Local Government actions to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19 public health emergency are happening incredibly fast. The League will share information as quickly as we can through a variety of means, including newsletter updates on the Coronavirus (look for one later today in your inbox) and a
devoted exclusively to the pandemic.
Utility Billing Practices
Over the weekend, Gov. Tony Evers issued
Emergency Order #11
, suspending several utility-related administrative rules, which among other things, prohibits municipal utilities from imposing fees on customers for late payments. The order makes the following changes:
1. Stop utility disconnection for nonpayment for all customers, including commercial, industrial, and farm accounts. Previously this applied to residential accounts only;
2. Cease assessing late fees to customer accounts;
3. Halt the practice of requiring deposits from customers for reconnection of service;
4. Allow deferred payment agreements for all customers who request them;
5. Remove any administrative barriers for customers establishing or reestablishing utility service; and
6. Authorize water utilities to provide budget billing arrangements to customers. Electric and natural gas utilities are allowed to do this under current rules.
Continuing to conduct meetings in these times.
Office of Open Government
in the Wisconsin Department of Justice has issued two advisories indicating that governmental bodies may meet remotely during the COVID-19 public health emergency and still comply with the open meetings law.
March 16 Advisory
Congress's Efforts to Pass a COVID-19 Stimulus Package Stalled Yesterday.
The National League of Cities sent us the following update late last night.
In a major late breaking development, Senate Democrats filibustered the third stimulus bill that Senate Republicans have been pushing, H.R. 748, the CARES Act.
A vote on a procedural motion failed. The vote would have ended debate on the bill and allowed the Senate to be ready to vote on a bill on Monday. Senate rules require 60 votes in the affirmative for this motion to pass.
At this point H.R. 748, the CARES Act, the third stimulus bill, as written, is sidelined.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi broke off talks earlier Sunday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others and vowed that she would work on her own bill. With the CARES Act sidelined, for now, Pelosi and House Democrats are in the driver's seat.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, Leader McConnell said that he would push forward with a vote at 3 p.m. However, minutes before the scheduled 3 p.m. vote, Sen. McConnell pushed the vote back three hours. This was a clear sign of trouble, as McConnell, a master of the Senate, is a keen vote counter.
According to reports, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats, who are now dictating the direction of the next stimulus bill, want significant expansion of unemployment insurance, direct payments to Americans, funding for hospitals and medical supplies, and grants to keep small businesses from folding.
The Speaker's office reached out to the caucus to gather ideas on what should be in the bill. NLC has been working directly with House leadership and House offices during this process.