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Legislative Update


WASB thanks Governor for supporting school boards, local control

In this Thanksgiving season many of us are taking time to express thanks in a variety of ways.  Yesterday, WASB Executive Director John Ashley wrote to Gov. Evers to thank him for supporting local school board decision-making during this difficult pandemic.

As we reported in an earlier blog post, Gov. Evers publicly supported school boards during a recent press conference where he was asked about a call by the state’s largest teachers union for the state to mandate uniform “return to school” criteria on all school districts in Wisconsin.  When asked to comment on that request, the governor responded that local school boards, administrators and teachers statewide were “doing their best” and there are places where in-person instruction is “frankly, working well” and that it is “a difficult thing for us to sit here and talk about it being a one (single, uniform) answer to 420-some school districts.”

The WASB appreciates that the governor recognized that school boards and administrators are doing the best job they can as they make difficult decisions that balance the science and their own community’s circumstances. 

read more…

Resolutions to be considered at 2021 WASB Delegate Assembly now online

The Report to the Membership on Proposed 2021 WASB Resolutions has now been posted on the WASB website.   The report presents the resolutions that were advanced by the Policy & Resolutions Committee and will be considered by the 2021 WASB Delegate Assembly along with the rationale for each resolution.  

The WASB Delegate Assembly will held on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. This year, for the first time, the Delegate Assembly will be held using a virtual format.  More information for delegates will be forthcoming, including specific information about how to participate in online format of this year’s Delegate Assembly. 

School leaders and others who are not delegates will be able to watch a streaming video of the proceedings of the Delegate Assembly. 

Watch the WASB Legislative Update Blog for more information.

Report on state revenues, state agency budget requests released

Report on state revenues, state agency budget requests released

As required by statute, the state Department of Administration (DOA) submitted its Nov. 20 summary of state agency budget requests for the 2021-23 biennium along with the state tax revenue estimates for the remainder of the 2020-21 fiscal year and the following two fiscal years (2021-22 and 2022-23).

The summary’s bottom line: Even with a healthy $1.2 billion ending balance to finish the current biennium and modest new revenue growth expected in the next biennium, the state would face a $1.2 billion deficit if every agency request were approved as submitted, something the report notes is unlikely. read more…

Evers issues new emergency order, extends face coverings mandate

As the Wisconsin Supreme Court continues to mull over a challenge to the governor’s power to issue emergency orders, Gov. Tony Evers issued a new emergency declaration on Friday (11/20) and an accompanying statewide face coverings mandate.  This new order will continue through Jan. 19.

The move came as an existing emergency order and face coverings mandate was about to expire and as the governor’s previous emergency order and face coverings order is before the the state Supreme Court following a challenge backed by Republican legislative leaders that contends the governor’s authority to issue emergency declarations is limited to a single, one-time, 60-day long order, unless extended by the Legislature.

Read the order declaring a public health emergency (Executive Order #95).
Read
the order extending the face coverings mandate (Emergency Order #1).

Senate, Assembly Dems announce JFC appointments

Senate, Assembly Dems announce JFC appointments

Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley (D-Mason) has announced she will reappoint Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) and Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) to the powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee (JFC). Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) announced the reappointment of Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and the appointment of Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) who replaces retiring Rep. Deb Kolste (D-Janesville) who briefly replaced outgoing Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) on the committee.

The JFC co-chairs for this coming session are Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette).  The remaining GOP members of the committee have not yet been announced. read more…

WEAC asks for state-mandated return to school standards; Gov. Evers prefers local control approach

WEAC asks for state-mandated return to school standards; Gov. Evers prefers local control approach

The state’s largest teachers union is calling for the state to mandate “return to school” criteria on all school districts in Wisconsin. According to NBC 26:

“On Tuesday, the WEAC called on the Department of Health Services and Governor Evers to begin following uniformed guidelines regarding when schools should reopen. It’s a request that would force all school districts to use data related to COVID-19 positive cases within their communities, to determine when a school should begin allowing students back to the classroom.”

