Hamilton Political Tidbits – September 18, 2015

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Political Tidbits
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The Hamilton Consulting Group
September 18, 2015

The legislature is back in session after a very short summer break. Committee hearings and votes are coming faster, legislative days in the capitol have started back up and even some election news for next year is trickling out. You can read about some of the bills the Senate passed this week in Tidbits , and read an account of the Audit Committee's hearing on WEDC. In election news, State Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks, often the key swing vote on opinions, has announced he won't be running for reelection in 2016. 

Get the full, printable version of the Hamilton Consulting Group State Budget Summary here.
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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.

Audit Committee Holds Hearing on 2015 WEDC Audit

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee met on Wednesday, September 9, to discuss the findings of the Legislative Audit Bureau's (LAB) audit of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), released in May of this year. WEDA members presented extensive testimony that hit on nearly all of the points committee members raised while questioning the LAB, WEDC, and WEDC Board members.

Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) chaired the hearing and kicked it off by asking LAB if any improvements have been made since the 2006 audit. LAB responded improvements had been made, specifically in the areas of policies governing grants and loans, financial management, and data collection.

Read more about the hearing and WEDA's testimony.
Supreme Court Race Heats Up

As summer winds down the race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is heating up. On Wednesday, September 17, Justice Patrick Crooks announced he would not be seeking another term on the court. Justice Crooks served on the bench for thirty-eight years, first on the Brown County Circuit Court and then on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. While this news has long been expected in some circles, the lack of an incumbent shakes up the race. The only time an incumbent has been beat in the last half century is when Justice Michael Gableman defeated Justice Louis Butler in 2008.

The race started off unusually early this year with two candidates declaring their candidacies in mid-June. They are Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald and State Court of Appeals Judge JoAnn Kloppenburg. Judge Donald, who was appointed to the bench in 1996, is leading in fundraising so far with more than $100,000 raised while Judge Kloppenburg, who challenged Justice David Prosser in 2011, has raised less than half that amount. Judge Kloppenburg was elected to the state court of appeals in 2012.

Read more about the race.
Bills of Note: Heroin Prevention, TIF, and a Constitutional Amendment

Nygren Announces HOPE agenda legislation
Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) announced a bill package that if passed would provide additional heroin, opiate prevention and education to combat the heroin and opiate epidemic in Wisconsin. The bills are a continuation of Rep. Nygren's plan to combat the heroin epidemic.

Read about the legislation.

More TIF bills pass Senate
The State Senate met this week for the first time since the budget bill was passed in July. During the day's floor period, the Senate passed three bills that are part of TIF Bill package. The TIF Bill Package was introduced by the Joint Legislative Council as a result of the 2014 summer study committee on TIF.

Read more about the TIF bills that passed this week.

Wisconsin Treasurer Adamczyk supports eliminating position
constitutional amendment to remove Wisconsin's State Treasurer is gaining steam amongst lawmakers. Senate Joint Resolution 4, authored by Senator Rick Gudex and Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), was introduced to the Senate Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations in January and a public hearing was held Tuesday.

Read more about the proposed constitutional amendment.

Mark Hogan Named New CEO of WEDC

Governor Scott Walker has announced the appointment of Mark Hogan as CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Hogan has worked for nearly 40 years at M&I Bank and BMO Harris Bank. After retiring as M&I's Executive President/Chief Credit Officer, he joined BMO Harris in 2011 to serve as a Senior Advisor.

Read more about the new CEO.
Newsmakers with DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb

In a recent interview, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb sat down with Wisconsin Eye to discuss the state of Wisconsin's transportation issues. In the interview, Gottlieb talks about the budget, bonding, the extra Joint Finance Committee authorization, and the state of Wisconsin's roads.

Watch the video here.

U.S. Senate Takes on "Litigation Finance" Industry

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Senate Majority Whip, are calling for more transparency in the litigation finance industry. Litigation finance firms fund plaintiffs to pursue lawsuits, taking a cut of the recovery if plaintiffs win or settle with the defendants. Critics of the industry say that firms fund frivolous lawsuits, drive up costs for all litigation, and exercise undue influence in the strategy and decision making for those they fund. Advocates for litigation financing say it helps plaintiffs, who would not otherwise be able to pursue lawsuits, have their day in court.

Read more about the proposed legislation.
Wisconsin Slips in Institute for Legal Reform's Rankings of State Liability Systems

Rankings Drop Driven in Part by Judicial Behavior

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) routinely conducts a survey of in-house general counsels, senior litigators, and other senior executives at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues with recent litigation experience in each state (within the last four years). 75% of survey respondents reported that a state's litigation environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their companies such as whether to locate or do business in the state.

