Legislative Update: Judge blocks GOP’s lame duck session laws

Legislative Updates

A Dane County judge has issued a temporary injunction preventing enforcement of Republicans’ lame duck laws, ruling the Legislature didn’t lawfully convene. The judge refused to dismiss the suit brought forward by Democrats and denied a Republican request to stay his injunction. “There can be no justification for enforcement of the unconstitutional legislative actions emanating from the December 2018 ‘Extraordinary Session’ that is consistent with the rule of law,” he wrote.

On Friday, GOP lawmakers went to the 3rd District Court of Appeals seeking an emergency stay of the judge’s ruling.

Withdrawal from ACA suit. Governor Tony Evers immediately called on Attorney General Josh Kaul to “take whatever steps are necessary” to withdraw from the multi-state lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. The lame duck laws included one barring the Department of Justice from withdrawing from lawsuits without the Legislature’s approval.

Tentative JFC hearings. A letter sent to agencies included the following tentative schedule for Joint Finance Committee state budget hearings:

  • Friday, April 5 – Janesville Area
  • Thursday, April 11 – Milwaukee Area
  • Monday, April 15 – River Falls/Hudson Area
  • Wednesday, April 24 – Green Bay Area

Dueling branches. Since Evers’ budget address in late February, there is plenty of back-and-forth between the governor and Republican legislative leaders over dueling versions of similar initiatives, such as middle-class tax cuts. In that example, Republicans passed their own tax cut plan, which was vetoed by the governor before he introduced his own as part of his budget. Things continue to heat up, as Republicans have begun hinting at introducing some education provisions as stand-alone bills, instead of supporting them as part of the governor’s budget. One of those is rehiring retired teachers. More here:

Rehiring retired teachers. Evers’ budget plan includes a provision to allow retired teachers to be rehired while continuing to collect their pensions and earn a new salary. That would reverse a 2013 change Republicans pushed through and also lines up with a recent recommendation from the Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Education Funding. Evers’ plan would require a 30-day break in service instead of 75, prohibit teachers from having an agreement in place at the time they retire, and hold their pension payments steady instead of increasing from the salary they earn by working again. Supporters say it’s a common sense solution, since waiting 75 days after retirement means a teacher could not be rehired in time for the start of a new school year.

According to the Department of Employee Trust Funds, there were 4,407 retirees who were rehired to public jobs in 2018. Of those, 55.7 percent were teachers. The vast majority worked less than two-thirds of full-time hours, allowing them to continue collecting their pensions. 

Capital deadlock. The state Building Commission deadlocked on Governor Tony Evers’ $2.5 billion capital budget, believed to be the first time that’s happened in the commission’s 70-year history. Evers was mystified that Republicans refused to recommend passage after every project in the document unanimously cleared committees earlier this week. “Disappointed is an understatement,” Evers said. 

Bills Circulating:

County jailers and the WRS (SB5/AB5). Public hearings were held for this bill, which would classify county jailers as protective occupation participants under the Wisconsin Retirement System and under the Municipal Employment Relations Act.

Human Trafficking (AB22)A public hearing was held on this bill that would fight human trafficking through trucker education. This legislation would establish industry-specific materials on the recognition and prevention of human trafficking for use in the instruction in driver education courses that provide instruction in the operation of commercial motor vehicles. This will affect new drivers only.

Prohibiting Conversion Therapy (SB107). Prohibits certain mental health providers from engaging in conversion therapy with a minor.  Conversion therapy is any practice that seeks to change an individual’s gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation. In addition, the bill specifies that a violation of the prohibition in the bill by a mental health provider is grounds for professional discipline by the appropriate credentialing board.

Banning the ‘R’ Word. A bill was already introduced to ban terms such as “mentally retarded” from administrative rules when Governor Tony Evers recently issued an executive order to remove “mentally retarded,” “mental retardation” and “handicapped.” The Republican sponsor of the bill says he will continue to bring the bill forward, despite the executive order, because the legislative action would be a permanent solution because an executive order could be rescinded by a later governor. Evers has indicated he would sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

School Lunch Requirements (AB-084). A bill imposing requirements related to school lunch and breakfast programs in certain schools was referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

Apprenticeship Grants (SB-044). A hearing was held on this bill to provide grants to technical college students for apprenticeship expenses. 

 Youth Apprenticeship Program (SB-072). A hearing was held on this bill requiring certain occupational areas to be included in the youth apprenticeship program.

Youth Apprenticeships (SB-088) A hearing was held on this bill regarding youth apprenticeship programs.

School Hours (SB-112). An emergency exception for high performing school districts to the number of hours of direct pupil instruction requirement. 

Minority Teacher Loan Program (SB55/ AB51). An amendment to include tribal schools in the expansion of the minority teacher loan program has been added to this bill.

Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:

 UW Tuition Grants (LRB-2266). Grants for certain University of Wisconsin and technical college graduates who paid nonresident tuition; granting rule-making authority.

WRS Military Service (LRB-0930). Creditable military service under the Wisconsin Retirement System.