Legislative Update for
Wisconsin Technical Colleges
January 26, 2022
January Session Legislative Update for Technical Colleges
The Legislature’s winter/spring floor period began January 18th, 2022. Here’s a status update on bills of interest to Wisconsin’s technical colleges. As always, you may direct questions on pending legislation to Layla Merrifield. You can view prior Legislative Updates archived on our web site. If this update was forwarded to you, you can sign up to receive updates directly on our Legislative Advocacy page.
A selection of bills of interest to technical colleges follows:
- AB-38/SB-44 would exempt veterans and members of the armed forces from admissions application fees at UW and technical colleges. The Assembly Committee on College and Universities recommended the bill for passage on March 25th, but no further action was taken.
- AB-56/SB-76 (Signed into law as 2021 Act 61) Under current law, local units of government and tax increment districts (TIDs) receive state aid to compensate for personal property taxes that they would have collected on tax exempt computers and certain machinery. The legislation clarifies that following termination of a TID, the amount of aid that would have been paid to the TID is distributed to the other underlying taxing jurisdictions. The Assembly passed the bill on a voice vote June 22nd, with the Senate concurring the following day. The Governor signed the legislation on July 8th, 2021.
- AB-60/SB-55 would allow local units of government to satisfy their obligation to publish their proceedings by posting a copy on their internet site and send a copy to a newspaper likely to give notice within the territory of the government unit. Current law requires that the newspaper must be published within the jurisdiction in order to satisfy the legal obligation. The bill passed the Senate on February 16,th, but has not received a hearing in the Assembly.
- AB-64/SB-72 would provide technical college farmer tuition assistance grants. The Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities unanimously recommended passage on March 25th, while the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Tourism unanimously recommended passage on February 11th, 2021. No further action was taken.
- AB-115/SB-125 would create an individual income tax subtraction for tuition paid for apprenticeship programs. The bill was recommended for passage by both Workforce Development committees in April. The Senate bill passed the Senate 19-13 on October 25th, and the Assembly concurred the following day on a vote of 60-35. The Governor vetoed the bill on December 6, 2021, noting that it is duplicative of an existing individual income tax deduction for apprenticeship tuition.
- AB-169/SB-181 would authorize the licensure of dental therapists in Wisconsin. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on April 14th. The Assembly has yet to take action.
- AB-195/SB-323 would designate UW and technical college sports and athletic teams based on the sex of the participants. This bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 59-38 on June 16th, 2021. However, on October 19th, the Senate committee on Human Services, Children and Families voted down concurrence in the controversial bill, on a vote of 2-3.
- AB-227/SB-252 would extend the time during which tax increments may be allocated and expenditures for project costs may be made for tax incremental district number 2 in the city of Wisconsin Dells and would extend the time during which expenditures for project costs may be made for tax incremental district number 3 in the city of Wisconsin Dells. The bill was introduced March 31, 2021, had a public hearing September 29, 2021, in the Senate committee on government operations, and passage as amended was recommended on January 20, 2022. Senate Substitute Amendment 1 to SB-252 would also require that annual municipal TID reports must also include the value of new construction in each TID, less the value of improvements removed from each district. In addition, the bill requires the annual reports to include an analysis of the impact on property taxes and levy limits resulting from the value of new construction less improvements removed in each tax incremental district. The Senate voted to pass the bill as amended on January 25th, 2022, and it now goes on to the Assembly.
- AB-266/SB-291 would eliminate s. 36.31(1) restrictions on the respective educational roles of the UW System (“semi-professional” programs) and the Technical College System (transfer degree programs). The bill won support in the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities and was recommended for passage by a vote of 10-5 on June 2nd, 2021. No further action was taken.
- AB-275/SB-157 AB-275/SB-157 would provide grants to technical college and tribal college students for apprenticeship expenses. The Senate Committee on Workforce Development recommended passage on April 8th, but no further action was taken. We have supported this “Tools of the Trade” bill for many years. The legislation would provide public matching funds for private scholarships from Ascendium, which assist apprentices with expenses related to their work and education. The bill passed the Senate Committee on Economic and Workforce Development unanimously on April 8th. No further action was taken.
- AB-294/SB-313 would expand the technical college fees that are covered by the Wisconsin GI Bill to require activity and incidental fee remissions. Assembly Colleges and Universities held a hearing in June and recommended passage on October 7th. The Senate committee held a hearing on September 22nd, and eventually recommended the bill for passage, 8-1, on January 19th, 2022. It awaits scheduling.
