Last week, the GOP dominated Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted 12-4 along party lines to recommend passage of its version of the 2019-2021 state budget after it approved a capital spending plan and an income tax cut. JFC also voted last week to renew the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program for two years at its current funding level of $33 million per year, which was the same recommendation made by Governor Evers. Notably, the JFC added no new policy items or other surprises via its final wrap-up motion. Unlike in the past, this year's motion 999 was limited to technical changes and drafting instructions.

Next Steps : Assembly leadership is looking at holding an Assembly vote on the state budget, AB 56, on Tuesday, June 25, with the Senate likely to take it up later that week. After it passes both houses, the budget would go 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.
The Senate Committee on Transportation, Veterans, and Military Affairs is holding a public hearing Wednesday, June 19, on SB 282, a bill the League opposes, requiring voter approval in a referendum before a municipality may impose a local vehicle registration fee. The referendum requirement would also apply to communities with local vehicle registration fees already in place.

Last Tuesday, the League, and staff from the cities of Milwaukee and Janesville testified against AB 283, the Assembly companion to SB 282. The Assembly Committee on Transportation was scheduled to vote on AB 283 last Thursday, but the bill was removed from the committee's agenda at the last minute, presumably because an insufficient number of committee members were willing to vote in support of recommending passage. Nevertheless, the full Assembly could still take up the bill on the floor if the Senate passes SB 282.
On June 5 the Senate passed by a vote of 27-5 an amended version of SB 239, legislation sought by the cell phone industry known as the small cell or 5G bill. The bill is similar to legislation that passed the Assembly last session (2017 SB 425). The prior session bill died in the Senate due to opposition from the cable industry.

This session's bill mirrors limitations placed on municipal regulatory powers by the  September 2018 Federal Communications Commission 5G ruling and is likely to be signed into law. It creates a regulatory framework for the state and local governments for the following: 1) the deployment by wireless service providers of wireless equipment and facilities for 5G service, including the placement of such items in rights-of-way (ROW); 2) the local permitting process for certain activities by wireless providers; 3) the regulation of access to government poles by wireless providers; and 4) the resolution of disputes. The bill also restores to local governments the ability to impose setback requirements for the placement of traditional cell towers on any parcel in which a single family residential use is permitted.

Earlier in May, the League agreed to take a neutral position on the 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 Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill during its floor session on Tuesday, June 18.
On June 5 the Senate passed by voice vote SB 105, a bill that Sen. LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Rep. Steffen (R-Howard) introduced at the League's request exempting municipalities from the Fair Dealership Law.

In June 2017 the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed the decisions of two lower courts and ruled for the first time that a municipality's contractual relationship with a private contractor is subject to the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law, which governs contractual obligations between those who sell goods or services and those who benefit from the sales.  Benson v. City of Madison, 2017 WI 65. The ruling, the first of its kind in any state, created new and substantial liability risks for municipalities and their residents given the large number of activities performed by private contractors for Wisconsin cities and villages. In a 5-2 decision, the Court concluded that four golf professionals could maintain their lawsuit against the City of Madison for $1.8 million in damages over claims their contracts with the city were terminated in 2012 without good cause in violation of the Fair Dealership Law.

The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law, like similar laws across the country, protects the economic interests of "dealers" (e.g., franchisees) against unfair treatment or practices by "grantors," (e.g., franchisers). The law applies to arrangements in which there is a "community of interest" between the two parties, such as a shared financial interest or coordination of activities. Prior to this decision, the law had never been extended to relationships between private contractors and municipalities.

The court decision negatively impacts the ability of all cities, villages, towns and counties and perhaps even the state, to privatize service delivery and to make decisions to end contractual relationships based on efficiencies and cost savings that benefit taxpayers.  

SB 105 reverses the  Benson decision by exempting the state and local governments from the Fair Dealership Law.
Last week, Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Greg Huber concluded in the case of Mosinee v. DOR, that the Wisconsin Department of Revenue's ratio formula for calculating each taxing jurisdiction's 2019 personal property aid payment did not comply with state law. The court granted the City of Mosinee's motion for summary declaratory judgment, ruling that DOR incorrectly applied Wis. Stat. §79.096, resulting in Mosinee receiving $48,655.22 less in state aid than it should have. The court enjoined DOR from applying any formula in the future resulting in aid payments that are not equal to the tax revenue formerly collected by each taxing jurisdiction prior to the state exempting non-manufacturing machinery, tools, and patterns.

State law, Judge Huber said, "unequivocally requires the DOR to
certify the amount that each taxing jurisdiction had previously levied for non-manufacturing machinery, tools, and patterns. By describing the payment in this manner, the language of the statute evidences a legislative intention to hold the local taxing jurisdictions harmless, to fully compensate them for the loss of tax revenue."

