The Senate Committee on Economic Development and Technical Colleges chaired by Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) is holding the hearing today at the Capitol. Senate and Assembly leaders took no action on the legislation during the Sept. 20 special session called by Gov. Evers, but promised to address the issues with ideas of their own and kept the session open.
“Last week, Evers urged Sen. Feyen to hold a hearing soon on the legislation, Special Session Senate Bill 1. Feyen responded that he would do so once the fiscal bureau report was in hand. After that report was distributed Monday, Feyen added the legislation to the committee’s agenda for a meeting already scheduled for Wednesday. The hearing is scheduled for 10:31 a.m. in the state Capitol.
“The fiscal bureau report calculates that the Evers proposal will cost $1.36 billion over the two-year budget period. About $1.1 billion of that would come from the state’s general purpose revenue, with another $41 million from federal funds and $243 million from segregated state funds.”
Items of interest to school board in the proposal include payments to child care programs established or contracted for by a school board, significant changes to family and medical leave law (FMLA), allowing Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) annuitants to return to work; and various grants and stipends to address teacher workforce challenges. See more below:
Payments to child care programs
This bill authorizes the Department of Children and Families to establish a program for making monthly payments and monthly per-child payments to certified child care providers, licensed child care centers, and child care programs established or contracted for by a school board. This new payment program is in addition to the current law system for providing child care payments under Wisconsin Shares. The bill allows DCF to promulgate rules to implement the program, including establishing eligibility requirements and payment amounts and setting requirements for how recipients may use the payments. The bill funds the program through a new appropriation and by allocating federal moneys, including child care development funds and moneys received under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program.
Family and medical leave expansion
Under the current family and medical leave law, an employer that employs at least 50 individuals on a permanent basis must permit an employee who has been employed by the employer for more than 52 consecutive weeks and who has worked for the employer for at least 1,000 hours during the preceding 52 weeks to take family leave to care for the employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, or parent who has
a serious health condition. Employers covered under the law must also permit an employee covered under the law to take up to two weeks of medical leave in a 12-month period when that employee has a serious health condition. An employee may file a complaint with the Department of Workforce Development regarding an alleged violation of the family and medical leave law within 30 days after either the violation occurs or the employee should reasonably have known that the violation occurred, whichever is later.
This bill makes the following changes to the family and medical leave law:
1. Requires employers covered under the law to permit employees covered under the law to take family leave to provide for a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling who has a serious health condition.
2. Decreases the number of hours an employee is required to work before qualifying for family and medical leave to 680 hours during the preceding 52 weeks.
3. Increases the amount of weeks an employee is able to take in family and medical leave for any eligible reason to 12 weeks.
4. Extends the time period in which an employee may file a complaint with DWD to 300 days after either the violation occurs or the employee should reasonably have known that the violation occurred, whichever is later.
5. Removes the age restriction from the definition of “child” for various purposes under the family and medical leave law.
6. Requires employers to permit employees to take family leave in the instance of an unforeseen or unexpected gap in child care for an employee’s child, grandchild, or sibling or because of a qualifying exigency as to be determined by DWD related to covered active duty, as defined in the bill, or notification of an impending call or order to covered active duty of an employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling who is a member of the U.S. armed forces.
7. Requires employers to permit employees to take family leave to address issues related to the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling being the victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or stalking.
8. Requires employers to permit employees to take family leave to care for a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling of an employee who is in medical isolation and requires employers to permit employees to take medical leave when an employee is in medical isolation. The bill defines “medical isolation” to include when a local health officer or the Department of Health Services advises that an individual isolate or quarantine; when a health care professional, a local health officer, or DHS advises that an individual seclude herself or himself when awaiting the results of a diagnostic test for a communicable disease or when the individual is infected with a communicable disease; and when an individual’s employer advises that the individual not come to the workplace due to a concern that the individual may have been exposed to or infected with a communicable disease.
Family and medical leave benefits insurance program
This bill creates a family and medical leave benefits insurance program, to be administered by DWD, under which a covered individual who is on certain family or medical leave is eligible, beginning on January 1, 2025, to receive up to 12 weeks of family or medical leave insurance benefits as specified in the bill from the family and medical leave benefits insurance trust fund created under the bill. For purposes of the bill, the following definitions apply:
1. A “covered individual” is an individual who worked for the same employer for at least 680 hours in the calendar year prior to the year in which the covered individual claims family or medical leave insurance benefits (application year) or a self-employed individual or employee of a small employer who elects coverage under the program.
2. “Family leave” means leave from employment, self-employment, or availability for employment for the birth or adoptive placement of a new child; to care for a family member who has a serious health condition or is in medical isolation; for covered active duty; or to address issues related to being the victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or stalking.
