Willy Street Co-op has heard word that on Wednesday, September 27 at 11:00 a.m., the Wisconsin State Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions will hold a public hearing that includes review of Assembly Bill 353 relating to the organization and operation of cooperatives and extensions of credit by electric cooperatives. AB 353 has a companion bill under review in the State Senate (SB 281). The bills seek to amend Wis. Chapter 185, the statute which governs the way in which cooperatives may conduct and structure their businesses. Both bills have bipartisan sponsorship, with representatives on both sides of the aisle signed on to the bill.
To simply summarize, the bills propose to allow cooperatives to amend their bylaws so that:
- Elected directors of cooperative boards may appoint a portion of non-owner voting directors with experience and expertise pertinent to the cooperative’s business.
- Cooperative boards may opt to limit supplying financial records to requesting owners that are more than three years old.
- Cooperative holding companies may decide to allocate owner votes based on the amount of the voting owner’s current or recent patronage.
- Cooperatives that have capital investors in addition to owners may give them more than 8 percent patronage (the current limit is 8 percent).
These changes to the statute are optional for cooperatives to adopt. Willy Street Co-op is not a cooperative holding company, and we also do not have capital investors. There has also been no interest expressed by our Board of Directors in changing the structure of our cooperative board at this time.
Should any of these changes to the statute come to pass, our cooperative would not be able to put any of these changes to use without a change of our bylaws and a vote of the ownership itself.
If you would like to find more information about the bills and some differing viewpoints from two organizations, we’ve shared some links below:
- Wisconsin State Legislature Assembly Bill 353
- Wisconsin State Legislature Senate Bill 281
- Statement from Wisconsin Farmers Union, August 9, 2017
- Statement from Cooperative Network, August 30, 2017
If you are interested in attending the public hearing, or taking your own personal position on the matter, the hearing will take place at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Wednesday, September 27 at 11:00 a.m. in room 328 Northwest.