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State politics roundup: Wisconsin academic standards, GOP minimum wage bills all but dead

Mar. 6, 2014
 

MADISON — A bill that would give the Legislature power to write and approve Wisconsinís academic standards is all but dead in the state Senate.

The chairman of the Senateís Education Committee, Sen. Luther Olsen, told The Associated Press on Thursday that at least five Republican senators oppose the measure that would lead to the undoing of Common Core standards adopted in 2010. That would leave the bill at least four votes shy of the 17 needed to pass.

Olsen told AP that itís up to the billís sponsors to tell him they have the votes for it to pass before he will have the committee take action on it. His comments came less than two hours before education leaders from around the state were expected to converge on the Capitol to testify against the bill in a public hearing.

ďThey donít think itís necessary for the Legislature to get into areas we donít need to get into,Ē Olsen said in describing Republicans opposed to the bill.

Olsen said the committee will take testimony on the measure, which is backed by Gov. Scott Walker and conservative Republicans who oppose the Common Core standards, but he wonít schedule a vote until supporters tell him there are at least 17 senators ready to pass the bill in the Senate.

Republicans hold an 18-15 majority and Democrats have been unified in opposing the bill.

ďI have been approached by numerous senators very concerned with this piece of legislation,Ē Olsen said. ďI donít want to say itís dead. Itís in limbo. Iím waiting for someone to tell me the next step.Ē

The billís sponsor, Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, did not immediately return a message Thursday before the hearing.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who is in charge of setting the Senateís agenda for the last two or three days it plans to meet this year, issued a statement saying the bill needs to be changed before it can be taken up.

ďThe bill isnít dead, but it looks unlikely to pass in its current form,Ē Fitzgerald said. ďWeíre also curious to see what happens with the Assembly version. Itís still a work in progress.Ē

The measure as introduced would create a 15-member board to create model academic standards. The board would be responsible for writing new academic standards, starting with English, reading and math in the first year and social studies and science by year three.

The ultimate authority over the standards would rest with the Legislature.

Wisconsin is one of 45 states that adopted the Common Core standards covering what students learn in language arts and math. Wisconsin schools have aligned their curriculum to Common Core since 2010 in anticipation of new tests next year that are tied to those standards.

The bill would undo all of that and create new standards and a new test.

Opponents argue that undoing the standards now, just as the new tests are set to kick in, would cost schools millions of dollars, create confusion, and politicize the process. Supporters, including Walker, argue that Wisconsin should write its own standards that are more rigorous than the Common Core.

Walkerís spokesman Tom Evenson did not immediately respond to a request for reaction to Olsenís comments.

Education leaders, including state Superintendent Tony Evers, are joined by the state chamber of commerce in supporting the current Common Core standards. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which typically sides with Walker and Republicans, released a statement last month backing the standards saying they ďhave given local communities a common purpose, the states a common goal and our country a tool to ensure our long-term success.Ē

The only groups that have registered to lobby in support of the bill as of Thursday morning were the national tea party conservative group Americans for Prosperity and the anti-abortion group Wisconsin Family Action.

GOP minimum wage bill all but dead in Senate

The state Senateís majority leader says a bill that would end minimum wage mandates for some local government workers and contractors is all but dead.

Madison, Dane County, Milwaukee and Milwaukee County require workers and contractors get a minimum wage. The Republican bill would invalidate such requirements as applied to workers paid with money that passes through the state.

The state Assembly passed the bill last month. The Senateís labor committee approved it Thursday, prompting a group of protesters to start chanting outside the hearing, calling the bill an attack on local control and their livelihoods.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said after the committee vote that a number of senators in his caucus have problems with the bill. He says the measure probably wonít go any further.

Senate committee OKs pro-life license plates

A bill to create a Wisconsin license plate displaying the words ďChoose LifeĒ has been approved by the Senate transportation committee in a party-line vote.

There was no discussion on the bill that passed 3-2 Thursday.

The bill would allow the state to sell the specialty plates for an annual $75 registration fee and a $15 special plate fee. Another $25 annual fee would be donated to Choose Life Wisconsin Inc., a group set up by anti-abortion groups.

The Assembly passed the bill along party lines in November, but itís unclear whether the bill will reach the Senate floor this session.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald didnít immediately return requests for comment on the billís prospects.

Senate panel passes CCAP purges

A state Senate committee has overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill that would purge information from Wisconsinís popular online court records database.

The measure calls for erasing data from the public CCAP system on civil forfeiture cases within 90 days if the defendant has been acquitted or the case was dismissed. The director would have to wipe out information on misdemeanor and felony cases within 120 days if the cases have been dismissed, the defendant was acquitted or the charge has been overturned on appeal.

Lawmakers have introduced similar proposals in previous legislative sessions, drawing widespread opposition from database users, including the media and landlords.

The Senateís judiciary committee approved the bill 5-0 Thursday, clearing the way for a full Senate vote.

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