March 17 Issues Update 
March 17, 2014 


Dear WH&LA Lodging Member: 

While you were advised last Friday that a Room Tax Reform package is now delayed into the next session, there are a few other issues still under consideration that we wanted to share with you.

Small Business Rule Violations
SB 497 is a bill introduced by Sen. Gudex in the state Senate and by Rep. Kapenga in the state Assembly (AB 657) that provides some additional flexibility to a state agency in considering penalties on small businesses that have minor rule violations in certain circumstances. Examples would include if the small business made a good faith effort to comply, if the rules are complex and difficult to interpret, if the rule infraction doesn't harm others from a safety or even competitiveness perspective, if compliance is too difficult or costly for their situation, if the business only has the ability to pay a modest penalty, etc. Those who repeatedly do not comply, or who wait until they are "caught" to seek lighter penalties, etc. would not be eligible, and the agency must create a rule in advance that outlines the discretion that they may stay within. The official state Legislative Council overview of the bill and amendments approved to date can be found here.

This bill is scheduled for a Senate floor vote tomorrow during their session starting at 11:00 am. WH&LA supports this bill with two amendments passed in Committee. Contact your state Senator if you wish to have them vote in favor when it comes up.   

Food Protection Exam Changes (AB 550/SB 434)
Although not on the schedule for tomorrow, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association (WRA, which is behind this bill), is anticipating it to be scheduled for Assembly floor consideration before adjournment. This eliminates the requirement that the initial exam for a Food Protection Permit holder must be written, which provides more flexibility in having applicants take the test. It also replaces the current requirement at renewal to simply take a re-certification course, with having to pass a test at each renewal, to ensure the certificate holder is current with the latest food safety practices. Prohibits a municipality from having a local ordinance that differs from the state in Food Protection. Requires having a certified Food Protection person present when preparing, processing, or serving food, with some exceptions for smaller businesses with 5 or less food handlers at the time. The official state Legislative Council overview of the bill and amendments can be found here.

WH&LA supports WRA in its support of this bill. Contact your state Assembly Rep if you wish them to support this bill when it gets to a floor vote.   

ATV/UTV Trail Areas
With the Wisconsin ATV/UTV Association now a part of the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, the communication lines on our organizations are open for collaboration. They are currently looking into a new program that will designate areas considered hospitable to ATV/UTV Trail users, and have asked if WH&LA would have a couple of members who would work with them on possible criteria for this concept from the lodging industry perspective. Nothing is final, but if you may be interested, please let us know by sending an email to You could be part of the development of a new feature to attract trail users to areas that welcome their overnight business.   

Inclusion of Water Trails in the State Trail System
While this legislation is also not scheduled yet for this week, it is anticipated that AB 793 will be taken up in the Assembly before adjournment. It's companion bill, SB 596 already passed the state Senate last week. This bill eliminates the requirement that state trails are to be open to use by persons such as equestrians, bicyclists, and hikers, and expands the definition of trails to include water trails used for recreational activities such as canoeing and motor boating. Today the state Legislative Council released their overview of the bill with the approved amendment, which is available here.

This bill was just introduced in mid-February and has been on a fast track. If you wish to support this bill, ask your state Representative to support AB 793/SB 596 when it comes up for a floor vote.   

Bills Prevented This Session
There are a few bills that were introduced earlier in session that we have actively opposed, with no hearings called to date. We believe that we have effectively stopped them, but we will confirm this when session ends. One bill (AB 98) introduced a year ago would have required costly phone system changes for lodging properties to allow direct identification of room location when 911 calls are made on site. The wording provided unrealistic mandates that we were able to outline to supporters, and no further action on the bill occurred. This is separate from a similar issue being evaluated at the federal level in a much lesser consideration. The second bill (AB 267 and SB 228) would have repealed the School Start Date law in our state that K-12 public schools may not begin before September 1, with special exceptions only. With the Tourism Federation taking pro-active strategies that WH&LA was actively a part of, neither has had a public hearing, and the legislature has no plans for this in the current session.  These are examples of numerous bills that WH&LA has worked behind the scenes on, on your behalf.

Locate your state Senator or state Assembly Representative for communications here.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Don't forget that this is your last chance to bid in the WH&LA spring online auction! View the items available and place your bid here!

Contact: Trisha Pugal
Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association