Hamilton Political Tidbits – January 13, 2017

Political Tidbits - Jan. 13, 2017
Hamilton Consulting Group
 January 13, 2017
Wisconsin political news for clients and colleagues.

The 2017-18 legislative session has begun! This week, Gov. Scott Walker delivered his State of the State address, emphasizing his plan to keep "working and winning for Wisconsin." The governor's speech covered topics of transportation, education, the economy and, of course, the Packers.
In this week's Tidbits, read about how the governor called a special session to combat opioid abuse. Also, read more on the new DOT Secretary, the state's Medicaid "modest" surplus, and an update on high capacity well litigation. Keep reading to get to know some of this session's new legislators and committees. Go Pack Go!  

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.

Governor Calls for Special Session to Combat Opioid Abuse

On Thursday, Jan. 5, 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. The Taskforce, co-chaired by Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefish and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) was first convened in September 2016 and includes representatives from health care providers, law enforcement, public health officials, tribes and state agencies.
The report recommends various legislation, administrative action and private sector action to combat opioid abuse in the state. In Executive Order 228the governor directed nine different state agencies to take actions immediately. 

Governor Walker's 2017 State of the State Address

Gov. Scott Walker focused his seventh State of the State address Tuesday on "working and winning for Wisconsin." Walker highlighted successes in the economy, education, healthcare since he took office in 2011, and laid out his plans for his upcoming budget and next two years as governor.
Walker emphasized growing the Wisconsin workforce as a top priority of 2017. He praised Wisconsin's low unemployment rate and friendly business climate, and promised to further welfare reform and tax cuts in the upcoming term. Walker also highlighted his choice not to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, stating that Wisconsin outranks many states in healthcare.
Continue reading for more State of the State coverage.
DOT Secretary Resigns

Gov. Scott Walker announced in late December that the Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Mark Gottlieb offered his resignation, which took effect Jan. 6. Walker named Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dave Ross to take over the position.
Gottlieb's resignation came just before the start of a budget season in which transportation funding is sure to be one of the most contentious budget issues. Gottlieb had faced tough questioning on the DOT budget from the Assembly Transportation Committee at a hearing in early December.

Medicaid Projected to End Year with Surplus

On Dec. 30, 2016, the Department of Health Services released an update on the Medicaid budget for the current 2017 fiscal year. DHS reported to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) that they project a $312.5 million balance in general purpose revenue (GPR) Medicaid dollars. The all-fund balance, including GPR, federal, program and segregated revenues, is projected to end the year with $744 million.

The state's positive Medicaid account was recently mentioned by the governor in his State of the State Address. The governor highlighted his decision to not take the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) expansion funds and compared Wisconsin to Minnesota. The governor stated that "[Wisconsin] has a modest surplus in Medicaid while covering everyone living in poverty." 

Agricultural and Manufacturing Groups to Fight Clean Wisconsin Suit

On Jan. 6, eight business associations asked a Dane County court for permission to intervene in litigation challenging Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) high capacity well permit program. Although the litigation is aimed at individual permit holders, if the relief requested by Clean Wisconsin is granted, the court decision could threaten the validity of hundreds of high capacity well permits issued under new DNR policies.
Last November, Clean Wisconsin filed nine petitions for judicial review challenging DNR decisions to approve nine high-capacity well permit applications. The permits were needed for farms for irrigation purposes. Clean Wisconsin asked that the court invalidate each of the nine permits and find that DNR has broad powers to deny or condition approvals of high capacity well applications.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ziegler Will Run Unopposed

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler will run unopposed in the April general election. No one stepped up to challenge Ziegler by the early January filing deadline, making her the first Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate in over 10 years to run unopposed. Ziegler's unopposed run for her second term as Justice will preserve a 5-2 conservative majority on the Court. 
Get to Know a Freshman - Week 2

Thirteen new members were voted into the Wisconsin Legislature on Nov. 9. There will be two fresh faces in the Wisconsin Senate, Sens. Patrick Testin (R-Marinette) and Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac). Also, joining the Senate from the Assembly will be now Sens. Dave Craig (R- Big Bend) and LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee).
The State Assembly has 11 new representatives (seven Republicans, four Democrats). New representatives include Ron Tusler (R-Appleton), Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee), David Crowley (D-Milwaukee), Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond), Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls), Don Vruwink (D-Milton), Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg), Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer), Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego), Patrick Snyder (R-Schofield), and Treig Pronschinske (R-Mondovi).
This week on Get to Know a Freshman, Political Tidbits highlights four new Republican representatives and two new Democrats. 

Leadership Positions Announced for State Senate Committees

Just before the end of 2016, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) announced leadership positions for the standing committees for the 2017-18 legislative session. The committees and their chairs largely remained the same. Fitzgerald shuffled a few chairs and committee names and added one new committee: Financial Services, Constitution and Federalism, chaired by Sen. David Craig (R-Big Bend). 

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News Clips
Opponents say Walker's opioid plan doesn't do enough: Wisconsin Public Radio, January 12, 2017.
Changes to Obamacare, Medicaid could have big impact in state: Wisconsin State Journal, January 11, 2017.
Medicaid's data gets an internet-era makeover: Governing, January 11, 2017.

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