More Bills Affecting Municipalities Signed into Law
Last week, Governor Evers signed into law the remaining bills on his desk from the fall floor period. The 69 bills the Governor has signed into law slightly exceeds the 20-year average of 63 acts passed at this point in legislative sessions.

The bills signed into law last week and the week prior include the following affecting municipalities:

AB 117 ( Act 38), Building Permit Forms. Clarifies that a municipality may require that a building permit application be submitted either in paper or electronic form, but not both. If a municipality requires submission in paper form, the act allows the applicant to submit any of the following: (1) a printed copy of the municipal authority’s electronic form; (2) a printed copy of DSPS’s electronic form; or (3) DSPS’s paper form. The municipality must submit electronically to DSPS the information submitted by the applicant. The League was neutral on this bill.

AB 141 ( Act 40), Property Tax Due Dates. Clarifies that property tax payments  mailed to the proper official are considered to be received on time if postmarked on or before the due date, regardless of when received. (The italicized wording is new.) The bill also clarifies that if the due date is a Saturday or Sunday, the current five-day “grace” period ends on the following Friday. The League supported this bill.

AB 143 ( Act 41), Allowing Municipalities to Prohibit Unlicensed Massage Therapy Workers. Authorizes a municipality to enact and enforce an ordinance prohibiting a person from providing massage therapy or bodywork therapy without a license issued by the Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy Affiliated Credentialing Board. Under the Act, municipalities may also prohibit a person from employing or contracting with another person for the provision of massage therapy or bodywork therapy services unless that person
holds the appropriate license. The League supported this bill.

AB 193 ( Act 42), Allowing Local Governments to Adopt Biennial Budgets. Authorizes municipal governing bodies to choose to operate under a biennial budget. The League supported this bill. 

AB 235 ( Act 45), Levy Limit Exception for Loss of Utility Aid. Creates an exception under the levy limit law for communities needing to replace revenue lost due to a reduction in utility aid payments as a result of closure or decommissioning of a power plant.  The League supported this bill.

SB 170 ( Act 60), Lemonade Stands Operated by Minors. Prohibits municipalities from banning, or requiring a permit or license for, a lemonade stand operated by a minor. The League took no position on this bill.

SB 319 ( Act 63), Transportation facilities economic assistance and development program. Clarifies that both jobs created and jobs retained resulting from a highway improvement or economic development project may be used in setting the Transportation Facilities Economic Assistance and Development grant ceiling. The League supported this bill.

SB 447 ( Act 69), Allowing Certain Towns to Receive General Transportation Aids Equaling 100% of their Transportation Costs. Makes a technical fix to carry out the intent of the 2019-2021 State Budget with regard to allowing DOT to award $2.5 million in supplemental General Transportation Aids to 144 towns. The additional aid allows these towns to receive aid amounts equaling 100% of their transportation expenditures. (Under the General Transportation Aid program, local governments are ordinarily prohibited from receiving aid payments exceeding 80% of their transportation costs. On average, general transportation aid payments to cities and villages cover only about 15% of their transportation costs.) The League took no position on this bill.
Deadline is December 6 to Apply for one time Local Transportation Grant

There is still time to apply for the new one-time Multimodal Local Supplement (MLS) funding program. Funding for the $75 million program ($18.6 million of which is available to cities and villages) was included in the 2019-21 state budget. Grants are available for transportation projects including:

  • Roads
  • Bridges
  • Transit capital and facility projects
  • Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations
  • Railroads
  • Harbors

Local governments, or groups of local governments are eligible, including tribal governments.

  • The minimum project cost for counties, cities, and villages is $250,000.
  • The minimum project cost for towns is $50,000.
  • The program will reimburse local governments up to 90 percent of total eligible costs; the local sponsor provides the balance.
  • A six-year project completion will be required for approved projects.
  • A WisDOT webpage provides a full range of resources to assist local governments completing the application. Application submittal deadline is Friday, December 6, at 5 p.m.

