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Home / Commercial Construction / Lawmakers OK bills restricting local control of employment, residential development (UPDATE)

Lawmakers OK bills restricting local control of employment, residential development (UPDATE)

The Wisconsin Assembly gave its approval on Thursday to a bill aimed at preventing the state from having a patchwork of employment laws by barring local governments from adopting mandatory labor-peace agreements and similar requirements.

Assembly Bill 748 seeks to put in place statewide rules for occupational licensing, overtime and other employment matters. Supporters of the legislation say it would prevent the state from having employment requirements that vary greatly from one government jurisdiction to the next. Uniformity, they argue, will make it easier for companies to know what rules they have to follow when doing business in Wisconsin.

The provision concerning labor-peace agreements, for instance, would prevent local officials from requiring employers to sign onto these sorts of labor-peace agreements before doing municipal work. Employers who sign labor-peace agreements agree to not resist employees’ unionization attempts.

Beyond that, the bill would:

  • scrap local governments’ ability to set minimum-wage requirements for contractors who are working on local public-works projects; and
  • prohibit local governments from enforcing occupational-licensing requirements that are stricter than those set by the state;
  • set a statewide standard for regulations concerning employee scheduling, hours and overtime;
  • establish uniform statewide regulations for employee benefits;
  • make it clear that employers throughout Wisconsin have the right to ask job applicants for salary information;
  • prevent local governments from establishing a wage-claim process that is separate from the one set by the state.

The legislation had once called for setting a statewide standard to determine when employment discrimination had occurred. But an amendment introduced earlier this week scrapped that provision.

Among the bill’s supporters is the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Steve Baas, MMAC senior vice president of government affairs, said the proposal is meant to keep the state’s unemployment laws from becoming so complicated that they are difficult to follow. Complexity, he said, “isn’t conducive to a competitive regional or statewide economic platform.”

Opponents of the bill include local governments and union groups. Steve Kwaterski, communications director for the Wisconsin Laborers’ District Council, said that decisions on employment matters should be left up to local officials.

“We were disappointed to see AB 748 pass last night on a party line vote from the state Assembly,” he said in an email. “Local communities should be able to make their own decisions on local employment, and this is yet another effort by Legislative Republicans to take away local control where communities can make their own decisions and set their own standards. ”

To become law, AB 748 still needs the state Senate’s approval and Gov. Scott Walker’s signature. Lawmakers in the Senate have said they plan to convene in March for the final time this legislative session.

A spokesman in Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s office could not be reached on Friday to comment on whether the Senate would take up the proposal.

Also this week, the state Senate passed AB 770, a proposal that would make a series of significant changes to the sorts of restrictions local governments can impose on residential-property developments.

That bill would bar local governments from prohibiting contractors from working on weekends and from putting up banners on construction fencing at project sites.

It also would, among other things, allow developers to defer payments on building-permit impact fees totaling $75,000 or more, require governments to show developers how money from those fees was being used, prohibit local officials from putting an expiration date of less than five years on any approval related to a development proposal and bar them from requiring that developers set aside a certain number of residential dwellings in their projects as low-income or “affordable” units.

Before the Senate’s approval on Tuesday, AB 770 was passed by the state Assembly on Feb. 13. Now all it needs to become law is Gov. Scott Walker’s signature.

About Alex Zank, [email protected]

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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