Legislative Update

The Legislature is in the final weeks of the 2018 session and PROFS is closely monitoring several bills that could that could seriously affect UW-Madison:

  • “Mark Cook Bills” to Assist Faculty Entrepreneurship, Assembly Bill 758 and Senate Bill 671  Directed by faculty experts, PROFS worked with a bipartisan group of legislators to introduce legislation related to University of Wisconsin research contracts. The faculty group, led by the late Mark Cook (Animal Science), identified the need to change state statutes that regulate how the university contracts with companies in which faculty or other university employees have a financial interest. Both bills have passed through committee and PROFS expects them to be scheduled for a floor vote sometime this month.
  • Bills Limiting Scientific Research, Assembly Bills 83 & 549 and Senate Bills 422 & 423  PROFS is carefully monitoring two bills that would limit the use of fetal tissue in scientific research and is registered against Senate Bill 423. Our statement is on the PROFS website and Facebook page.
  • Bill Limiting University of Wisconsin OB/GYN Training, Assembly Bill 206  PROFS is also registered against AB 206, a bill that would restrict abortion-related activities of UW System and UW Hospitals and Clinics employees. UW School of Medicine and Public Health Dean Robert Golden testified in July the bill would seriously hamper student training in obstetrics and gynecology and could possibly jeopardize the medical school’s accreditation.
  • Campus Carry  Supporters of campus carry have said they intend to introduce legislation allowing concealed weapons on campus, but nothing has been introduced to date. PROFS is opposed to campus carry and continues to carefully monitor the issue.

Wisconsin Retirement System Seminar

PROFS is cosponsoring a La Follette School of Public Affairs seminar on the history of the Wisconsin Retirement System at 12:30 pm on Wednesday, February 21 in Union South. Wisconsin’s pension system is regarded as one of the best, and Gary Gates, the first secretary of the Department of Employee Trust Funds, will explain how the system was created and why Wisconsin has not experienced shortfalls like many other states.

Spring Primary

The Wisconsin Spring Primary is Tuesday, February 20. The only statewide race on the ballot is for Wisconsin Supreme Court where three candidates are vying for two spots on the April 3 general election ballot. More information on voting in Wisconsin is here.

Federal Relations

PROFS Steering Committee member Judith Burstyn recently met with Congressman Mark Pocan as a member of his Higher Education Advisory Group. Pocan gave the group an update on Congressional action related to higher-education policy and federally funded research.

February Board of Regents Meeting

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will meet in Madison Thursday and Friday, February 8 and 9. UW-Madison is hosting the meeting in Union South, 1308 West Dayton Street. The full board portion will be streamed live here.

Regents meet in committee Thursday morning:

The Education Committee will discuss several new degree programs and charter school contracts in Milwaukee.

The Business and Finance and Audit Committees will meet jointly in closed session to discuss the findings of an information security audit.

The Business and Finance Committee will hear reports on UW-Madison’s financial performance, UW System financial management, and gifts, grants and contracts. The committee will also consider proposals to raise non-resident undergraduate tuition at UW-Eau Claire and non-resident graduate tuition at UW-Milwaukee and UW-Stout.

The Capital Planning and Budget Committee will hear a reports from UW-Madison on deferred maintenance and UW Colleges on city and county financial support. The committee will consider approval of the remainder of two building projects at UW-Madison.

The Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Committee will host a discussion on successful student preparation led by UW-Madison College of Letters and Science Dean Karl Scholz. Regent Eve Hall will lead a discussion on UW System diversity and inclusion.

The Audit Committee will discuss several recently issued audit reports and consider approval of a new Regent policy document on ethics and conflict of interest.

The full board portion of the meeting begins at approximately 1:15 pm Thursday. Regents will hear an update on UW System restructuring and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank will discuss UW-Madison’s partnership with the state. The board will also meet in closed session to discuss items including UW-Madison several coaching salaries and issues related to the UW-Oshkosh Foundation.

On Friday, the board will hear reports from UW System President Ray Cross and UW System Board of Regents President John Behling. UW-Madison will also present its annual NCAA Division I Athletics Report. The board will also present its 2018 Diversity Awards.






Senate Bill 671 (Mark Cook Bill) Testimony

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Local Government held a public hearing on Senate Bill 671, also referred to as the Mark Cook Bill. The bill would change state statutes that regulate how the university contracts with companies in which faculty or other university employees have a financial interest.

UW-Madison professor Jamey Weichert (Radiology) and emeritus professors Richard Burgess (Oncology and Biomedical Engineering) and Rock Mackie (Engineering Physics and Medical Physics) delivered the following testimony:


PROFS Encourages JCOER to Approve UW-Madison Pay Plan

PROFS President Dorothy Farrar Edwards and Chair Anja Wanner sent a letter yesterday to State Representative Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senator Roger Roth (R-Appleton), co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JCOER), encouraging them to schedule a meeting to approve UW-Madison’s proposed faculty and staff pay plan.