- AB-347/SB-375 would prohibit UW or technical colleges from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations or testing for students as a condition of enrollment. The Assembly Committee on Constitution and Ethics recommended the bill for passage on November 15th by a vote of 6-3. The Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges has yet to schedule a hearing.
- AB-413/SB-409 would prohibit anti-racism and anti-sexism student instruction and anti-racism and anti-sexism training for employees of UW and technical colleges. Assembly Colleges and Universities held a hearing October 7th, 2021, which received a large amount of public testimony. Assembly Amendment 1, was adopted in December. Introduced by the author, the amendment made various changes to the bill, including that faculty could not “compel” students to adopt certain tenets or beliefs, while specifying that the bill would not limit academic freedom. The Senate committee has yet to schedule a hearing.
- AB-428/SB-421 was introduced by the Joint Legislative Council and would add to the membership of the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) one member of a tribal college’s board, one tribal college financial aid administrator, and one tribal college student, in addition to the current K-12, UW, and WTCS representatives, in order to provide equitable representation to tribal colleges on the Board. No action was taken.
- AB-475/SB-448 would include with a referendum question for issuing bonds a statement of the estimated interest accruing on the amount of the bonds. The Assembly Committee on Government Accountability held a hearing on October 6th, and on January 11th, 2022, voted to recommend passage 4-2. On the Senate side, the Committee on Government Operations, Legal Review, and Consumer Protection held a public hearing January 18th, 2022, and voted 3-2 to recommend passage on January 20th. The bill awaits scheduling for a floor vote.
- AB-735/SB-747 would establish certain standards related to free speech and academic freedom at UW and technical colleges and provide certain penalties. The district board is required to both refrain from restricting free speech, even if it is discriminatory harassment, and at the same time, prevent individuals from using their speech to disrupt others’ speech, without violating the disrupters’ free speech. Assembly Substitute Amendment 1, introduced on January 12th, 2022, specifies that all indoor and outdoor public areas must be considered public forums, requires annual First Amendment surveys, and specifies maximum damages of $100,000 that may be awarded to plaintiffs whose expressive rights are violated under the bill. The Assembly committee on colleges and universities recommended the bill for passage, as amended, by an 8-4 vote on January 26th, 2022. It awaits further action.
- AB-741/SB-711 would provide that, if UW and technical colleges require COVID-19 vaccinations for students, and if a student chose to leave their program of study in order to avoid the vaccine, then the UW or technical college would be required to refund tuition for the entirety of the student’s program. Most students in health care programs are required to have current vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, seasonal flu, tetanus, diphtheria, COVID-19, and other infectious diseases. Those requirements, or exemptions, are determined by clinical placement sites but are often communicated by the colleges. The Assembly committee on colleges and universities were advised by DBA and WTCS at the public hearing, held on January 19, 2022, that the legislation requires additional clarification to specify that the colleges are not liable for tuition refunds in the case of clinicals. Unfortunately, no amendments were offered. The committee recommended the bill for passage on January 26th, 2022. The bill awaits further action.
- AB-836/SB-847 would require the System Board to work with technical colleges to establish part-time police academy programs offered by at least two technical colleges. The System Board must endeavor to maximize statewide access to these programs in determining which technical colleges will offer the programs. The System Board must require at least two technical colleges to offer part-time police academy programs by January 1st, 2023, and must distribute to the selected technical colleges for these programs $1,000,000 in moneys received under the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that the governor is required under the bill to
allocate for this purpose. Police academies are currently offered on a full-time basis at 15 of the 16 colleges. The Assembly committee on colleges and universities recommended passage on a 9-4 vote January 19th, 2022. The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 59-33 on January 25th, 2022. It awaits action in the Senate.
- AB-885/SB-837 would eliminate immunity from liability for public campus administrators for violations of individual expressive rights under the declaration of rights in the Wisconsin Constitution. Singling out public campus administrators from all other public officials, the bill provides that none of the following applies or may be used as a defense to claims made under the bill: (a) statutory immunity; (b) statutory limitations on damages; (c) any claim that the rights, privileges, or immunities under the state and federal Constitutions were not clearly established at the time of the conduct; or (d) any claim that the campus administrator was acting in good faith or believed their actions were lawful.