Hamilton Political Tidbits – February 24, 2017

Hamilton Consulting Group
 February 24, 2017
Wisconsin political news for clients and colleagues.

60 degree weather in February may not be normal but inside the Wisconsin Capitol it is business as usual. This edition of Tidbits features the Joint Audit Committee's hearing on the recent DOT audit and an overview of the 2017-19 budget process. This week's Bills of Note section includes a summary on the Right to Try and Asset Forfeiture legislation, as well an update on the 11 special session bills on opioid abuse. Keep reading to learn about the new PSC Commissioner and other administration staff changes, and the results of the primary for state superintendent. 

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.

Joint Audit Committee Holds DOT Audit Hearing

The Joint Audit Committee held a public hearing Wednesday, Feb. 22 on the January audit of the Department Transportation's highway program. The audit found increased expenditures, inaccurate cost estimates and deteriorating state roads.

At the beginning of the hearing, the committee questioned the two state auditors. Legislators expressed concern about the upcoming DOT budget. The committee also questioned newly appointed DOT Secretary Dave Ross and Deputy Secretary Bob Seitz on the inefficiencies found in the audit and the future actions of DOT. 

Bills of Note: Right to Try, Asset Forfeiture & Opioid Special Session

In this installment of "Bills of Note," we highlight recently introduced bills on Right to Try and Civil Asset Forfeiture, as well as the 11 special session bills on opioid abuse. 

Right to Try
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Wisconsin lawmakers comprising the Assembly Committee on Health met for a public hearing to consider 2017 Assembly Bill 69. Introduced by Rep. Patrick Snyder (R-Schofield) and Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), the "Right to Try" legislation offers citizens with a terminal illness the opportunity to access investigational drugs, devices, and biological products that are not yet offered as treatment options or on pharmacy shelves in Wisconsin.

Civil Asset Forfeiture
A bill (SB 61) to drastically change the civil asset forfeiture law in Wisconsin was introduced on Wednesday, Feb. 22. In the closing weeks of last session, a similar bill advanced but ultimately died in the Assembly. Like last session, the authors of the legislation include Sen. Craig (R-Big Bend), Sen. Nass (R- Whitewater), Rep. Tauchen (R-Bonduel), and Rep. Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake).

Opioid Special Session Bills
Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), co-chair of the Governor's Task Force on Opioid Abuse, and a leader on opioid abuse legislation, introduced 11 special session bills on opioid abuse in the Assembly. The bills were also introduced in the Senate by the Committee on Senate Organization. The bills are being scheduled for hearings in the upcoming weeks.
Governor's Budget is Out... So, What's Next?

On Feb. 8, Governor Walker introduced his 2017-19 budget. This kicks off the legislative budget process that will command the legislature's time for the next several months.

The governor is traveling around the state selling his proposed budget to the public - often highlighting his $649 million investment in K-12 education. Positioning himself for another re-election bid in 2018, the governor's campaign recently rolled out a website to drum up grassroots support for his budget proposal.

Meanwhile, legislators await the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's (LFB) budget summary. The LFB summaries guide the Joint Finance Committee's review of the budget. Like past budgets, LFB Bureau Director Bob Lang stated it will take LFB about a month to prepare these papers. 

PSC and DOJ Staff Changes

Gov. Scott Walker announced this week that Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Lon Roberts will replace current Public Service Commissioner Phil Montgomery whose term on PSC ends next month. Montgomery had served 12 years in the Wisconsin Assembly before his six-year term on PSC.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced this week three new additions to the Department of Justice senior leadership team: Daniel Lennington, Lane Ruhland and Mike Austin. Another former Hamiltonian at DOJ - Ruhland will replace Austin as Director of Government Affairs.

Incumbent Tony Evers to face Lowell Holtz in April 4 State Superintendent Race

The primary for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction was held on Tuesday, Feb. 21. The candidates running included incumbent State Superintendent Tony Evers, John Humphries, and Lowell Holtz, with the two top candidates moving onto the general election. Evers received 69 percent of the vote and will face Holtz, who received 23 percent of the vote, in the election on April 4. Humphries received seven percent of the vote and was eliminated from the race. 


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News Clips
GOP governors confront Medicaid divide: The Hill, February 24, 2017.
Cannabis oil bill heads to full Assembly: Wisconsin Law Journal, February 23, 2017.
Obamacare repeal could involve high-risk pools like Wisconsin's: Wisconsin State Journal, February 23, 2017..

Utilities and Energy
City sues frac sand company for a $150K: Marshfield News-Herald, February 23, 2017.

Bill would limit ban aimed at slowing fatal deer disease: Wisconsin State Journal, February 24, 2017.
WMC asks EPA to reconsider Sheboygan County ozone decision: Milwaukee Business Times, February 22, 2017.

Economic Development
Former bankers association lobbyist named DFI secretary: Wisconsin State Journal, February 23, 2017.

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