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Larson Bills Pass, and Other Assembly Activity

submitted by Tom Larson

The Assembly met on Tuesday, October 27, to vote on a long list of bills, including two bills I introduced and a plan to reform Wisconsin’s civil service.

Assembly Bill 190, which I introduced, is a follow-up to 2013 Act 143, the electrician licensure law the Legislature passed last session. Act 143 included language that exempted electricians who met certain age and experience criteria from having to obtain a master or journeyman license, which requires an exam, or a beginner license, which doesn’t require an exam but restricts the type of work an electrician may do. I had not wanted to include this exemption in the act, but it was necessary in order to get the bill as a whole through the legislative process. At the same time, it was my expectation and the expectation of many legislators and other stakeholders I worked with that the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services would use its regulatory authority to impose continuing education and renewal requirements on these exempt electricians so they would keep current on developments in the electrician trade, especially changes in the National Electrical Code.

To make a long story short, the rules DSPS ultimately produced did not meet my expectations, and AB 190 was necessary in order to make the system work the way it was supposed to. AB 190 requires exempt electricians to meet the same continuing education and renewal requirements as master electricians. The bill also requires DSPS to impose continuing education requirements on all electrical licenses; DSPS has already been doing this (except for the exempt electricians), but some stakeholders thought it would be a good idea to put this requirement in the statutes. AB 190 also closes the door on new applications for exempt status.

As I’ve told many people over the years, if an electrician messes up, someone can get killed, and when you’re dead, you’re dead for a long time. That’s why I think it’s so important that electricians keep up to date, no matter how much experience they have.

Assembly Bill 324, which I introduced with Sen. Terry Moulton and Rep. Kathy Bernier, makes a technical change to the alcoholic beverages statutes. Several years ago, the Wisconsin Renaissance Faire in Chippewa Falls was granted an exemption from the general law that prohibits minors from entering premises in which alcohol is served. That exemption allowed unaccompanied minors to attend the Faire. The property has changed hands since then, and AB 324 simply changes the name in the statute from the Wisconsin Renaissance Faire to the current name, Eagle Ridge Festival Grounds.

AB 190 and AB 324 passed on voice votes and will be going to the Senate for further consideration.

Among the other bills the Assembly passed on Tuesday was Assembly Bill 373, which makes changes to Wisconsin’s civil service. AB 373 responds to concerns that the current hiring procedure, based on civil service examinations, is too cumbersome and unresponsive to agencies’ hiring needs. In the time it takes an applicant for a civil service position to make it through the entire state hiring process, he or she may find another job elsewhere. That’s great for the applicant, but it depletes the pool of potential state employees. AB 373 largely replaces the exams with a resume-centered system that is intended to speed up the process. The new process will continue to include a preference system for veterans. AB 373 also clarifies when and how a state employee may be fired for just cause; some actions may be grounds for immediate termination, while others may be subject to progressive disciplinary action.

The Assembly also passed Assembly Joint Resolution 5, an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution that will eliminate the office of the State Treasurer. Over the years, the Treasurer’s duties have been whittled down to a single constitutional mandate, to serve on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands; this task typically consists of only a few short phone calls each month. State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk makes no secret of his belief that the position should be eliminated. Under AJR 5, the Lieutenant Governor will take the Treasurer’s place on the BCPL.

I voted for AB 373 and AJR 5, and both bills have been sent to the Senate for further consideration. Should the Senate concur in AJR 5, the 2017-2018 Legislature will have to approve identical language in order for the amendment to go before Wisconsin voters in a referendum.

The Assembly returned to the floor Tuesday, November 3. The next floor period after that will be in January, but legislative committees will continue to meet in the meantime.

Blue Books

My office still has copies of the 2015-2016 State of Wisconsin Blue Book for interested residents of the 67th Assembly District. Please contact my office if you would like a complimentary Blue Book, and be sure to include your mailing address.