March | April 2017



Walker Administration Seeks Power to Sell Property

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is seeking in his latest budget proposal the broad authority to sell state property, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Money from the property sales would be used to relieve the state of some of its $8 billion debt.
The state Building Commission would have the authority to sell state properties under the proposal the legislature took up in May. The Building Commission is made up of the governor, three state senators, three state representatives and a citizen member.
The plan would allow the state to negotiate a deal with an individual buyer without going through a public bidding process, an aspect many opponents of the plan find questionable. While the state does not have any plans to sell properties such as prisons, highways and university dormitories, it would be allowed to sell those properties sell under the proposal, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Many supporters of the University of Wisconsin System say selling university buildings without the approval of the Board of Regents could be a problem, especially if private donations or student fees were used to pay for the buildings. In addition, even though the school system paid for the building, it might not see any benefit from the sale. Proceeds from the sale of a property would first be used to pay off any debt on that property and costs related to the sale. Any money on top of that would go toward the payment of other state debts.
According to the Department of Administration, the administration will compile a list of all state property to identify properties to sell. Spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis indicated the department will focus on properties such as land purchased for projects that never came to fruition.
The legislature is expected to approve a modified version of Walker’s proposal.

The Indiana Supreme Court in May upheld a state law limiting the amount of punitive damages awarded in civil lawsuits, according to the Evansville Courier & Press. The law limits punitive damages to three times the amount of damage covering actual loss, with 75 percent going to a state victim compensation fund. The court’s 5-0 ruling overturned a Marion County judge’s 2008 decision to award a victim more than the state maximum.
Labor Commissioner
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple in May appointed Bonnie Storbakken to serve as the state’s labor commissioner, according to INFORUM, the website for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Bismarck attorney owns and operates Storbakken Law & Mediation, a firm specializing in mediation services. She replaces Commissioner Tony Weiler, who left to become executive director of the State Bar Association of North Dakota.
Ohio Reps. Terry Johnson and Stephen Slesnick in May sponsored legislation to allow motorists to display only one license plate on their cars, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The state requires license plates to be displayed on both the front and rear of vehicles. Slesnick believes the bill could save the state more than $1 million each year. Several law enforcement officials testified against the bill, saying the front license plate displays are often beneficial in reporting crimes.
Illinois legislators in May sent a bill that would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections to Gov. Pat Quinn, The Chicago Tribune reported. Under the bill, 17-year-olds would be allowed to vote in primaries as long as they turn 18 before the November general election. Sen. Terry Link, the bill’s sponsor, believes the measure would be one step in the movement to increase voter participation.
South Dakota is expected to increase its number of high school graduates over the next several years, according to a state Board of Regents’ press release. Information included the “Knocking at the College Door” report from the Western Interstate Committee for Higher Education, indicates the state will increase the number of total high school graduates by 14.4 percent during the next 15 years.