Read more about the state's rankings.
Aggregate Producers of Wisconsin Hold Legislative Day

Aggregate Producers of Wisconsin (APW) held their legislative day in Madison this week.

Attendees spent the morning listening to legislative, regulatory, and administration speakers. Pat Stevens, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division Administrator for Air, Waste, and Remediation and Redevelopment presented on the DNR's new reorganized structure, and on how permitting and regulation is changing at the DNR. Katie Ignatowski, Chief Legal Counsel for Governor Walker, also spoke on regulatory reform legislation currently being considered by the legislature.

Read more about APW. 

WEDA Recognizes Legislators with Economic Development Policy Awards

The Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA) has recognized four legislators for their legislative policies and support that promote and foster economic development.

Senator Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) received the WEDA Legislative Champion Award, which is given to legislators who provide legislative leadership with regards to advancing Wisconsin's economic development programs and policies. Sen. Gudex's leadership during the 2013-2014 legislative session paved the way for the development of the Wisconsin Fast Forward program, which provides workforce training assistance to firms that represent a number of Wisconsin's, existing as well as emerging, targeted industries. Additionally, Sen. Gudex led the Legislative Special Study Committee on the review of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF). This committee's work has been instrumental with identifying a number of key solutions that will improve TIF's application, as well as its accountability. Sen. Gudex continued to support these policy initiatives, and other key WEDA legislative priorities too, by shepherding various reforms through the Senate during the 2015-2016 legislative session.

Read more about the awards given to Representatives Loudenbeck, Ohnstad, and former Senator Tim Cullen.

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News Clips 
Walker fights for time during GOP debate: Channel3000, September 17, 2015.
Jeb leaves a vacuum. Who fills it?: Yahoo!Politics, September 17, 2015
Mark Harris to challenge Sen. Rick Gudex : The Oshkosh Northwester, September 16, 2015.
Walker goes after unions : US News, September 14, 2015.
Legislature to focus on elections reform, abortion : Chippewa Herald, September 14, 2015.

Economic Development
Another city committee backs Bucks arena financing : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 16, 2015.
Closing of voucher school spurs Democrats' call for accountability : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 16, 2015.
Bucks arena opening to be delayed a year until 2018; work to begin next spring : Milwaukee Business Journal, September 15, 2015.
Dollar General's historic TIF deal gets Janesville City Council approval : Janesville Gazette Extra, September 15, 2015.
Democrats' proposal brings WEDC role back into state fold : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 15, 2015.
$6 million in workforce grants to create 600 Milwaukee County apprenticeships : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 14, 2015.

Tony Evers decries politicization of education, touts school progress: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 17, 2015.
Committee approves new layoff protections for UW-Madison faculty : Wisconsin State Journal, September 15, 2015.
Closing of voucher school spurs Democrats' call for accountability : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 15, 2015.
UW road show looks to shore up relations in Wisconsin : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 14, 2015.

Apple touts environmental upgrade in latest iPhones: Madison.com, September 16, 2015.
Kinnard Farms 2,200-cow expansion OK'd by DNR : Green Bay Press Gazette, September 16, 2015.
Hull residents want $233K from city over well : Stevens Point Journal, September 16, 2015.
Bottling plan for water from Lake Superior basin shelved : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 16, 2015.
Shoreland ordinance authority removed in state budget bill : Ashland Daily Press, September 15, 2015.
Local groups balk at state changes to lakefront zoning rules : Wisconsin Public Radio, September 15, 2015.
DNR OKs expansion of large Kewaunee County dairy farm : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 14, 2015.


GM to pay $575M to settle ignition switch lawsuits: Madison.com, September 17, 2015.
Republicans introduce search warrant, SWAT bills : La Crosse Tribune, September 16, 2015.
Rebecca Bradley joins race for state Supreme Court : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 15, 2015.
Judge refuses to compel John Doe prosecutors to testify : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 15, 2015.
Wisconsin creates task force to combat human trafficking : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 15, 2015.
Lawmakers plan October vote on John Doe reform bill : Wisconsin Radio Network, September 14, 2015.

Deadline slips for highway deal : The Hill, September 14, 2015.

Utilities and Energy
City hires utilities director : Hudson Star Observer, September 16, 2015.
Dairyland gets green light for transmission rebuild in refuge: La Crosse Tribune, September 16, 2015.
Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program info released: Sheboygan Free Press, September 16, 2015.
House vote said to be near on repeal of oil export ban: The New York Times, September 15, 2015.
Appeals court complicates Sandpiper review process: Business North, September 14, 2015.
Sand company lays off workers: Marshfield News Herald, September 14, 2015.
Skirmish heats up between state power companies: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 14, 2015.

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