Legislative Update: Roundabouts, Tax Credits, and Leadership Shifts

Wisconsin Rewable Energy Act Introduced

Despite its sweeping policies, the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act was recently introduced with muted fanfare and debate that reflects its likely demise. Fair to say: too late, too much, and wrong party.

Introduced by Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona), Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), and Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), the legislation sets a course to reach 30% renewable energy by 2030 through a new renewable energy standard mandate. The bill also differentiates energy sources, providing preferences or penalties, depending on perspective, for certain electrons based upon how and where generated.

Tax Credit Transfer Bill Passes Assembly

A bill which would authorize the transfer of certain tax credits connected to economic development in Wisconsin was passed unanimously in the State Assembly, sending the bill to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

In a press release, the bill’s author Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), stated, “For over six months I have worked… to craft a limited economic development tax credit transferability bill that is unique to Wisconsin. Providing for the limited transfer of tax credits within the existing vendor or supplier network of a project will allow qualified applicants with no income tax liability to move forward with economic development projects, thus providing the missing value that is unavailable under current law.”

The bill will allow for up to $15 million of economic development tax credits.

Roundabout Legislation Likely Going Nowhere

A bill has been introduced in the legislature that would allow municipalities to veto proposed roundabouts on state and county highways. At a recent public hearing, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin explained that roundabouts are supported by research and engineers who believe roundabouts are the safest and most efficient design for an intersection.

The implementation of roundabouts in Wisconsin began in the 1990s, as Wisconsin had above average crash problems at intersections. A Wisconsin DOT study shows severe crashes have decreased by 38%, but less serious collisions have grown 12%.

The bill’s author, Rep. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon) also testified. In a press release Rep. Craig stated the legislation allows local communities to decide what is best for their roads.

With this year’s legislation session almost over, the bill is unlikely to see any time on the Senate or Assembly floor for a vote.

Kramer out, Strachota in

As has been widely reported, GOP Majority Leader Bill Kramer was ousted by the Assembly Republican caucus due to allegations of sexual harassment.

In a unanimous vote, the GOP voted to remove Rep. Kramer from his leadership position. With a position open, the caucus immediately moved into elections, and Rep. Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) was elected as new Majority Leader. Strachota previously announced she will not be running for re-election this fall, therefore leaving room for new leadership next fall.

A number of elected officials, including Governor Scott Walker, have stated that should the allegations be true, Rep. Kramer should either resign or not run for re-election.

Walker Signs Newborn Testing Legislation

On Monday, March 3, Governor Walker signed Senate Bill 523, which gives the Department of Health Services (DHS) the authority it needs for testing of newborn babies for congenital and metabolic diseases.

According to the press release:

“This is a potentially life-saving measure for our newborns,” Governor Walker said. “All babies deserve the best chance at a happy, healthy life. When a simple test can lead to early detection of a critical disease, making sure our newborns get that screening is the right thing to do.”

The pulse oximetry test, which can detect certain critical, congenital heart defects, is likely to be the first test reviewed under this bill.

The non-invasive test measures oxygen saturation in the blood using a sensor. Early detection of congenital heart defects leads to earlier treatment, which can be life-saving for a newborn.

The bill passed on a voice vote with bipartisan support. It is 2013 Wis. Act 135.

Learn more about screening for congenital heart defects.