Hamilton Political Tidbits – April 3, 2015

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Hamilton Consulting Group Political Tidbits
Compiled by
The Hamilton Consulting Group
 April 3, 2015


The statewide budget hearings have concluded and legislators have been mentioning in press possible budget changes for the Bucks arena and UW System funding. We now wait for the Joint Finance Committee to begin taking votes on the budget in the coming weeks. The legislature has not been in session since March 19th, but committee hearings and bill introductions have filled legislators' schedules, which you can read about in Tidbits. And while Governor Walker has been busy on the impending campaign trail, a new deputy secretary for the DNR has been named and Voter ID has been upheld in Wisconsin. You can read about all of these news items and more below.


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.

Hutton, Vukmir Champion Bill to Repeal State's Prevailing Wage Law

Representative Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) and Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) have introduced Assembly Bill 32/Senate Bill 49, companion bills to repeal the state's prevailing wage law. Wisconsin's prevailing wage law requires state and local units of government to pay "prevailing wages" - not market wages - to workers who work on certain public works projects. To determine prevailing wages in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) collects wage data via employer surveys and uses a statutorily-set process to set wages to be paid on public works projects. Prevailing wage law opponents contend the state's prevailing wage laws inflate the cost of public works projects and suppress contractor competition for such projects. Supporters of the law argue such laws ensure workers are paid a fair wage and that there is insufficient evidence that repealing the prevailing wage law would result in meaningful savings on public construction projects.

Joint Finance Committee and the Calm Before the Storm

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has finished up its round of public hearings across the state and will begin to vote on whether to approve, amend, or delete provisions from the governor's budget.

The JFC is waiting for the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) to complete the budget papers, which provide alternative budget provisions. JFC members tend to follow the budget papers by choosing one of the options put forward by LFB.  In past years, large parts of a governor's budget pass through the JFC with minor adjustments, but early indications show that the committee is poised to have a greater input than normal.

Governor Names DNR Deputy Secretary

Governor Walker has announced Kurt Thiede will be the new Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural Resouces (DNR).

Thiede has been hired from within the DNR, having served fourteen years with the agency. Prior to his new appointment he was Land Division Administrator, a position which oversaw 500 personnel working in wildlife, parks and recreation, natural heritage conservation, land acquisition, master planning and capital development. Prior to this position, Thiede was Wildlife Management Regulation and Policy Specialist, DNR Liaison to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, and Customer Service and Licensing Program Supervisor for Southern Wisconsin.

Highest Court Denies to Hear Voter ID Challenge

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a challenge to Wisconsin's Voter ID law, ending the dispute and upholding the law that was passed in 2011.

In June 2014,  the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its long awaited opinions (League of Women Voters v. Walker and Milwaukee Branch of NAACP v. Walker) upholding Wisconsin's controversial Voter ID law (2013 Wisconsin Act 23) and declared the law constitutional.

However, the law was still on hold after the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision because Judge Lynn Adelman of the United States District Court (Eastern Dist. of Wisconsin) had previously ruled that Act 23 was unconstitutional and enjoined the law from being implemented.

Amending Wisconsin's Non-Compete Agreement Statute

A bill that would amend Wisconsin's current statute governing non-compete agreements has been introduced to the legislature and if passed would preemptively override the State Supreme Court decision on Runzheimer Int'l v. Friedlen (2013AP1392).

Wis. Stat. § 103.465 is Wisconsin's current statute governing non-compete agreements. The current law allows employers to restrict the ability of employees to compete within a certain geographic area, in a certain professional field, for a limited amount of time after the termination of employment. These restraints are only enforceable if they are reasonably necessary for the protection of the employer. If one portion of the agreement is found unreasonable by the courts, then the entire agreement is unreasonable unless the clauses are separate enough that one can be struck down and others upheld and the non-compete can still work (this is a judicial innovation).

Bills of Note Gone Dog Wild

In this week's edition of Political Tidbits we cover the furry-sided legislation that's making its way through the Wisconsin Legislature: pets included on protective orders, dogs and felons, and a proposal for the State Lizard. 

Pets on Protective Orders

A bipartisan bill introduced by Representative Andrè Jacque (R-De Pere) and Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) would allow restraining or injunction orders to extend to household pets. The bill would bar the subject from coming into any contact with the household pet, and would allow the victim of the abuse or a person acting on their behalf to retrieve the household pet from the person subject to the order.

