Hamilton Political Tidbits – April 1, 2016

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Political Tidbits
Compiled by
The Hamilton Consulting Group
April 1, 2016

This week, the governor signed over 100 bills into law, however the focus in Wisconsin is on next week's primary election on April 5. A new Marquette University Law School poll, which you can read about below, found Senator Ted Cruz leading in the Wisconsin GOP presidential primary, and on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton with a four point lead. The poll also surveyed voters on the state supreme court race, the U.S. Senate race between Russ Feingold and Senator Ron Johnson and Governor Walker's approval rating.

Also in this week's Tidbits, three more Wisconsin legislators have announced they will not seek reelection. Finally, in the stack of bills the governor signed was a bill regulating auxiliary containers, the PSC reform bill and several others, all of which you can read about below.

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.

New MU Law Poll: Cruz leads; Bradley gains on Kloppenburg; Walker's approval rating improves

The nation's politicos are buzzing after the  Marquette Law School Poll found Ted Cruz is up with a ten-point lead over Donald Trump in the April 5 Wisconsin presidential primary. If Trump loses in Wisconsin, the GOP is one step closer to a brokered or contested convention.

Among the Republican candidates, Trump has led in the polls in Wisconsin since September, except for a short blip when Ben Carson led in November. This week's poll is good news for Cruz, who has recently been campaigning heavily in the state. The poll found that 40 percent of potential GOP primary voters supported Cruz, followed by 30 percent for Trump and 21 percent for John Kasich.

In Wisconsin GOP delegates are allocated by congressional district and popular vote. Candidates receive three delegates for every congressional district they win and the candidate who receives the most votes statewide will receive an additional 18 delegates. In total, there are 42 delegates available.

Joe Handrick, a Wisconsin poll expert,  released the chart below to illustrate the likely breakdown of the congressional district GOP winners. The chart shows that Cruz has the advantage on the eastern side of the state, with strong advantages in the 4th and 5th Congressional Districts and a leading advantage in the 1st, 6th and 8th Congressional Districts. Kasich has the advantage in the 2nd Congressional District (Dane and other south-central counties). The only districts where Trump has the lead are in the 3rd Congressional District (western counties) and the 7th Congressional District (northern counties). However, Trump's one point advantage in these districts makes them a toss-up. 

More Retirements in Wisconsin Legislature

Adding their names to a growing list of retirements are Senate President Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), Rep. Al Ott (R-Forest Junction) and Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton).

Sen. Lazich was elected to the Senate in 1999 after serving three terms in the State Assembly. Lazich  did not give reasons for retirement but says the state is more fiscally secure and has a better business climate under Governor Walker and Republican leadership. 

Rep. Al Ott announced his retirement after serving 30 years in the Assembly. 

Rep. Andy Jorgensen also announced he will not be running for reelection as he intends to run for the Rock County Register of Deeds this fall. 

Lazich, Ott and Jorgensen join Sens. Richard Gudex (R-Fond du Lac), and Nikiya Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee) along with Reps. Tom Larson (R-Colfax), Dean Knudson (R-Hudson), John Murtha (R-Baldwin), and Dave Heaton (R-Wausau) who have all previously  announced their retirements.

Read about those who have announced their candidacy for these open seats.

Signed into Law: Prohibition of Regulating Auxiliary Containers

On March 30, amongst many other bills, Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 730 into law as 2015 Wisconsin Act 302 .  The law prohibits political subdivisions from regulating auxiliary containers. More specifically, a city, village, town, or county cannot regulate the use of or create a fee for containers (bag, cup, bottle, etc.) made of cloth, paper, plastic, cardboard, corrugated material, aluminum, glass, postconsumer recycled material, or similar substances. This legislation did not prohibit the state from regulating these issues on a statewide level. The intent is to protect consumers and business owners from inconsistencies or ordinances that vary from town to town.

This bill, authored by Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) and Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) and Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) and Rep. Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth), and supported by many members of the business community, passed both houses of the legislature earlier this year on party line votes. 

PSC Reform Bill Signed into Law

On March 30, 2016, Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 804 , otherwise known as the Public Service Commission (PSC) Reform Bill, into law as 2015 Wisconsin Act 299 . Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) and Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) introduced  Assembly Bill 804  and Senate Bill 654 . The PSC developed the legislation through many discussions with PSC staff and stakeholders.

Act 299 is a comprehensive reform package that, among other things, will save ratepayers unnecessary relocation or permitting costs for existing utility structures.

Justice Scalia's Absence Felt on the Court - Public Sector Unions Escape Unscathed

The Supreme Court reached a decision in the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association On Tuesday. The first major case, presumably of many, to be affected by Justice Scalia's abrupt death. The case involved 10 nonunion public school teachers who argued their free speech rights were violated by having to pay the equivalent of union dues. Prior to Justice Scalia's passing many commentators viewed the court's conservative wing (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Kennedy) as very amenable to the arguments made by Friedrichs and postulated the Court would overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and hold that forcing public sector workers to pay union dues or their equivalent violated the First Amendment. Instead the Court split in a 4-4 decision leaving the 9th Circuit's ruling, that teachers must pay fees associated with collective bargaining despite the fact they are not union members.

