Assembly passes bills on school taxes, free tuition, and online impersonation

Front of Madison Capitol in fall/winter
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Rural School Aid

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill allowing low-spending school districts in Wisconsin to raise property taxes without a vote.

The bill passed 91-2 on Tuesday would only apply to districts where votes have not rejected a property tax increase in the past three years. The goal is to address an inequity in the school aid formula that has penalized low-spending districts.

About 100 districts are expected to be eligible.

The measure would increase the maximum that qualifying low-spending districts can spend on a combination of local property taxes and state aid per student from $9,100 to $9,400 for the 2018-2019 school year.

The bill would also increase by $6.5 million the amount of sparsity aid available to 144 qualifying schools that have 745 or fewer students and membership density of less than 10 students per square mile.

Free Tuition for Foster Children

In other action, foster children would not have to pay tuition at University of Wisconsin schools or state technical colleges under a bill approved by the state Assembly.

The Assembly voted unanimously to pass the bill Tuesday. It now heads to the Senate.

Twenty-eight other states already offer some form of post-secondary tuition assistance for foster children.

The bill calls for eliminating tuition and fees at UW schools and state technical colleges for state residents who meet certain criteria, including having spent at least a year in out-of-home placement after turning 13 or being in out-of-home-placement on their 18th birthday.

People who qualify would be eligible for free tuition and fees for 12 semesters or until they get a degree or reach age 25.

The UW System says as many as 4,600 people could qualify.

Impersonating Online

Also passing the Assembly unanimously, a bill that would make impersonating someone on social media a crime.

The measure targets "catfishing," when someone impersonates another person online with the intent of defrauding or harassing them.

The bill passed Tuesday would make the crime a misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail. It's intended to update current law which deals only with email fraud.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Bob Kulp says he introduced the measure after a friend of his was targeted by someone trying to defraud him out of money. He says it's similar to laws in place in other states, including California, Texas and Pennsylvania.

The bill now heads to the Senate.