Legislators hope to address minimum wage, school accountability
By Andrew LaCombe
From minimum wage to penalizing struggling schools, there are several bills in Madison that have yet to be voted on.Time is running out. The current session is scheduled to wrap up in two weeks.Democrats hope to raise the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.Meanwhile, Republicans in the Assembly and Senate aren't in agreement on a bill that involves school accountability.The state Assembly and Senate each plan to meet only two more times this year.The Assembly is scheduled to gather Tuesday and Thursday. The Senate plans to meet Tuesday and April 1.At a news conference Monday, Assembly Democrats announced they plan to force a vote Tuesday on a bill that would increase the state's minimum wage.Democrats are in the minority in the Assembly. A public hearing hasn't been held on the bill."People out there deserve to know, who is with them on the minimum wage and who's not. We'll get as far as we can because we think its good public policy," said State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh.Many Republicans, including Gov. Scott Walker say they oppose an increase. Assembly Assistant Majority Leader, Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, has concerns with an increase and the way it's being addressed."It's not something that we can take up at this time because there's just too many moving parts to it and too many ramifications that we don't understand at this point," said Steineke.Steineke hopes another bill will be debated Thursday in the Assembly.The Senate passed a bill affecting private schools getting tax-payer funded voucher students. Those schools would be required to report student performance levels to the state.Rep. Steineke wants the bill to include penalties for schools that don't perform well. He thinks failing private schools should be removed from the voucher program."I don't think that we can simply put a grade on a school and walk away, thinking that we've accomplished anything," he said.If the Assembly passes the bill with the penalties, the Senate would have to approve it again.Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he's unsure if there are enough votes for it to pass."We will discuss it in caucus this week, but I would prefer that the Assembly concur in the version we passed to ensure some transparency and accountability measure passes this session," said Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.While in Ashwaubenon Monday, Republican Gov. Scott Walker encouraged lawmakers to pass the bill. He says increased accountability is best for parents."They should be able to know how that school is performing, and my hope is before the legislature is done this session, they'll get a bill that does just that," said Walker.Anything that doesn't pass before lawmakers adjourn would have to be re-introduced next year.The look of next year's political landscape is uncertain. Half of the Senate, all 99 members of the Assembly and Governor Walker face re-election this year.
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