With the legislature finished for the 2017-18 session, Gov. Scott Walker has been busy signing legislation into law. So far this session, Walker has signed 273 bills, and a handful of others passed by both chambers of the legislature are eligible for signing in the upcoming weeks. Highlights of bill signings over the past several weeks include: school safety, apprenticeships, civil litigation reforms, criminal justice reforms, welfare reforms, and opioid prevention legislation.
On March 26, Walker signed into law a $100 million school safety plan. The plan establishes an Office of School Safety in the Department of Justice and funds school safety grants. The legislature passed this legislation in its final sessions of 2017-18. The bill was enacted as Act 143.
On March 28, Walker signed into law legislation to combat the construction industry’s labor shortage by preventing more than one journeyman from ever being required to oversee the work of an apprentice. John Mielke, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, said that setting journeymen-to-apprentices ratios at one-to-one for all trades would help the construction industry combat an ongoing shortage of skilled workers. The industry’s predicament in the state had become even more dire now that the Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn plans to employ as many as 10,000 construction workers in building a 20 million-square-foot manufacturing campus in southeastern Wisconsin.
“AB 508 will help get more individuals into the skilled trades without costing taxpayers any more money or endangering safety,” Mielke said. The bill was enacted as Act 148.
On March 30, Walker signed the juvenile corrections plan that will close Lincoln Hills, establish a new facility for the more serious offenders, and establish a county run model for secured residential care centers for children and youth. The bill, Act 185, includes a study committee to make recommendations throughout the process.
On April 3, Walker signed a bill, Act 195, creating the Hire Heroes program. Under the bill, the Department of Workforce Development would work in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Children and Families (DCF) to secure employment for veterans who meet certain requirements. Eligible veterans can participate in the program for up to 1,040 hours, and employers are compensated for some costs. The department anticipates spending $400,000 on the program. WPS employee and veteran Timothy LaSage testified in favor of the Hire Heroes bill at public hearings in October.
Also on April 3, Walker signed Act 235, which contains a number of important civil litigation reforms, including discovery and class action rules. This major legislation will significantly reduce the cost of litigation for Wisconsin businesses. “Act 235 is a major victory for small to large Wisconsin businesses and will greatly reduce the cost of litigation. The legislation brings Wisconsin in line with the vast majority of other states when it comes to its discovery procedures and class action rules,” said Bill G. Smith, president of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council and state director for National Federation of Independent Business-Wisconsin.
Foster Forward Package
On April 4, Walker traveled to La Crosse and Wausau to sign the Foster Forward package of 11 bills to improve Wisconsin’s foster care system. The package included reforms under four policy goals: prevention efforts, improving the child welfare system, support for foster care providers, and support for foster care youth. The bills were enacted as Acts 250-260.
On April 9, Walker was at Bellin Health in Green Bay to sign Rep. John Nygren’s (R- Marinette) latest package of bills to combat the opioid epidemic. The Health and Workforce bill (Act 262) includes a variety of provisions, including more county worker training supports, changes to increase substance abuse counselors, increased access to buprenorphine, prescriber continuing education, funding for psychiatric mental health nurse training, and public school health curriculum. The Law Enforcement and Public Safety bill (Act 261) includes grants to law enforcement agencies for medication assisted treatment, among other provisions. For more information on legislative efforts to address the opioid crisis in Wisconsin, visit our Opioid Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Education Issue Update.
On April 10, Walker stopped in Wausau, River Falls, and Milwaukee to sign the nine bills passed in the January 2018 special session on welfare reform. Changes under the bill package include increased FoodShare employment and training program work requirements, asset limits for certain welfare programs, a requirement that the Department of Health Services (DHS) request a waiver to create health savings accounts for Medicaid participants, and a requirement that DHS and DCF run people eligible for welfare programs through the death registry on a quarterly basis. The bills are Acts 263-271.
Other legislation of note that Walker has signed over the past few weeks includes:
- Act 145, prohibiting straw purchasing of firearms.
- Act 149, legalizing biosimilar prescription drug alternatives.
- Act 153, allowing 15-year-olds to be employed as lifeguards.
- Act 157, making changes to Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance
- Act 160, prohibiting selling dextromethorphan to minors.
- Act 165, allowing terminally ill patients the “right to try” investigational drugs.
- Act 180, modifying statutes regarding the practice of chiropractors.
- Act 183, relating to wetland projects.
- Act 184, requiring the placement of sexually violent persons in their counties of residence.
- Act 201, requiring facilities performing mammograms to provide patients with dense breast tissue a notice stating that such tissue is associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.
- Act 211, making changes to the law enforcement asset forfeiture process.
- Act 214, creating a general permit for small-scale dredging.
- Act 239, clarifying requirements regarding social and financial impact reports by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance that are required for bills related to health insurance mandates.