When the Court splits evenly on a case, the decision of the court below (in this case the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) is automatically affirmed without published opinions.

Group Hails Civil Litigation Reform Successes - Some Offense, Some Defense

According to their end of session lookback, Wisconsin Civil Justice Council continued to advance civil litigation reforms this past session, albeit without the sweeping reforms seen in the prior two sessions. WCJC recently released their end of session report noting the following enacted reforms:
  • Repeal of "False Claims for Medical Assistance Act" - Signed into Law (Act 55)
  • Adult Sponsor of Minor Driver Liability Reform - Signed into Law (Act 202)
  • Liability Limitations under Wisconsin's Dog Bite Law - Signed into Law (Act 112)
  • Liability Limits for Ski Area Operators - Signed into Law (Act 168)
  • Immunity for Private Campgrounds - Signed into Law (Act 293)
A top priority for WCJC was repealing Wisconsin's false claims act, which was done in the budget. The act allowed individuals unaffiliated with the government to sue private businesses alleging fraud against the state's medical assistance program. The person/lawyer who files the false claim, also known as a qui tam lawsuit, may be awarded up to 30 percent of the proceeds, in addition to costs and attorney fees. This bounty hunter aspect encourages litigation, needless, according to WCJC, given the active Medical Assistance Fraud Unit within the Department of Justice.

The WCJC report also lists various initiatives that would have repealed prior reforms. For example, one of WCJC's top priorities last session, asbestos trust reforms, would have been undone by AB 862 (Rep. Wachs-D) and SB 723 (Sen. Vinehout-D). These and all other bills opposed by WC JC failed to pass.

Signed into Law: Tourism Entity Clarified 

On March 30, Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 714 into law as 2015 Wisconsin Act 301 , clarifying the definition of a tourism entity that collects room tax. The bill recently passed the Assembly and Senate with no opposition.

The legislation, authored by Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) and Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton), makes technical changes to the room tax provisions that were passed as part of the 2015-2017 state budget ( 2015 Wisconsin Act 55) last summer.

Read more about the changes under Act 301.

Social and Financial Impact for Health Care Mandates Legislation Signed into law

On March 30, Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 543 into law as 2015 Wisconsin Act 288 .

Authored by Rep. John Jagler (R-Watertown) and Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield), Act 288 prevents the legislature from holding a hearing on or taking a vote on legislation that creates new health care insurance mandates until after it has received a currently-required report from the Commissioner of Insurance.

Read more about how Act 288 closes loopholes in the law, thereby helping ensure more informed legislative decisions.
Signed into Law: Frank Lloyd Wright Heritage Trail

On March 21, the governor signed Assembly Bill 512 into law as 2015 Wisconsin Act 270, creating a new "Frank Lloyd Wright Heritage Trail" through Wisconsin. The trail will begin at the Wisconsin/Illinois state line, continue through Madison and end at Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green.

Under Act 280, the state cost for the signage is capped at $50,000, although the legislation allows for contributions from other entities. In addition, the Department of Tourism is required to reimburse DOT for the costs for the trail signage. The Department of Tourism will use current marketing funds provided in the 2015-2017 budget to promote the trail and is required to report on their efforts to the legislature. 

Tobacco License Bill Signed by Governor

Assembly Bill 628/ Senate Bill 528, authored by Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) makes changes to the circumstances and procedures under which the city of Milwaukee can suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a cigarette and tobacco products retailer license.

The legislation passed the Senate and the Assembly via voice votes and was signed by Governor Scott Walker on March 23, 2016 as 2015 Wisconsin Act 275.

Read more about the legislation.
Wisconsin Department of Tourism Releases New Ads

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism recently released two new television commercials promoting the state's tourism interests before the upcoming summer season. The first commercial titled "Dogs are Always Welcome in Wisconsin" highlights Wisconsin's pet friendly culture and the possibilities of bringing pets on vacation. The second video showcases the typical Wisconsin supper club and the popular "Old Fashioned" drink of choice.   

Bookmark Hamilton's Political Fundraising Calendar

As the legislature finishes its work, and election season heats up, consider utilizing Hamilton's political fundraising calendar. The  political fundraising calendar provides an excellent resource to find all upcoming fundraising events. Included are all fundraising events for state and national elected officials who represent Wisconsin. Fundraisers provide a great opportunity to get to know current and prospective legislators, and other elected officials.

The information on the calendar comes from candidates and committees, so please be sure to RSVP to the person indicated in the event information, not the Hamilton Consulting Group.

The Hamilton political fundraising calendar can be found on our  website, or through  Google Calendar.

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News Clips 

Economic Development
Milwaukee-area manufacturers see growth for third straight month: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 1, 2016.
Study: Wealth gap hurting local economy: FDL Reporter, March 31, 2016.
Schuette opposes Wisconsin city's bid to tap lake water: The Detroit News, March 31, 2016.
Public interest law firm, DNR settle records lawsuit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 31, 2016.
Trumpeter swan population soaring in Wisconsin: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 31, 2016.
Walker signs bill changing start date of Wisconsin wolf hunt : Wisconsin Radio Network, March 29, 2016.
Lower milk prices trumping record production for dairy farmers : Wisconsin State Journal, March 28, 2016.
New study highlights expense of battling invasive species : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 28, 2016.

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