Vicious Dogs

A bill that would prohibit serious felony offenders from possessing, controlling, or residing with a vicious dog has been introduced with bipartisan authors Rep. Jacque and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay).

If passed, the law would act similarly to the prohibition of felons possessing firearms.

The State Lizard

Mrs. Grimm's 4th grade class at Edward Bain School of Language and Arts in Kenosha has proposed legislation for the five-lined skink to be named the Wisconsin State Lizard. The bill draft is currently circulating for sponsors, but authors already include a bipartisan group of legislators from the Kenosha area.

Budget Hearings Wrap Up
Budget hearings concluded last week after the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) held four public hearings across the state to hear citizens' testimony on Governor Walker's 2015-2017 proposed state budget.

In total, over 1,000 people testified at the hearings, held in Brillion, Milwaukee, Rice Lake and Reedsburg. With over 25 hours of testimony, JFC members heard mostly about K-12 funding, proposed budget cuts to the UW System, school choice, tobacco prevention, FamilyCare and the IRIS program.

Election Next Week

Wisconsinites head to the polls on April 7th to vote in many local races, but those in Wisconsin politics are following two races: the special election for the 20th Senate District and the open seat for Waukesha County Executive. Also on the ballot is a referendum that if passed would change the way Wisconsin's supreme court chief justice is selected.

The 20th Senate District seat became open after Congressman Glenn Grothman vacated the position to take his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to represent the 6th Congressional District.

CAFTA - 10 Year Anniversary

The Class Action Reform Act (CAFTA) turned ten years old a month ago. Introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in early 2005, it passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress and was signed into law on February 18, 2005. This Act reformed two problem areas associated with class action lawsuits.

CAFTA loosened diversity jurisdiction for certain class action lawsuits to reduce forum-shopping by plaintiffs, and changed the way "coupon settlements" are audited and redefined in plaintiffs' lawyer fees in conjunction with these settlements.

UPDATE: Kentucky Elk Arrive in Wisconsin

[UPDATE]: The project between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources is nearing completion as 26 elk arrived in Wisconsin last week, after finishing their 45-day quarantine period in Kentucky.

The elk will spend 75 days in a seven-acre acclimation pen in the Black River State Forest, before being released.

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News Clips 


The State of Scott Walker (opinion): The New York Times, April 2, 2015.

Alternative Bucks arena funding plan floated: Green Bay Press Gazette, April 2, 2015.

Republicans say prevailing wage measure may be in budget: Channel 3000, April 1, 2015.

Explaining the Indiana RFRA controversy in five minutes: Constitution Daily, April 1, 2015.

Election complaints filed against Scott Walker, Jeb Bush: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 31, 2015.

How Arkansas religious freedom bill differs - and doesn't - from the controversial one in Indiana: The Washington Post, March 31, 2015.

Supreme Court justice Bradley holds fundraising edge over challenger Daley: WTAQ, March 30, 2015.

As legislator, Scott Walker wanted to upend primary schedule: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 30, 2015.

Farrow, Schellinger face off in Waukesha County exec race: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 29, 2015.

Should state Supreme Court justices choose their leader? Voters will decide on April 7th: Fox6, March 29, 2015.

Harry Reid's retirement: Republicans get their wish: The Economist, March 27, 2015.


Economic Development

Global shares rise on optimism before U.S. jobs data; oil tumbles: Reuters, April 2, 2015.

Fast Forward job training already working here: Wausau Daily Herald, April 2, 2015.

Survey: US businesses add 189k jobs in March: Madison.com, April 1, 2015.

US construction spending falls for second month in February: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 1, 2015.

Wisconsin adds 7,500 construction jobs over past year, loses 1,300 jobs January to February: Madison.com, March 31, 2015.

Cellular Dynamics to be acquired by Fujifilm for $307 million: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 30, 2015.

Wisconsin jobs total finally surpasses pre-recession levels: The Cap Times, March 30, 2015.

Wisconsin tops nation in black joblessness, study finds: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 26, 2015.

Lake Hallie files lawsuit over district funding: The Chippewa Herald, March 25, 2015.

Wells Fargo cutting 1,000 home loan servicing jobs: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 25, 2015.



Early childhood education topic of economic indicators forum: La Crosse Tribune, April 2, 2015.

2 more UW System campuses announce staff buyout offers: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 31, 2015.

Racine teachers to protest at board meeting with Vos, other lawmakers: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 30, 2015.

UW System President Cross promises to quit if budget cuts happen: WSAU, March 26, 2015.

Elderly, education a concern for citizens: Sawyer County Record, March 25, 2015.

Charter school bill likely to get committee vote this week: La Crosse Tribune, March 25, 2015.

Charter schools work for teachers (opinion): Kenosha News, March 24, 2015.



AEP launches website to argue against EPA carbon rules: Columbus Business First, April 2, 2015.

DNR seeks more public input on deer population goals: La Crosse Tribune, April 2, 2015.

Republican Senators Seek Detailed Answers on EPA Climate Change Science, Modeling: Bloomberg BNA, April 2, 2015.

US climate treaty pledge relies on uncertain Obama actions: HTR News, March 31, 2015.

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble convenes dairies, DNR to discuss Green Bay phosphorus pollution: WisconsinWatch.org, March 31, 2015.

US offer for climate treaty: Up to 28 percent emissions cut: The Chippewa Herald, March 30, 2015.

DNR proposes emergency rule to provide three bag limit for walleye in most Ceded Territory waters: Star Journal, March 26, 2015.

Energy secretary reiterates priority of reopening nuke dump: Watertown Daily Times, March 25, 2015.



Woman posed as lawyer for decade, made partner: Wisconsin Law Journal, April 2, 2015.

What's on the ballot: 2015 Wisconsin Spring general election: Wisconsin Election Watch, April 1, 2015.

Supreme Court sides with Idaho in Medicaid pay dispute: The Journal Times, March 31, 2015.

U.S. Supreme Court decision could curtail Medi-Cal lawsuits: Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2015.

State Supreme Court candidates spar at luncheon: Green Bay Press Gazette, March 26, 2015.

Supreme Court rejects Alabama case: WISN, March 26, 2015.

With legal fight on Voter ID done, Wisconsin group looks to educate: Wisconsin Radio Network, March 25, 2015.

State Supreme Court candidates spar over partisan influences: Wisconsin Law Journal, March 24, 2015.

Colorado's legal pot is potent, and a little dirty: WKOW, March 23,2 2015. 


Utilities & Energy 

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Carves Out Own Niche Inside GOP: The Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2015.

Study: Coal industry lost nearly 50,000 jobs in just five years: The Washington Post, April 1, 2015.

Badger Coulee's north route approved by PSC: Wisconsin State Journal, April 1, 2015.

Xcel Energy turning to LED street lights: WEAU, April 1, 2015.

Industry, water advocates come together on bioenergy bills: Midwest Energy News, March 30, 2015.

Energy storage seen as boom business for Wisconsin companies: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 29, 2015.

Serious concerns about utility merger (opinion): Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 28, 2015.


North Dakota launches oil rules hoping to curb U.S. rail disasters: WTAQ, April 1, 2015.

Transportation strike in Argentina shuts down country: La Crosse Tribune, March 31, 2015.

After four high-profile derailments, including in Galena, BNSF railroad adds safety measures: Fox6, March 31, 2015.

Wisconsin legislature introduces ridesharing bill: Wisconsin Election Watch, March 31, 2015.

White House reviews truck efficiency rules: The Hill, March 30, 2015.

Dems intensify fight for oil train regulations: The Hill, March 26, 2015.

Sen. Baldwin proposes 'rail shipper fairness,' competitive switching: March 25, 2015.



Johnson: Free market best solution to rising health care costs: The Dunn County News, April 1, 2015.

Exclusive: Republican White House hopefuls attack Obamacare but take money: Reuters, April 1, 2015.

China aims to double doctor numbers as cure for healthcare woes: WTAQ, March 31, 2015.

VA official apologizes to Tomah families: Wausau Daily Herald, March 31, 2015.

Members of Congress hear testimony on Tomah VA hospital: WISN, March 30, 2015.

Colleges getting out of health insurance business: The Journal Times, March 28, 2015.

Ryan building Obamacare 'off ramp': The Journal Times, March 28, 2015.

Group led by UW scientist develops whole virus Ebola vaccine: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 26, 2015.

GOP moves forward on budget plans, eyes bill to repeal ObamaCare: Associated Press, March 24, 2015.


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