In addition to the items outlined in the February 28 Capitol Buzz, Governor Evers' state budget also includes the following policy changes affecting municipalities:

  • Restoration of the prevailing wage law for municipal public construction contracts exceeding $48,000 for single trade projects and $100,000 for multi-trade projects. The multi-trade project threshold is $234,000 for cities and villages under 2,500 in population.
  • FMLA Expansion. Requires an employer that employs at least 25 individuals on a permanent basis to allow an employee to take family or medical leave. (Current law applies the FMLA to employers of 50 or more employees.) The bill also allows an employee to take family leave as provided under current law to care for a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling who has a serious health condition.
  • Repeal Preemption of Local Regulation of Employment Matters. Repeals current law provisions prohibiting local governments from enacting or enforcing ordinances regulating wages, overtime pay, employee hours, and benefits. 
  • Nonpartisan Redistricting. Creates a new nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional redistricting plans. 
  • Automatic Voter Registration. Requires the Elections Commission to work with DOT to facilitate the automatic registration of all eligible electors of this state and to maintain the registration of all eligible electors for so long as they remain eligible.
  • In Person Absentee Voting. Eliminates the 14 day restriction on how soon a person may complete an absentee ballot in person and provides that a person must complete such a ballot no later than the Friday preceding the election. 
  • Local pollution control grants in TMDL watersheds. Requires DNR to award grants to municipalities and counties for water pollution control infrastructure projects within watersheds that have a total maximum daily load (TMDL) in effect. The bill provides for $4,000,000 in general obligation bonding authority for this purpose.
  • Increased bonding for urban storm water, flood control, and riparian restoration. Increases by $4,000,000, from $53,600,000 to $57,600,000, the general obligation bonding authority for financial assistance for projects that manage urban storm water and runoff and for flood control and riparian restoration projects.
  • Municipal construction, ownership, or operation of broadband facilities. Makes it easier for a municipality to construct, own, or operate a facility for providing broadband service to the public when the facility is intended to serve an under served or unserved area.
  • Use of Volkswagen Settlement Grants. Currently, moneys received under a settlement that the state received from a legal action involving Volkswagen may be spent for two purposes: replacement of state fleet vehicles and issuing grants for the replacement of public transit vehicles. Under the bill, the grants may be awarded both for the replacement of public transit vehicles and the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. Under the bill, DOA must allocate approximately 60 percent of the grants to the replacement of public transit vehicles and 40 percent to electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Decriminalizing possession, manufacture, distribution, or delivery of 25 grams or less of marijuana. The bill limits local governments to enacting ordinances prohibiting only the possession of more than 25 grams of marijuana.

Governor Evers' budget bill has been introduced as AB 56 and SB 59.
On Wednesday, March 6, at 8:30 a.m. Sen. Olsen (R-Ripon), chair of the Study Committee on Property Tax Assessment Practices (a.k.a., the dark store study committee) will present the committee's recommendations to the Joint Legislative Council for possible introduction by the Council. The study committee's report and recommendations consist of the following materials:

  1. The Study Committee's Report to the Joint Legislative Council.
  2. LRB-0394/3, relating to the submission of information for commercial property tax assessments.
  3. LRB-0484/2, relating to actions for excessive property tax assessments.
  4. LRB-045/4, relating to cost sharing assistance for property tax assessments. 
Rep. Scott Allen, chair of the Assembly Community Development Committee, seeks municipal officials and/or staff interested in presenting to the committee in April about landscaping, branding, streetscape and other methods their community uses to create a positive first impression for visitors.

For more information or to be considered for presenting to the committee, contact Curt Witynski.

Budget raises revenues for local government, constrains TIF use
The formula works for growing communities with lots of new construction, Evers said. But others have seen little growth but must deal with rising costs. Of 1,852 municipalities in the 2018-19 tax year, 1,026 saw less than 1 percent growth and 1,583 had less than 2 percent, he said.

