Legislative Outlook

winter capitolFewer than six months remain in the 2011-12 legislative session, and PROFS continues to monitor and lobby on legislation that affects UW-Madison and its faculty. PROFS has taken positions on more than a dozen bill this session, and several may be acted upon before the floorperiod ends next month:

  • Stem Cell Research (Assembly Bill 214 and Senate Bill 172)  If passed, these bills would make it illegal to provide or use for experimentation fetal body parts. The lower-house proposal is cosponsored by 51 additional Republicans, a majority of the Assembly’s 99 members. PROFS is opposed to both bills, which  remain in committee.
  • WiscNet (Assembly Bill 473 and Senate Bill 375)  These bills, which have bipartisan support and are supported by a range of educational and community groups, would  delay the restrictions on participation by the University of Wisconsin System in selling or providing telecommunications services by one year (from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014). The Legislative Audit Bureau has been charged with conducting an audit of WiscNet, and a delay would allow the legislature and participating organizations, including UW-Madison, time to fully review the audit and possibly implement audit recommendations. PROFS supports these bills.
  • UW Restructuring Task Force (Senate Bill 184)  This bill, as amended, changes the reporting date for the Special Task Force on UW Restructuring and Operational Flexibilities from January 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013, and gives the task force the ability to postpone the report until August 31, 2012. The amended bill, which PROFS supported, passed both houses last week.
  • Rehired Annuitants Two bills affecting rehired annuitants have been introduced, but PROFS has yet to take a position on either proposal. Assembly Bill 318 would require retired annuitants who work at least half-time to forgo their annuity payments. Rehired annuitants would also be ineligible to accrue retirement benefits while working, but could receive group insurance benefits. A substitute amendment to the bill was introduced last month. Current law requires a 30-day waiting period before an annuitant may be rehired. The amendment changes the waiting period to 75 days. Assembly Bill 352 would require a 180-day waiting period for rehiring annuitants and disallow annuity payments to retired workers who work half-time or more. Both bills received a public hearing in November and remain in committee.
  • Optional Retirement Plan PROFS also reported that State Representative Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) plans to introduce legislation that would give the University of Wisconsin System the authority to create an optional retirement plan for employees hired after the effective date of the legislation. Strachota’s proposal differs from one advanced in 1997 (AB 331) in that it does not mandate the creation of an optional retirement plan, it merely gives the Board of Regents the authority to do so. The bill has not yet been introduced and PROFS has not taken a position on the proposal.

The Special Task Force on UW Restructuring and Operational Flexibilties continues to meet monthly. PROFS has met with several members of the task force to discuss issues important to UW-Madison faculty and will continue to do so in the coming months. A report from the task force is expected later this summer.

Recall elections also loom large this spring. Governor Scott Walker and four Republican state senators — Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Pam Galloway of Wausau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, and Van Wanggaard of Racine — face recalls later this year. Dates for the recalls have not been set, but the review of recall petitions is expected to be contentious.