Wisconsin LWV statement on Extraordinary Session Bills

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Published
December 3, 2018

December 3, 2018To: Joint Committee on FinanceRe: December 2018 Extraordinary Session BillsThe League of Women Voters of Wisconsin has long held that the legislature must beresponsible to the citizens. Our positions, which reflect careful grassroots research andconsensus, state that legislative leaders, committees, and members should represent the stateas a whole as well as their own districts. The legislature should make decisions that meet stateneeds while reconciling conflicting interests and priorities. Lawmakers should not act in theirown partisan interests.The Joint Committee on Finance is holding this hearing and will be voting today on bills thatwere introduced late Friday afternoon. It is likely that the Assembly will vote on this legislationtomorrow. Good legislation does not result from a rushed, secretive process with littleopportunity for input from the public or even the agencies that will be charged with implementingthe changes. Such a process results in sloppy errors and reeks of a partisan power grab.Legisla​ tive changes introduced at the eleventh hour, like any bill, should be positive reformsoffered in the interest of the people rather than in partisan reaction to the results of an election.With that in mind we make the following comments about the bills before us today:Opposition to AB 1071The League believes Wisconsin citizens should have maximum opportunities to obtain a ballotand vote, including opportunities for absentee and “early” voting. We strongly oppose theproposal to move the presidential primary to a date in March. This option would suppress thevote by causing voter confusion. It is no surprise that county and municipal clerks from aroundthe state oppose this proposal, because it would be logistically impossible to implement. Itwould waste millions of local government dollars and possibly have disastrous consequences ifa recount is needed between elections. Some specific problems include:● Ballot tabulators are programmed to read polling-place specific ballots, and all tabulatorsare tested by the county and municipality. There is simply not enough time to interjectLeague of Women Voters of Wisconsin - Testimony to Joint Committee on Finance 12.3.181●●●●●another election between the already-short timeline between the February Primary andthe April Election.Past spring elections have cost around $7 million statewide. A much larger amountwould be needed to carry out an additional election in the same period.Voters could be disenfranchised. If a voter on the permanent absentee ballot list failed toreturn a ballot for a March election, the clerk could decide not to send a ballot for theApril election.Clerks have to update voter registrations in the WisVote system after each election. Itwould be difficult to do this with such closely-spaced elections.Municipal and county clerks would be engaging in overlapping elections with separateballots. This is extremely unwise from security and procedural perspectives.The dates when clerks may conduct in-person absentee voting are currently under courtorder. No changes should be considered until the 7th Circuit has ruled.Concerns about AB 1069Section 1 of this bill could undercut the principles of "complete streets" which accommodatepedestrians, bicyclists and public transit, not just trucks and cars. ​ We support the CompleteStreets principles, and we object to the transferring of transportation funds to avoid followingfederal requirements related to prevailing wage and environmental concerns, which include"complete streets.”According to US DOT Guidelines, "Complete Streets approaches vary based on communitycontext. They may address a wide range of elements, such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, buslanes, public transportation stops, crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestriansignals, curb extensions, modified vehicle travel lanes, roundabouts, streetscape, andlandscape treatments." The State must consider these elements when using federaltransportation dollars.Opposition to AB 1072, AB 1070 and AB 1073The League of Women Voters supports a healthy system of checks and balances among thethree branches of government. This principle protects the people from power grabs and holdsgovernment officials accountable. AB 1072, AB 1070 and AB 1073 are complex bills which aredifficult to analyze in such a rushed environment. However, they clearly upset the currentbalance of powers in a significant manner. Given the fact that the voters have just chosen achange in statewide leadership, these bills are a source of grave concern.AB 1072 eliminates the current authority of the Executive Branch to manage the operations ofmultiple programs designed to assist low income children and families. It requires legislativereview, primarily through the Joint Committee on Finance, of many traditional managerialactivities, including allocation of funds among subsidiary programs, modification of clientreporting requirements, communication and negotiation with the appropriate agencies of theFederal government, and control of implementation timelines.League of Women Voters of Wisconsin - Testimony to Joint Committee on Finance 12.3.182The League of Women Voters believes that all U.S. residents should have access to affordablequality health care. We further believe, as do many members of this committee, thatemployment in jobs that pay a living wage is undoubtedly the most effective means to movefamilies out of poverty. We have previously argued, based on these beliefs, that the BadgerCare Reform waiver, approved on October 31, 2018, could not achieve its stated goals, andshould not be submitted or approved.Now it has been approved, although not yet been implemented in Wisconsin. However, parts ofit have been implemented in Arkansas, where 12,000 people have lost their Medicaid coverageafter work requirements were imposed. So far, we have no information about how thathappened, or whether those individuals have obtained health insurance through some othermeans.The state’s Executive Branch includes hundreds of professionals who operate state programs,and it must have the flexibility to respond to their research, the evidence based on experiencehere in Wisconsin and that learned from other states. The capacity to digest this information andmake rationale managerial decisions ​ requires the input of the Executive Branch agenciescharged with the implementation of laws.We oppose AB 1070 because it would allow legislative leaders to intervene​ in court cases andhire their own attorneys at taxpayer expense when state laws are challenged, replacing theAttorney General. This legislation also allows the budget committee, rather than the Governor,to approve withdrawal from lawsuits. This is a power grab by the legislative branch.The League of Women Voters urges you to reject AB 1072, AB 1070 and AB 1073, whichintroduce significant changes in the balance of powers in Wisconsin government. Such changesshould not be made without full consideration and ample citizen input. There is no need to makethese changes now other than to disregard the will of the voters who have elected newleadership in the Executive Branch.In the distinguished tradition of bipartisanship in Wisconsin, we expect our state leaders to worktogether in the coming years to carry out a smooth transition of power and serve the people ofour entire state.League of Women Voters of Wisconsin - Testimony to Joint Committee on Finance 12.3.183

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