State Assembly Approves Legislation Aiming to Increase State’s Workforce

The Assembly approved a series of bills Republicans say would help increase the size of the state’s workforce by moving more people off of government programs while increasing talent attraction and training efforts.

One of those bills, which passed in a 59-33 vote along party lines, would require the Department of Workforce Development to conduct random audits for at least 50 percent of all work search actions. Current law requires such audits, but does not specify how many must be conducted. The bill would also change application requirements for those looking to receive unemployment benefits.

The Assembly voted 58-34 along party lines to approve AB 935, which would reinstate time limits and implement work requirements for the FoodShare program. Under the bill, DHS would be required to enforce and implement the program’s employment and training program requirement and drug screening, testing and treatment requirements.

AB 934, which passed 59-35 along party lines, would prohibit the Department of Health Services from automatically renewing recipients’ benefits from public assistance programs, including the Medical Assistance. Under the bill, DHS also would be required to review recipients’ eligibility every six months to remove benefits for any recipient that fails to report changes affecting eligibility.

The Assembly also passed AB 936 in a 59-33 vote. Dem Rep. Don Vruwink joined GOP colleagues in supporting the bill. The bill adds to prohibitions to receive benefits from the Medical Assistance program. Under the bill, those who knowingly fail to accept job offers or an increase in paid work hours or wages in order to continue receiving Medical Assistance benefits would lose eligibility for benefits.

The Assembly also approved a bill that would reduce to 16 the age of those who can enter into apprenticeship contracts, among other changes to youth apprenticeship programs. Lawmakers in a 62-30 vote approved AB 973. Dem Reps. Dora Drake, of Milwaukee; Don Vruwink, of Milton, Deb Andraca, of Whitefish Bay, and Steve Doyle, of Onalaska, joined their Republican colleagues in favor of the bill.

The Assembly also approved via party lines 60-34 legislation that would direct Gov. Tony Evers to spend $20 million in federal ARPA funds to promote and expand the availability of apprenticeship programs.

Rep. Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa, said Dems aren’t opposed to spending money on expanding apprenticeship programs, but are opposed to spending one-time use money on the effort because it does not guarantee the investments will continue down the road. Bill author Rep. Loren Oldenburg, R-Viroqua, argued Republicans would continue to fund the effort as the need arises, and skilled trade workers are badly needed as the workforce shortage has shown.

The Assembly bills now head to the Senate.