Speaker Vos Announces Assembly Committees and Chairs

By John Forester | December 12, 2018

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has announced the Assembly committees and their respective chairs for the 2019-20 session.

Assembly Committee Chairs

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When Must Walker Act on Lame Duck Bills?

By John Forester | December 11, 2018

There has been considerable confusion in the press over the laws governing gubernatorial action on the extraordinary session bills recently passed by the Legislature.  For some clarification, check out this news story by Channel3000.com.

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“Teacher Protection Act” May Be Coming Back

By John Forester | December 11, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt says he’s considering bringing back his “Teacher Protection Act” next session — but in a series of bills rather than just one.

Still, the Fond du Lac Republican cautioned he hasn’t yet made a decision about introducing it again given that the “dynamics have changed” with incoming Dem Gov.-elect Tony Evers and a new Department of Public Instruction head.

Thiesfeldt, who also chairs the Assembly Education Committee, noted there were portions of the bill earlier this session “that DPI was not opposed to, so I would hope that that would hold true” going forward.

The sweeping bill included a series of provisions aimed at safeguarding teachers and addressing violent behavior in schools. The original bill would have: let teachers review their students’ behavioral records; give teachers the ability to appeal directly to their school board if administration refuses to suspend a student; and require police to notify school administrators if a student is taken into custody for a violent felony or misdemeanor, among other things.

But the version that ultimately cleared the Assembly in February only consisted of a provision to allow teachers who were the victims of an attack by a student to avoid penalties for breaking their contract. That legislation was never taken up in the Senate.

“Being that a lot of the work is done already, I would hope to certainly get it introduced in the first six months of the session. But I’m not going to hold myself to that,” Thiesfeldt said.

See more on the bill here.

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Evers Announces “Building the People’s Budget” Tour

By John Forester | December 10, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes are launching a tour for what they’re calling Building the People’s Budget.

The statewide tour will kick off tomorrow in Green Bay and wrap up next week in Milwaukee. During the sessions, the public will be able to share their budget priorities with the pair and transition policy staff.

“The people of Wisconsin elected me to solve problems and listen to the needs of everyone,” Evers said.

Following tomorrow’s stop in Green Bay, the tour will hit Wausau on Wednesday, La Crosse Dec. 18 and Milwaukee Dec. 19.

See information on how to register for the stops here.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article here.

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Senate Passes Three Lame-Duck Bills

By John Forester | December 5, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

GOP lawmakers worked all night on three bills Dems call a lame-duck power grab, with one bill still being debated in the Assembly as of 8 a.m.

The third and most controversial measure passed the state Senate on a 17-16 vote around 6 a.m. And now the Assembly appears poised to send it on to GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who has indicated he will sign all three.

The Senate then took up a bill to protect pre-existing conditions, but that failed. The Senate is now adjourned.

The last bill was revised by GOP senators, who often convened in closed caucus.

Lawmakers would still strip Gov.-elect Tony Evers of the power to appoint the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. But that power would be restored in September in a move that appears designed to give the new guv and the GOP lawmakers a window to feel each other out on the direction of the state’s job creation agency.

That revision was one of several changes Republican senators made to a bill that would alter the relationship between the Legislature and the guv and attorney general ahead of Evers and fellow Dem Josh Kaul assuming those offices. It also included a host of other provisions, such as new restrictions on in-person absentee voting after a federal judge issued an order preventing the state from enforcing similar steps.

In tweaking the bill, GOP lawmakers, for example, previously planned to give themselves the authority to remove the AG from a case challenging the constitutionality of a state statute.

The amended bill instead would give lawmakers the power to intervene in those cases. It also would give them final approval of a settlement in such a case.

The bill cleared the Senate 17-16 after GOP Sen. Rob Cowles, of Green Bay, joined Dems in opposition to the bill.

The WEDC proposal approved today was slightly different than the original plan.

GOP lawmakers first wanted to give the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader a majority of the appointments on the WEDC Board, which would have the power to appoint the agency CEO.

The revised proposal would still give the speaker and Senate majority leader a majority of the appointments on the board. It would go to 18 voting members with 10 of them appointed by the speaker and Senate majority leader, six by the guv, and one each by the minority leaders.

The board would then pick the CEO.

But the board would drop to 16 members Sept. 1 as the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader would each lose one appointment. Under the political composition of the next session, that would mean eight Dem picks and eight from the GOP.

The guv’s power to restore the agency CEO would also be restored Sept. 1.

Dems knocked a series of proposals in the bill, including one that would drop the requirement that the agency annually and independently verify the jobs created as part of tax credits it doles out. Instead, there would be an annual check of a sample of grants, loans and tax credits to check on job creation.

The revised bill was released shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday, and Senate Majority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, slammed Republicans for keeping lawmakers hanging around the Capitol overnight as GOP legislators met behind closed doors to strike a deal.

She called the spectacle “embarrassing” and said Republicans were irresponsible for beginning the floor session without the votes needed to pass the bill.

“You’re so wrapped up in the power grab you can’t think clearly,” Shilling said. “You can’t get on the same page.”

The hours-long debate on the extraordinary session bills featured protests and national attention.

Evers appeared on CNN last night to bemoan the GOP Legislature’s action and talk about possible countermeasures.

Walker lit the Christmas tree in the Capitol but was booed, according to media reports.

And the Senate gallery had to be cleared for a time yesterday afternoon.

See more below in headlines.

The state Senate earlier this morning rejected a bill to provide new state protections for those with pre-existing conditions, which became a central issue in the fall campaigns.

GOP Sens. Dave Craig, of Big Bend, and Chris Kapenga, of Delafield, joined Dems in shooting down the bill 16-17.

