Bills of Note: Legal Notices, WRS Pensions and Deaths in the Line of Duty

As the legislative session heats up, bills are quickly moving through the legislature. This week’s Bills of Note includes changes to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), legal notices on internet sites for municipalities, and a death in the line of duty bill for law enforcement families.

Legal Notice on Internet Sites

In late April, Senator Howard Markelin (R-Spring Green) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 137, which would change the way local municipalities are allowed to post public notices. Under current law, a municipality must post the notice in at least three public places likely to give notice to those affected. SB 137 would change these requirements so that instead of posting the notice in three public places, the notice could be posted in one public place and also on the municipality’s internet site.

The bill passed the Senate Committee on Elections and Government 3-2 in June and passed the Senate on a voice vote. The Assembly passed the bill September 24, and is now headed to the Governor’s desk for an expected signature.

Wisconsin Retirement System Changes

Two bills proposed by Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg) would make various changes to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). The first bill would raise the minimum retirement age for most Wisconsin state employees from 55 to 57. Additionally, the bill would raise the minimum retirement age from 50 to 52 for State protective services jobs,such as police and firefighters.

The second bill proposed by Sen. Stroebel makes changes to the way in which employee benefit payouts are calculated. The bill would change the average from the three highest-earning years to use the five-highest earning years. Sen. Stroebel says the change reflects a more representative perspective of an employee’s career earnings.

Neither bill affects workers close to retirement. The increased age would only apply to workers currently younger than 40 years of age. The pension calculation readjustment would not take place until five years after the bill’s passage.

Sen. Stroebel cites the bills as necessary steps to save the state money and make WRS more in line with private sector pensions.

As of this writing, neither bill has been introduced. This bill is unlikely to see major movement anytime soon, as the bill will go to the Joint Survey committee, and will be required to undergo actuarial study. An actuarial study, required by statute, will likely take three to four months to complete.

Death in the Line of Duty

SB 192, introduced by Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) in June, would require a municipality pay health insurance premiums of the surviving spouse and children of a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or EMT who dies in the line of duty. The state would later reimburse the municipality for these payments.

Sen. Wanggaard, a former police officer, cites the need to provide a safety net for families left behind in the tragic loss of a law enforcement officer. Multiple police associations testified at the bill’s emotional public hearing last week about the problems families have trying to collect needed benefits in an emotionally and financially difficult time. 

Firefighters already receive this benefit in Wisconsin, however municipalities must shoulder the cost.

Sen. Wanggaard introduced a similar bill in a previous legislative session, but the session expired before the bill could be passed. An executive session for the bill has not yet been scheduled.