My legislative focus aimed at job climate

CAPITOL CONNECTION
Joe Leibham  9th Senatorial District

During this fall session, the Senate has voted on 95 individual bills proposed by numerous legislators. These bills cover a wide range of topics from education to healthcare to local government to natural resources and everything in between. While I enjoy the debate on all of these issues, my focus has continued to be on improving the jobs climate in our state, responsibly managing our finances and moving forward issues on behalf of the constituents I serve. Below, I am pleased to share a number of bills that relate to each of these areas:

Workforce Development Legislative Package- Recently, I have been working closely with Governor Scott Walker and several other legislators to examine how the state can be helpful in ensuring that workers in this state have the skills necessary to be successful in the jobs of the future in Wisconsin. Increasingly, employers, especially in the manufacturing sector, are demanding increasingly specialized skills of their employees. This fall, we passed a package of 8 bills that will help provide Wisconsin workers with these in-demand skills. These bills include:

Senate Bill (SB) 274- This bill provides additional state and federal funding for Wisconsin’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), which provides numerous employment services for individuals with disabilities.

SB 331- This bill provides state funding for grants to individ- ual school districts to help them implement career and technical education programs, beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

SB 332- This bill will continue a successful program that allows unemployed workers in certain high-unemployment areas around the state to continue receiving unemployment insurance (UI) while retraining for a new occupation.

SB 333- This bill provides temporary state assistance to individuals in Southeast Wisconsin who are currently unemployed and looking to develop skills in a temporary job before moving on to full-time employment.

SB 334- This bill creates a new Technical Excellence Higher Education Scholarship to encourage students talented in technical fields to continue their technical education after high school.

SB 335 & SB 336- These bills provide state assistance to help cover the cost students incur when participating in an apprenticeship program. The goal is to encourage students to get hands-on experience in important in-demand trades.

SB 337- This bill eliminates delays in the process of issuing credentials to certain occupations requiring state licensure by streamlining the process of issuing these credentials.

$100 Million Property Tax Cut- In addition to these important workforce development investments, the legislature also passed legislation, formally known as Special Session Senate Bill (SS SB) 1, which will provide a total of $100 million in property tax relief to the citizens of this state.

The property tax relief will come as a result of the fact that the state will invest $100 million of additional state tax dollars over the next two years to fund our public schools. This new state money will offset local tax levies that would have been funded via the property tax. While the specific amount of relief will vary around the state, the owner of a median valued home should see a reduction of $13 in this year’s property tax and an additional $20 next year. While not overly substantial, it is a reduction and this will mark the 3rd straight year in which property taxes across the state have gone up less than 1% on average.

Constituent Driven Bills - I was pleased to introduce several bills this fall on behalf of constituents in the 9th Senate District. Below are a few of these bills that passed the Senate:

SB 40- This bill allows local law enforcement to work with the Department of Corrections in monitoring individuals in our communities on probation, parole, or extended supervision. I have been working on this bill at the request of the Sheboygan Police Department for several years, and was happy to see it pass both the Senate and Assembly this fall. SB 40 is now being considered by Governor Scott Walker.

AB 356- I drafted this bill at the request of local residents and officials to address an urgent situation involving Highway LS, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. As a result of erosion, the highway is literally in the process of falling into the lake and is in need of immediate relocation. This bill provides state assistance to help the local governments involved relocate this highway. AB 356 was recently signed into law by Governor Walker.

SB 321- This bill will cut red tape currently hampering many small private airports that serve Wisconsin’s recreational aviation industry. SB 321 provides that a private airport owner who allows noncommercial, recreational aircraft to land on their property is exempt from liability for death or injury caused by such a landing. I was pleased to work with several constituents to advance this proposal, and hope that it will be considered by the State Assembly in January.

These are a few of the bills considered and passed by the State Senate this fall. Overall, I was pleased with the progress we have made in the past few months to create jobs, invest appropriate resources in important state programs, and reduce the tax burden on Wisconsin citizens. The State Senate will now concentrate on committee work primarily over the course of the next two months before returning to session to vote on more bills in January.


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