Craig told WisPolitics.com afterward that he sought to amend the bill with a “state-based solution” that included high-risk insurance pools. But once that amendment was rejected, the bill too closely resembled “the failed Obamacare mess.”

Dems slammed the proposal as inadequate because it didn’t include any caps on coverage costs for consumers. They tried to amend the bill to include caps on out-of-pocket expenses, but Republicans shot down the amendment.

“This legislation becomes a very cruel joke on people with pre-existing conditions,” said state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton.

Among other things, the Affordable Care Act prohibits health insurance policies from imposing preexisting condition exclusions.

If that protection went way, the bill would require every health insurance policy to accept anyone applying for coverage regardless of whether that person has a preexisting condition.

No Republicans stood during the debate in the Senate to address the bill’s merits.

The Dems who knocked it included Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, who told the chamber she was diagnosed with a tumor not long after her election to the Legislature and would have died without health insurance.

Johnson also choked up recalling not being able to take her daughter to the doctor because she couldn’t afford it.

“I am just so angry right now,” Johnson said, accusing Republicans of wasting time and resources on the extraordinary session when there were more pressing issues concerning Wisconsin residents.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

See Wisconsin State Journal Coverage here.

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SAA, WASB File Koschkee v. Evers Amicus Brief

By John Forester | December 4, 2018

In a “Friend of the Court” brief filed with the State Supreme Court yesterday, the School Administrators Alliance (SAA) and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) requested that the Court deny the relief sought by the Petitioners in Koschkee v. Evers.  In addition, SAA/WASB asked the Court to conclude that, if applied to the State Superintendent, the challenged provision of 2017 Wisconsin Act 57 (“REINS ACT”) violates the Wisconsin Constitution by delegating to the Governor superior authority to supervise public instruction.

SAA and WASB were joined in this important endeavor by the Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association (WREA), the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA), the Southeast Wisconsin Schools Alliance (SWSA), Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW), Wisconsin PTA, Professor Julie Underwood, and the Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN).

The full brief is linked below.

Amici Curiae Brief

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Lame-Duck Session Bills Move to the Floor

By John Forester | December 4, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

Both houses of the Legislature plan to be on the floor today for three extraordinary session bills that cleared the Joint Finance Committee 12-4 along party lines early this morning.

The committee made several tweaks to the controversial measures labeled by Dems as a power grab meant to undercut the incoming Dem guv and AG — Tony Evers and Josh Kaul. Republicans say the bills would make a series of changes to state law to give the Legislature more oversight of the executive branch.

“You rig the system when you win and you rig the system when you lose,” said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, at a JFC hearing. “How is it you lose an election and you add more power after you lose?”

But JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, said 19 of the 45 proposals before the committee were either in the 2017-19 budget, would codify existing administrative rule, or would update existing state law to reflect court decisions or federal law.

He said Gov.-elect Tony Evers didn’t win this fall saying he would reject the waiver of a work requirement under the Medicaid program. But he is bringing it up now. If Evers really wants to work with Republicans, who will continue to control both houses of the Legislature next session, it would be best if they’re as equals.

“Him being able to undo what we’ve done with a simple signature is not a co-equal branch of government,” Nygren said.

Republicans originally released five bills, including one that incorporated all of the provisions in the other four. But the committee didn’t take up the omnibus legislation.

JFC also didn’t take up a bill that would move the 2020 presidential primary off the April ballot and to a new election day in March. That bill also included two provisions on absentee voting. Those pieces on absentee voting were instead added to another extraordinary session bill.

Nygren said he doesn’t believe Republicans have the votes to approve the primary change and he believes GOP leaders don’t intend to take up the bill on the floor Tuesday.

Other changes the committee made to the legislation include:

*removing a provision that would’ve exempted the Department of Public Instruction from administrative rules requirements that are part of the package. The state Supreme Court has ruled that DPI isn’t subject to changes Republicans made to the administrative rules process in 2011, though a conservative group is now pushing the justices to reconsider that decision. Some conservatives had raised objections to the provision exempting DPI, because it would’ve codified that earlier Supreme Court ruling.

*keeping a window of about two weeks for in-person absentee voting as proposed in the original package. But the committee deleted restrictions on the time of day it can be offered and specified that clerks or election commissioners could offer more than one voting location. The GOP motion also made clear that in-person absentee voting can be offered every day over the two-week period. Previously, Republicans limited the hours it can be offered and prohibited clerks from offering it on Sunday. But a federal judge issued an injunction banning enforcement of those restrictions.

*modifying a provision that would give the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization the authority to appoint a special counsel to say the body would have to make the appointment in the consultation with the Department of Justice.

*adding a prohibition on local governments from using their own workforce or contracting with another political subdivision for a local road or bridge project funded, in whole or in part, with state money. The provision also says local governments would have to to bid out any local road or bridge project funded with state money.

Read the motion here.

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Fitzgerald: “We don’t trust Tony Evers right now”

By John Forester | December 3, 2018

Check out this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald’s comments about Governor-elect Evers and why GOP legislators are moving forward with a lame-duck session designed to weaken the incoming Democratic governor.

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Open Enrollment Space Limitations

By John Forester | December 3, 2018

From the Legal Side…

The most recent legal update from the Strang Patteson Law Firm has a very straight-forward conclusion as evidenced by its title: 2019-20 Open Enrollment Space Limitations Must Be Set During the January 2019 School Board Meeting.

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403(b) Plans Remedial Amendment Period

By John Forester | November 29, 2018

From the Legal Side…

In its most recent newsletter, Boardman Clark provides an update focused on the IRS 403(b) plan remedial amendment period.

The SAA regularly receives these legal updates and we believe this is valuable information for SAA members.  We are distributing this update to SAA members with the permission of Boardman Clark.

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