Hamilton Political Tidbits – March 10, 2014

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Hamilton Consulting Group Political Tidbits
Compiled by
The Hamilton Consulting Group
 Mar. 10, 2014  

Like Horses waiting to head for the barn, many legislators are chomping at the bit to get this session done and head back to their districts.  But there is still plenty of work to be done, including dozens of bills being taken up by the Senate tomorrow.  


Both houses are still hammering out the final amendments to some of the more controversial pieces relating to Common Core, election law changes and campaign finance reform to name a few.  Some bills will pass, but more and more are falling by the wayside with each day.


The Senate and Assembly are both scheduled to be in the week of March 17-21 (Senate on March 18, Assembly on March 20), and the Senate is prepared to go in on April 1 to finish out any lingering or amended bills that make it through the Assembly on the 20th.


Our Hamilton team will provide a wrap-up report once the session is officially closed, or for the cool, upon adjournment sine die (from the Latin "without day").  Below we report on those initiatives still worth noting, but the transformation from policy-making to electioneering has begun.


If you require additional information about a topic addressed in Tidbits, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Hamilton Consulting Team.
Legislators Weigh in on Worker's Compensation Bills

In the last edition of Hamilton Consulting's Political Tidbits, we  reported on the Joint Committee hearing on Worker's Compensation. The proposed bill plans to establish cost controls in the system by implementing a fee schedule for medical costs by mid-year 2015.


Addressing issues seen in the bill, Senator Glen Grothman, Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor, and Representative Dan Knodl, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Labor released a letter to provide commentary on one provision of the law.


Read more..    


New Lemon Law into Effect March 1

 2013 Wisconsin Act 101, which amends Wisconsin's lemon law, went into effect on March 1. Prior to Act 101, Wisconsin notoriously had one of the worst lemon laws in the country.  


The law placed unreasonable and unworkable requirements on vehicle manufacturers that allows lawyers like self-proclaimed "Lemon Law King," Vince Megna, to win outsized awards that have no nexus to fairness or the underlying goals of the law.  


Read more...  


Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act Introduced

Despite its sweeping policies, the  Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act was recently introduced with muted fanfare and debate that reflects its likely demise. Fair to say: too late, too much, and wrong party.  


Introduced by Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona), Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), and Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), the legislation sets a course to reach 30% renewable energy by 2030 through a new renewable energy standard mandate. The bill also differentiates energy sources, providing preferences or penalties, depending on perspective, for certain electrons based upon how and where generated.


Nonmetallic Mining Property Rights Protection Bill

Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Representative Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) introduced legislation on February 26th that would secure legal nonconforming use rights for existing nonmetallic mining operations. The Senate bill was passed by the Senate Committee (3-2), and is now available for a vote on the Senate floor.


Read more...  


U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case on Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On Monday, February 24, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the case Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency.

This is the first case since the Court's Massachusetts v. EPA opinion to address the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). In Massachusetts, the Court held that the EPA did have authority under the CAA. The case could potentially either expand or rein in the EPA's regulatory authority under the CAA.


Read more... 


Tax Credit Transfer Bill Passes Assembly

A  bill which would authorize the transfer of certain tax credits connected to economic development in Wisconsin was passed unanimously in the State Assembly, sending the bill to the Governor's desk to be signed into law.


In a press release, the bill's author Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), stated, "For over six months I have worked... to craft a limited economic development tax credit transferability bill that is unique to Wisconsin. Providing for the limited transfer of tax credits within the existing vendor or supplier network of a project will allow qualified applicants with no income tax liability to move forward with economic development projects, thus providing the missing value that is unavailable under current law."


The bill will allow for up to $15 million of economic development tax credits.  

Roundabout Legislation Likely Going Nowhere

A  bill has been introduced in the legislature that would allow municipalities to veto proposed roundabouts on state and county highways. At a recent public hearing, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin explained that roundabouts are supported by research and engineers who believe roundabouts are the safest and most efficient design for an intersection.


The implementation of roundabouts in Wisconsin began in the 1990s, as Wisconsin had above average crash problems at intersections. A Wisconsin DOT study shows severe crashes have decreased by 38%, but less serious collisions have grown 12%.


The bill's author, Rep. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon) also testified. In a press release Rep. Craig stated the legislation allows local communities to decide what is best for their roads.


With this year's legislation session almost over, the bill is unlikely to see any time on the Senate or Assembly floor for a vote. 


Wisconsin Governor's Conference on Tourism Takes Flight

The Wisconsin Governor's Conference on Tourism was hosted this past week in Lake Geneva, which celebrates one of Wisconsin's leading industries and shares the Department of Tourism's outlook and plans for the future.


This year the conference was held at the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva, and featured a unique commercial debut. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Hays teamed up to make a spoof of the movie "Airplane!" in a commercial promoting the beauty of Wisconsin and the state as a travel destination.  


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel jumped in with commentary on the commercial as well, explaining that the ad's angle in reference to the movie hopes to cut in against tourism ads from other states that concentrate on views of scenery.

Airplane! Stars Shirley Love Wisconsin Summers
Airplane! Stars Shirley Love Wisconsin Summers
Read more..  


Lt. Governor Kleefisch Discusses Tax Reform Roundtables

On Feb. 19th, 2014, WisconsinEye senior producer Steve Walters hosted a Newsmakers Interview with Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. They discussed the upcoming tax reforms in the State of Wisconsin.

The interview concentrated largely on the new tax reform roundtables, which are held  throughout the state to gather input from Wisconsin citizens.


