The Assembly passed bills to permit reducing employees’ work hours and to remove the secretary of state’s power to delay enacting legislation Wednesday.
The approved worker unemployment protection legislation creates a work-share program that offers an alternative to laying off workers. The bill would allow employers for six months every five years to reduce the number of hours their employees work instead of firing them.
This bill could save the state an estimated $7.6 million in the next three years, according to a statement by Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos, R–Racine. Vos said during the Assembly session the fact that the bill can save Wisconsin workers money instead of losing their jobs makes up for the provisions removed from the bill.
Democrats approved the idea of the bill but wanted an amendment providing language used by states with similar Legislature endorsed by the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, a group of both state business lobbies and unions.
The proposed amendment would have added a warning to employers that they must abide by collective bargaining agreements when taking part in reducing hours of large groups of workers.
However, Rep. Ed Brooks, R–Reedsburg, said union members would already be notified if their collective bargaining agreements were needed in such a plan.
“What is more important than worrying about a specific union giveaway provision is to make sure that we have protections in place for the workers,” he said.
Republicans denied a proposed Democratic amendment, and the bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 74-22.
The other major bill the Assembly passed Wednesday would make the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau publish enacted legislation instead of the secretary of state. The proposed law also removes the 10-day waiting period currently held by the secretary of state before ratifying such legislation.
The secretary of state’s 10-day requirement has existed throughout Wisconsin’s history. Members of the opposition to the proposal said this bill is a result of a 2011 lawsuit regarding the removal of public employees’ collective bargaining rights.
Democrats and other opponents of Walker’s legislation to repeal collective bargaining for most state public employees sued during this 10-day period in 2011 and prevented the bill from becoming law. At the time, Secretary of State Doug LaFollette did not publish the bill immediately and waited long enough for a judge to keep him from publishing the bill due to the lawsuit.
With the proposed bill, the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau would publish all the bills instead of the secretary of state the day after the governor signs them instead of up to 10 days after.
Democrats argue the bill is simply a way to silence oppositional protest. Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, said the bill was made to punish LaFollette.
“This is just a mean, vindictive bill,” she said. “It eliminates a position we have had in our body out of spite for what happened two years ago.”
LaFollette said he thinks the bill strips the secretary of state’s office of its most important tasks.
However, Rep. Steve Nass, R–Whitewater, said the 10-day gap was “archaic” and “unnecessary.” He said the secretary of state only needed a role in determining when laws were published before the advancement of technology and the Internet.