Tag: Legislation

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:

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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.

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Legislative Update

The Legislature is in session and PROFS is closely monitoring several bills that could severely affect UW-Madison:

Proposed Bill to Assist Faculty Entrepreneurship, LRB-4627

Led by faculty experts, PROFS worked with a bipartisan group of legislators who plan 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, noting current law is slow and cumbersome and ultimately leads to lost contracts.

Bills Limiting Scientific Research, 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 this 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.

Federal Budget

PROFS is closely monitoring Senate and House tax reform efforts and has contacted members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation to express concern that both bills would seriously harm higher education. In particular, PROFS is opposed to a provision in the House version that would tax graduate student tuition waivers, making the cost to attend graduate school out of reach for many students. The federal budget proposals coupled with many years of declining state support, seriously threaten public higher education.

UW System Restructuring

Last month, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved the implementation of a plan to reorganize UW Colleges and Extension. Under the proposal, UW Colleges would be integrated with four-year institutions, Cooperative Extension would become part of UW-Madison, and Wisconsin Public Television would shift to UW System.

Bipartisan Legislation on Faculty Entrepreneurial Efforts

PROFS is pleased that a bipartisan group of legislators is working to introduce legislation (below) related to University of Wisconsin research contracts. Last year, PROFS assembled a small group of faculty who have created businesses to examine ways to encourage UW-Madison faculty to become more entrepreneurial.

The group, led by the late Mark Cook (Animal Science), also included Chemistry professor Robert Hamers and emeritus professor Rock Mackie (Medical Physics). The group 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, noting current law is slow and cumbersome and ultimately leads to lost contracts.

PROFS wrote a statement calling for new legislation and worked with UW-Madison attorneys on statutory language. Former Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), chair of the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges and a member of the Joint Finance Committee, agreed have the bill drafted. PROFS also secured the support of UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and UW System President Ray Cross.

Senators Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) and Fred Risser (D-Madison) and Representatives David Murphy (R-Greenville) and Terese Berceau (D-Madison) have taken the lead on the bill and are encouraging their colleagues to support the legislation (below).

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November Legislative Update

The Legislature has shifted its focus to pending legislation following the completion of the 2017-19 state budget earlier this fall. Both the Assembly and Senate have scheduled committee work and several days of floor debate before the Legislature concludes its work next month. PROFS is closely monitoring several bills that could severely affect UW-Madison:

  • Bills Limiting Scientific Research, Senate Bills 422 & 423  Last week, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety discussed two bills that would limit the use of fetal tissue in scientific research. PROFS is registered against SB 423 and presented testimony against the bill. Our statement is here.
  • 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 this 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.

Regent Update

  • UW System Restructuring  The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents announced a major reorganization of UW Colleges and Extension last month. Under the proposal, UW Colleges would be integrated with four-year institutions, Cooperative Extension would become part of UW-Madison, and Wisconsin Public Television would shift to UW System. The Regents are expected to vote on the implementation of the plan Thursday.
  • Administrative Hiring  The Regents adopted new rules relating to the hiring of top administrators. Under new rules, institutions cannot require top administrators to hold a terminal degree or have tenure. UW-Madison Faculty Policies & Procedures had such a rule in place. The new rules also cut the number of faculty on search committees and call for recruiting more candidates from the private sector. PROFS was opposed to the changes and strongly encouraged Regents to reconsider their plan. Our statement is on the PROFS website and Facebook page.
  • Campus Speech  The Regents also adopted new rules relating to freedom of expression on campus. The new language outlines specific punishment, including suspension, for students who violate the policy.

Campus Speech Bill Passes Assembly

Assembly Bill 299, dubbed the Campus Free Speech Act, passed the Assembly Wednesday, June 21 on a 61-36 vote. Republican Bob Gannon of West Bend joined the Democrats in opposing the bill. A statement of PROFS’ opposition to the bill is here.

Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum), the bill’s main author, maintains the legislation is necessary to ensure all voices are heard on campus, citing incidents at Middlebury College and the University of California-Berkeley as evidence that free speech is stifled on college campuses.

PROFS lobbied against the bill, noting that in 2010 the University of Wisconsin Faculty Senate adopted a policy (Faculty Document 2186) that protects speech on campus. In 2015, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents adopted a resolution affirming academic freedom, including free speech, on all UW campuses.

Under the amended bill (below), the Board of Regents would be required to adopt a policy that would apply to all UW System institutions and supersede any existing Regent or campus policies. The legislation also requires mandatory punishments for students violators and employee and new student training on free speech annually.

The bill now moves to the State Senate.

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PROFS Statement on AB 299, Relating to Campus Speech

PROFS is registered against Assembly Bill 299, legislation that would require the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to adopt a policy on free expression on all two and four-year campuses. This new policy would supersede any previous Regent rules or individual campus policies.

The Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee is scheduled to vote on an amended version of AB 299 at 1:30 pm, Tuesday, May 30.

In 2010, the UW-Madison Faculty Senate amended its Faculty Policies and Procedures to  provide “principled protection for faculty engaged in speech pursuant to their official duties.” The amendment (below) also provided a definition of academic freedom.

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Students Plan Day of Action in Opposition to Campus Carry

UW-Madison student leaders have planned a day of action on Thursday, December 15 to oppose allowing concealed carry weapons on campus. While a bill allowing campus carry died in committee last session, State Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) said at a campus forum last month that he intents to reintroduce the bill in 2017.

The group is also collecting signatures of students, faculty, staff and parents opposed to campus carry.

PROFS registered in opposition to campus carry last session and offered this statement on the legislation:

 

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