- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 20, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Latest on Wisconsin Legislature (all times local):

11:30 p.m.

The state Assembly has passed a Republican bill that would exempt rent-to-own businesses from Wisconsin’s consumer protection act.

The Assembly passed the bill 59-35 Tuesday. It goes next to the state Senate.

The consumer protection act currently requires rent-to-own companies to disclose their interest rates. The bill wouldn’t require companies to divulge their rates, although they would have to disclose the difference between the total cost of payments to acquire ownership and the price of the property.

Rental-purchase agreements must disclose all provisions in eight-point type or 10-point boldface type. Total recovery by renters in class-action lawsuits would be limited to $500,000

Democrats warn the bill would draw predatory rent-to-own businesses in the state. The bill’s chief Assembly sponsor, Republican Rep. Warren Petryk, countered the bill would protect consumers and create regulatory certainty for the rent-to-own industry.

___

10:35 p.m.

The state Assembly has signed off on a bill that would allow similar businesses to join together to pay for employee health care costs.

The Republican bill would allow businesses in the same chamber of commerce or industry association to join together to pay for their employee health care costs. It’s a similar approach to how large employers self-insure to save money.

The bill was introduced just two weeks ago. Supporters say it would help smaller businesses manage rising health care costs. Democrats and other critics worry that allowing smaller businesses to self-insure rather than purchase group health insurance could destabilize the marketplace.

The Assembly passed the bill Tuesday on a 59-36 vote. It now goes to the Senate.

___

10:25 p.m.

Rural economic development projects in Wisconsin would get a $50 million annual boost under a bipartisan bill the Assembly passed.

The Assembly approved the measure 95-0 Tuesday.

The money would only be available to the 56 most rural counties in the state. Counties or groups of counties could come together to apply for grants for revolving loans under the programs.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would be in charge of distributing the money. The proposal calls for it to give priority to underserved communities in rural Wisconsin.

It now heads to the Senate.

___

Rural economic development projects in Wisconsin would get a $50 million annual boost under a bipartisan bill the Assembly passed.

The Assembly approved the measure Tuesday.

The money would only be available to the 56 most rural counties in the state. Counties or groups of counties could come together to apply for grants for revolving loans under the programs.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would be in charge of distributing the money. The proposal calls for it to give priority to underserved communities in rural Wisconsin.

It now heads to the Senate.

___

9:40 p.m.

The Wisconsin Assembly has overwhelmingly approved Gov. Scott Walker’s $200 million plan to help lower premiums for people buying insurance in the private marketplace.

But figuring out where the state will come up with its expected $50 million share of the plan was put off for now.

The Assembly passed the bill Tuesday on a 79-16 vote. The Senate passed it earlier in the day. The bill now goes to Walker for his signature.

The idea has found broad support among health insurance providers, doctors and the medical community.

Under the bill, the state would be authorized to seek a federal waiver to offer a reinsurance program to lower premium costs. Such a program would cover at least 50 percent of medical claims costing between $50,000 and $200,000.

___

9 p.m.

The state Assembly has passed Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to spend nearly $7 million on a marketing campaign to persuade millennials and military veterans to return to Wisconsin to help with a worker shortage.

The Assembly approved the bill Tuesday, sending it to the Senate.

Walker has said the $6.8 million ad campaign would pitch Wisconsin as a more affordable place for millennials to live where they could be spending more time in a canoe, having a drink with friends or attending a concert, rather than sitting in traffic.

The ad campaign would be targeted to the Twin Cities and Detroit. A similar marketing effort is underway pitching Wisconsin to people in Chicago.

Democrats say more fundamental changes are needed in Wisconsin to make it a more attractive state to young people.

___

8:35 p.m.

The Legislature has passed a bill designed to fix a part of Wisconsin’s school aid formula that penalizes low-spending districts.

The Wisconsin Senate on Tuesday passed the measure that allows low-spending school districts to raise property taxes without a vote. It would only apply to districts where votes have not rejected a property tax increase in the past three years.

About 100 districts are expected to be eligible.

The bill would also increase by $6.5 million the amount of aid available to the most rural schools in the state. The money would go to 144 qualifying schools that have 745 or fewer students and membership density of less than 10 students per square mile.

The measure previously cleared the Assembly and now heads to Gov. Scott Walker.

___

8:15 p.m.

A bill that would allow Wisconsin voters to cast their ballots early on electronic voting machines instead of paper ballots has cleared the state Assembly.

The Assembly passed the measure Tuesday. It now heads to the Senate.

Local governments would have to approve early, in-person voting using electronic voting machines in order for them to be offered. Currently, early voting is done on paper ballots that are either mailed or turned in to clerks’ offices.