Last week, UW-Madison announced a 4 percent pay plan for faculty staff to be given in two installments — 2 percent in July 2018 and 2 percent in January 2019 — but the funding for the plan must first be approved by JCOER.

PROFS Supports “Mark Cook Bill”

Mark Cook

PROFS strongly supports Assembly Bill 758/Senate Bill 671, dubbed the Mark Cook Bill, recently-introduced bipartisan legislation (below) that would change state statutes that regulate how the university contracts with companies in which faculty or other university employees have a financial interest. PROFS convened a group of entrepreneurial faculty to develop the legislation.

UW-Madison Animal Sciences Professor Mark Cook, who passed away in September, served as chair of the PROFS Entrepreneurial Work Group, comprised of UW-Madison faculty who started successful companies. A self-described “chickenologist,” Mark created four companies from his research and his work led to 50 patents. He attracted and mentored other researchers who had a similar entrepreneurial spirit.

Mark’s spinoff Ab E Discovery, is “set to smash business as usual,” according to an article by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Ab E Discovery, which will soon be breaking ground on Wisconsin operations, is advancing a natural, drug-free method to protect poultry, pigs, dairy and beef cattle against common infections.

Mark Cook died of cancer on September 9, 2017, at age 61. A native of Houma, Louisiana, Mark joined the faculty at UW-Madison in 1982. Upon his death, an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Mark “embodied the Wisconsin Idea” – the belief that “education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom.” Mark had a positive impact on everyone he met, including the students who learned from him and worked alongside him in his lab.

Mark felt very strongly about the statutory changes contained in AB 758/SB 671. Mark recognized that Wisconsin law is out of step with the modern research and business worlds because it includes an overly cumbersome and lengthy process for allowing research companies to contract with the university when a faculty or staff member has a financial interest in the company.

Even relatively small contracts (any contract exceeding $250,000 over a two-year period) must receive a 45-day review by the UW System Board of Regents despite previous review by university officials.

The law hinders the UW’s ability to move quickly to bring in R&D expenditures from businesses and

other funding entities. These funds are significant revenue sources at other universities. It is not a coincidence that the two universities that recently overtook UW-Madison in the overall research ranking do a much better job of attracting outside private funding for research projects.

Research companies connected to UW-Madison researchers have been forced to take initiatives such as clinical trials to other states. And top UW-Madison faculty have been recruited to universities where they can work more collaboratively with businesses and other funding entities.

PROFS thanks Representatives Dave Murphy and Terese Berceau and Senators Dan Feyen and Fred Risser, along with other co-sponsors, for introducing this important legislation to streamline the process. The legislation will eliminate the 45-day delay and instead create a much more reasonable process that will continue to address conflicts and protect the university’s interests.

AB 758/SB 671 will require that the individual or body responsible for managing potential conflicts of interest at the UW institution (e.g. UW-Madison) that employs the faculty or staff member has an interest in the company issue a management plan evaluating and addressing the interest. Additional contacts will be allowed to proceed as long as such a plan is in place.

AB 758/SB 671 will also amend the definition of research company in the statutes to include non-profits as well as commercial businesses. Many non-profit entities fund a significant amount of research.

The Assembly Committee on Constitution and Ethics will hold a public hearing on AB 758 at 1 p.m., Thursday, January 11, in Room 300 Northeast of the State Capitol.

PROFS looks forward to working with other supporters of this legislation to ensure it becomes law.


December Board of Regents Meeting

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will meet at Gordon Dining and Event Center at UW-Madison Thursday, December 7. Livestream coverage of the full board portion of the meeting is available here.

Regents meet in committee Thursday morning:

The Business and Finance Subcommittee on Investments will review investments and hear a report from the Trust Funds Director.

The Business and Finance Committee will hear annual reports on faculty turnover (below) and faculty and staff salary adjustments and additional compensation payments. UW-Madison experienced 6 percent faculty turnover in FY17, third lowest in UW System. Four UW System institutions had turnover greater than 9 percent.

The Capital Planning and Budget Committee will discuss five building projects, including three at UW-Madison, and hear several reports.

The Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Committee will hear a report on the School of Medicine and Public Health Partnership Program and presentations from UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Bernie Patterson and UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford.

The Audit Committee will discuss many reports, including the FY18 Audit Plan Progress Report and recent audit reports on tuition, NCAA sports, international education, the federal TRIO program, and cash handling.

The full board portion of the meeting begins at 11:45 am with updates from Board of Regents President John Behling and UW System President Ray Cross. After lunch, the board will consider a resolution honoring former State Senator Sheila Harsdorf and hear an update on the proposed restructuring of UW Colleges and UW-Extension.

The board will also meet in closed session to discuss the naming of a facility at UW-La Crosse, UW-Milwaukee honorary degree nominations, various personnel issues, and items related to the UW-Oskhosh Foundation.

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