Hamilton Political Tidbits – February 3, 2017

Political Tidbits - Feb. 3, 2017
Hamilton Consulting Group
 February 3, 2017
Wisconsin political news for clients and colleagues.

This week, the Wisconsin Capitol building celebrated its 100th birthday! Governor Walker and legislators honored the anniversary and kicked off a year of planned events. The brief break was a rarity, as the governor gears up to give his 2017-19 budget address next Wednesday Feb. 8 at 4 PM. Read more below on the governor's rollout of some budget initiatives, including welfare reform. Meanwhile, legislators are busy working on the first bills of the session. In this edition of Tidbits, we highlight two early bills, Project Labor Agreement Neutrality and CBD oil. All this and more 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 DOT Audit Released

The Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released a new audit of the Department of Transportation (DOT) on Jan. 26, revealing increased expenditures, inaccurate cost estimates and deteriorating state roads. The audit comes amid this session's contentious transportation budget debate.
The audit examined 16 highway projects that were ongoing as of August 2016 and 19 completed projects. LAB's findings revealed that highway expenditures increased over $1 billion in the past ten years, an increase of 190.2 percent.  

The audit also revealed that Wisconsin's highways are deteriorating. According to the Federal Highway Administration's index, only 32.2 percent of roads are in good condition, far lower than other Midwest states and below the national average. Iowa was the next closest state at 55.3 percent. The national average is 63.4 percent.

Bills of Note: PLA Neutrality and CBD Oil

In the first installment of "Bills of Note" this 2017-18 legislative session, we highlight two bills that are moving along early this session: CBD Oil and Project Labor Agreements Neutrality.

SB 3 and AB 24 - Project Labor Agreements Neutrality
Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) and Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) introduced bills in their respective chambers requiring government to be neutral regarding the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). The Senate bill, SB 3, was recommended for passage on a partisan 3-2 vote by the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform on Feb. 2. We anticipate SB 3 may be considered by the full Senate as early as next week.

SB 10 - CBD Oil
Reprising a bill from last session, Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) introduced a bill that would allow parents easier access to use non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD oil) as a treatment for a medical condition. The bill, SB 10, allows for possession of CBD oil with written certification from a Wisconsin-licensed doctor. The certification must be no more than one year old. The bill also allows for Wisconsin to quickly make CBD oil available if federal regulations change, requiring that Wisconsin mirror any federal regulations if CBD is rescheduled or deleted as a controlled substance within 30 days of a federal register final order.

Special Session Bill Package Circulates

In early January, Governor Walker issued Executive Order 230, calling the Wisconsin State Legislature into special session to combat opioid abuse. In addition to calling for a special session, the governor directed his state agencies to take various administrative actions. The announcement came after the release of a report from the Governor's Task Force on Opioid Abuse. 

Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), co-chair of the Governor's Task Force on Opioid Abuse, and a leader on opioid abuse legislation, circulated the 13 special session bills for co-sponsorship. 

Republicans to Hire Outside Counsel to Defend Redistricting Map

On Feb. 2, the leadership committees in both the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly approved the hiring of an outside law firm to file a friend-of-the-court brief in defense of their redistricting map. The redistricting plan, enacted as 2011 Wis. Act 43, was struck down by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

LFB Estimates More Revenue 

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) recently released their latest revenue estimates for the current fiscal year (FY 2016-17) and for the 2017- 19 biennium. In November, the Department of Administration (DOA) and the Department of Revenue (DOR) projected the state would end the current fiscal year with a $104 million balance. The most recent estimates increase the ending balance by $322.4 million, for a gross ending balance of $427.2 million. 

Gov. Walker Unveils Welfare Reform Plan

Last week, Gov. Scott Walker unveiled Wisconsin Works for Everyone, a new welfare reform plan that will be included in his 2017-2019 budget. Joined by former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, Walker said he would expand reforms Thompson started in his term in the 1990s.
The plan consists of nine parts and is intended to incentivize able-bodied adults to take steps toward self-sufficiency.  

The welfare plan expands on Walker's "working and winning in Wisconsin" theme developed in his State of the State address to expand Wisconsin's workforce throughout his upcoming term. More details of the plan are expected in Walker's budget, due February 8.

Get to Know a Freshman - Week 3
Thirteen new members were voted into the Wisconsin Legislature on Nov. 9. There will be two fresh faces in the Wisconsin Senate and 11 new representatives in the Assembly.

In the final segment of Get to Know a Freshman, Political Tidbits highlights three new Republican representatives and two new Democrats. The first and second segments of Get to Know a Freshman can be found on Hamilton Consulting Group's Political Tidbits blog.  
President Trump Nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court

Neil Gorsuch, a 49-year-old appellate judge in Colorado, was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Trump on Tuesday. In announcing Judge Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday, President Trump sought to appoint a legal conservative to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat. If appointed, Judge Gorsuch will serve as the 113th justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. 


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News Clips
Utilities and Energy
Milwaukee to launch lead awareness campaign: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 3, 2017.
Study: Decline in coal coming: The Intelligencer, February 3, 2017.
Bill would help Wisconsin cities replace lead service lines: Wisconsin Radio Network, February 2, 2017.
WEC invests $230 million in natural gas storage site: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 1, 2017.

Battle over EPA pick is big business: The Hill, February 2, 2017.
Panel wants more state action on spreading deer disease: Wisconsin State Journal, February 1, 2017.

GOP would give law firms blank check for redistricting fight: Wisconsin State Journal, February 3, 2017.
State has tested only 9 backlogged rape kits: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 2, 2017.
Wisconsin GOP to hire law firms to defend redistricting: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 1, 2017.
Marijuana lobby goes mainstream: The Hill, February 1, 2017.

Economic Development
Local crash numbers spike: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, February 3, 2017.

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