Legislature to Conclude Work Tuesday

The Wisconsin Legislature will conclude its work this session on Tuesday, April 1 when the Senate meets to take up several proposals. The senate is scheduled to vote on AB 729, a bill allowing classified research on UW System campuses.

The senate is also expected to approve SB 300, a bill that would require insurers to cover oral chemotherapy in the same way that intravenous chemotherapy is covered. Newer forms of chemotherapy come in a pill form, allowing insurers to treat it as a prescription drug rather than a medical treatment. Senate leaders had originally refused to bring the bill to the floor of the senate, but relented after much public pressure. The senate must pass an amended version of the bill before it can go to Governor Scott Walker for his consideration.

Bills Signed Into Law  Governor Scott Walker signed several bills into law recently:

SB 655, a bill that included many changes to campaign finance laws. Under the new law, lobbyists may make election-year contributions to legislative candidates after April 15. Current law limits such contributions to June 1 or later.

Senate Bill 324, a bill that limits in-person early voting. Under the new law, municipalities may offer early voting weekdays from 8 am to 7 pm. Early voting on weekends will not be allowed. The governor vetoed a provision in the bill that would have limited early voting to 45 hours per week.

Assembly Bill 19, a bill that requires plaintiffs to disclose which businesses they plan sue when filing asbestos-related lawsuits. Plaintiffs must also file claims with an asbestos trust before suing individual businesses.

Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges to Vote on Classified Research Bill

Inside CapitolThe Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges will hold an executive session today to vote on Senate Bill 578, a proposal that would allow classified research on University of Wisconsin System campuses. A System administrative policy currently prohibits such research.

The bill will go to the Senate on April 1 if approved today. An amended version of companion bill (AB 729) passed the Assembly February 20. The original bill included language that would allow exemptions to the state’s open records law, but that language was removed after Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee Chair Representative Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) said he would not schedule a vote on proposal if it included the exemption.

PROFS worked with the authors of the legislation and is registered in favor of the bill. This statement was given to the senate committee at a public hearing on March 5.

The committee will also vote on several appointments to the UW System Board of Regents and Wisconsin Technical System Board. Governor Scott Walker announced three regent appointments last week and named UW-Madison student Nicolas Harsy to a two-year term as the non-traditional student regent yesterday.

Walker Appoints Three New Regents

Governor Scott Walker named three new members to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents last week. The governor appointed José Delgado and Eve Hall to replace outgoing Regents John Drew and Gary Roberts. Delgado and Hall will serve seven year terms beginning May 1.

Walker also appointed UW-La Crosse student Anicka Purath to complete the two-year traditional student term. Regent Chad Landes is graduating from UW-Platteville in May and will leave the board early.

José Delgado retired as president and CEO of the American Transmission Company, a Wisconsin-based utility company, in 2010. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Marquette University and an MBA from UW-Milwaukee. Delgado is vice chairman of Hispanics for School Choice advisory board.

Eve Hall is president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Milwaukee. Previously she served as chief innovation officer for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and was national director of the Gates/Marshall School Redesign Initiative. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from UW-Milwaukee, and a doctorate in education from Cardinal Stritch University.

Anicka Purath is a sophomore from Mount Pleasant. She is a sophomore majoring in political science.

Regent appointments are subject to state senate confirmation. The governor appoints 16 citizens, including two students, to the 18 member board. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction and president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board serve as ex officio members.

Sifting and Winnowing: Reframing the Conversation About Tuition

Sifting and Winnowing, an independent blog for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offers a new view on tuition today. The  anonymous writer of the blog post argues that resident tuition could be viewed as nothing more than state-subsidized non-resident tuition. When viewed this way, changes in state support will directly and more transparently affect the cost of tuition:

1. Let the overall budgetary needs of the University, constrained by market considerations (e.g., comparisons to peer universities) and/or a voluntary growth cap, objectively determine out-of-state tuition.

2. Let the state subsidy to the University, divided among the number of in-state students, objectively determine the reduction in in-state tuition relative to the out-of-state cost.