The budget also would increase state municipal aids by 2 percent starting in 2020.

To encourage cooperation among local governments, Evers would also allow expenses for shared emergency dispatch centers to be exempt from levy limits. Via the Wisconsin State Journal here. Comment on this story on our Facebook page here.

Tim Kabat: Wisconsin needs a more balanced way to fund local government
The report, “Dollars and Sense,” points out that of all Midwestern states, Wisconsin more than any other depends on the property tax to fund these services.

This needs to change.

Our dependence on property taxes causes them to be higher, because there are no other options in meeting the needs for service. High property taxes are a threat to homeowners, especially seniors and those who live on a fixed income. The dependence on property taxes also means that as a share, our residents pay more, while visitors and commuters pay less. Via the La Crosse Tribune here. Comment on this piece on our LinkedIn page here.

GOP bill would create water pollution credit clearinghouse
The bill's authors said in their memo that the measure could jump-start the credit marketplace, leading to better water quality.

The measure assuages point sources' concerns about being liable if non-point sources didn't really do the work to earn credits and help struggling farmers raise money by selling credits, in turn allowing them to buy pollution reduction technology. Point sources, meanwhile, could avoid spending on upgrading pollution controls, perhaps allowing small manufacturers to stay in business and saving taxpayers money on upgrades for public facilities, the lawmakers said.

The Dairy Business Association issued a news release Tuesday calling the clearinghouse an "appealing option." Curt Witynski, deputy executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, called the bill "intriguing" in a telephone interview. Via the Associated Press here.

AB 44/ SB 53, Installation of a barricade device on an interior door in a school building. Provides that the Department of Safety and Professional Services may not prohibit, and a city, village, or town may not enact or enforce an ordinance prohibiting, a public or private elementary or secondary school from installing a barricade device on an interior door in the school building. The bill defines “barricade device” as an anchoring mechanism installed on the interior side of a door. The bill also provides that, before installing a barricade device in a school building, a school must obtain approval in writing from the local fire department and local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the school building. By Sen. Stroebel (R-Saukville) and Rep. Brooks (R-Saukville). The League is neutral on this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

AB 48, Extending Term for a Promissory Note. Increases the permissible term for a promissory note from 10 to 20 years. Under the bill, a promissory note issued by a municipality for any public purpose must be repaid within 20 years after the original date of the note. By Joint Legislative Council. The League supports this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

AB 55/ SB 60, Placement of sexually violent persons on supervised release. Under current law, when a sexually violent person is placed on supervised release under ch. 980, Stats., he or she may not be placed within 1,500 feet of a school, child care facility, place of worship, park, youth center, or other specified places. Under the bill, the county must consider the proximity of the placement to the places specified under current law, but the bill removes the exact distance. By Sen. Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) and Rep. Schraa (R-Oshkosh). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 50, Police Body Cameras. This bill was prepared for the Joint
Legislative Council's Study Committee on the Use of Police Body Cameras. It establishes regulations and standards governing law enforcement agency policies, training, and compliance related to body cameras. It also sets out standards for releasing body camera video footage. By Joint Legislative Council. The League has not yet taken a position on this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 65, Restoring Ability of Municipalities to use Eminent Domain to Acquire Land for Bike Paths and Recreation Trails. By Sen. Risser (D-Madison). The League supports this bill (but it has little chance of advancing). Comment to the League on this bill.

SB 71, State Aid for Special Election Costs. Requires the Elections Commission to reimburse counties and municipalities for certain costs incurred in the administration of special primaries and special elections for state or national office. By Sen. Jacque (R-De Pere). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League on this bill.

AB 8, Notification of changed property tax assessment for agricultural land. By Assembly Committee on Local Government, on Wednesday, March 6 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 400 Northeast, State Capitol. The League supports this bill.

AB 2, Motor Vehicle Immobilization Devices. By Assembly Committee on Local Government, on Wednesday, March 6 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 400 Northeast, State Capitol. The League supports this bill.