Rep. Todd Novak, chair of the Assembly Local Government committee, said he expects there to be amendments next week when the bill comes to the Assembly floor for a vote. (Screenshot Wiseye)
The Assembly Local Government committee voted 8-4 along partisan lines to advance a Republican bill to increase local government funding tied to requirements that drew Democrats’ objections, despite the committee chair saying negotiations on the bill are ongoing.
Democrats on the committee were critical of Republicans for moving the bill forward without addressing concerns brought by lawmakers and speakers at a public hearing last week. Republican leaders have said the bill will likely come to a vote on the Assembly floor next week.
“Republicans told us they were working on an amendment or a substitute that would serve the interests of all those who testified and make sure it is reflective of what we all want to see happen,” said Rep. Samba Baldeh (D-Madison). “But there is no amendment. We have no amendment, nothing that is on the table. We are back to where we were last week after having all these people come and testify.”
The bill, which would dedicate 20% of Wisconsin’s 5-cent sales tax to local government funding, includes several requirements and limitations on local authority. Provisions include prohibiting local municipalities or counties from holding advisory referenda, requiring local governments to meet maintenance of efforts criteria for public safety, restricting local public health officials from issuing mandates to close a business for longer than 14 days in order to control an outbreak of a disease and requiring local government approval for Stewardship projects. There are also several provisions for Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, which under the bill could adopt an additional sales tax to pay for unfunded pension obligations.
Republican leaders have said the inclusion of the provisions were related to getting the necessary number of votes to pass the bill.
“Our understanding is that these discussions are ongoing, and so if that is true, why are we in an executive meeting today to vote on a bill that we know is not going to be the final bill if you are not just playing partisan politics and just wasting Wisconsinites’ time,” Baldeh continued.
Democrats introduced an amendment to remove the policy items to create a “clean bill.” Baldeh said removing the items would create an opportunity for bipartisan work on the bill. The amendment was quickly voted down by Republicans.
Rep. Todd Novak, chair of the committee, said he expects there to be amendments to the bill next week when it comes to the Assembly floor for a vote.
“There are no amendments on the bill today because [there are] negotiations still going on, and I don’t believe it would be worthwhile to pass amendments where they are right now and then have to amend it again,” Novak said.
Novak, addressing Democratic committee members, said Gov. Tony Evers, Democratic lawmakers and Milwaukee officials remain involved in the negotiations on the bill.
“It is a Republican bill, but your party did have a lot of input and suggestions and stuff,” Novak said. “On a bill of this magnitude, I’ve learned over my 10 years here you don’t get everything you want, you get the best you can.”
Evers said last week that he would veto the bill if passed in its current form, calling on lawmakers to send him a clean bill and increase the funding being allocated to local governments.
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