Under the bill, the ballots would be stored into electronic voting machines but not counted until Election Day.

Supporters say the change would save elections officials time because they would no longer have to count early absentee ballots.

___

8 p.m.

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill increasing the limit on tax credits for historic rehabilitation projects in Wisconsin from $500,000 to $3.5 million.

The Assembly passed the bill unanimously Tuesday evening. The Senate passed it earlier in the day. It now goes to Gov. Scott Walker.

Raising the cap comes just months after the Legislature voted to set it at $500,000.

Proponents for the higher cap say limiting the tax credit will cripple the program and result in fewer historic properties, especially in small towns, being saved and used as tools to spur economic development.

A broad coalition supports the bill including the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, historic preservation groups, real estate agents, and builders.

___

7:01 p.m.

Women with dense breast tissue would have to be notified of that along with the results of their mammogram screenings under a bill approved by the Wisconsin Senate.

The Senate approved it Tuesday and it now heads to Gov. Scott Walker. The Assembly passed it last month.

Supporters say the notice it would help to empower women to make decisions about their health care. It is more difficult to detect cancerous tumors in women with dense breast tissue.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Alberta Darling, a breast cancer survivor.

___

6:55 p.m.

A bill easing development on state wetlands is headed to Gov. Scott Walker after the Wisconsin Senate gave final approval.

The Senate passed the Republican-sponsored bill Tuesday over objections from Democrats and conservationists. The bill would allow developers to fill portions of urban and rural wetlands without a state permit.

The proposal would allow developers to fill up to an acre per parcel of urban wetlands and up to three acres per parcel of rural wetlands without permits.

Conservationist groups say the bill will lead to the destruction of wildlife habitat and exacerbate flooding. Supporters insist the permitting processing creates excessive delays for businesses and farmers looking to expand.

The Assembly approved the measure last week.

___

6:15 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has voted unanimously to pass a bill strengthening the penalties for legally buying a firearm with the intent to provide the weapon to someone barred from having a gun.

The Senate passed the bill targeting the practice known as “straw” purchases Tuesday. It now goes to the Assembly.

Under current law it’s a misdemeanor, punishable by up to nine months in jail, for someone to knowingly give a firearm to someone prohibited from possessing one. The bill makes it a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison.

The bill is supported by law enforcement agencies and Milwaukee officials who say it will help combat the problem in Wisconsin’s largest city.

___

5:50 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has passed a bill with no debate that would prohibit state health insurance programs from covering abortions for state workers.

The measure previously passed the Assembly and now heads to Gov. Scott Walker.

The bill approved Tuesday would allow coverage for abortions only in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life.

State health insurance plans currently cover only medically necessary abortions. But state law doesn’t define a medically necessary abortion and the bill’s sponsors want to remove any ambiguity.

Twenty-one states already have similar laws.

___

5:45 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has voted to approve 2 percent pay raises for state employees and University of Wisconsin workers this year and next.

It’s the first pay raise for state workers since 2014 and the largest since 2007.

The Senate approved the pay plan unanimously on Tuesday. The Assembly is scheduled to pass it Thursday.

The first pay raise would take effect in the middle of this year with the other one beginning in January 2019.

The pay raises for the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus marks the first time since 2015 that employees there have gotten across-the-board raises. It is also the largest wage increase of its kind for UW employees in more than a decade.

___

5:35 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has voted to approve Gov. Scott Walker’s $200 million plan to help lower premiums for people buying insurance on the private marketplace.

But figuring out where the state will come up with its expected $50 million share of the plan was put off for now.

The Senate passed the bill on a 23-9 bipartisan vote Tuesday. The Assembly was also slated to vote on it, which would send the measure to Walker.

The idea has found broad support among health insurance providers, doctors and the medical community.

Under the bill, the state would be authorized to seek a federal waiver to offer a reinsurance program to lower premium costs. Such a program would cover at least 50 percent of medical claims costing between $50,000 and $200,000.

___

5:22 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has passed a bill increasing the limit on tax credits for historic rehabilitation projects in Wisconsin from $500,000 to $3.5 million.

The Assembly is also scheduled to vote on the measure Tuesday.

Raising the cap comes just months after the Legislature voted to set it at $500,000.

Proponents for the higher cap say limiting the tax credit will cripple the program and result in fewer historic properties, especially in small towns, being saved and used as tools to spur economic development.

A broad coalition supports the bill including the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, historic preservation groups, real estate agents, and builders.

Republican Sen. Duey Stroebel voted against it, saying the tax incentive was too rich and not necessary. It passed 29-3.

