Yesterday, we highlighted a couple of changes in the “wrap up” motion adopted by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC). Today, we highlight four more.
Grants for Fabrication Laboratories (“Fab Labs”). Included in the JFC “wrap-up” motion (see Item #62) were provisions to provide $500,000 to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to develop and implement an program to make up to $500,000 in grants to eligible recipients for purchases of equipment used in fabrication laboratories for instructional and educational purposes by grade school, middle school or junior high school , and high school students. (The provision defines “fabrication laboratory” as a medium-scale, high-technology workshop with computer-controlled additive and subtractive manufacturing components, including three dimensional printers, laser engravers, computer numerical control routers and plasma cutters.) Awards under the program would be made to eligible applicants, over a three-year period in proportion to the eligible equipment expenditures used in eligible fabrication laboratories in the following manner for each eligible applicant: (a) 75 percent of eligible expenditures in the first year of the grant award; (b) 50 percent of eligible expenditures in the second year; and (c) 25 percent of eligible expenditures in the third year. Grants must be awarded on a competitive basis, annually, based on financial need and without consideration of whether the grant applicant received an award during the previous calendar year. WEDC would be required to develop policies and procedures to implement the “fab lab” grant program and would be prohibited from making a grant award in excess of $25,000, annually, per eligible recipient (with a maximum total award over the three-year period of $75,000 per recipient).
General Employee Labor Union (Bargaining Unit) Recognition Elections. A provision added to the budget (see Item #25) by the JFC “wrap-up” motion clarifies that municipal general employee unions (including teacher unions) seeking initial recognition to represent a collective bargaining unit must receive at least 51 percent of the votes of all of the general employees in the collective bargaining unit in order to be initially certified to represent the collective bargaining unit.
(Under current law, a general employee union already authorized to represent a collective bargaining unit must receive at least 51 percent of the votes of all of the general employees in the bargaining unit in order to be recertified to represent the bargaining unit for another year. However, if a collective bargaining unit has been unrepresented, a general employee union must only win a majority of votes cast at the election to be initially certified to represent the bargaining unit.)
Allowing School Districts and Municipalities to Work Together to Provide Health Insurance on a Self-Insured Basis. Another provision in the “wrap-up” motion (Item #43) modifies current law provisions that allow two or more school districts or two or more local units of government (e.g., cities, villages and towns) that together have at least 100 employees to provide health insurance benefits on a self insured basis to allow school districts to combine with municipalities for the purpose of reaching the minimum 100 employee threshold for providing health insurance benefits on a self-insured basis.
SPECIAL NOTE: Two sets of provisions that were included in the JFC “wrap-up” motion apparently WILL NOT be part of the final budget bill and will be removed when the state Senate takes up the budget bill later today. These two sets of provisions are the following:
1. Exempt “deliberative materials” from Definition of Public Records. Under the JFC “wrap-up” motion (see Item #28) “deliberative materials” would not be considered a public record under the open records law. “Deliberative materials” are defined as communications and other materials, including opinions, analyses, briefings, background information. recommendations, suggestions, and notes created or prepared in the process of reaching a decision concerning a policy or course of action or in the process of drafting a document or formulating an official communication. [NOTE: This expansive exemption to the public records law was part of several other sweeping changes to the public records law that unidentified legislators inserted into the state budget through motion 999. Over the 4th of July weekend, GOP legislative leaders and Governor Walker responded to broad criticism of the provisions by declaring that they will be removed from the state budget in their entirety.]
2. Composition of the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems. The wrap-up “999” motion approved by the JFC also includes a provision (see Item #27 a.) that makes major changes to the composition of the committee that oversees the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).
Currently, the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems (JSCRS) is made up of 10 members including six legislators, two experts from state agencies related to the administration of the WRS, one assistant attorney general and a public member who is not a participant in any public retirement system in this state. The budget provision approved by the JFC removes the four non-legislator members and makes the 10-member committee all legislators as appointed by legislative leaders. It also deletes the current law requirement that the leader of the committee be elected by the non-legislative members of the committee.
[Late this morning, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) announced that WRS- related changes would be removed from the budget bill. The Senate will begin debating the budget bill this afternoon.]
Read More: Wisconsin State Journal