3. “Medical leave” means leave from employment, self-employment, or availability for employment when a covered individual is in medical isolation or has a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her employment duties.
Under the bill, the amount of family or medical leave insurance benefits for a week for which those benefits are payable is as follows:
1. For the amount of the covered individual’s average weekly earnings that are less than 50 percent of the state annual median wage in the calendar year before the individual’s application year, 90 percent of that individual’s average weekly earnings.
2. For the amount of the covered individual’s average weekly earnings that are more than 50 percent of the state annual median wage in the calendar year before the individual’s application year, 50 percent of that individual’s average weekly earnings.
Beginning on January 1, 2025, the bill requires each individual employed in this state by an employer that regularly employs at least 50 individuals, including an individual employed by the state, and any self-employed individual or employee of a small employer who elects coverage under the family and medical leave benefits insurance program to contribute to the trust fund a percentage of his or her wages
from employment or income from self-employment. Under the bill, each employer must contribute the same amount as an employee. The bill requires DWD to collect those contributions in the same manner as DWD collects contributions to the unemployment reserve fund under current law.
The bill provides that an employer that provides paid family and medical leave benefits that are identical to or more generous than those provided under the program may request an exemption from participation in the program. The bill requires DWD to promulgate rules to provide exemptions from participation in the program.
The bill further does the following:
1. Requires DWD to promulgate rules providing for a right to a hearing in cases of disputes involving an individual’s eligibility for benefits or status as a covered individual under the program.
2. Requires DWD to promulgate rules providing for a right to a hearing in cases involving the liability of employers for contributions under the program.
3. Allows DWD to seek repayment of family or medical leave insurance benefits that are paid erroneously or as a result of willful misrepresentation. The bill allows DWD to establish other procedures for recovering overpayments and allows DWD to utilize procedures under the unemployment insurance law.
Paid family and medical leave
This bill requires the administrator of the Division of Personnel Management in the Department of Administration to develop a program for paid family and medical leave of 12 weeks annually for most state employees. The bill requires the administrator to submit the plan for approval as a change to the state compensation plan to the Joint Committee on Employment Relations. If JCOER approves the plan,
the plan becomes effective immediately.
The bill also requires the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System to develop a plan for a program for paid family and medical leave of 12 weeks annually for employees of the system and requires the board to submit the plan to the administrator of the Division of Personnel Management in DOA with its compensation plan changes for the 2023-25 biennium.
WRS annuitants returning to work
Under current law, if a Wisconsin Retirement System annuitant, or a disability annuitant who has attained his or her normal retirement date, is appointed to a position with a WRS-participating employer or provides employee services to a WRS-participating employer in which he or she is expected to work at least two-thirds of what is considered full-time employment by the Department of Employee Trust Funds, the annuity must be suspended and no annuity payment is payable until after the participant again terminates covered employment.
This bill removes the requirement that an annuitant suspend his or her annuity and instead allows an annuitant to elect to suspend the annuity and again become a participating employee or elect to not suspend his or her annuity and not become a participating employee. In other words, the bill allows an annuitant who returns to work for a participating employer but elects not to become a participating employee for purposes of the WRS to continue to receive his or her annuity.
Under current law, a WRS participant who has applied to receive a retirement annuity must wait at least 75 days between terminating covered employment with a WRS employer and returning to covered employment again as a participating employee. The bill reduces that period to 30 days.
Grants to encourage teaching careers
The bill creates a new grant program administered by the Department of Public Instruction and available to school districts and operators of independent charter schools to reimburse the cost of “Grow Your Own” programs. Under the bill, Grow Your Own programs include high school clubs that encourage careers in teaching, payment of costs associated with current staff acquiring education needed for licensure, support for career pathways using dual enrollment, support for partnerships focused on attracting or developing new teachers, or incentives for paraprofessionals to gain licensure. The bill appropriates $5,000,000 in fiscal year
2024-25 for this purpose.
Teacher improvement program
Under current law, DPI operates a teacher improvement program to provide prospective teachers with one-semester internships under the supervision of licensed teachers, in-service activities, and professional staff development research projects.
Under the bill, DPI must provide stipends to individuals who are participating in the teacher improvement program. The stipends are $9,600 per individual per semester and begin in the 2024-25 school year.
Stipends to student teachers
The bill provides stipends, through DPI, to student teachers who are completing a teacher preparatory program that is approved by the superintendent of public instruction. The stipends are $2,500 per student teacher per semester and begin in the 2024-25 school year.
Stipends to teachers overseeing student teachers
The bill provides stipends, through DPI, to teachers who are overseeing a student teacher in their classrooms. The stipends are in the amount of $1,000 per teacher per semester and begin in the 2024-25 school year.