State Assembly passes bill to keep laws affecting Milwaukee from affecting Dane County

February 22, 2018 GMT

For about a century, the state Legislature has been passing laws designed to apply only to Milwaukee County — by making them apply to counties with populations greater than 500,000.

Now with Dane County likely to surpass that population after the 2020 census, local officials want to make sure the nearly 250 laws affecting Milwaukee County don’t inadvertently apply to Dane.

Assembly Bill 836 — introduced by Reps. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, and Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, and Sens. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Mark Miller, D-Monona — would raise the county population threshold for those laws to 750,000. The Assembly version passed on a voice vote Tuesday.

“Some (of the laws) could be positive. Some could be negative. Some could be neutral,” said Forbes McIntosh, a lobbyist for the Dane County Cities’ and Villages’ Association.

“Instead of making this a big policy issue, we decided to maintain the status quo,” McIntosh said.

Most of the laws refer to logistical issues like employment, elections and zoning. Others relate to a county’s ability to transfer authority over portions of county highways.

“Transferring responsibility of county highways to local governments would represent a massive cost shift and disrupt a currently well-functioning transportation system,” Novak said.

Through these laws, Milwaukee County also has an elected comptroller, annual grants for youth gang diversion and transit authority through the county.