Update on Room Tax Law Changes and Pending Legislation
2019 Wisconsin Act 10 made significant changes to how room taxes are collected when lodging is booked online through marketplace providers like Airbnb and Expedia. Act 10 was signed into law last summer, but took effect on January 1, 2020.

The Act created Wis. Stats. sec. 66.0615(1m)(g), which provides that the general sales tax provisions in secs. 77.52(3m) and 77.523, Wis. Stats., relating to online marketplace providers and marketplace sellers, apply to municipal room taxes. This means that online marketplace providers facilitating lodging sales (like Airbnb or Expedia) on behalf of sellers (like home owners in the case of Airbnb and hotels in the case of Expedia), must collect the municipal room tax and send those taxes to the municipality.

Under Act 10, lodging sellers, like hotels or home owners, are no longer liable for municipal room taxes on sales facilitated by an online marketplace provider. This is true even if the online marketplace provider fails to collect the tax. Only the marketplace provider may be audited and held liable for room taxes owed on rooms booked online using marketplace providers. As a result, a seller such as a hotel is liable only for room taxes when the room is booked or sold directly through the hotel.

In November 2019, DOR sent informational letters to known online lodging marketplace providers asking them to contact each Wisconsin municipality where they sell lodging to determine if additional registration from the municipality is required, the applicable room tax tax rate, and how to file and pay the room taxes.

Based on information and comments we have received from municipalities, lodging marketplace providers have not consistently been contacting municipalities about collecting and paying room taxes.

For more information see DOR's web page on Marketplace Providers and Sellers.

Pending Legislation. Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) and Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) have introduced a bill, AB 683/ SB 646,
giving municipalities helpful tools they need to ensure they are receiving the full amount of room taxes to which they are entitled from online lodging marketplaces like Airbnb and Expedia. The League supports this bill.

Under the bill, Airbnb, Expedia, and other online lodging marketplace providers charged with collecting and remitting room taxes are required to file annual tax returns providing the following
information to municipalities imposing the tax:

• The address of each property
• The total sales for each property
• The tax collected for each property
• The number of nights each short-term rental or hotel room was rented

Also under the bill, if a marketplace provider does not file the required room tax returns to municipalities in a timely fashion or fails to pay the room taxes owed, a municipality may impose a forfeiture of up to $500 per day, for a maximum of $45,000 a year.

Public hearings were held in both houses in January on this bill. Since the hearings, the authors have been negotiating a compromise amendment with DOR, various stakeholder groups, and legislators. The amendment is evolving. At one point, the authors seriously considered having DOR collect room taxes from online lodging marketplace providers for municipalities. The department would have been allowed to charge a 3% administrative fee. Municipalities would have been able to opt out of having DOR collect room taxes.

The latest version of the compromise amendment does not authorize DOR to collect room taxes on behalf of municipalities.

We are trying to convince Rep. Macco (R-De Pere), Chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, to schedule a vote on an amended version of AB 683 this week so that the Assembly has a chance to pass the bill before it adjourns for the session next week. The Ways and Means Committee is already scheduled to conduct an executive session on Wednesday. We are asking Rep. Macco to add AB 683 to the agenda.
Local Government Advisory Group on PFAS Meets Wednesday, February 12
The first meeting of the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council's (WisPAC's) local government advisory group is February 12 from 1:00 to 4:00. The meeting is open to the public and will be held in Madison at the DNR office building, GEF 2, in room G09 . The local government advisory group is co-chaired by Lawrie Kobza, representing MEG-Water; Paul Kent, representing MEG -Wastewater; and John Dickert, representing the Department of Revenue. More information is available on WisPac's web page or contact Lawrie Kobza directly.
Ban on PFAS Fire Fighting Foam Signed into Law
Last week, Governor Evers signed SB 310 into law as Act 101, prohibiting fire departments from using fire fighting foam containing PFAS, unless the use is part of an emergency fire fighting or fire prevention operation or the use is for testing purposes. The League supports this legislation, which also:

  • Requires testing facilities to implement appropriate containment, treatment, disposal and storage measures to prevent discharges of the foam to the environment; 
  • Directs the Department of Natural Resources to promulgate rules regarding appropriate storage measures for testing facilities; 
  • Prohibits flushing, draining, or discharging the foam into a storm or sanitary sewer; 
  • Requires immediate notification to the Department of Natural Resources if a fire fighting foam is used as part of an emergency fire fighting or fire prevention operation; and 
  • Requires a person in possession of a fire fighting foam, for the purpose of emergency fire fighting or fire prevention operations, to request and retain any safety data sheets relating to the fire fighting foam and make them available to the Department of Natural Resources for examination after use of the foam. 

Sauk County, Reedsburg Utility Commission plan to complete Spring Green broadband project by October
Sauk County in partnership with Reedsburg Utility Commission, is looking to continue its on-going goal of providing broadband internet access in rural areas of the county, by continuing a project in Spring Green.

The project began in 2019 after the Reedsburg Utility Commission was awarded two state grants to expand broadband services to the village of Spring Green and the town of Lake Delton. Read the article...

Phosphorus limits vary widely: Communities reduce pollutant in different ways
Waupun, a city of more than 11,000 residents on the edge of Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, faces stringent phosphorus discharge limits, based on its location on a branch of the Rock River. The Waupun facility currently treats an average of 1.9 million gallons of water per day.

The city’s latest discharge permit calls for a reduction from no more than 1 milligram per liter to no more than 0.05 milligrams per liter. During high water events discharge limits change based on the volume of water present. Waupun has met limits even during heavy flooding, according to Randy Posthuma, general manager of Waupun Utilities.  Read the article...

