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Joint Finance Committee -- week in review (copy)

Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, left, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, on Thursday removed 83 policy items from Scott Walker's proposed budget.

Members of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee removed 83 policy items from the Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget Thursday.

Committee co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills and John Nygren, R-Marinette, removed all items that were identified as policy by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the Associated Press reported. That means they will have to take the more difficult route of passing as stand-alone bills rather than being a part of the massive $76 billion budget bill.

The items removed include several controversial items affecting the University of Wisconsin, including:

Allowing University of Wisconsin students to opt out of paying some fees.

Walker argued that would give students more of a voice in what they wanted to spend their fees on, but student groups pushed back saying it could reduce revenue used to buy student bus passes, bring events to campus and fund student organizations.

Letting students opt out of fees would also have gutted funding for NCAA Division III athletic programs, like those at UW-Whitewater.

Student organizations from around the system lobbied against the provision and student leaders at UW-Madison praised the decision to take the policy provision out of the budget.

Associated Students of Madison "is pleased that the finance committee co-chairs have committed to removing a proposed segregated fee opt-out from the state budget. This decision will have a positive impact on students from across the UW System, allowing continued funding to student services that are vital to the university experience," Jason Klein, spokesman for ASM, said Thursday.

Forcing UW campuses to develop a plan to track the hours that faculty are teaching and reward those who teach more.  

Faculty feared that the move would devalue research and other work they do outside the classroom.

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“‘The Packers don't just work 3 hours on Sundays,” Nicholas Hillman, an associate professor of education at UW-Madison, tweeted back in February. “I've found this a helpful frame for discussing what faculty do in and outside the classroom,” he said.

Requiring UW campuses to be committed to "free and open inquiry on all matters."

The so-called "freedom of expression" provision raised concerns among some who said it would actually lead to silencing some speech, such as protests over offensive comments.

“While protecting freedom of speech is important, it’s also important to protect freedom of assembly,” ASM's Klein said in February. “Just as speakers should have the right to comment on issues they want to, students should have the right to protest what speakers are saying.”

Requiring University of Wisconsin bachelor's degree candidates to have an internship or work experience in order to graduate.

While praised by some, critics questioned how it could work in saturated job markets or in parts of the state where internship and employment opportunities are limited.

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