Hamilton Political Tidbits – September 4, 2015

Hamilton Header
Hamilton Consulting
Political Tidbits
Compiled by
The Hamilton Consulting Group
September 4, 2015

As summer winds down, activity in the Capitol is ramping up. The governor announced staff changes at the end of August, a new legislator is headed to the Assembly later this fall, and the state's lawsuit with Talgo, the company contracted to make the high-speed rail from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities, was settled. Also in this week's Tidbits , the CATO Institute published an article critical of Wisconsin's Unfair Sales Act, Congressional Quarterly released the second annual 50 State Project, and there are some new bills to read about in "Bills of Note".

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

Gov Appoints New CEO to WEDC

Governor Scott Walker today announced the appointment of banking executive Mark R. Hogan as CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Hogan replaces Reed Hall, who announced his retirement last month.

LFB Reports Higher Than Anticipated Revenues

On August 26, Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB)  released a memo on the preliminary general fund tax collections for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Using the Department of Revenue  latest collection numbers , the final general purpose revenue (GPR) collections totaled $14.54 billion. This is a 4.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. LFB compared the actual revenues with their estimate in January 2015, which showed a .5 percent increase over the estimate. This was due to higher than projected tax collections in corporate income and franchise, excise taxes (cigarette, tobacco) that offset estimates that came up short in individual income and insurance company taxes.

CATO Institute: Wisconsin's Unfair Sales Act and the Folly of Antidumping Laws

A Michigan-based supermarket trying to expand into Wisconsin has come up against an absurd law against selling products at "unfairly low" prices.  As  reported  by MLive, the Meijer grocery store chain is facing complaints that its grand opening sales violated Wisconsin law for offering products at prices below cost. Why is that bad?

Duchow Wins 99th Assembly District Primary Election

Cindi Duchow won Tuesday's Republican primary election to represent the 99th Assembly District in Waukesha County.

Duchow received 1,341 votes in the election to defeat three other candidates. Dave Westlake, a small business owner and West Point graduate who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 received 1,099 votes; Scott Owens, owner of an American Family Insurance agency received 737 votes, and Spencer Zimmerman, a U.S. Air Force Veteran and driver for a limousine service received 146 votes.

Bills of Note: Building Materials Tax Exemption

A public hearing was held on  Senate Bill 227 , a bill that would allow contractors to directly purchase construction materials on behalf of their tax-exempt clients without paying the sales tax. The proposal, was originally included in the tax reform package of the budget by the Joint Finance Committee. However, the governor vetoed the language included in the budget that would allow the exemption, saying the language was "too broad" but he was supportive of the intention. In his veto message, Governor Walker encouraged legislation to be introduced with amended language.

The bill would allow a sales and use tax exemption for materials sold to a construction contractor who will use the purchased materials for a facility being contracted to be built by the county, municipality, school district, or nonprofit organization.
Walker Announces Staff Changes

At the end of August, Governor Scott Walker announced several staff changes, including naming a new chief of staff.

As reported in our last edition of Tidbits, it was announced that Walker's chief counsel Brian Hagedorn was appointed Court of Appeals Judge for District II. Another big departure is Chief of Staff Eric Schutt, who will leave on September 3 to "pursue other opportunities and to spend more time with family." Schutt has been Walker's chief of staff since 2011.

Walker appointed Rich Zipperer as his new chief. Zipperer has been Deputy Chief of Staff in the governor's office since 2012. Zipperer served in the state legislature as a representative and senator from 2007 to 2012.

Congressional Quarterly's 50 State Project Highlights State Issues

Congressional Quarterly, a publishing company specializing primarily in U.S. Congressional reporting, has released their second annual 50 State Project. The Project highlights differences in bill passage between the U.S. Congress and statehouses around the nation. Additionally included in the report are the top issues in the states and in the U.S. Congress, as ranked by reporters in their respective localities.

Congressional Quarterly claims that the federal government is simply unable or unwilling to address big problems, as evidenced by the fact that multi-year funding bills keep staggering along on short-term extensions passed yearly or even monthly. Furthermore, CQ highlights the long-term effects of the Great Recession. While their used to be a steady stream of revenue from the nineties up through 2008, legislatures today are still forced to make tough funding decisions with very limited state incomes. This is evident in the rankings, as budget/taxes are ranked as a high issue.

Talgo, State, Settle Lawsuit Over Trains

A three-year-old lawsuit between the state and Spanish train manufacturer Talgo was recently settled for approximately $50 million. The state could end up getting $9.7 million of the settlement back if Talgo sells the two trains the state was previously contracted to buy. The case had been set to go to trial in December, but the parties entered mediation in mid-July that led to the terms of the settlement.

Read more about the suit.

DOJ Files Motion to Dismiss Redistricting Suit

Attorney General Brad Schimel and the state Department of Justice have filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed last month by 12 state democrats arguing the 2011 redistricting map, Act 43, created a partisan gerrymander.

The case is brought against members the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), which runs elections but do not draw the maps. The Department of Justice will represent GAB in the case. The plaintiffs have requested that a panel of three judges decide the case, which could expedite the timeframe. It is even likely the Supreme Court could potentially decide the case before the 2016 election.

In the dismissal motion, Schimel argues that the United States Supreme Court has previously rejected the plaintiff's argument on the grounds that "partisan gerrymandering claims present nonjusticiable political questions." Furthermore, the motion goes on to assert that there is no constitutional right for a political group to obtain a percentage of legislative seats corresponding to the percentage of votes their candidates earn statewide in legislative contests. Additionally, the motion argues that the lack of a judicial standard does not create grounds for throwing away the map, and that the mathematical models provided by the plaintiffs cannot create the standard when there is no history or constitutional theory of what should be measured. Lastly, Schimel opines that the 12 democratic plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the map statewide because a plaintiff can only challenge the district of their residence. 

Fitzgerald Announces Committee Reassignments

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has announced that he has disbanded the Senate Committee on Education Reform and created the Senate Committee on Public Benefit and Regulatory Reform. Sen. Fitzgerald states that he made the changes to the standing committees to reflect changes in Senate membership, particularly the recent election of Senator Chris Kapenga.

Members of the Senate Committee on Public Benefit and Regulatory Reform include:
  • Senator Chris Kapenga (R), chair
  • Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R), vice-chair
  • Senator Stephen Nass (R)
  • Senator Nikiya Harris-Dodd (D)
  • Senator Mark Miller (D)
Sen. Kapenga, the chair of the newly formed committee, said in a press release that he looks forward to "developing innovative reforms that put individuals on the path to self-sufficency."

As of this writing, no bills have been submitted to the committee and there are no scheduled meetings.

Sen. Kapenga will also serve as vice chair on the Senate Committee on Elections and Local Government, and as a member of the Senate Committee on Government operations and Consumer Protection.

Hamilton Consulting: Your Government Relations Easy Button


The Hamilton team is working to make sure our clients have the tools necessary to accomplish their government relations goals. We encourage our clients to remember to make use of all the many services we provide:

  • Political Tidbits - Political Tidbits is our FREE email newsletter on political and policy developments in Wisconsin, including links to relevant news articles, policy papers, and other informative documents. We are constantly updating our mailing list and we could use your help! Please let us know if your email address is changing so you will continue to receive our newsletter. Also, feel free to forward this newsletter to others who may be interested in subscribing.
  • News Clips - President Harry Truman once wrote that you can't get all the facts from just one newspaper, and without the facts, "you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on." The right column of Political Tidbits contains a selection of the most important news stories, but did you know you can always get the news sorted by subject on the Hamilton Consulting website? 
  • Political Fundraising Calendar - Hamilton's political fundraising calendar allows you to see all of the upcoming fundraising events and import them to your own calendar.
The Hamilton Consulting Group Political Tidbits is a free newsletter on Wisconsin political and policy developments. Please it to others who may wish to receive this service.

If you require additional information about a topic addressed in Tidbits for your organization's board meeting or trade publication, please do not hesitate to contact a Hamilton Consulting Group lobbyist.


To ensure that Political Tidbits never gets caught in your spam filter, please add publications@hamilton-consulting.com to your address book/contacts list. If you are receiving these emails via a workplace email account, please advise your IT service desk to do this for you.  

