May 23, 2023
By Lane Kimble
MADISON — No matter how comprehensive or complete, a bill is simply text on paper. It’s the personal stories of why that bill matters that give it life and can help it become law.
This week, five WTBA members provided that human element for Senate Bill 270 and its companion, Assembly Bill 275.
Jeff Peterson, Jeff Parisi, Dan Weinkauf, Steve Nachreiner, and Chris Cape all testified in support of the bill, sharing specific examples of risks, damages, and the sheer cost of utility delays in front of the Assembly and Senate transportation committees.
“We support this bill because it’s sound public policy. Because the status quo… affects the safety of our employees,” Parisi told the committees.
SB270/AB275 would ensure WisDOT directly and quickly pays contractors when they encounter a utility delay the Department deems compensable.
Currently, contractors are forced to go after compensation from utilities themselves, often putting the two parties in an adversarial position that can end up in court or with the contractor out tens – or even hundreds – of thousands of dollars.
“We want these road projects to get done, we want everybody to be responsible for the work they do on the roads and this is very important legislation for all of us,” co-author Senator Cory Tomczyk said.
WTBA has worked hard to build coalition support for the bill, including the state’s largest public utility (WEC), the state’s chamber of commerce (WMC), and WisDOT.
Tuesday, DOT staff told committee members they understand the need for the bill and are willing to work toward a deal, but also requested amendments that would help the Department pursue utilities for compensation and give WisDOT more control over several determining factors.
WTBA will have more information about how the bill proceeds, any possible amendments, and what you can do to support it in the coming days and weeks.