April 2017 Legislative Update

WS&DSA Legislative Committee Members:

Overview

Both the Senate and the Assembly convened on January 3, 2017, to inaugurate the 2017 Legislature. Governor Walker has called a special session of the legislature to consider recommendations of his Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

On Feb. 8, Governor Walker introduced his 2017-19 budget. This kicks off the legislative budget process that will command the legislature’s time for the next several months. The legislature referred his recommendations to the legislature’s budget-writing committee, the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC).

The last week of March, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met for three days  to hear testimony from state agencies on the governor’s proposed budget. Legislators questioned department heads on the implementation of budget proposals, and inquired about various agency services. Both Republicans and Democrats on JFC posed tough questions on the budget’s biggest proposals, including moving state employees to self-insurance, increases in education funding and the transportation budget.

This week and later in April, JFC will be traveling across the state for six public hearings. After the public hearings, JFC will meet several days each week to take votes in executive sessions on issues in the budget. During the executive sessions, discussion is limited to JFC members and Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) and State Budget Office staff. There is no testimony. JFC typically begins executive sessions voting on smaller agencies budgets as they are less contentious. The big budget items – Medicaid, Transportation, Taxes and Education – tend to be last.

Because the fiscal year ends on June 30, it is ideal to wrap JFC’s review of the budget in May. This session, legislative leaders in both houses are already projecting very different budget timelines. Speaker Vos commented that he is prepared for the budget to drag into the fall. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald predicted the budget will be finished much sooner, hopefully by July 4.

Regardless of the specific dates, the JFC modifications are incorporated in a substitute amendment and sent to the full legislature for floor votes in each house. The legislative process and the governor’s review can take another month before a final budget is signed in to law. Based on the legislative leaders’ predictions, it is fair to assume we could see a budget bill signing in July or as late as November.


WS&DSA Priority Issues

Asset Forfeiture (SB 61/ AB 122)
WS&DSA Position: Opposed
Status: Introduced; Pending Committee hearings

Sens. David Craig (R- Town of Vernon) and Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater), and Reps. Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) and Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) have introduced legislation to change the civil asset forfeiture process in Wisconsin. The bill allows property to be subject to forfeiture only if a person is convicted of the crime related to the action for forfeiture and only if the court finds that the property seized is proportional to the crime committed. Instead of allowing some of the proceeds of the sale to cover administrative and other costs, all the proceeds from the sale of property would be directed to the state school fund.

WS&DSA is working with a coalition of law enforcement organizations to oppose this bill. The coalition issued a memo urging legislators to not support the legislation and WS&DSA continues to discuss the bill’s issues with legislators.


Protective Status
for County Jailers
WS&DSA Position: Support Current Draft –final bill pending
Status: Bill in drafting

WS&DSA continues to work with Badger State Sheriffs’ Association (BSSA) and the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) on a compromise bill to provide protective status for county jailers. Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) is working with the three groups to finalize the draft language. The current draft reflects several of the requested changes from WS&DSA and BSSA, including specifying a county jailer’s duties are “as assigned by the sheriff under s. 59.27 (1)”. Also, the draft reflects a requested change to include an opt-in or opt-out of protective status if there is a major life event.


Benefits to Survivors of Those Killed in the Line of Duty:
(SB 97/AB 150)
WS&DSA Position: Support
Status: Introduced; Pending Committee hearings 

Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield) introduced a bill to allow health benefits to survivors of those killed in the line of duty. The legislation requires a municipality or county pay health insurance premiums of the surviving spouse (until they remarry or reach age 65, whichever comes first) and children (until they reach age 18, or age 26 if a dependent and full-time student) of a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or EMT who dies in the line of duty. The state would later reimburse the municipality or county for these payments.

WS&DSA supports this legislation and worked with other law enforcement groups to generate support for the bill. Although WS&DSA fully supports the legislation, WS&DSA asked Sen. Wanggaard if he would be open to amending the bill to include jailers.


911 Modernization
WS&DSA Position: Support Current Draft –final bill pending
Status: Bill in drafting

WS&DSA, along with BSSA, supports a proposal to invest in 911 modernization. The proposal is spearheaded by the Wisconsin Counties Association and Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association. The proposal includes the following components:

  • Directs the state to issue an RFP that, where possible, to utilize existing infrastructure, such as the BadgerNet, for a statewide ESInet system to provide all PSAPs with the network needed to implement necessary NG911 services.
  • Utilizes existing funds from the PFPF to create the modernized statewide system, while also maintaining the existing shared revenue appropriation. An estimated $7 million would be needed annually to build and maintain the ESInet system.
  • Assigns a state agency to guide NG911. Create a council comprised of stakeholder experts who will assist statewide efforts to transition to NG911 as well as consider sustainable funding streams that will enable local PSAPs to purchase and maintain NG911-capable equipment into the future.
  • Eliminates or phase-out the current surcharge on landline phones (assessed up to 40 cents per month) as the surcharge is unnecessary following the ESInet transition if provider network expenses are included in the RFP.

 

Single Plate
WS&DSA Position: Oppose
Status: No bill or budget item

Department of Transportation 2017-19 budget request included options for reducing the agency’s budget by five percent. Included in these options is a proposal for implementing single license plates. The governor did not include this provision in his proposed 2017-19 budget.

However, eliminating the front plate may still be still an option being considered by Joint Finance Committee members. WS&DSA will work with other law enforcement organizations and other interested groups to oppose any budget proposal or separate legislation that removes the front plate.