RACINE COUNTY — Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave is trying to put the brakes on a state bill that he believes could hurt local hiring efforts, including on projects related to Foxconn Technology Group.
In an effort to delay a vote on Senate Bill 634, Delagrave sent a memo to Wisconsin county executives and administrators last week urging them to oppose the bill.
The bill states it “pre-empts local governments from enacting or enforcing ordinances related to various employment matters.”
The Assembly passed the bill in February, 58-32, with no Democratic votes. The bill has been placed on the Senate calendar for a vote on Tuesday, March 20.
Local municipalities, under the proposed legislation, could not enact ordinances related to wages; employee hours and overtime, including scheduling of employee hours or shifts; employment benefits; or “an employer’s right to solicit information regarding the salary history of prospective employees.”
It could also affect local hiring provisions.
The Assembly bill included an exemption for the Foxconn Technology Group project and related projects “from unintended negative consequences of this bill.”
However, Delagrave wrote in his memo that he is concerned that: The bill does not exempt work on Interstate 94 or Highway KR and wastewater utility work; the Foxconn exemption might not hold up in court; and there could be other construction projects unrelated to Foxconn “where we want local hiring provisions and worker training incentives or requirements to help Racine County residents get hired. The amendment doesn’t protect any of these projects, so our local workforce efforts would be prohibited.”
“This bill is extremely broad, so we can’t necessarily know what an aggressive group of lawyers might try to prohibit under this new legislation,” Delagrave wrote. “This proposal would allow local officials to be charged in criminal court and put in jail. No one can recall using that approach to enforce the state’s will on local officials.”
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Delagrave urged members of the Wisconsin County Executives and Administrators to call their state senators and tell them to oppose the bill.
The Wisconsin Counties Association also sent a memo to the Wisconsin Highway Association on Feb. 9, urging its members to call their state senators to oppose the bill. The memo stated the bill “makes numerous changes to a county’s ability to regulate various aspects of employment matters, resulting in a loss of local control over those activities in the best interests of the community.”
Example of a ‘bad trend’
State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, said the Republicans in the legislature have passed “over 100 bills that take away local control from duly elected bodies.”
“This is one more example of that bad trend,” Wirch said. “I think that it’s terrible that big government in Madison keeps making local decisions.” Wirch said he will not be voting for the bill.
Messages left for state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and the Republic Party of Wisconsin had not been returned as of Monday evening.
As one of the few Democrats in Madison who voted for the nearly $3 billion Foxconn incentives package, Wirch is still confident that bringing Foxconn to the area will have a positive impact.
“We need family-supporting jobs in our area, and these are good manufacturing jobs,” Wirch said. “I have problems with some of the details in the bill; I think we paid too much for it. Foxconn is a partner with local government; I don’t see it as an adversarial relationship. … I definitely feel this will be a big plus for Racine County, for economic development and hiring citizens in the area.”