Wisconsin Assembly Passes Bills Affecting Municipalities:

The Wisconsin Assembly recently passed a number of bills that will impact municipalities. Below are summaries of each of these bills, which address a wide variety of issues. The State Senate is poised to addressed some additional bills in its last session on April 1, 2014.

Tax Incremental Districts

2013 Senate Bill 338 grants certain towns the same powers as a city or village to create a tax incremental district (TID). Under current law, towns and counties have a limited ability to create a TID under certain circumstances. Under this bill, a town with a population over 3,500 and with at least $500 million in equalized value has the authority to create a TID under the same law that applies to cities and villages. Further, the bill identifies three conditions for creating a town TID. First, the land of the town TID must be serviced by a waste water treatment plant. Second, if any part of the town TID is annexed by a city or village, any assets or liabilities associated with that annexed territory becomes the responsibility of the annexing city or village. Third, if any part of a town TID is annexed by a city or village the Department of Revenue is required to redetermine the tax incremental base of the district. The bill also provides instruction regarding how a regular TID may become a donor TID to an environmental remediation tax incremental district (ERTID), and establishes an alternative method for TID creation in recently annexed areas.


2013 Senate Bill 20 modifies the residency requirements for those serving as election officials at a polling place. With exceptions, the bill relaxes the residency requirements, requiring only that the individual be an elector of the county where the official being elected serves. The bill does require the chief inspector of the polling place to be a qualified elector of the municipality where he or she serves in most circumstances. A high school student (16 or 17 years old) may only serve at the polling place of his or her residence.

2013 Senate Bill 324 amends Wis. Stat. § 6.86 by limiting the time of day a person may apply to the municipal clerk in person to vote using an absentee ballot for a statewide election. In-person applications to vote using absentee ballots may only be received after 8:00 a.m. on the 3rd Monday preceding the election and no later than 7:00 p.m. on the Friday preceding the election. A municipality is limited to 45 total hours of in-person absentee voting per week. Further, in-person absentee voting on legal holidays is prohibited. The bill also allows municipalities to hire individuals to assist in receiving in-person absentee ballots for statewide elections, and requires the municipality to pay such individuals reasonable compensation. If the municipality applies to the Department of Revenue by July 1, 2015, the state must reimburse the municipality up to 50% off the compensation paid to these individuals. The reimbursement is made from an appropriation created by an amendment to this bill.

2013 Senate Bill 377 amends Chapter 6 of the Wisconsin Statutes and expands the reporting obligations of municipal clerks after each election at which a state or national office is filled or a statewide referendum is held. Under this bill, in addition to other election−related statistics that a municipal clerk must submit to each county in which the municipality is located, the municipal clerk must provide the total number of postcards sent to electors to verify that the addresses they provided on election day are correct, the total number of such postcards returned as undeliverable, and the total number of electors whose status was changed from eligible to ineligible on the registration list as a result of the audit. This information must be provided no later than 60 days after an election. The bill also requires the Government Accountability Board (“GAB”) to publish this information on its Internet site once it receives it from the county. In addition, if GAB performs the audit, GAB must publish on its Internet site the total number of postcards sent to electors, the total number of postcards returned as undeliverable, and the total number of electors whose status was changed from eligible to ineligible. This obligation is in addition to the current obligations of municipal clerks, which include submission, within 30 days, of a written statement to the county clerk of each county in which the municipality is located specifying certain election−related statistics, such as the number of electors residing in the county who voted in the municipality, the number of electors who were registered to vote in advance of the election, and the number of electors who registered to vote on the day of the election.

2013 Assembly Bill 396 requires the municipal clerk or board of election commissioners to dispatch two special voting deputies (SVD) not only to nursing homes, as previously required, but also to any community-based residential facility, adult family home or residential care apartment complex within the municipality to conduct absentee voting. The bill imposes this requirement as long as there are five registered electors who are residents of the facility, home or complex. Notice of the SVD must be posted at the home or facility at least five working days before the visit and on the Internet, unless the municipality does not maintain a website. The notice must also go within the same timeframe to a local news medium and to those members of the media requesting such notice. The bill does not modify the requirement that the clerk or board may dispatch an SVD to a retirement community if the clerk or board finds a significant number of residents require assistance or otherwise qualify to vote absentee, but does require information about retirement community members to be gathered and provided to the SVDs under some circumstances.

