2019 - 2020
Legislative Update for
Wisconsin Technical Colleges
November 22, 2019
Fall Session Report: Universal Credit Transfer Legislation Signed by Governor
The Fall Session is winding down, after a busy period of committee work on a long slate of bills of interest to Wisconsin’s technical colleges. The Senate has indicated it will not hold any additional floor sessions until the Spring session. Updates on the progress of several important bills follows.
- AB-189/SB-165 – Transferability of courses between WTCS, the UW System, private and tribally-controlled colleges: The bill was introduced in April, and coauthors Rep. Mark Born and Sen. Duey Stroebel worked with both the UW System and WTCS to refine the legislation over the course of several months, finally arriving at a bill both systems could support. As amended, the bill expands the list of universally accepted general education courses from a minimum of 30 credits to a minimum of 72 credits, and requires a joint report to the Legislature on program to program articulation agreements from UW and WTCS. The bill passed the Assembly on a voice vote on October 10th, with one member requesting to be recorded as a no vote. The Senate unanimously concurred on November 5th. The Governor signed the bill into law as Act 46 on November 21st.
- AB-76/SB-103 – Hours of Instructional Program for CNAs: Introduced in March, this bill prohibits the Department of Health Services from requiring an instructional program to exceed the federally required minimum hours of training and clinicals for Certified Nursing Assistants. The current federal minimum is 75 hours of training, including 16 clinical hours. The bill enjoyed bipartisan support, and came at the behest of a coalition of health care associations operating in Wisconsin. Due to a shortage of CNAs, long term care providers in particular sought to lower Wisconsin’s required training hours from 120 hours to the federal minimum 75 hours. The bill passed the Assembly on a vote of 66 to 31, on May 15th. The Senate concurred on November 5th but the bill was vetoed by the Governor on November 20th.
- AB-371/SB-342 – Uniform course numbering and the transfer of course credits among technical colleges and University of Wisconsin System schools and eliminating certain restrictions on the UW System and WTCS: Introduced in August, the bill received a public hearing in Assembly Colleges and Universities on September 12, 2019. It would require implementation of a uniform course numbering system between UW and WTCS within five years, under which courses with the same number would automatically transfer between and among all institutions. The bill would also delete s. 36.31(1) of the statutes, which is the section that prohibits transfer programs at most technical colleges without Board of Regents approval, and prohibits UW institutions from “broadening the system’s post-high school training mission to include the preparation of persons for semiprofessional or skilled-trade occupations” without approval of the WTCS Board. Unfortunately, uniform course numbering implementation at this stage would be quite complex and costly. The bill is not expected to move forward.
- AB-36/SB-44 – Tools of the Trade apprentice scholarships: Introduced in February, the bill would create a program to provide up to $100,000 annually in grants to financially needy technical college students for tools, equipment, and clothing required for their apprenticeship. The program is modeled on the private Tools of the Trade scholarship, created and funded by the Ascendium Education Group, which has helped more than 1,000 Wisconsin apprentices complete their education over the past six years. The bill received public hearings in both the Assembly and Senate workforce development committees in March. SB-44 as amended passed the Senate unanimously on November 5th and awaits Assembly action.
- AB-161/SB-142 – Late payment of tuition benefits for student veterans enrolled in UW or a technical college: Introduced in April, the bill would conform state law to federal requirements that no college or university charge late fees or penalties to students whose federal veterans tuition benefits are paid after the school’s tuition payment deadline. The bill received a Senate hearing on August 27, and an Assembly hearing on September 12, with executive action by the Senate Committee September 30th. The bill was passed by the full Senate on October 8th, and the Assembly concurred on November 7th. It awaits action by the Governor.
- AB-444/SB-403 – Requirements for free speech policies in the UW System and WTCS: As introduced, the bill applied only to UW institutions, but a substitute amendment (ASA-1 to AB 444) was subsequently introduced by Reps. Dave Murphy and Cody Horlacher, and Sen. Chris Kapenga in the Senate, to make it applicable to technical colleges. ASA-1 to AB-444 is extremely prescriptive, specifically supersedes all local college policies on free speech, and requires suspension or expulsion of students who violate the policy.
