Legislative Update for
Wisconsin Technical Colleges
February 28, 2022
February Session Legislative Update for Technical Colleges
The Legislature introduced approximately 400 pieces of legislation between December 2021 and February 2022, in what has been an unusually busy period for technical colleges. Here’s a status update on issues we’re currently confronting in the Capitol. The Assembly adjourned the evening of February 24 pursuant to SJR-1, indicating the end of their session. The Senate is expected to meet at least once more before the end of the regular floor period (week of March 7). The Governor has called a special session to begin March 8, but it is expected both houses will adjourn without taking up any of the Governor’s proposals. The Legislature can call itself into extraordinary session at any time, but is not expected to do so. Therefore, official work for this election year is expected to conclude after the Senate’s final floor session.
In the interest of brevity and readability, stalled legislation has been excluded from this report. 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.
- 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-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 and would not benefit all programs equally.
- 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 25, the Assembly concurred February 17 and it was correctly enrolled as of February 25, 2022. It awaits the Governor’s signature or veto.
- 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. The Assembly committee followed suit on February 1, 2022. Neither house scheduled a floor vote.
- 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 7, 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 committee recommended passage by a vote of 10-4 on February 1, 2022. The Senate committee held a hearing on February 10, and recommended passage as amended on February 16. It was passed by the Senate, by a vote of 21-12, on February 22. It was concurred in by the Assembly, with 60 ayes, 33 noes, and 2 paired votes, that same day. It awaits action by the Governor.
- AB-428/SB-421 was introduced by the Joint Legislative Council on June 25, 2021, 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. The bill finally received a hearing February 10, 2022 and was amended to add “alternating appointees consisting of one member of the governing body of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa College for a term, followed by one member of the governing body of the College of Menominee Nation for the next term, and continuing this alternation of terms thereafter.” The bill as amended was passed on February 22, 2022, by the Assembly. The Senate has yet to take action.
- 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 6, and on January 11, 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 18, 2022, and voted 3-2 to recommend passage on January 20. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 20-12, on February 15, 2022. The Assembly did not schedule 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 12, 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. DBA opposed the bill. The Assembly committee on Colleges and Universities recommended the bill for passage, as amended, by an 8-4 vote on January 26, 2022. However, the Senate did not take it up and the Assembly did not schedule a floor vote.
- 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 as a result of that requirement, 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. No amendments were offered. The committee recommended the bill for passage on January 26, 2022, but it was not scheduled for a floor vote.
- AB-757/SB-487 would create a nonresident tuition exemption at UW and technical colleges for the child or spouse of an active duty member of the US armed forces, if the service member resided in this state at the time the person was accepted for admission, but the service member was subsequently relocated and stationed in another state. No action was taken.
- 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 1, 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 19, 2022. The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 59-33 on January 25, 2022. DBA appreciated the Senate author’s offering an amendment, at the request of WTCS, approved by the Senate higher education committee. However, the Senate concurred in the Assembly version, 21-12, on February 22, 2022.
- 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. DBA opposed the bill. The Senate committee recommended passage on February 16, by a vote of 5-4. The Assembly committee recommended passage, 9-4, February 17, and the bill was passed 60-34 with 2 paired votes, on February 22. It is available for scheduling in the Senate.
- AB-973/SB-981 was introduced on February 9, 2022, and among other changes, would require technical colleges to award “partial credit” for apprenticeship courses; require technical colleges to award transcripted credit for youth apprenticeship courses, rather than advanced standing, in all cases; and require technical colleges to apply youth apprenticeship credits to associate degrees. DBA opposed the bill. The Assembly committee on workforce development held a hearing February 10, and on February 15 adopted Assembly Substitute Amendment 1, which removed the “partial credit” requirement, among other changes. The committee then recommended passage by a vote of 8-1. The Assembly passed the bill as amended, by a vote of 62-30, February 17. The Senate committee on economic and workforce development held a public hearing February 23, then recommended passage by a vote of 3-2 on February 24, 2022. It awaits a floor vote in the Senate.
- AB-944/SB-908 was introduced February 1, 2022, and would expand veterans remissions at UW and technical colleges to include fee remission for nondegree and noncredit courses. While the DBA continues to support fee remissions for veterans, we have expressed concern that the state has not increased its reimbursement even as benefits have expanded, leaving the colleges with a 14% reimbursement rate in the most recent year. The state should more equitably share in the costs of the program with property taxpayers and tuition-paying students. The Assembly committee on colleges and universities held a public hearing February 10, 2022, but did not take further action.
- SB-1022 would require UW and technical colleges to collect and report data identifying the number of qualified applicants denied enrollment in a nursing degree program because of capacity constraints, and to submit a plan to increase capacity in the 10-year period following the plan’s submission. While it appears the bill will not advance this session, it is likely we will continue to see interest in program capacity for essential occupations as workforce shortages grown more acute.