AB 85: Look Out Dane County, They’re Coming to Get You!

There is some rather unique sections of the Wisconsin Constitution that are at play here in Assembly Bill 85 that was recently introduced by State Representative Joe Sanfelippo. I talked about them in an earlier post when this bill was just a talking point. Essentially Section 31 prevents the state from enacting bills that are specific to one unique government agency…like say the City of Milwaukee. And then Section 32 suggests how to get around Section 31 by writing a law more generically to essentially single out one entity…like passing a bill that only affects a class one city…and Milwaukee is the only class one city in the state.

At some point Rep. Sanfelippo became aware that his bill was unconstitutional on a number of levels and AB 85 targets Milwaukee County only by using population size to differentiate Milwaukee County from the other counties in Wisconsin. But AB 85 is just a bit schizophrenic…it’s almost like more than one person wrote it (???)…and it changes tack a number of times. At some points it sets terms and conditions for counties with a population in excess of 500,000 people and at other times for counties with a population in excess of 750,000 people. Hey, what’s a quarter of a million people between friends.

Well, I had read this a number of times and just put it down to Rep Sanfelippo being a rookie at writing bills…until that is my friend Andy Fozzy at http://wisoapbox.blogspot.com/ brought it my attention. Dane County has grown since the 2010 census and the US Census Bureau now estimates the Dane County population at 503,000.

So if they are still over 500,000 after the 2020 census, some of the provisions of AB 85 will also apply to Dane County! I am going to cheat a bit here and take my cues from the Legislative Research Bureau synopsis…since I don’t what to wade through the legalese.

county board supervisors in a county with a population of at least 500,000 may be paid an annual salary that may not exceed the annual per capita income of Milwaukee County, as determined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, beginning with the term that commences in April 2016. Currently, the county’s per capita annual income is approximately $24,000. Under the bill, a Milwaukee County supervisor may not receive any additional compensation or benefits, including health insurance and pension benefits, that are not authorized or required by law, although the bill authorizes the board to provide the board chairperson additional compensation, such that his or her salary may be up to 150 percent of the salary paid to a supervisor. The board may also provide the chairperson of the finance committee additional compensation such that his or her salary may be up to 125 percent of the salary paid to a supervisor. The board may increase a supervisor’s salary by the rate of inflation or, subject to approval by the electors in a referendum, at a rate greater than the rate of inflation. In no case, however, may the salary of a supervisor, other than the board chairperson and finance committee chairperson, exceed the annual per capita income of Milwaukee County, as determined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

The actual bill does reference Milwaukee County specifically in relation to the per capita…so would Dane County be saddled with that amount as well…or would the specificity make this clause unconstitutional under section 31?

The 500,000 population threshold also applies to the shift in power from the board to the county executive so Dane County would also see these changes applied to their county board. Essentially all responsibility for county departments, lobbying, contracts, land sales and leases, etc could shift from whatever form it currently finds itself in Dane County to the county executive office.

And the Dane County board may find it’s budget restricted (this is directly from AB 85):

the board of a county with a population of at least 500,000 may not adopt a budget in which the total amount of budgeted expenditures related to the compensation of county board members, and to any other costs that are directly related to the operation and functioning of the county board, including staff, is greater than 0.4 percent of the county portion of the tax levy for that year to which the budget applies.

So, seven or eight years from now, Dane County may have some concerns about losing some ground in county government because of AB 85. Which makes you wonder if the differences in the various paragraphs of the bill is naivete on the part of Rep. Sanfelippo with unintended circumstances? The result of a number of ghost writers where the right hand didn’t know what the extreme right had was doing? Or a flagrant foul and intentional attempt to neuter Dane County government as well?

And watch your back there Waukesha County as you approach 400,000 citizens!


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