Below is Cooperative Network's AB 353 and SB 281 Fact Sheet that was recently distributed to members of the Wisconsin Legislature:
To: Members, Wisconsin Legislature
From: Tom Liebe, President & CEO
RE: AB 353 and SB 281
Numerous legislative offices have alerted us to a Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU)-produced document containing erroneous information about AB 353 and SB 281, the Cooperative Statute Modernization Bill. The companion bills are a thoughtful effort to make much-needed updates to our governing statutes (Chapter 185) for the first time in 40 years.
The package is a consensus proposal that was developed in a transparent process convened by Cooperative Network over a series of several months. The proposal was developed by cooperative experts for the benefit of cooperatives and their members.
Under the legislation, a new tool that is consistent with the principle of self-determination, would allow elected members of cooperative boards to choose (not be required) to add valuable perspectives to their boards through use of appointed directors. Those directors would add critical experience and expertise that benefits the membership.
The changes to allow a cooperative board to agree to supply financial records up to 3 years old to a requesting member, stockholder, agent or attorney is consistent with the time frame of IRS audits reach back.
Flexibility is provided on dividend payments by removing the arbitrary 8 percent limit on capital stock, which could provide greater access to capital for the enterprise’s needs.
Voting based on members’ current or recent patronage applies only to a cooperative holding company. That change can only happen if it were approved by the cooperative’s board and supported by a vote of the cooperative's delegates, who are elected directly by the cooperative's member-owners. Democratic control is maintained and the ultimate decision remains with the members.
Cooperative Network looks forward to public hearings on Assembly Bill 353 and Senate Bill 281, and executive action to advance the legislation in both houses. While we respect outside groups that have alternative perspectives, it’s important to separate our facts from their fiction.
Our Chapter 185 Consensus Group’s mutual goal was to provide modern tools that will allow cooperatives to remain strong in a rapidly changing world. The Group conducted its work and made its practical recommendations using a principled cooperative framework.
We welcome any questions you may have on the legislation.