Gov. Tony Evers was asked about this request during his COVID-19 press conference yesterday (Nov 18) where he responded that local school boards, administrators and teachers statewide were “doing their best” and there were places where in-person instruction was “frankly, working well” and that it was “a difficult thing for us to sit here and talk about it being a one answer to 420-some school districts”. See the clip courtesy of WisconsinEye. read more…

Speaker Vos lays out Assembly GOP ideas for a COVID-19 bill, including school liability protections

Speaker Vos lays out Assembly GOP ideas for a COVID-19 bill, including school liability protections

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) held a press conference  this afternoon (11/17) to detail some ideas Assembly Republicans have for a state COVID-19 response bill after Gov. Evers released his legislative proposals earlier today. 

From a school perspective, the WASB is pleased the Speaker mentioned limited liability protections from COVID-19 lawsuits for schools, businesses and other entities acting in good faith. The Speaker did not have bill language or details on these ideas but said he was open to negotiating with the governor and Senate to potentially come back in session to pass legislation in December.

The WASB has recommended to key legislative leaders that Wisconsin provide school districts and district employees with immunity from civil liability for COVID-19 related death, injury, or damages unless there is willful, wanton or reckless behavior on the part of a school district or school district employee. Schools that are exercising due care should not be subject to frivolous lawsuits or suits brought merely for their settlement value. Liability protections would serve as a deterrent to such “nuisance” suits.

Other ideas mention by Speaker Vos include beefing up contact tracing, more rapid testing, developing at-home testing and moving around state agency employees to temporarily assist in these areas. He also stressed his preference to use federal CARES Act dollars instead of state money to fund these efforts.

Gov. Evers releases COVID-19 legislative package including assessment/report card waivers & rehiring retired staff

Gov. Evers releases COVID-19 legislative package including assessment/report card waivers & rehiring retired staff

Gov. Evers today released details of a legislative package addressing COVID-19 including two provisions strongly supported by the WASB:

1) Waivers for state assessments and report cards for the 2020-21 school year; and 

2) Allow rehiring of retired teachers and staff and the ability to reinstate their licensure through the end of 2021.

According to Wispolitics.com, these are two of 19 total proposals from the governor that were shared with legislative leadership.  Speaker Vos is expected to announce a legislative package from Assembly Republicans later today. More details on the provisions are shared below: read more…

State Supreme Court Hears Challenge To Evers’ Face Coverings Order, Emergency Powers

Slightly over six months after it struck down Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order on a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments today (11/16) in another challenge to Gov. Tony Evers’ and his administration’s use of state “emergency power” statutes to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

The case argues Gov. Evers exceeded his authority when he issued multiple emergency orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case heard today specifically challenges the emergency orders Evers issued on July 30 and later reissued on September 22 to impose a statewide face coverings mandate. Under those orders, individuals 5 years old and older must wear face coverings in indoor or “enclosed” public places when people who don’t live in the same household with them are present. The orders provide exemptions for certain activities, such as eating, drinking and swimming.

read more…

Rep. Nygren reappointed budget committee co-chair

Rep. Nygren reappointed budget committee co-chair

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has, as expected, reappointed Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) as Assembly Co-Chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.  He joins Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) as the co-chairs of the committee that will lead the Legislature’s work on the 2021-23 state budget. See: Nygren Statement. Vos Statement.

Additional details from WisPolitics.com:

“The appointment, which had been expected, makes the Marinette Republican the Assembly’s longest-serving co-chair since the budget committee was created in 1911.

“It will be Nygren’s fifth term leading the committee, breaking a tie with Rep. Alfred Ludvigsen, R-Hartland, for the longest-serving Assembly co-chair. Ludvigsen led the committee for four straight sessions starting in 1949.

“Outgoing Senate Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and former Sen. Walter Hollander, R-Rosendale, are the longest-serving chairs in either house, tied at six sessions apiece.”

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Thank you to the school boards, educators, administrators and everyone else who have been persevering through this challenging year. We wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day.

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