This city has a plan to stop homelessness by the end of the year
Less than a decade ago, more than 700 people were homeless in the small, 150,000-person city of Rockford, Illinois, about 90 miles northwest of Chicago. By the end of the year, the city expects that number will have shrunk to essentially zero—making it the first community in the U.S. to end homelessness.

“I think for so long we believed in most communities that homelessness is just something we are going to have to live with,” says Beth Sandor, who co-directs a program called  Built to Zero  at the nonprofit  Community Solutions , which works with cities like Rockford on eliminating homelessness. “Rockford is in the process of transforming that idea and really demonstrating what it looks like to live in a community where homelessness is not normal.” Read the article...

Chamber to host transportation forum
According to the Chamber's website, less than half of Wisconsin highways are considered acceptable and only 15% of highway systems in urban areas have a "good" rating.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said the city is always working on improving transportation sustainability and connecting people where they want to go. Read the article...

Local Perspective - Elections
How many pollworkers? How many ballots? Is the polling place ADA accessible? What about absentee ballots? The work that goes into elections is complicated. There is A LOT more to this important process than just election day!

On this League Local Perspective, Jerry Deschane talks with Kelly Michaels, Brookfield City Clerk about election security, the event planning that is involved, absentee ballot processing and the number of volunteers and training that is included. Watch it here... Comment on the League's Facebook page...

LocalGovMatters 2.0 Podcast
LocalGovMatters is back as a partnership between the League and the Wisconsin Counties Association. Episodes will be available every two weeks.   Listen to the podcast on your PC here or subscribe on your favorite podcast app...

The Year Ahead:  Jerry Deschane, the League's Executive Director, and Mark O'Connell, the Wisconsin Counties Association Executive Director, discuss politics, rankings, debate the start of the new decade and more on the first LocalGovMatters Podcast. Comment on this first podcast on the  League's Facebook page here .

The MLS Grant Program and All Things Transportation:  WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson is our guest. Comment on the second LocalGovMatters podcast on the  League's Facebook page here .

AB 855, R eauthorizing the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship 2000 Program until 2030 and making some changes to it . By Rep. Loudenbeck (R-Clinton). The League supports reauthorizing the Stewardship Program, but has not yet taken a position on this specific bill. Comment to the League about this bill.

AB 859, Expanding the Ability to Use TIF to Increase Workforce Housing in a Community. 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. It increases 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 within a mixed-use TID.  
By Rep. Brooks (R-Saukville). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League about this bill.

AB 866, Various Water Quality Initiatives, Including Funding for Lead Service Line Replacement Financial Assistance Programs. By Rep. Pope (D-Mt. Horeb). Comment to the League about this bill.

SB 771, Grants for additional policing and for strategic planning to combat crime. This bill creates two grant programs to be administered by the Department of Administration.

Grants for additional policing. The bill authorizes DOA to award one or more grants to a city, village, town, or county for costs associated with additional policing to address automobile theft and
carjacking. DOA must give priority to cities, villages, towns, or counties having a higher incidence of automobile theft or carjacking. Grants may be used to cover up to four years of additional policing costs but may not be used to supplant funding that is available from other sources.

Before DOA implements the additional policing grant program, the bill requires DOA to submit a plan for the grant program to the Joint Committee on Finance for approval. The plan must ensure that the grants will be distributed throughout all geographic areas of Wisconsin and in both urban and rural communities. The bill appropriates $5,000,000 for the additional policing grant program in the 2019-21 fiscal biennium.

Grants for strategic planning. The bill further authorizes DOA to award one or more grants to a city, village, town, or county for costs associated with strategic planning to combat crime. Grants may be used to cover up to two years of strategic planning costs but may not be used to supplant funding that is available from other sources. Before DOA implements the strategic planning grant program, the bill requires DOA to submit a plan for the grant program to JCF for approval. The plan must ensure that the grants will be distributed throughout all geographic areas of Wisconsin and in both urban and rural communities. The bill appropriates $5,000,000 for the strategic planning grant program in the 2019-21 fiscal biennium. By Sen. Darling (R-River Hills). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League about this bill.

SB 774/ SB 775. C reating a process for establishing management zones for PFAS. SB 774 creates special requirements within PFAS management zones and changes existing grant and loan programs to prioritize projects in PFAS management zones, and requires the Department of Natural Resources to establish an advisory committee to assist in all PFAS-related actions.
SB 775 provides DNR positions and funding related to PFAS management zones, creates a municipal grant program for PFAS testing, and makes an appropriation. By Sen. Cowles (R-Green Bay).
The League supports both bills. Comment to the League about this bill.

SB 780, A uthorizing a local government to require advance payment from a presidential or vice-presidential campaign for certain expected public event costs. By Sen. Smith (D-Eau Claire). Comment to the League about this bill.

SB 783, Mandates that all municipal water systems provide continuous disinfection of the water that it provides. By Sen. Miller (D-Madison). Comment to the League about this bill.

SB 787 , Extends Annual Housing Reporting Mandates to Municipalities with Populations over 5,000 . Current law requires municipalities with populations of at least 10,000 to
prepare two housing reports no later than January 1, 2020, and to post the reports on the Internet. One report is on the municipality's implementation of the housing element of the municipality's comprehensive plan, and the other report is on residential development fees charged by the municipality. The housing element report must be updated annually by January 31.

This bill extends the annual housing report mandates to municipalities with populations exceeding 5,000. Under the bill, if a municipality fails to meet the posting requirements for either
of the housing reports, the bill prohibits the municipality from imposing impact fees or land dedication requirements until the report is posted. By Sen. Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) and Rep. Summerfield (R-Bloomer). The League opposes this bill. Comment to the League about this bill.

AB 834, Public notice of noncandidacy for incumbent local elected officials. By Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, Tuesday, February 11, at 9:00 a.m. in room 300 Northeast. The League supports this bill as amended.