Click here to read more or download the application.
Affordable Housing Reports Due January 1, 2020; River Falls Obtains Waiver from Mandate
2017 Wisconsin Act 243 created two new reporting mandates that municipalities over 10,000 in population must comply with by January 1, 2020. The reports must then be updated annually.

Housing Affordability Report. The more challenging reporting mandate requires more populous municipalities to prepare a report on the municipality's implementation of the housing element of its comprehensive plan. The report must contain the voluminous amount of information specified in Wis. Stat. sec. 66.10013(2), and must analyze the financial impact of the municipality’s residential development regulations (e.g., land use controls, site improvement requirements, fees and land dedication requirements, and permit procedures) on new subdivision costs. As part of the report, a municipality must identify ways it can modify its regulations to meet existing and forecasted housing demand and reduce the time and cost necessary to approve and develop a new residential subdivision in the municipality by 20 percent. 

Waiver from Reporting Mandate? If your community currently lacks capacity to prepare a fully compliant housing affordability report by January 1, 2020, you might consider applying for a temporary waiver from the mandate under Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0143, which allows communities to appeal to DOR for exemption from state mandates. The City of River Falls did and DOR granted it a four-year waiver from the housing affordability reporting mandate.

River Falls explained in its waiver application that the city lacked the capacity and resources necessary to comply with the reporting mandate by January 1, 2020. The city also stressed that it had recently completed a comprehensive housing needs analysis in 2018.

The form for applying for a mandate waiver is posted on DOR's website here:

Email Curt Witynski to obtain copies of River Falls' application for a waiver, the common council's resolution in support of the request, and DOR's response granting the waiver.

Fee Report. The second reporting requirement under Act 243 requires municipalities over 10,000 in population to prepare and post a report by January 1, 2020, detailing the community's residential development fees. The report must contain information specified in sec. 66.10014(2) and then divide the total amount of fees imposed for purposes related to residential construction, remodeling, or development in the prior year by the number of new residential dwelling units approved by the municipality in the prior year. This report must be posted on the municipality’s internet site on a web page devoted solely to the report and titled “New Housing Fee Report.” The municipality must provide copies of the reports to each governing body member. Importantly, if a fee or the amount of a fee is not properly posted as required, the municipality may not charge the fee.

This new bill will help Wisconsin communities crack down on massage parlor prostitution
“It's now in the hands of municipalities to implement a new anti-prostitution law that strives to make sure nothing more than massages are given at massage parlors.

The next step is for local communities to set up ordinances consistent with the intent of the new law.” Read the story...

The state Elections Commission expects to distribute $800,000 to local governments out of the $1.1 million it originally set aside as part of an election security program to update computer systems and bolster training. 

With the leftover money, the agency staff is recommending creation of a reserve fund for clerks who have an emergency need. Commission staff is also recommending help for local election officials to switch over to an email address, which is more secure than free email domains. 

The commission in September approved using federal money to cover a $1.1 million grant program to help with local election security after finding many clerks were using outdated computer systems vulnerable to cyberattacks. 

For today's commission hearing, the staff prepared an update on the program. 

Of the money originally set aside, $369,200 was approved for new hardware in 684 jurisdictions, while $343,200 was allocated to IT support or a managed service provider in 710 jurisdictions. 

Altogether, funds were distributed in every county but Menominee, where no local governments applied for the funds. 

See the materials prepared for today's meeting: 

Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District Commission greenlights plan, timeline for PFAS research and testing:
Plan will fill gaps in knowledge, provide meaningful data
“There is still much we need to learn about PFAS to respond appropriately, and the District’s plan and timeline are a commitment to doing that,” says Michael Mucha, chief engineer and director. “We look forward to ongoing dialog about our PFAS work and its results and ensuring that we are making science-based decisions to do what’s best for public health and the environment.”

