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Legislative Updates

Legislative Updates

The 2019-20 Legislative Session has been dominated by water and agricultural bills. The Assembly had their last floor session in February and have since adjourned. The Senate will be holding a floor session in late March and will potentially be voting on some of the bills detailed below. In the meantime, Senate Committees will hold public hearings and executive sessions to pass Assembly bills through Committee before the final Senate floor session. Because the Assembly is no longer in session the Senate will not have the opportunity to add their amendments.

Agricultural Bills

Wisconsin has a long and rich agriculture tradition, but low dairy prices, a record number of dairy shutdowns, and unpredictable growing seasons have burdened agricultural producers throughout the state. The Governor and the Legislature have separately introduced bills to address the ongoing issues Wisconsin farmers are facing.

AB 6/AB 7

AB 6 provides $1 million to DATCP to develop a Wisconsin Initiative for Dairy Exports. AB 7 awards grants to dairy processing plants, prioritizing small dairy processing plants to be the recipients of these grants. AB 6 and AB 7 are two of the eight agricultural special session bills presented by Governor Tony Evers. AB 6 and AB 7 will have a public hearing and executive session in the Senate Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions Committee today.

AB 873 (AB 874, AB 876)

Assembly Bill 873 is an agriculture bill that would create an income tax credit for property taxes paid on agricultural buildings. This bill is aimed at reducing the tax burden on Wisconsin farmers, but the tax credit would help larger farms more than smaller family farms.

Assembly Bill 873 is part of a three bill package on agriculture from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. AB 873 will have a public hearing and executive session in the Senate Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions Committee today.

Water Quality Task Force Bill Package

The Water Quality Task Force has launched a series of bills that are a part of a $10 million plan aimed at curbing water contamination and improving water quality. These bills deal with a variety of water quality issues, ranging from eliminating fire-fighting foam from the environment to reducing nitrate levels in crops. The total package includes 10 bills.

AB 790 ⇑

Adds $3M to county conservation staffing. County conservation departments are the main resource for land and water management in the state. Additional funding will improve access for farmers and other land managers across the state to nutrient and runoff management and conservation experts.

AB 792

Requires DNR and DATCP to collect any fire-fighting foam in the state that contains PFAS.

AB 795 ⇑

Funds several programs aimed at reducing pollution through agricultural and water stewardship programs.

AB 796 ⇑

Creates a nitrate loading pilot grant program where farmers collaborate with UW-Stevens Point and UW-Extension to study nitrogen management techniques effects on water quality.

AB 797 ⇑

Bans the sale of coal tar-based sealant products and high PAH sealant products. The ban on these products is important for conserving water quality.

AB 794 ⇓

Adds two 21-day comment periods to an already lengthy administrative rules process that DNR and DHS complete.

Currently, the DNR compiles a list of hazardous substances that could potentially enter groundwater, identifying which of these substances present a public health or welfare concern. DHS then reviews the list and develops recommendations for enforcing regulation of these substances which the DNR incorporates into their rules. This process already allows for sufficient opportunities for public comment.

PFAS Bill

SB 559

The Assembly added a PFAS amendment to this nondescript bill about lake protection. The amendment doesn’t address the scope of the PFAS problem in Wisconsin. The Assembly had the opportunity to take up AB 843 which is a much more comprehensive and bipartisan solution to PFAS, but instead settled for industry backed proposals through an amendment about lake protection districts.

Affordable Housing

We support efforts to develop affordable and workforce housing initiatives, but locations of these housing projects are important. To be the most effective, affordable and workforce housing should be transit-oriented developments that are prioritized to be near existing services and developments to prevent sprawl.

AB 544

Assembly Bill 544 creates a workforce housing tax credit program that directs WHEDA to deliver grants, loans, and loan guarantees for projects eligible for workforce housing.

AB 859

Assembly Bill 859 authorizes workforce housing initiatives and increases the timeline for a city to use a TID to improve its affordable and workforce housing.

The 2019-20 Legislative session has lacked any movement on transportation initiatives. We had high hopes for a Regional Transit Authority enabling bill but it didn’t get a public hearing. Although the Legislature hasn’t been focused on transportation, 1000 Friends is still advocating for accessible and equitable transportation policies that also encourage smart growth development. Gregg May, our Transportation Policy Analyst, has been busy sharing our message at state meetings.

In February, Gregg participated in an initial meeting of the WI DOT Transportation Stakeholder Task Force for the 2020-21 budget biennium. And Gregg gave a presentation at the Governor’s Climate Change Task Force meeting on walking, biking, transit and commuter rail and the need for more multi-modal options in Wisconsin.