Legislature advances six Badger Institute-supported bills

Reforms would increase oversight of federal funds, school and health care options, workforce participation

Feb. 23, 2022 – Six key Badger Institute-supported bills on issues ranging from school choice to health care to work requirements advanced in the Legislature this week.

Legislative Oversight of Federal Funds in Wisconsin: The Assembly passed AJR 112, a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore legislative oversight of some federal spending in the state. The measure passed in the Senate in January. Decades ago, the Legislature rescinded its constitutional spending authority over funds provided to the state by the federal government. This measure, which would prohibit the Legislature from delegating its authority to the executive branch, will have to pass the Legislature again next session before it can be sent to voters for ratification.

Eliminating Income, Enrollment Caps for Parental Choice Programs: The Assembly passed AB 970, which would eliminate income enrollment caps on parental choice programs, allowing more Wisconsin children to participate. As a result of school shutdowns, virtual learning, mask mandates, critical race theory instruction and other issues, demand for school choice options has exploded in Wisconsin. This bill would make parental choice programs available to all children, regardless of income, statewide. It would also create a small education expense accounts for parents.

Direct Primary Care (DPC): The Senate passed SB 889, which provides a statutory definition of direct primary care in order to prevent doctors who provide it to their patients from being regulated out of business. DPC – a form of health care, not health insurance – allows patients to pay a monthly fee to a health care provider in exchange for a wide variety of primary health care services. Membership is voluntary, giving patients unlimited access to physicians who deliver comprehensive, personalized care. This free-market model allows doctors and patients to avoid bureaucracy and costly claims processing. Some 30 states specifically define DPC in statute.

FoodShare Work Requirements: The Senate passed AB 935, a measure designed to address the workforce shortage in Wisconsin by reinstating work requirements for able-bodied participants in the FoodShare program. In an October 2021 report for the Badger Institute, Visiting Fellow Angela Rachidi noted that participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called Food Stamps and known as FoodShare in Wisconsin) increased dramatically throughout the pandemic and continued to grow even as Wisconsin’s economy recovered. In recent legislative testimony, she noted that while participation has started to decline, it remains more than 15% higher than the months before the pandemic began. One reason is that Wisconsin has a waiver from the federal government suspending the work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependent children. AB 935 would reinstate that requirement. This measure has already passed in the Assembly.

Charter School Authorizing Board: The Assembly passed AB 968, a measure that would create a Charter School Authorizing Board that could authorize independent charter schools. Under current law, there are only a handful of charter authorizers that focus on a regional approach. The only authorizer with statewide capability is housed in the University of Wisconsin system. This bill would create a board with statewide authority to approve more independent charter schools. It would also give charter schools greater autonomy from local school districts.

Licensing Reform for Interior Designers: The Senate and Assembly passed SB 344, which would remove unnecessary regulatory requirements for Wisconsin interior designers. Under current law, a registered interior designer working on a commercial project must pay for and get approval from an architect on remodeling plans. This step adds costs and delays to the project without enhancing public safety. The bill would also reduce barriers to entry to the profession by eliminating burdensome registration standards.