The state Senate was in session in April to confirm executive appointments and vote on a couple of bills that were introduced earlier in the year.
One of the bills we approved was Assembly Bill 15 (AB15).
This bill would allow companies to reduce employee hours rather than laying them off during a slowdown in their business.
There are 24 other states with similar laws in place including Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan.
Another bill that was approved by the Senate was a bill to allow drivers to show their motor vehicle proof of insurance electronically on a smart phone or other device.
The first bill, AB 15 has a simple goal: to keep people working.
Although many people want to work full-time, working reduced hours would be preferable to being laid off.
The bill creates a voluntary program in which employees whose hours are reduced can receive unemployment insurance to cover their lost wages because of reduced hours while at the same time allowing companies to respond to reduced demand and retain skilled workers.
Companies would be required to work with, and gain approval from, the state Department of Workforce Development with regards to their work share plan.
One of the concerns that was raised about the bill was that it did not originate from the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council (UIAC).
The council has two specific responsibilities outlined in state law.
The first is to report its views on pending legislation that affects the unemployment program to the legislature. The second is to suggest legislation relating to unemployment.
While I understand the important work the council does, since they were able to provide comment on the bill during its legislative hearing in front of the Assembly Committee on Workforce Development, I believe they have met their statutory responsibility.
AB 15 could potentially save the state’s unemployment insurance fund money for two reasons.
First, payouts to workers would be less if their hours are reduced rather than losing their jobs entirely.
Second, there is funding for work-share programs available from the federal government, although it is unclear how the federal budget sequestration would impact those grants.
The bill is now headed to the governor for his consideration.
Another bill the senate approved this month was Senate Bill 62 (SB 62).
This bill modernizes state statutes regarding motor vehicle proof of insurance.
Under current law, drivers must be able to produce proof of insurance if requested by an officer.
These are the small cards from your insurance company that many of us carry in our wallets or glove compartments.
SB 62 allows motorists to display their proof of insurance in an electronic format, like by using a smart phone or tablet.
SB 62 received support from the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, AAA Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Police Association.
Seven states allow drivers to show proof of insurance electronically and there is legislation pending in 24 states.
The bill wouldn’t prohibit the use of paper insurance proofs for people who prefer that format.
SB 62 now heads to the assembly for action in that house.
Finally, a Joint Resolution I authored declaring May 2013 as Youth Traffic Safety Month was approved by the state Senate.
May is National Youth Traffic Safety Month and I believe designating the month in Wisconsin will help bring attention to the need to educate teenagers about safe driving practices.
Teen traffic accidents are often caused by distracted driving, risky behavior and inexperience behind the wheel.
This resolution also now heads to the Assembly for its approval.