With tuition decisions framed in this way, reductions in state GPR will no longer destabilize overall university finances as they have for the past decade, but they will be much more visibly linked to reductions in affordability and/or access for in-state students.

The Great Cost Shift Continues

Demos, a non-partisan research and policy organization, has updated its 2012 report, The Great Cost Shift. The initial report found that disinvestment in public higher education undermined the stability of the middle class by shifting costs to students and their families.

In its new report, The Great Cost Shift Continues, Demos has found that the trend of disinvestment continues unabated:

“In less than a generation, our nation’s higher education system has become a debt-for-diploma system — more than seven out of ten college seniors now borrow to pay for college and graduate with an average debt of $29,400.”

The report found all but one state, North Dakota, is spending less per student than they did before the recession, and more than half the states cut higher education funding by more than 25 percent.

Most universities responded to funding cuts with tuition increases. The average tuition at a four-year institution costs more than 15 percent of the median household income in 26 states, including Wisconsin.

Wisconsin ranks in the bottom half of states in several measures:

  • 39th, state funding for higher education per FTE State funding dropped 20.2% from 2007-08 to 2011-12 ($6,432 vs. $5,295).
  • 30th, average 4-year state tuition costs Tuition rose more than 17% from 2007-08 to 2011-12 ($6,677 vs. $7,851). Only 20 states have higher average 4-year tuition rates.
  • 29th, state higher education affordability Tuition at a 4-year state institution now takes 15.7% of the state’s median family income, compared to 12.3% five years ago.

Demos was founded in 2000 and focuses its work on three areas — achieving democracy through a guaranteed right to vote and reducing the amount of money in elections, the creation of a strong, diverse middle class through a sustainable economy, and the transformation of the public narrative to elevate the values of community and racial equity.

Legislative Update

The Legislature remains in session until April 3, and both houses have been meeting to wrap up pending legislation before the summer recess.

Legislation (SB 578 and AB 729) allowing classified research on University of Wisconsin System campuses passed the assembly last month and public hearing was held in the senate earlier this week. A vote on the bill has not been scheduled. PROFS is registered in favor of the bill and offered this statement to the Senate Universities and Technical Colleges committee on Wednesday.

Several controversial proposals are under discussion:

Senate Bill 655, legislation that would make many changes to campaign finance and lobbying laws. The bill would lengthen the amount of time each year that lobbyist can make political contributions and allow lobbyists to deliver campaign contributions to legislators anytime during the year.

Senate Bill 619, legislation that would stop the implementation of Common Core Standards in the state.

Assembly Bill 750, legislation that would forbid local living wage ordinances when state and federal money is used for workers’ salaries. Dane County, Madison, and Milwaukee all have living wage ordinances. The bill would also bar residency requirements for workers on public works projects.

The Assembly Republican  caucus met earlier this week to remove Representative Bill Kraemer of Waukesha from his post as Majority Leader after allegations of misconduct became public. The caucus selected Representative Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) to serve as majority leader, the first woman to hold the position in Wisconsin.

Several legislators have announced they will retire at the end of their term or pursue higher office. The following senators have announced they will retire at the end of their term:

  • Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville)
  • Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar)
  • Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center)

The following assembly members will not run again:

  • Rep. Penny Bernard-Schaber (D-Appleton)
  • Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland)
  • Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay)
  • Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo)
  • Rep. John Klenke (R-Green Bay)
  • Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade)
  • Rep. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green)
  • Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee)
  • Rep. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville)
  • Rep. Pat Strachota (R-West Bend)
  • Rep. Mary Williams (R-Medford)

Bernard-Schaber has announced she will challenge Senator Michael Ellis (R-Neenah) in the fall, and Richards has announced a run for Wisconsin Attorney General. Marklein announced plans to challenge Senator Dale Schultz before Schultz announced his retirement. Bewley has indicated she will run for Cullen’s seat.

Candidates may circulate nomination papers between April 15 and June 2. Legislators who plan to retire must file a statement of non-candidacy by May 23.