___

5:05 p.m.

The Wisconsin Senate has passed a bill that would allow for shutting down an ozone monitor in Sheboygan County’s Kohler-Andre State Park on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The Senate approved the bill Tuesday with all Republicans in support, Democrats against.

The monitor is one of 38 such sites around the state that’s part of Wisconsin’s air quality management program. The bill calls for removing it from the state’s plan submitted to the federal government this year. But if the plan is rejected, the monitor could be added back.

Supporters, including the state chamber of commerce, say removing the monitor picks up ozone that drifts north from Chicago, forcing the county to adhere to tighter federal regulations to lower pollution.

Opponents include environmental and public health groups. They say the monitor is needed to protect the public from pollution.

___

5:01 p.m.

Six southeastern Wisconsin counties could ask the federal requirement to waive a requirement to sell reformulated gas under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The bill passed Tuesday asks President Donald Trump’s administration to grant a reprieve from use of the specially formulated gas that reduces ozone pollution. The requirement was implemented in 1995 in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine and Kenosha counties.

Supporters say the gas is no longer needed because of advancements in emission control equipment.

Reformulated gas has long been controversial because it costs more and some drivers say it affects their vehicle’s performance.

The measure is opposed by the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the American Lung Association and environmental groups. Supporters include gasoline retailers and the state chamber of commerce.

Republicans voted in support, Democrats against.

___

4:30 p.m.

The Wisconsin Legislature has approved most of Gov. Scott Walker’s welfare overhaul package, including tougher work requirements for people on food stamps.

The Senate on Tuesday voted to increase the current 20-hour per-week work or job training requirement for able-bodied adults to 30 hours and include parents with school-aged children for the first time.

The Senate also voted to require drug screening, testing and treatment to be eligible for public housing. Another bill passed would prohibit anyone from receiving food stamps and other Medicaid benefits if they own a home worth double the median value - or about $321,000.

Republicans were united in support of the bills with all Democrats against.

The bills all previously passed the Assembly and now go to Walker for his signature.

___

2:15 p.m.

Assembly Republican Speaker Robin Vos is calling Democrats’ demand for action on gun control bills a sad political ploy.

Assembly Democrats sent a letter Tuesday to Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Gov. Scott Walker demanding action in bills that would institute universal background checks, prohibit people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing a gun and prohibit bump stock sales.

Vos told reporters during a news conference Tuesday that Democrats are trying to grab headlines and prey on people’s fears. He says their bills lack broad support in the Assembly.

He said he would be open to discussions about allowing school districts to arm teachers and security guards, however.

Rep. Jesse Kremer has proposed a bill that would allow weapons in private schools. A reporter shouted a question at Vos about the bill during Tuesday’s news conference but was drowned out by other shouted questions and Vos didn’t answer it.

___

12:45 p.m.

Wisconsin Democrats are demanding their Republican rivals pass gun control bills in the wake of the Florida high school shooting.

Assembly Democrats sent a letter Tuesday to Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Gov. Scott Walker saying thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. They asked the three Republicans to take action on Democratic bills that would institute universal background checks, prohibit people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing a gun and prohibiting bump stock sales.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz held a news conference flanked by students from Madison’s public high schools to announce the letter. East High School junior Anne Motoviloff said “incompetent” legislators who have been bought off by the National Rifle Association have blocked change.

Aides for Vos, Fitzgerald and Walker didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

___

11:30 a.m.

Democrat Patty Schachtner has been sworn into the state Senate.

Schachtner was sworn in on Tuesday, becoming the 14th Democrat. There are 18 Republicans and one vacancy.

Schachtner won a special election last month in the 10th Senate district, which had been under Republican control for 17 years. President Donald Trump also carried the northwestern Wisconsin district in 2016.

Schachtner’s win energized Democrats who saw it as a good sign of momentum headed into the fall midterm elections.

Schachtner is the St. Croix County medical examiner and a Somerset school board member.

___

5:28 a.m.

Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to help reduce insurance premiums for people buying plans on the private market in Wisconsin is up for legislative approval.

The reinsurance proposal was scheduled for a vote Tuesday in both the state Senate and Assembly.

It’s one of several high priority bills the Legislature is tackling as the Assembly rushes to complete its work for the year by Thursday. The Senate plans one more day of voting next month.

Also up for a vote Tuesday is Walker’s bill spending $6.8 million on a marketing plan designed to lure millennials from the Midwest to Wisconsin to help with a worker shortage problem.

The Senate also planned to give final approval to Walker’s plans to increase work requirements for adult food stamp recipients, including parents.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide