Hamilton Political Tidbits – April 17, 2015

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Hamilton Consulting Group Political Tidbits
Compiled by
The Hamilton Consulting Group
 April 17, 2015


Just as the tulips outside the Capitol are about to come into full bloom, so has the state budget process. The Joint Finance Committee took its first executive action on the state budget this week and is taking votes on more budget items today. JFC voted on the state judiciary budget, the Public Service Commission (PSC) and in a number of other areas, all of which you can read about in our budget coverage below. Also this week, the Assembly took up a long list of bills, including legislation to address the regulation of ridesharing companies such as Uber or Lyft. Next week there will be a new senator voting on the floor, which you can read about in our coverage of the April 7 election.


There is more to find in this week's edition of Tidbits! Get an update on the prevailing wage bill, background on the Joint Finance Committee co-chairs' memo that removed non-fiscal budget items and details on the Wisconsin Association of Conventions and Visitors Bureaus' successful Tourism Day at the Capitol.


Stay up to date on the state budget process! Check our State Budget Issue Update page and follow us on Twitter.


If you wish to receive additional information about a topic addressed in Tidbits, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Hamilton Consulting Team.

JFC Takes First Executive Action on State Budget

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) held its first executive session this week on Governor Walker's proposed 2015-2017 state budget. The committee took action in a number of areas, including the Secretary of State, the Public Service Commission (PSC), State Treasurer, Department of Revenue-Lottery Administration, Department of Administration - Division of Gaming, the Supreme Court, Circuit Courts, Court of Appeals, Judicial Council, Judicial Commission and Employment Relations Commission.


On March 6, The Hamilton Consulting Group prepared a summary of the proposals made by Governor Walker for the state judiciary.


In the state judiciary budget, JFC rejected a number of Governor Walker's proposals this week, including his proposal to eliminate the Judicial Council and reallocating appropriations of the Judicial Commission. In addition, the JFC took action on proposed block grants for the Supreme Court and Circuit Court.




JFC Chairs Set Ground Rules and Remove Non-Fiscal Budget Items

Before Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) kicked off voting this week, JFC chairs, Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) issued a memo on the budget procedures for the budget vote process. The memo included a list of 14 non-fiscal policy items that the chairs have determined will not be addressed in the budget and should be taken up as separate legislation.

Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin President Builds Case for Prevailing Wage Repeal

Wisconsin Independent Businesses President Impugns Credibility of Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance

John Mielke, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin (ABC-WI), appeared recently on Wisconsin Public Television's Here and Now to discuss repeal of Wisconsin's 80 year old law requiring state mandated wages to be paid on public construction projects.  ABC-WI is the Wisconsin chapter of a national construction industry trade association with over 800 members in the Wisconsin chapter alone.  On the program, Mr. Mielke argued repeal of the prevailing wage law would open up the public construction industry in Wisconsin to more competition, provide additional opportunities for small Wisconsin construction firms to work on such projects and save taxpayer money.  In particular, he highlighted a recent Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance released a report concluding that Wisconsin's prevailing wage law costs taxpayers up to $300 million annually in inflated public construction costs.

Bills of Note: Signed, Sealed and Soon to be Delivered in an Uber

Over the last two weeks, there has been extensive bill movement as Governor Walker signed eleven bills into law on April 8th and this week, the State Assembly took up a long list of bills. This included legislation on the ban of microbeads and a bill that would allow for popular ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, operate in Wisconsin.

Ride-sharing Bill
At the end of March, Representative Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) introduced AB 143, to regulate and allow for the operation of ridesharing services. The bill quickly moved through committee and passed the Assembly this week.

As explained in a previous edition of Bills of NoteAssembly Bill 15/Senate Bill 15, introduced by Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma), prohibits the sale and manufacturing of products containing microbeads. The bill has now passed the Assembly and Senate with unanimous consent in both houses.

Gov. Walker Signs 11 Bills
Governor Walker signed 11 bills into law on April 8th, creating statutes in areas ranging from restraining orders to newspapers to the Incorporation of the town of Ledgeview in Brown County.

Election Update: The Supreme Court and a New Senator

On April 7th, 2015 Wisconsin voters went to the polls and voted in many local races, but those who follow Wisconsin politics watched the race for supreme court justice, the special election for the 20th Senate District and the open seat for Waukesha County Executive.

Chief Justice Abrahamson Sues to Keep Her Position as Chief Administrator

On April 7, Wisconsin voters chose to amend Art. VII ยง4(2) of the Wisconsin Constitution to allow state supreme court justices to elect the chief justice among themselves. The elected chief justice would have a two-year term. The amendment passed with 53% of the vote. The next morning Chief Justice Abrahamson sued her fellow justices and several other statewide elected officials in order to keep her position on the court.

Legislation Introduced to Change Interest Rates in Small Claims Court

Under current Wisconsin law, plaintiffs who win favorable verdicts are usually entitled to recover interest on the monetary judgments awarded to them. There are two types of interest. There is post-judgment interest, which is meant to compensate the plaintiff for loss of the use of the money while a defendant appeals an unfavorable judgment. Post-judgment interest accrues from the time the judgment is made until the time the judgment is paid. There is also pre-judgment interest, which accrues from the time the plaintiff makes an offer of settlement until the settlement is paid.

Assembly Bill 95 seeks to change the interest rate for pre- and post -judgment interest for verdicts in small claims court.

Tourism Day at the Capitol

On Wednesday April 15, the Wisconsin Association of Conventions and Visitors Bureaus (WACVB) held their annual legislative day where members of WACVB met with legislators. The event was hosted jointly by WACVB and the Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions (AWTA).

