Wisconsin GOP lawmakers revive bills restricting unemployment benefits

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin last week reintroduced legislation aimed at reforming the state unemployment benefit system, according to a Wisconsin State Journal report.

The bills are similar to prior legislation that was passed by both the Republican-controlled state Assembly and Senate last legislative session but vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, which many expect this time as well.

Republicans announced the bills after more than 78% of Wisconsin voters approved a nonbinding question on the April 4 ballot asking voters: “Shall able-bodied childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits?”

It is already a requirement under state law for those receiving unemployment benefits to complete at least four work-search actions each week in order to receive benefits.

Among the bills reintroduced by Republicans, Assembly Bill (AB) 153 would tie the number of weekly unemployment benefits an individual could receive to the state’s overall unemployment rate; AB 147 would update state statutes for when an individual is discharged from employment for misconduct to also include the destruction of an employer’s records, theft or unauthorized possession of property, a violation of the employer’s absenteeism policy, or a violation of the employer’s social media policy; AB 149 would require employers to inform the state workforce department of any ineligibility questions when notified of a claim for unemployment insurance; AB 150 would change references to “unemployment insurance” in state statutes to “reemployment assistance,” as well as require DWD to enforce federal drug-testing requirements for individuals claiming unemployment benefits in certain occupations; and AB 152 would make changes to how DWD operates, including implementing identity-proofing measures for benefits recipients.