Hamilton Political Tidbits – June 1, 2015

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Hamilton Consulting Group Political Tidbits
Compiled by
The Hamilton Consulting Group
 June 1, 2015


Joint Finance Committee (JFC) budget action is winding down as members finalize the remaining items for review. The remaining items for review are the Bucks arena, the transportation budget, taxes, the Department of Revenue and the infamous Motion #999, where surprise provisions are included in the budget without prior publication or notification. 


Typically you receive Tidbits on Friday mornings, however we delayed this edition until after the weekend as JFC spent Friday evening making big decisions about DNR and the UW System. You'll find those decisions and other JFC budget news from the last two weeks detailed below. At this time, the next JFC meeting has not been announced because the two houses are still negotiating the details of the tax and transportation portions of the budget.


Also in Wisconsin politics, Governor Walker made two appointments to DNR's Natural Resources Board, the EPA has intervened in Bayfield County on water quality issues, and Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has assumed her new role  on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.


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


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JFC Actions: Week 5

Department of Corrections
On May 19, JFC took several actions on the Department of Corrections (DOC), in the areas of Adult Corrections, Community Corrections and Juvenile Corrections. JFC took no action on the governor's proposal for GPS tracking, thereby adopting the governor's proposal. The governor proposed to provide just over $600,000 General Purpose Revenue (GPR) and Program Revenue (PR) annually for the supplies and rent costs for GPS tracking that was partially funded for only a portion of 2014-2015, and release funding from the 2013-2015 biennial budget to DOC.

Department of Instruction
In a 29-page omnibus motion, JFC made sweeping changes to the governor's proposal for K-12 education funding in Wisconsin. The committee replaced the governor's $127 million GPR reduction to K-12 in Wisconsin with $200 million GPR in funding over the next two years. In 2015-2016, public schools would receive $150 per pupil funding increase and $100 per pupil increase in 2016-2017.

Agency Mergers and WEDC
As anticipated after the governor's request, JFC voted on May 21, to remove the proposed agency mergers from the governor's budget. The governor proposed to create a new Department of Financial Institutions and Professional Standards from the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) and the DSPS. In addition, the governor proposed to consolidate WEDC and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) into the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.

Medical Assistance
For the final item of the day, JFC members took up one of the largest programs in the state's budget: medical assistance (MA) in another omnibus motion. Health care benefits have been taking up more and more of general purpose revenues (GPR) over the last decade and Governor Walker made some bold suggestions to rein in costs.




JFC Actions: Week 6

Continuing to vote on large omnibus motions that cover multiple items, Joint Finance Committee (JFC) took up two of these packaged motions on May 27. One consisted of Medical Assistance- Long Term Care and the other included the Building Commission, Department of Administration transfers, the Office of Marketing, Worker's Compensation and Unemployment Insurance. Both passed on a 12-4 party line vote.

Long Term Care
JFC continued to take up one of the governor's most controversial budget proposals: the expansion of FamilyCare statewide and the elimination of the IRIS program. After contentious public hearings across the state and numerous constituent contacts, JFC made changes, which required spending additional revenue in an already tight budget.

Building Commission
Since the introduction of his budget, Governor Walker's budget office issued revised estimates that decreased the GPR debt service requirements by $12.2 million in 2015-16 and $10.6 million in 2016-17 to $619.8 million and $590.4 million. JFC adopted the revised estimate into the governor's budget and changed the governor's numbers to reflect the projected lapses from GPR debt service appropriations in the biennium, thus postponing expenditures on outstanding debts.

Department of Administration - Transfers
Also included in the omnibus motion were various proposals to transfer services and programs within and outside of the Department of Administration (DOA). Items included were the consolidation of agency IT services, transferring the State Energy Office and Relocation Assistance Program to the PSC and deleting the governor's proposal for an Office of Government Continuity.