2013 Senate Bill 548 transfers responsibility for reviewing the voter registration list and mailing voter notices to those electors who have not voted in four years from local clerks to the state Government Accountability Board (GAB). Additionally, the bill requires the GAB to post certain statistics on its Internet site relating to the mailing and return of the notices, including the total number of notices mailed; the number returned as undeliverable; and, the number of electors whose status changed from eligible to ineligible.

Recertification in Food Protection Practices

2013 Senate Bill 434 requires that an individual take a certification examination in order to receive a recertification in food protection practices. The bill also requires an individual who holds a restaurant permit to ensure that whenever food is being prepared, processed, or served at a restaurant, an individual who holds a food protection practices certification is present. Restaurants with five or fewer food handlers (defined as food processers, preparers, or servers) working at the restaurant and restaurants that have had two consecutive inspections without a priority health violation subsequent to having a priority violation at each of two consecutive inspections are exempt from this requirement. The bill also prohibits a city, village, town, or county from enacting an ordinance requiring a restaurant, a restaurant permit holder, or a person who conducts, maintains, manages, or operates a restaurant to satisfy a requirement related to food protection practices certificates that is not found in the statutes. The definition of “food handler” in the bill excludes individuals who are engaged in the service of food. The bill also allows the City of Milwaukee to enact an ordinance that complies with the requirements in the bill, except that the ordinance may allow individuals engaged in the service of food to be included in the definition of food handlers.

Aerial Approach Ordinances

2013 Senate Bill 516 modifies the requirements for adopting aerial approach ordinances. Previously, in order to initiate the adoption of an aerial approach ordinance, one of the following must have held at least one public hearing after giving the public notice and formulate a tentative ordinance: 1) if a county owns the airport, the county park commission or, if the county has a county executive or county administrator, the county park manager, except that if there is no such commission or manager, a committee of thegoverning body of the county; 2) if a city or village owns the airport, the city or village plan commission or, if there is no such commission, a committee of the governing body of the city or village; or 3) if a town owns the airport, a committee of the governing body of the town. The bill amends Wis. Stat. § 114.136 (2) (a) so that – in addition to the above specified committees and commissions – an aerial approach ordinance may be initiated by a more general “committeeof the governing body” of the county or municipality that owns the airport. All other requirements of § 114.126 remain.

Agricultural Vehicle Operation

2013 Senate Bill 509 modifies in many respects the limitations on operating agricultural vehicles on highways and the penalties relating to violation of these limits. Under the bill, a municipality or county may authorize the operation of “implements of husbandry” and “agricultural CMVs” (both defined in the bill) exceeding the size limits on any highway under its control, by resolution or ordinance. The ordinance must be valid for least one year and available to the public. The bill also specifies when an operator may be entitled to apply for a no-fee permit relating to use of these vehicles.

Special Assessments/Levy Limits

2013 Assembly Bill 598 changes the method for charging interest on special assessments when installments payments are allowed. The bill provides that installment payments will be structured by the governmental unit's governing body, which will also set the interest rate. The interest rate may include an administrative fee up to 2 percent, and once set, cannot be changed during the period of the installment payments. The bill establishes an additional exception to the levy limits for the amount a political subdivision levies to make up revenue shortfall for the debt service on a special assessment B bond, issued to fund a public improvement. This exception is similar to the current exception for levies relating to revenue shortfalls for debt service on revenue bonds.

School Districts

2013 Senate Bill 478 requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to promulgate rules defining which costs for community programs and services can be excluded from the school district's shared cost calculation. School districts must also submit an annual report to the Department of Revenue (DOR) outlining the school board's annual expenditures on community programs and services, and DOR will certify to the DPI any expenditures that were ineligible under the DPI's rules. The school district's revenue limit is reduced by the amount of its ineligible expenditures.

Note: These bills may not yet be effective and may be subject to veto.

Thank you to Marney Hoefer, Jordan Corning, Holly Wilson and Liz Stephens for the assistance on these summaries.

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