The legislative session has rounded the corner to the second half. Some legislation is moving forward at a brisk pace while other legislation is slogging slowly forward. Here is an update on some of the bills I have introduced.
State Parks License Plate: People who I represent have told me they would rather purchase a specialty license plate than an annual windshield sticker. The license plate will grant admission to state parks and recreation areas. People who purchase the plate will have to pay the regular vehicle registration fee and an additional fee to benefit state parks.
Tuition Remission for Veterans: Many military veterans want to expand their career options through advanced education. Current state law allows veterans to be reimbursed for credit-based degrees through UW System campuses and technical colleges. My bill expands tuition remission to include non-credit courses and certificate programs.
Waste Reduction: I am concerned about the amount of paper generated by the Wisconsin Legislature that goes directly into recycling and landfills. Current law requires a certain number of Blue Books, folded state highway maps, and laminated wall maps to go to each legislative office. While I believe these are valuable documents for citizens, many of them go undistributed, taking up space in landfills and recycling centers. The Blue Book and most other legislative documents are available online. My bill eliminates automatic distribution of Blue Books and highway maps to legislative offices. This bill will save taxpayer dollars while reducing waste.
Electric Bicycles: More and more people are riding bicycles powered by electric motors. This is a good option for people who want to enjoy bike lanes and paths but do not have the physical power to push the pedals. My bill increases the allowable wattage on electric bicycle motors from 750 watts to 2,000 watts. The operator of the bicycle must be authorized to operate it by the DOT, and must affix a decal to the bicycle showing that the operator is a person with a disability that limits or impairs the ability to walk.
Medicare Supplemental Insurance: Medicare is not always sufficient to cover medical expenses. People purchase supplemental insurance policies to cover those gaps. Unfortunately, some insurance companies have strict polices about cancelling or changing coverage. My bill guarantees that policy-holders have the right to cancel their Medicare supplement policy and purchase a different policy at any time. The bill also prevents insurance providers from denying coverage or basing prices on a customer’s medical history.
Real Estate Transfer Fee: Many small business and farm corporations involve members of immediate and extended family. Under current law, certain family members are exempt from paying the real estate transfer fee when the transaction occurs between family members. These include spouses, children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and grandchildren. My bill adds uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and first cousins to the list of relatives who are exempt from paying the real estate transfer fee.
Our Farms, Our Future: Last week my legislative colleagues and I rolled out a package of bills called “Our Farms, Our Future.” My bill creates a Small Farm Diversity grant to encourage innovation and expansion in small-scale farming operations. Grants of up to $50,000 would be available to growers and producers on 50 acres of land or less. The grant must be used to start a new agricultural operation or add a new agricultural product. A total of $500,000 would be appropriated over the 2019-21 biennium. The bill contains a claw-back provision to ensure that grant recipients fulfill the terms of their grant.
The Next Generation bill helps farmers nearing retirement to develop plans to hand down their operations to a succeeding generation. It adds two new specialists to the existing UW-Extension farm succession planning program. The Beginning Farmer bill would reimburse student loan debt for beginning farmers who qualify based on financial need, likelihood to successfully continue farming, and use of sustainable best practices.
Healthy Herd, Healthy Hunt: I am a co-sponsor of three bills designed to reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in our deer and elk population. These bills will provide additional funding for CWD research and management; additional funding for kiosks where hunters can submit samples to test their deer for the disease; and funding for deer carcass disposal sites. A full-throttle approach is necessary to combat this disease for the sake of the deer herd, tourism, and our personal health.
Additional bills will be introduced in the coming months until the legislative session wraps up next year. I continue to build support for the bills I authored. I appreciate all comments and questions from my constituents.
State Rep. Don Vruwink represents parts of Rock, Walworth, Jefferson, and Dane counties. These include the communities of Whitewater, Milton, Edgerton, Footville, the Town of Janesville, part of the Village of Oregon, and surrounding townships. He can be reached at 608-266-3790, Rep.Vruwink@legis.wisconsin.gov, and P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708.