WEDC Fraud Bill Passes Assembly, Status of the Bill Unclear in the Senate

Assembly Bill 669/Senate Bill authored by Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) has passed the Assembly, however it is uncertain whether the Senate will take up the bill.

The legislation would establish criminal penalties for committing fraud against the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The bill would make it a crime to provide false information on an application for a grant, loan, tax benefit or any other benefit or payment from WEDC. Under the legislation, crimes could be punished by up to 10 years in prison and $50,000 fine.

The Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy recommended the legislation 11-3 and the Assembly passed the legislation 63-35. The bill’s status in the Senate is uncertain. Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau) says he will not take up the legislation if it is not recommended by the chairman of the Senate Economic Development and Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac).

Sen. Gudex, who serves on the WEDC board, expressed that he thinks the bill could discourage legitimate business from applying for WEDC benefits and other loans for fear of unintentionally misleading the organization.