News Clips 
Obama clinches vote to secure Iran nuclear deal: The New York times, September 2, 2015.
Keep calm and ignore the 2016 'game changers': Five Thirty Eight, September 2, 2015.
CNN amends GOP debate criteria: CNN, September 2, 2015.
Cindi Duchow wins Waukesha County Republican Assembly primary: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 1, 2015.
GAB sends lobbyist contribution question to Wisconsin Legislature: Twin Cities Pioneer Press, September 1, 2015.

Economic Development
Economy added 173,000 jobs in August: Politico, September 4, 2015.
Will the Fed raise rates? August jobs report should provide a big clue: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 3, 2015.
Lt. Governor Kleefisch to lead trade mission to Japan and Taiwan: Wisconsin State Journal, September 3, 2015.
Janesville families worried about wage changes: Janesville Gazette Extra, September 3, 2015.
Report: Property taxes, rates drop in southeastern Wisconsin: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 3, 2015.
Local manufacturing index still sputtering : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 31, 2015.
Common Ground objects to city financing plan for Bucks arena : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 31, 2015.

Five schools in area post solid ACT score gains: Green Bay Press Gazette, September 4, 2015.
Local schools won't institute random drug testing: Marshfield News Herald, September 3, 2015.
Wausau schools roll out virtual options: Wausau Daily Herald, September 2, 2015.
Janesville schools superintendent considering options after board vote: Janesville Gazette Extra, September 1, 2015.
Schools receive after-school funds: Fond du Lac Reporter, September 1, 2015.
Lawmakers want hearing on possible UW merger : Wisconsin Radio Network, August 31, 2015.
UW campus officials prepare for new year after tumultuous summer : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 31, 2015.
University of Wisconsin among most entrepreneurial schools in U.S. : Milwaukee Business Journal, August 31, 2015.

Menasha lock closes indefinitely: Green Bay Press Gazette, September 3, 2015.
Regulators concede some PolyMet mine water might reach BWCA: La Crosse Tribune, September 2, 2015.
Steady rise in Wisconsin farmland values may be ending: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 1, 2015.
DNR tries to juggle access, preservation on Lulu Lake area : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 31, 2015.
Obama makes urgent appeal in Alaska for climate change action : The New York times, August 31, 2015.

Large health insurance rate hikes in Wisconsin target of bill: Wisconsin State Journal, September 4, 2015.
Tomah VA director fired in wake of over-prescription reports: La Crosse Tribune, September 3, 2015.
West Nile Virus found in Brookfield: Brookfield News Now, September 3, 2015.
Madison firm provides lines for new stem cell bank : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 2, 2015.
GOP bills targeting federal funding for Planned Parenthood get hearings : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 2, 2015.
Thiesfeldt argues against mandatory flu shots : Oshkosh Northwestern, September 1, 2015.

Shirley Abrahamson appeals in attempt to reclaim chief justice post: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 3, 2015.
Judge urges transparency from DNR, BNSF in marsh construction: La Crosse Tribune, September 3, 2015.
Group that sued over Confluence hit with legal bill : Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, September 2, 2015.

Transit changes take step forward in county: Stevens Point Journal, September 3, 2015.
Big cities scramble to be prepared for an oil train disaster: Associated Press, September 3, 2015.
Roundabouts safer design, DOT tells Fort Rotarians: Jefferson County Union, September 3, 2015.
U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Tammy Baldwin call for oil train safety: Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 2, 2015.
City seeks to clear air over dust debacle: Marshfield News Herald, September 2, 2015.
County reviews possible transit changes : Stevens Point Journal, August 31, 2015.

Utilities and Energy
Firms want county land in West Salem as solar energy site: La Crosse Tribune, September 3, 2015.
Health concerns spur residents in talks with We Energies: Racine Journal Times, September 3, 2015.
Power and water councils plan joint effort focusing on 'energy-water nexus': Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 3, 2015.
Westport helping with Bishops Bay utility: The Waunakee Tribune, September 3, 2015.
Public learns of a proposed wind farm near Cashton: La Crosse Tribune, September 2, 2015.
Sauk County wants bids for major solar project: Madison.com, September 2, 2015.

Contact Us 

For further information on these or other initiatives, contact a  Hamilton Consulting Group lobbyist.



Visit our blog 

Wisconsin Civil Justice Council

Promoting Fairness and Equity in Wisconsin's Civil Justice System