Office of Marketing
The governor's big proposal for the Department of Tourism in his 2015-2017 proposed budget included moving all marketing positions in each state agency to the Office of Marketing in the Department of Tourism. JFC voted to greatly reduce the governor's proposal in an omnibus motion that also included items relating to the State Building Commission, worker's compensation, unemployment insurance and DOA.

Worker's Compensation

Also included in the omnibus motion, JFC deleted the governor's proposal to move the worker's compensation division in the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI). JFC did include, however, the governor's proposal to transfer most adjudicatory functions relating to disputed worker's compensation claims to the Division of Hearings and Appeals (DHA) in the Department of Administration (DOA). To address concerns by worker's compensation practitioners over retention of expertise, the motion requires the 18 administrative law judges to be transferred allocate a minimum of 80% of their time to worker's compensation issues. 

Room Tax
After the two omnibus motions for the day, Sen. Darling and Rep. Nygren introduced a separate motion to modify the state's room tax structure. Under current law, municipalities are authorized to impose a room tax on establishments providing rooms or short-term lodging.

UW System
Governor Walker's budget proposal for the University of Wisconsin System was one of the most talked about provisions of his 2015-2017 state budget. On Friday, JFC voted to reduce the $300 million GPR cut to the UW by $50 million and remove the provision that would turn UW into a public authority with almost total autonomy. JFC adopted the governor's proposal to freeze tuition for the biennium.

Department of Natural Resources - Departmentwide
JFC members debated various budget items in the Department of Natural Resources, including changes to the state's stewardship program.

Gov. Makes Appointments to DNR Board

Governor Scott Walker has announced two appointments to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB), Julie Anderson and Dr. Frederick Prehn.

Julie Anderson has served for over 24 years in the Racine County government in several positons including Planning Director, Land Information Officer, Highway Commissioner and Board Member of the Racine County Economic Development Corporation. Anderson currently serves as Racine County Public Works and Development Services Director. Anderson received a B.A. in Urban Economic Geography from UW - Eau Claire, and a M.A. in Geography from UW - Milwaukee.

The governor also appointed Dr. Frederick Prehn. He is a practicing dentist, small business owner and farm owner. Prehn is a dentist at a Prehn dental, a practice established by his grandfather in 1921. He also is the owner of Central Wisconsin Firearms, a firearms dealership in Wausau, WI. Prehn and his wife Linda own Prehn Cranberry, a 115 acre cranberry marsh in Tomah, WI. Dr. Prehn received a B.A. from UW - Madison and a D.D.S. from Marquette University.

Patience Roggensack to stay Chief Justice

U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson ruled that Patience Roggensack could remain chief justice while Justice Abrahamson's, the former chief justice, lawsuit unfolds. Justice Abrahamson sued shortly after Wisconsin voters chose to amend the state constitution to allow the state supreme court justices to determine who amongst them would serve as chief justice. Prior to the referendum the longest serving justice on the court took on the role of chief justice. Abrahamson became chief justice in 1996 and contends that she should retain the role until the end of her elected term. In a hearing deciding the issue, Judge Peterson said he did not see the irreparable harm of Chief Justice Roggensack administering the court system while this case is decided.

EPA Plans to Review Permit for Pig Farm in Bayfield County

After opposition arose over the potential construction of a new pig concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to step and review the permitting process.

Wisconsin currently is home to approximately 240 cow CAFOs, but Badgerwood LLC, a Wisconsin-based subsidiary of Iowa-based Reicks Farms, is looking to construct the first pig CAFO in the state. The proposed CAFO would be located in the Town of Eileen, in Bayfield County, and hold approximately 26,000 pigs in three buildings. In February, the Bayfield County Board of Supervisors voted for a one year moratorium on CAFO permitting in order to better understand the issue after local concerns about the potential for water contamination and the nuisance created by the smell of the facility. During the moratorium period, members have said the Board will work to adopt manure spreading ordinances and other regulations to allow CAFOs to responsibly operate in the county.

