February WPRA Legislative Update

  • Wisconsin’s Legislative Session. The Wisconsin legislature is almost at the end of their 2023-24 session. The Assembly plans to be on the floor next week, February 20th and 22nd and the Senate will be in on February 20th. The Assembly plans to “gavel out” in February, while the Senate will likely hold an additional floor day in March. After that, legislators will head back to their districts… which may be changing soon…
  • Redistricting. Hanging over the end of the session, is the pressing question of what will happen in the Wisconsin redistricting saga. Recall, in December the State Supreme Court declared Wisconsin’s current state maps as unconstitutional and put forth a process for parties to submit maps, which were then reviewed by outside consultants. The consultants reviewed the submissions and reported that the GOP maps were gerrymandered, and the others were pretty much the same. Now the court can either choose a map or alter or draw new maps. Now for the curveball – concerned that the Court may choose maps that would significantly help Dems get the majority, legislative Republicans this week passed the maps that Governor Evers submitted to the Court. The Governor now has until Tuesday to sign or veto the maps.
  • Stewardship Case. The State Supreme Court has agreed to take up Governor Evers case challenging the legislative authority – limiting the scope of the case to just the actions of the Joint Finance Committee for Stewardship projects. The case comes after years of logjam at the JFC level for Stewardship projects that are then indefinitely objected to. For example, one park project in Milwaukee was not reviewed until two and a half years after an objection. Oral arguments are set for April.
  • Speaker’s Childhood Obesity Taskforce Bills Advance. At the beginning of the fall, Assembly Speaker Vos created several bipartisan legislative task forces to research policy areas and offer solutions. The Taskforce legislators advanced a package of bills, including a bill to fund a new $5 million childhood obesity prevention and management grant program. Local government would be eligible for the matching grant. The bill moved out of the Assembly Committee and WPRA submitted testimony in support. The Taskforce package is on the tentative calendar for the Assembly floor next Tuesday, February 20th. Meanwhile, the prospects in the Senate don’t look positive. The bill has only received a public hearing in the Senate, with no committee vote.
  • Raising the Bidding Threshold Advances. Legislation (AB 723/SB 688) to raise the bidding threshold for local governments to $50,000 continues to advance. AB 723 is on the tentative Assembly calendar for Tuesday, February 20th.  WPRA, along with the League of Municipalities and the Wisconsin Counties Association are all in favor of this legislation. The bill continues to advance along partisan lines due to a provision to require school districts to also utilize competitive bidding. This has led numerous school organizations to register against the bill. Unfortunately, the author is unwilling to remove the school district provisions in the bill, which are the cause of the opposition.