DPI Final Budget Summary

By John Forester | July 20, 2015

The Department of Public Instruction has released its final summary of the 2015-17 State Budget.  This document incorporates the changes adopted by the state Senate as well as the governor’s vetoes.

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Sen. Johnson Questions Voucher Probe

By John Forester | July 17, 2015

Here’s an interesting article by Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about how Sen. Ron Johnson is using his authority as a committee chairman to question the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into whether Milwaukee voucher schools discriminated against students with disabilities.

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Walker Signs Budget Using 104 Vetoes

By John Forester | July 13, 2015

Governor Scott Walker signed Wisconsin’s 2015-17 state budget into law on Sunday after using his powerful veto pen to alter 104 items.  You can access the governor’s complete veto message here.

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DPI Budget Bill Summary

By John Forester | July 10, 2015

The DPI has released a summary of the state budget bill as modified by the Joint Finance Committee.

See the summary here.

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SAA Veto Request Letter

By John Forester | July 9, 2015

The SAA hand delivered its veto request letter to the Governors office earlier today.

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Budget Heads to Walker’s Desk

By John Forester | July 9, 2015

The two-year budget is now headed to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk, giving him a narrow window to sign the document ahead of his presidential announcement on Monday.

The Assembly concurred on the Senate-amended budget 52-46 as 11 Republicans joined Dems in opposing the bill.  The current budget cycle ended on June 30, but majority GOP lawmakers went past the deadline to wrestle with sticky issues like transportation and prevailing wage.

The 11 Republicans who voted against the budget all hail from some of the most competitive seats in the chamber.

They are:

Kathy Bernier of Chippewa Falls
Ed Brooks of Reedsburg
James “Jimmy Boy” Edming of Glen Flora
Dave Heaton of Wausau
Scott Krug of Nekoosa
Lee Nerison of Westby
Todd Novak of Dodgeville
Warren Petryk of Eleva
Keith Ripp of Lodi
Travis Tranel of Cuba City
Nancy VanderMeer of Tomah

Dem Rep. Chris Danou was absent for the debate.

See the roll call here.

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Interactive Map of School Aid Changes

By John Forester | July 8, 2015

The Wisconsin Budget Project has created an interactive map of the latest DPI estimates of the change in general school aids.  Simply click on a county and you’ll see the estimated change for the county as a whole and for each district.

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Lasee: Changes to Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems Coming Out

By John Forester | July 7, 2015

From WisPolitics.com . . .

Senator Frank Lasee, co-chair of the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems, said a move to have the body comprised entirely of political appointments is coming out of the budget.

The committee is now made up of 10 members, including lawmakers, a member of the public appointed by the guv, an assistant attorney general and others.  But the Joint Finance Committee’s wrap-up motion included a provision to have five members of the Assembly and five from the Assembly to serve on the body.  “Taking those members off and making it more of a political issue long-term is not a good idea,” Lasee said. “I think it’s a little short-sighted.”

A spokeswoman for Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, confirmed the change will be made.

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SAGE Bill Signed Into Law

By John Forester | July 7, 2015

2015 Senate Bill 32 was signed into law as 2015 Wisconsin Act 53 by Governor Scott Walker on July 1.

The SAA supported Senate Bill 32, relating to transforming the SAGE program into the Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) program.  This bill was developed by the Joint Legislative Council Study Committee on the SAGE program.  Our primary reason for supporting this bill is the enhanced flexibility that would be afforded to schools participating in the Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) program.

For more information, please see the Legislative Council’s Act Memo and the SAA’s Testimony on the bill.

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Legislative Alert: Your Response Needed!

By John Forester | July 7, 2015

On Thursday, July 2, 2015 the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) approved motion #999 changing the composition of the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems (JSCRS).  This language was inserted into the budget bill without a hearing or public input.  The JSCRS oversees all legislation that pertains to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).  Additional background information and the motion in its entirety is below.

The SAA, in it’s capacity as lobbyist for the Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association (WREA), advised WREA on the issuance of its legislative alert on this issue yesterday.  Today, the SAA is following up with its own legislative alert.  Please contact your legislators as soon as possible and ask that they oppose this provision and seek its removal from the budget bill.

The SAA opposes this provision for the following reasons:

1. Removes public oversight from the process and replaces members with partisan legislators.

2. Does not provide for a transparent process.

3. Eliminates individuals familiar with the system and statutory knowledge.

4. The lack of retirement system statutory knowledge could open the state up to possible lawsuits due to infringements on retiree rights.