In use since the 1940s, PFAS are broadly present throughout the environment and in our homes and our diets. They are commonly found in American homes, in products such as non-stick cookware, furniture, clothing, pizza boxes, dental floss and more. The PFAS family comprises thousands of manmade chemicals, but only a few compounds, including PFOA and PFOS, are well studied, which makes this family of compounds difficult to address. Read the press release here...

Several area mayors head to White House to talk housing (From Nov. 13)
Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza and Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink were among the several dozen mayors in attendance.

Wiza says he spoke about several obstacles the city is facing when it comes to affordable housing, including restrictions and hurdles for developers.

Wiza says they also discussed how much money renters are paying.
“Many of the citizens of Wisconsin spend half of their income on housing and it doesn’t give much opportunity for someone to save up enough to get a down payment,” Wiza said. Watch the story here...

Eric Giordano on the League's Local Perspective

SB 565, Medicaid Reimbursement for emergency detention transport. Clarifies current law regarding transport of individuals for emergency detention, expressly providing that a law enforcement agency may contract with another law enforcement agency, an ambulance service provider, or a third-party vendor to transport an individual for emergency detention. The bill also provides that an individual in custody being transported for emergency detention remains in the custody of the law enforcement officer or other authorized person who placed the individual in custody for purposes of emergency detention, except that if a law enforcement agency contracts with another law enforcement agency to transport an individual for the purposes of emergency detention, custody is transferred to the transporting law enforcement agency. 

Finally, the bill requires the Department of Health Services to request any federal approval required to provide reimbursement to counties for the costs of transporting for emergency detention recipients under the Medical Assistance program and to provide that reimbursement to counties if federal approval is granted or not required. If federal approval is necessary but not granted, DHS may not provide reimbursement under the Medical Assistance program. Under the bill, if DHS provides reimbursement, a county may obtain reimbursement if the individual transported is a medical assistance recipient and if the transport is provided by a law enforcement agency or an entity that contracts with a law enforcement agency to provide transport for emergency detention. By Sen. Petrowski (R-Marathon). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 574, Canvassing absentee ballots on the Monday before an election. Under current law, absentee ballots may not be canvassed until election day. This bill authorizes a municipality to adopt an ordinance providing for the canvassing of absentee ballots on the Monday before an election, subject to the several specified requirements and conditions. By Sen. LeMahieu (R-Oostburg). The League has not yet taken a position on this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 576, Authorizing the creation of a Chippewa Valley Regional Transit Authority. By Sen. Smith (D-Eau Claire). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 583, Regulation of ATVs. This bill makes numerous changes to the regulation of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), including provides that an ATV or UTV owned or leased by a political subdivision is exempt from registration if the name of the political subdivision is prominently displayed on the exterior. By Sen. Marklein (R-Spring Green). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 584, Process for appealing a permit denial to the governing body of a city, village, or town. Authorizes an applicant to appeal the denial of a temporary use permit application or permit extension application by the chief of a fire district if the basis of the denial is a discretionary determination. Under the bill, the applicant may appeal the denial to the common council or village or town board to which the application relates. Following a hearing on the denial, the council or board may approve the applicant's permit or extension application. By Sen. Jacque (R-DePere). The League has not yet taken a position on this bill, which is sought by the Towns Association. Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 596, Establishment of a family and medical leave insurance program. Creates a family and medical leave insurance program, to be administered by DWD, under which a covered individual who is on family or medical leave is eligible, beginning on January 1, 2024, to receive up to 12 weeks of family or medical leave insurance benefits as specified in the bill from the family and medical leave insurance trust fund created under the bill (trust fund). The bill also allows a city, village, town, or county to enact and enforce ordinances requiring employers to provide leave from employment to their employees if those ordinances are more generous than those provided under state law. By Sen. Ringhand (D-Evansville). The League has not yet taken a position on this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

No hearings on municipal bills are scheduled for this week.