New Legislation on Motor Vehicle Liability

2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 92 ( AB 92 ) increases monetary fines, creates a new criminal penalty, and limits the types of damages that are recoverable in lawsuits that derive from car crashes for those who do not have automotive liability insurance.

Under current law, all motorists who drive on state highways are required to have automotive liability insurance (with a few exceptions). If the driver is stopped by the police and they do not have insurance for their vehicle, then they can be fined up to $500. Current law also requires that a driver have proof of insurance on their person or in their vehicle. A driver can be fined $10 for not having proof of insurance.


The original bill greatly increased the monetary fines for driving without insurance. For a first offense a driver would have been fined $1,000 - $5,000. For a subsequent offense within three years of the first one, a driver would be fined $2,500 - $7,500. If an uninsured driver injured someone, they would be fined $5,000 - $7,500, but if the driver knew they were uninsured then they would be fined at least $10,000 and be subject to a class I felony.




U.S. Supreme Court will not take up John Doe Case - Decision pending in Wisconsin Supreme Court

As it relates to the current state of Wisconsin politics, the words "John Doe" have been omnipresent for what seems like Governor Walker's entire tenure in office. The probe may be close to a conclusion as another challenge to the probe has been eliminated.

The state supreme court accepted three cases concerning the John Doe probe in mid-December 2014. Two cases were legal challenges from targets of the probe and a third was an action to reinstate the probe brought by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz. The court took up these cases after Judge Gregory Peterson determined the activities being investigated in the probe were not illegal. Schmitz appealed to the District Four Court of Appeals, based in Madison, arguing that Judge Peterson misinterpreted the campaign finance laws in question.

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News Clips 


Panel votes to cut University of Wisconsin budget by $250 million, eliminate tenure: Star Tribune, May 29, 2015.

Quinnipiac poll says Scott Walker will make the cut for GOP debates: The Capital Times, May 29, 2015.

Joint Finance Committee will vote on several plans Friday: WKOW, May 29, 2015.

Lawmakers, others address gun violence at forum Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 28, 2015.

Johnson explains his vote for Sensenbrenner's USA Freedom Act: WisPolitics.com, May 28, 2015.

Scott Walker stands by top aide, ducks question about questionable state loan: Wisconsin State Journal, May 28, 2015.

Committee approves prevailing wage repeal bill: Fox 11, May 27, 2015.

Scott Walker might skip Florida primary in Bush-Rubio territory: The Washington Post, May 27, 2015.

GOP lawmakers to fast track abortion ban after 20 weeks: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 26, 2015.

Ben Carson wins Okla. GOP straw poll, Wis. governor Scott Walker comes in 2nd: The Chicago Tribune, May 24, 2015.


Economic Development

Economy shrank 0.7% in the first quarter: USA Today, May 29, 2015.

Associated Bank settles racial discrimination complaint by HUD: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 28, 2015.

French company announces $11.5M expansion in Portage: Wisconsin State Journal, May 28, 2015.

State could lease buildings outside Dane County under GOP plan: Wisconsin State Journal, May 28, 2015.

Taxpayers responsible for $250 million in arena plan: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 27, 2015.

Metro Milwaukee jobless rate fell to 4.7% in April: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 27, 2015.

Wisconsin banks report higher profits: Wisconsin State Journal, May 27, 2015.

U.S. Consumer Confidence Edges Up to 95.4 in May: Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2015.

Charter to buy Time Warner Cable, would dominate Wisconsin market: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 26, 2015.

Wisconsin Indian tribes developing tourism show: WLUK, May 25, 2015.

Publishers bullish on outlook for print magazines in Madison market: The Wisconsin State Journal, May 24, 2015.



Faculty at UW Colleges weigh no-confidence vote on chancellor: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 28, 2015.

Certifying teachers without degrees proposed: Appleton Post Crescent, May 29, 2015.

Analysis says voucher expansion could divert $800 million: Fox 6, May 28, 2015.

Wisconsin one of few states taking up higher education cuts: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 28, 2015.