Secretary Klett addresses Tourism Day at the Capitol attendees.


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News Clips 


Scott Walker's Wisconsin approval rating drops in latest poll: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 16, 2015.

Super PAC formed to help Scott Walker in '16 campaign: Fox 11, April 16, 2015.

Lawmakers abandon Scott Walker's proposed changes to DNR board: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 15, 2015.

Judicial Commission would remain independent under vote: WMTV, April 15, 2015.

Assembly OKs measure on rideshare services, microbeads ban: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 15, 2015.

Correction to state budget caps in-state tuition, reinstates Wisconsin Idea: The Daily Cardinal, April 14, 2015.

Speaker Vos expresses support for budget proposals: WBAY, April 14, 2015.

Several bills up for vote in state Assembly: WKOW, April 14, 2015.

Vos says abuses in IRIS program need to be addressed: WisPolitics, April 12, 2015.


Economic Development

Don't panic, college seniors: Jobs for grads likely to grow: Madison.com, April 16, 2015.

Minnesota unemployment rate stays at 3.7 percent but jobs up: WXOW, April 16, 2015.

Hotel Northland developers secure $44m needed to start: Green Bay Press Gazette, April 15, 2015.

More than 120 people losing jobs in East Troy: WMTV, April 15, 2015.

In Germany, Scott Walker backs trade deal, signs research pact: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 14, 2015.

Governor Walker arrives in Germany, leading 22-member delegation on week-long trade mission: Fox 6, April 13, 2015.

Job market for college graduates gains, but not to pre-recession levels: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 13, 2015.

Trade representatives will share export expertise in state meetings: Milwaukee Business Journal, April 9, 2015.




U.S. judges raise doubts about early challenge to EPA carbon rules: WHBL, April 16, 2015.

Veolia creates national competition to promote water industry innovations: Milwaukee Business Journal, April 16, 2015.

Dutch shipping company launches monthly Port of Milwaukee service: Milwaukee Business Journal, April 15, 2015.

Kohler Co. submits environmental report on golf course: Sheboygan Press, April 15, 2015.

State assembly approves microbeads ban: Door County Daily News, April 15, 2015.

Water quality issues at stake in proposed state budget: Marshfield News Herald, April 14, 2015.

Surface water pollution another focus of task force: Green Bay Press Gazette, April 10, 2015.

State joins lawsuit over EPA's carbon emissions rules: Channel 3000, April 8, 2015.



State law Library branches changing names: Wisconsin law Journal, April 16, 2015.

Court skeptical of challenge to Obama's climate change plan: WAOW, April 13, 2015.

Legal experts disagree on merits of chief justice lawsuit: Wisconsin State Journal, April 12, 2015.

Chief justice's bid to block amendment denied: Green Bay Press Gazette, April 10, 2015.

Mark Pocan, Keith Ellison push to add right to vote to U.S. Constitution: The Cap Times, April 9, 2015.

Supreme Court chief justice sues over amendment: Fox 11, April 8, 2015.

Constitutional amendment passes: Supreme Court will now vote to decide its chief justice: Fox 6, April 8, 2015.

State Supreme Court to pick new leader 'soon': Green Bay Press Gazette, April 8, 2015.

Ann Walsh Bradley elected to third term on Wisconsin Supreme Court, defeating James Daley: Fox 6, April 7, 2015.

U.S. Supreme Court declines to review North Carolina voting law: Reuters, April 6, 2015.


Utilities & Energy 

Lawmakers vote to end funding for Citizens' Utility Board: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 15, 2015.

Will Minnesota fixed-rate decision impact Wisconsin fight?: Midwest Energy News, April 15, 2015.

Mining, utilities sink U.S. industrial production: WTAQ, April 15, 2015.

Xcel Energy urges safety near dams: WEAU, April 14, 2015.

Utility to cut sulfur emissions at Lake Superior coal plant: Midwest Energy News, April 10, 2015.

Last shipment of coal delivered to Xcel's Burnsville plant: La Crosse Tribune, April 9, 2015.

US stocks edge lower as investors assess earnings: Madison.com, April 9, 2015.

Energy security, good will top Obama agenda in Jamaica visit: La Crosse Tribune, April 8, 2015.

Milwaukee residents express concerns about trains carrying crude oil: WISN, April 8, 2014.



Fines for seatbelt violations unchanged in new state budget: WSAU, April 16, 2015.

Electric cars won't spread even with rapid chargers: Toyota engineer: WHBL, April 16, 2015.

Public input sought at transportation meeting in Eau Claire: WEAU, April 13, 2015.

Bill proposed to allow online driver's education course instruction: Wisconsin State Journal, April 13, 2015.

No longer a highway, Wisconsin's 41 now an interstate: WMTV, April 9, 2015.

Ships moving after crews clear way through Lake Superior ice: GazetteXtra, April 9, 2015.

Ice jam disrupts Great Lakes shipping: WTAQ, April 9, 2015.



New Arizona law puts subsidized health insurance at risk:  Arizona Central, April 16, 2015.

Florida governor fights Obama administration over healthcare funding: WHBL, April 16, 2015.

Aurora plans $38 million conversion of Germantown building into clinic: Biztimes.com, April 15, 2015.

US budget deficit expanded slightly in fiscal first half: The Washington Post, April 13, 2015.

Survey: Nearly 9 in 10 US adults now have health insurance: La Crosse Tribune, April 13, 2015.

Health Sense: Madison health care cost is high and low: Wisconsin State Journal, April 12, 2015.

Federal marketplace more adept than states at enrolling customers, study finds: Kaiser Health News, April 10, 2015.

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