sexual offender ordinances in wake of federal ruling
"We try to get out in front of these things," Caledonia Village Trustee Kevin Wanggaard said. "It's about making sure our citizens are safe, and making sure we are doing what we need to do to be lawful." Read the article here...
Recently Introduced Legislation  

SB 311, Closing Hours for Retail Sales by Wineries. Changes the closing hour for wineries operating under a retail "Class B" license from 9 p.m. to midnight, but allows municipalities to establish, by ordinance, more restrictive closing hours for such wineries.  By Sen. Harsdorf. The League is neutral on this bill. Comment to the League on this bill

AB 388, Discharge of dredged or fill material into artificial wetlands. This bill exempts from wetland permitting requirements a discharge of dredged or fill material into an artificial wetland. An artificial wetland as a wetland inadvertently created by human modifications to the landscape or hydrology and for which there is no prior wetland or stream history, but excludes from the definition a wetland that is subject to federal jurisdiction and a wetland that serves as a fish spawning area or a passage to a fish spawning area. By Rep. Jacque. The League supports this bill. Comment to the League about this bill.  
Public Hearings  

While there are no hearings on municipal bills scheduled for this week, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee has tentatively scheduled a public hearing on AB 386, the League's dark store bill, and AB 387, reversing the Walgreens v. City of Madison decision, for Thursday, June 29. We will report the time of the hearing as soon as its announced by the committee chair.