Provision slipped into budget dilutes teacher license rules: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 27, 2015.

County graduation rates exceed state average: Chippewa Herald, May 26, 2015.

Report: MPS on solid financial footing for short term: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 25, 2015.

As Wisconsin graduation rates rise, La Crosse sees a decline: La Crosse Tribune, May 25, 2015.



Walker: EPA carbon rule 'unworkable' for Wisconsin: The Hill, May 28, 2015.

DNR layoffs would trigger terminations of LTEs: Appleton Post Crescent, May 28, 2015.

EPA plans temporary pesticide restrictions while bees feed: Madison.com, May 28, 2015.

Green Bay coal pile air-quality study 'unlikely': Green Bay Press Gazette, May 28, 2015.

DNR to increase allowable air pollution to remedy digester violations: Wisconsin State Journal, May, 27, 2015.

Obama administration issues new water protection rule: WHBL, May 27, 2015.

Lawmakers want to legalize blaze pink clothing for deer hunting: WKOW, May 26, 2015.

Anglers urged to monitor live bait for juvenile Asian carp: Madison.com, May 25, 2015. 



Oneida Tribe to recognize same-sex marriage: Madison.com, May 29, 2015.

Former state court administrator named to interim position: Wisconsin State Journal, May 28, 2015.

Milwaukee committee seeks answers to MPD tech system meltdown: Watchdog.org, May 28, 2015.

First-time pot offenders are rarely jailed, study finds: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 28, 2015.

Nebraska lawmakers abolish the death penalty, narrowly overriding governor's veto: The Washington Post, May 27, 2015.

Obama holds off on immigration appeal to the Supreme Court: The Hill, May 27, 2015.

Abrahamson appeals order allowing her to be replaced: WKOW, May 27, 2015.

Supreme Court to Weigh Meaning of 'One Person One Vote': New York Times, May 26, 2015.

Probes of police shootings give leeway to involved officers: The Wisconsin State Journal, May 26, 2015.


Utilities & Energy

Xcel seeks to raise fixed cost for electricity use: La Crosse Tribune, May 29, 2015.

Exxon shareholders to vote on climate change, fracking: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 27, 2015.

ITC Files Permit with Canada Board for Lake Erie Connector HVDC Project: Transmission and Distribution World, May 27, 2015.

Johnson Controls: Army installation powers up energy savings with cogeneration plant: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 27, 2015

Blue Earth County passes solar power regulations: Mankato Free Press, May 26, 2015.

Area communities seek solar energy: WQOW, May 25, 2015.

Study finds space for solar farm at Mitchell Airport: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 25, 2015.



State budget deliberations stall over transportation funding: WiscNews, May 31, 2015.

Construction starts on Twin Ports' project: La Crosse Tribune, May 28, 2015.

Gov. Walker holds line on rejecting gas tax, vehicle registration fee increases: WKOW, May 28, 2015.

Amtrak to install inward-facing cameras in train cabs: Fox 6, May 26, 2015.

Wisconsin transportation funding outlook remains unclear: Wisconsin Radio Network, May 26, 2015.

Baldwin, local leaders call for improved crude oil safety measures: La Crosse Tribune, May 26, 2015.

Accidents cut in half after Marquette Interchange work, roadbuilders say: PolitiFact, May 24, 2015.



Mayo-Franciscan buys land near Arcadia for clinic: La Crosse Tribune, May 29, 2015.

Army inadvertently ships live anthrax to Wisconsin: WISN, May 28, 2015.

Lawmakers back some, not all, of Scott Walker's long-term care plan: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 27, 2015.

More than 2,300 wait for organ transplants in Wisconsin: La Crosse Tribune, May 25, 2015.

Lawmakers hope to expand use of allergy treatment devices: Channel 3000, May 25, 2015.

Milwaukee County, state foster care systems rate well in new report: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 24, 2015.

Health tech leaders tout Madison: The Wisconsin State Journal, May 24, 2015.


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