This bill requires both the Board of Regents of the UW System and the Technical College System Board to adopt a policy on free expression that applies at each UW institution and technical college and supersedes and nullifies any prior policies or rules restricting free expression, and requires the policy to be adopted no later than 120 days after the bill's effective date. The policy must contain statements regarding the following: 1) that the primary function of a UW institution or technical college is the discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge; 2) that it is not the proper role of a UW institution or technical college to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; 3) that students and faculty have the freedom to discuss any problem as permitted by the First Amendment and within specified limits; 4) that any person lawfully present on campus may protest or demonstrate, but may not engage in conduct that materially and substantially disrupts another's expressive activity in a campus space reserved for that activity under the exclusive control of a particular group; 5) that campuses are open to invited speakers; 6) that public areas are public forums and open on the same terms to any speaker; and 7) that UW institutions and technical colleges may not take action on public policy controversies in such a way that requires students or faculty to publicly express a given view of social policy.
The policy must include a range of disciplinary sanctions for anyone under a UW institution's or technical college's jurisdiction who engages in violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others. The bill also requires the boards to make annual reports to the legislature and governor that describe institutional neutrality, free expression barriers and disruptions, and administrative handling and discipline relating to those barriers and disruptions. Before a legislative standing committee can take any action regarding a report, the bill requires the committee to hold a public hearing. The bill also requires all technical college instructors to receive annual training on the policy.
Committee hearings have not yet been scheduled.
- AB-230/SB-205 – Transferring academic credits from military transcripts to UW System schools and technical colleges: Introduced on May 8th, this bill allows a student enrolled in a UW school or technical college who served in the military to object to the transfer of academic credit from the student’s military transcript to the UW school or technical college. Current law generally requires our institutions to accept all American Council on Education recommendations included in the joint services transcript, and accept all credits included in a Community College of the Air Force transcript, and award academic credit accordingly. The bill received a Senate hearing September 25th and passed out of committee October 16th. It passed the full Senate November 5th and awaits Assembly action.
- AB-361/SB-334 – Requirements for colleges when service members are called into active duty: Introduced August 8th, the bill provides administrative protections to students who withdraw from a college or university because they are called to active military service for any period of time. Under current law, students receive these protections only if they are called to active duty for a period of 30 days or more. The Assembly held a public hearing on September 12th, and it passed out of committee November 4th. The Senate held a public hearing on September 25th, and passed the bill out of committee October 16th. It was passed by the full Senate November 5th and awaits Assembly action.
- LRB-4680/1 – Increasing the minimum retirement age under the WRS: This draft is not yet formally introduced, but it was circulated for co-sponsorship the week of November 11. The bill would increase the minimum retirement age under the Wisconsin Retirement System from 55 to the greater of age 59.5 or the age at which the IRS does not penalize taking a distribution from a 401(k) plan. It would first apply to individuals under age 40 on the bill’s effective date. The bill would also allow an annuitant who is hired by a WRS employer to elect not to suspend his or her annuity for no more than 36 months. Finally, the bill reduces the waiting period to 45 days for recent retirees who return to covered employment as a participating employee.
- LRB-3579/P1 – Popular election of members of technical college boards: The draft, which would restructure technical college district boards to be elected at-large rather than appointed based on a representation plan, was circulated for co-sponsorship September 5th, but was not formally introduced as a bill.
Additional bills of interest to technical colleges:
- AB-13/SB-17 – Workforce training grants micro-credentials in high-demand fields: Bill was passed out of the Senate committee March 28th. It received a public hearing in the Assembly March 6th.
- AB-23/SB-16 – Career and technical education incentive grants: Bill received a public hearing March 6th in the Assembly. In the Senate, it was passed out of committee March 28th.
- AB-57/SB-88 – Youth apprenticeship: Bill was passed out of committee and is awaiting scheduling in the Senate.
- AB-81/SB-89 – Licensure of dental therapists: Bill received a public hearing August 21st in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
For more information on these efforts, please contact Layla Merrifield.