Time is of the essence on this.  The Senate will debate the budget beginning this morning at 11am, with the Assembly planning to take it up on Wednesday or Thursday of this week.  Please use the information above and below in your communications to your legislators.  Given that the Senate is readying to head to the floor, please consider phoning or emailing your concerns on this immediatelyFor your convenience we have provided the links to the Senate DirectoryAssembly Directory as well as Who Are My Legislators.

Background Information

The motion #999 (27. a.) reads as follows:

27. Legislative Organization and Powers. Modify the authority and organization of the Legislature in the following areas as indicated.

a. Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems. Delete current law which provides that the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems (JSCRS) be composed of 10 members as follows: (1) two majority party senators, one minority party senator, two majority party representatives, and one minority party representative, appointed as are the members of standing committees in their respective houses; (2) an assistant attorney general appointed by the Attorney General; (3) a member of the public who is not a participant in any public retirement system in Wisconsin, to be selected by the Governor; (4) the Commissioner of Insurance or an experienced actuary in the Commissioner’s Office designated by the Commissioner; and (5) the Secretary of Employee Trust Funds or his or her designee. Instead, provide that JSCRS continue to be composed of 10 members, consisting of five senators and five representatives  appointed as are members of standing committees in their respective houses. With the elimination of non legislator members from JSCRS, delete the requirement that the secretary of JSCRS be elected from the non legislator members of the committee. Delete current law which provides that legislators, the assistant attorney general and the member of the public appointed to JSCRS under current law serve for a period of four years and until a successor is appointed and qualified. Further, delete current law which provides that any member of JSCRS ceases to be a member of the committee upon losing the status upon which the appointment was based. Finally, delete current law which specifies that membership on JSCRS must not be incompatible with any other public office.

Background Information on the Duties of the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems (JSCRS)

The 10-member Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems (JSCRS) was established by Chapter 376, Laws of 1947, to function as the legislative oversight committee for all matters relating to proposed statutory changes to state-operated public employee pension plans.

Because of the complexity and potential costs to public employers of any proposed change in Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) law, a diverse JSCRS membership was established as a safeguard to ensure that such complex legislation receives adequate review.  The members of the JSCRS are:

* Three senators and three representatives, appointed as members of standing committees in their respective houses. One senator and one representative must be a member of the minority party.

* An Assistant Attorney General appointed by the Attorney General.

* A public member who is not a WRS participant or annuitant, appointed by the Governor.

* The Commissioner of Insurance or an experienced actuary designated by the Commissioner from that agency.

* The Secretary of the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) or designee.

The Committee is co-chaired by one of its Senate members and by one of its Assembly members. The Assistant Attorney General and the public member serve four-year terms and continue in office until a successor is appointed and qualified. Legislative members receive appointment or reappointment to the Committee every two years at the commencement of a new Legislature.  Any member of the Committee ceases to be a member upon losing the status on which membership is based.

Current law prohibits the Legislature from acting on any bill or amendment which would create, modify, or in any way provide for the retirement or payment of pensions to public employees unless the proposal has first been referred to the JSCRS, and the Committee has provided a written report on the bill or amendment.  Actions of the JSCRS require the approval of a majority of all of its members.

The Committee report on a bill includes:

* A description of what the bill would do.

* The probable costs of the proposal both in terms of total dollars and as a percent of participating employers’ total annual payroll.

* The likely effect of the bill on the actuarial soundness of the WRS.

* The judgment of the Committee as to whether the bill is desirable as a matter of public policy.

The Committee may hold hearings, receive testimony and review legislation; however, it does not have the authority to introduce retirement legislation or amendments to that legislation. The Committee may conclude, though, that the proposed legislation would be good public policy if amended in a certain fashion.  In such situations, the Committee’s report may indicate that fact, and an amendment to the bill accomplishing the recommended changes may subsequently be introduced by one or both of the co-chairs of the JSCRS or any other legislator.

The Legislative Council staff provides legal and research assistance to the JSCRS and may prepare fiscal estimates on bills referred to the Committee. The Legislative Council staff must also prepare a comparative study of major public employee retirement systems in the U.S. every two years.  Finally, funds may be appropriated to enable the Legislative Council staff to contract for actuarial studies approved by the JSCRS.

While the various trust funds boards, agencies and legislative committees described above are all separate entities, the overlapping memberships at the policy-making levels in these bodies is intended to provide a level of coordination of WRS activities.

 

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