This decision may trigger action by either DOA or DOR to correct the 2019 payment to Mosinee and other communities and requires DOR to more accurately determine the hold harmless payments owed to each taxing jurisdiction in the state, including TIF districts. DOR has already began the process of collecting the necessary valuation data from each taxing jurisdiction.

Read the full decision in Mosinee v. DOR here.

Drivers will feel road improvements
Jerry Deschane of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities says the new transportation spending plan should help road conditions all over the state. Watch the interview on WISN12's Up Front... Comment on the story on the League's LinkedIn page...

New bill would require public to re-vote on wheel tax
"It just seems inappropriate," said Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich. "And given the fact that there's a good debate going on in Madison about how to raise revenue to invest in infrastructure, I think they should leave those types of decisions to locals."

"Sounds pretty hypocritical because the joint finance committee at the state level just passed a recommendation to raise the state registration fee by $10," said Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna. "I didn't hear any talk about a referendum to support that increase."

After years of special assessment drama, Green Bay just passed its wheel tax. 
Even cities that have had one for a while have no protection.

"In Appleton, we've had the local registration fee for five years," said Hanna. "And now, we've got to go back and have a referendum? If it's good for us, it should be good for the state."

They feel it strips the municipalities of some power. Read the story...

Only voters could approve new wheel taxes under GOP bill  
Curt Witynski, deputy director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, called the legislation a “classic interference with local decision making.”

He said legislators should trust that local elected officials will “make the best decisions they can to come up with the dollars necessary to keep their community safe and their streets well-maintained.”

“If the voters are dissatisfied with (a local government’s decision to impose the fee), they will let it be known in the spring elections and not elect those members of the governing body,” Witynski said. “That’s how it works in democracy.”

Witynski added that he is “surprised” the Legislature is focusing on a fee used by only 36 local governments that generates round $30 million annually. He said the group is talking with legislators to "kill this bill."   Read the story... Call your Legislators now and express your opposition to Assembly Bill 283 and Senate Bill 282.

Some Wisconsin lawmakers double as landlords — and have passed laws that undermine renters' rights
"Tenants don't want to call and complain and risk eviction or rent increases or other problems," said Oshkosh Mayor Lori Palmeri. 

While Milwaukee axed its neighborhood inspection program, Oshkosh is still trying to retain aspects of its program. The city twice scaled back its inspection program in the wake of the new laws and a lawsuit by a local landlord association.

"It's been kind of a tennis match," Palmeri said. "Actually, a hockey match."

Lasee said some cities see the inspection fees as a revenue generator. Vos argued cities can still do the neighborhood inspections, though they must follow stricter criteria set by the state. Read the story.... Comment on the story on the League's Facebook page...

Wisconsin voters get more time to confirm they've moved
Wisconsin voters who appear to have moved within the state will have up to two years to update their voter registration, rather than be deactivated within a month.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted Tuesday to make the change.

Voters who appear to have moved will still receive a postcard, likely in late August, saying that state records indicate they have moved. In 2018, when the mailings were first sent, about 308,000 voters had their registrations deactivated within a month. Read the story...

#LOCALGOVMATTERS – June 10 was the 100th Anniversary of Wisconsin's ratification of the 19th Amendment. Among others, Gwyn interviews the Granddaughter of the woman who sculpted the "Forward" statue. Listen on your PC or Smartphone...

No new bills affecting municipalities were introduced last week.

SB 216, Creation of a Joint Committee on State Mandates and required funding of state mandates. By Senate Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism, and Workforce Development, on Tuesday, June 18, at 1:00 p.m. in room 300 Southeast, State Capitol. The League supports this bill.

SB 92, Allowing municipalities that have adopted the city/village manager form of government to require that the manager reside in the community. By Senate Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism, and Workforce Development, on Tuesday, June 18, at 1:00 p.m. in room 300 Southeast, State Capitol. The League supports this bill.

SB 282, Requiring voter approval in a referendum in order to impose a local vehicle registration fee (Wheel Tax). By Senate Committee on Transportation, on Wednesday, June 19, at 10:00 a.m. in room 330 Southwest, State Capitol. The League opposes this bill.  

SB 276, Exemption from local zoning ordinances for certain transportation project aggregate and concrete production sites. By Senate Committee on Transportation, on Wednesday, June 19, at 10:00 a.m. in room 330 Southwest, State Capitol. The League opposes this bill.

AB 256, Applying limits on business relocation payments made in condemnation actions by cities, villages, and towns to redevelopment or community development authorities and counties. By Assembly Committee on Local Government, on Wednesday, June 19, at 2:00 p.m. in room 400 Northeast, State Capitol. The League initiated this bill.

AB 113, Creating a process for buying and selling phosphorus and other water pollution credits through a central clearinghouse. By Assembly Committee on Local Government, on Wednesday, June 19, at 2:00 p.m. in room 400 Northeast, State Capitol. The League initiated this bill.