Senate not Meeting Tomorrow as Originally Scheduled; Legislature may Meet in Extraordinary Session later this Spring
Last week, Senate majority leader Fitzgerald announced that the Senate would not meet for its last floor day of the session on Tuesday, March 24, as planned, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. He indicated legislative leaders may call an extraordinary session later this spring.We have heard from some legislators that the Legislature may meet sooner rather than later to make changes to state law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing has been scheduled yet. We will keep you informed if and when the Legislature decides to convene on COVID-19. In the mean time, we are urging legislators to consider making certain modifications to state law to help municipalities respond to rapidly changing circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including allowing communities to waive interest and penalties for late payment of property tax installments.
COVID-19 Resources and News
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 web page 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. The 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.

Local leaders warn Wisconsin governor: Voters at risk from COVID-19
Scores of local leaders sent Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers a letter Sunday warning him that the state isn’t doing enough to protect voters from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic as the spring election approaches.

The April 7 election features Wisconsin’s presidential primary, a state Supreme Court race and hundreds of local races. A number of states have postponed primaries in hopes of slowing the virus’ spread. But Evers has insisted Wisconsin’s election go on as scheduled, saying people should vote by absentee ballot rather than travel to the polls.

Wisconsin health officials said Sunday that the state’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped to 381, up from 281 a day earlier. Four people in the state have died from the respiratory disease. The number of confirmed cases reported in Dane County has grown to 61, up from the 49 cases reported Saturday. Read the article...

Federal Judge Extends Wisconsin's Online Registration Deadline
A federal judge has granted a request by Democrats to extend online voter registration in Wisconsin until March 30 in light of the public health crisis brought on by the new coronavirus.

U.S. District Court Judge William Conley issued his order Friday night, two days after online registration for the state's April 7 election had otherwise ended under state law. Read the article...

City of Racine to Launch Small Business Emergency Fund in Wake of COVID-19
City of Racine – During the COVID-19 crisis small businesses will be forced to make some tough decisions as they will be the first to economic impacts of the virus. The City of Racine is taking a proactive step in trying to assistance businesses by redirecting $250,000 in federal funding to create a Small Business Emergency Fund for businesses that are under distress from the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Read the media release... Comment on this initiative on the League's LinkedIn page...

Bayfield reeling from coronavirus confirmation
Tiny Bayfield, seemingly safe in its perch surrounded by bucolic farms and Lake Superior, proved that there’s no safe harbor from the pandemic when a Bayfield High School student tested positive for COVID-19.

Bayfield County Health Officer Sara Wartman said her office will spend the next several days trying to track down those people who had “close contact” with the student to give them guidance and monitor them.

Taking survey can help thwart COVID-19, spread Wisconsin Idea
In a fast-moving response to COVID-19, the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities are joining forces to help slow the spread of the disease. And they need your help.

What can you do? Read the article... Share the survey from the League's page to your own Facebook page... (Note - we've received almost 30,000 responses and may close the survey soon.)

UPFRONT recap: Milwaukee mayor in coronavirus quarantine
“My strongest message to people is, please, you’re safer at home. So please, stay home,” the mayor said in a Skype interview from his home on “UPFRONT.”
“It’s not just about you. It’s about everybody else, because you may be a carrier,” Barrett said. Read the article...

 A pedal car, generosity and small museum can't escape the COVID-19 pandemic (City of Lancaster)
Even though the museum is closed, the car is prominently displayed in the museum’s front window. At some point there will be a public ceremony, and the full exhibit and the rest of the museum’s collection will be able to be enjoyed. Read the article...

Todd Schmidt, Waunakee Village Administrator Facebook Live Message to his community on March 22, 2020

The Local Perspective - PFAS
PFAS is in the air, food containers, stain repellents, cosmetics and is used in manufacturing as well firefighting foam. It’s also in the water. What is the municipal responsibility and ability to mitigate? Paul Kent , Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, who literally wrote the book on water law in Wisconsin is Jerry Deschane’s guest on the League’s Local Perspective. They talk about all of these issues plus the science. Watch it here. Thanks to FACTv in Fitchburg for hosting!

Since the 2019-2020 legislative session is nearly over and no bills introduced at this time will have a chance of passing both houses, no newly introduced bills will be reported in the remaining issues of the Legislative Bulletin for this session.

No public hearings on municipal bills are scheduled for this week.