Kleefisch also discussed an online version of the tax roundtables people can provide input about what taxes they would like to see reformed through a digital medium.  


More information may be found at the website: taxreform.wi.gov.


This post was authored by Jake Heyka, an intern at the Hamilton Consulting Group.


Walmart Visits State Capitol

Nearly 100 members of management teams and suppliers at Walmart visited the Wisconsin State Capitol this week to speak about growth in jobs in the US.


Read more... 


Kramer out, Strachota in

As has been widely reported, GOP Majority Leader Bill Kramer was ousted by the Assembly Republican caucus due to allegations of sexual harassment.


In a unanimous vote, the GOP voted to remove Rep. Kramer from his leadership position. With a position open, the caucus immediately moved into elections, and Rep. Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) was elected as new Majority Leader. Strachota previously announced she will not be running for re-election this fall, therefore leaving room for new leadership next fall.


A number of elected officials, including Governor Scott Walker, have stated that should the allegations be true, Rep. Kramer should either resign or not run for re-election. 

High Court Hears Oral Argument for Voter ID Cases

The Wisconsin Supreme court held oral argument for the Voter ID cases last month. The two cases, League of Women Voters v. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Scott Walker challenge the constitutionality of the laws in Wisconsin requiring that one present a photo identification at the ballot.

Read more... 


Walker Signs Newborn Testing Legislation

On Monday, March 3, Governor Walker signed Senate Bill 523,  which gives the Department of Health Services (DHS) the authority it needs for testing of newborn babies for congenital and metabolic diseases.


According to the press release:

"This is a potentially life-saving measure for our newborns," Governor Walker said.  "All babies deserve the best chance at a happy, healthy life.  When a simple test can lead to early detection of a critical disease, making sure our newborns get that screening is the right thing to do."


The pulse oximetry test, which can detect certain critical, congenital heart defects, is likely to be the first test reviewed under this bill.  


The non-invasive test measures oxygen saturation in the blood using a sensor. Early detection of congenital heart defects leads to earlier treatment, which can be life-saving for a newborn.


The bill passed on a voice vote with bipartisan support. It is 2013 Wis. Act 135.


Learn more about screening for congenital heart defects. 


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News Clips 


Some bills won't make cut as Legislature makes final push: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 8, 2014.

Wisconsin election-related legislation moves ahead: Green Bay Press-Gazette, Mar. 7, 2014.

Senate panel approves bill to limit 'living wage' ordinances: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 6, 2014. 

GOP group hits Mary Burke a second time in ad: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 3, 2014.

Gov. Walker: GOP right to remove Kramer as leader: Washington Post, March 3, 201.

Unions to Spend $300 Million to Unseat Scott Walker, Other Governors: Wisconsin Election Watch.

Senate, Assembly Republicans reach deal on Walker's proposed tax cuts: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 19, 2014.

Wis. budget committee OKs job training money: Madison.com, Feb. 19, 2014.

Assembly passes bill on police in-custody deaths probes: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 19, 2014.

Democrat Susan Happ to run for Wisconsin attorney general: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 19, 2014.

Economic Development and Finance

New historic tax credit approves first project in Green Bay: WBAY, March 6, 2014.

3,000 Wisconsin pensioners rehired in 2013: Appleton Post Crescent, March 6, 2014.

Wausau area's new economic development leaders have an opportunity to band together for fresh growth (opinion): Wausau Daily Herald, March 3, 2014.

New businesses tap into Global Water Center development in Milwaukee: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 1, 2014.

Bill would create Wisconsin Beer Commission to promote Wisconsin-made brews: The Capital Times, February 28, 2014.

Wisconsin Gov. Walker touts state manufacturing progress: Milwaukee Business Journal, Feb. 27, 2014.

Madison City Council adopts sweeping changes to TIF policy: Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 26, 2014.

Utilities and Energy

New tax break for renewable energy puts biodigester, village in tiff: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 5, 2014.

Despite lower propane prices, supply challenges persist: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 5, 2014.

Xcel Energy seeks approval to add up to 150MW solar power: Energy Business Review, Mar. 7, 2014.

ZBB Energy rides green energy market wave, soars 160% since Monday: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 5, 2014.

As Warren Buffett eyes acquisitions, are Wisconsin utilities a target? Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 4, 2014.

Construction starts on pollution controls at Sheboygan coal plant: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 3, 2014.

Wisconsin to buy power from Hydro: Winnipeg Free Press, March 1, 2014.

Harvesting the wind: wind energy boom blows into northwest Iowa: Madison.com, March 4, 2014

Wisconsin Energy in Warren Buffet's sights? (opinion): Milwaukee Business Journal, March 4, 2014.

Manitoba Hydro signs power deal with Wisconsin Public Service: Winnipeg Sun, Feb. 28, 2014.

Democrats introduce Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act: Wisconsin Radio Network, Feb. 27, 2014.

30 percent renewable energy requirement by 2030 proposed: La Crosse Tribune, Feb. 27, 2014.

Democrats propose new renewable energy requirements for utilities: Ashland Daily Press, Feb. 27, 2014.

Legislative Dems propose renewable energy ramp-up to 30%: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 26, 2014.  



IG Report findings could strengthen nursing home inspections: Kaiser Health News, March 7, 2014.

Need for family doctors grow in Wisconsin: WEAU, March 5, 2014.

Wisconsin health care systems announce partnership: The Northwestern, March 4, 2014.

Snow Psychology: Wicked winter ups America's 'Misery Index': NBC News, March 4, 2014.

Scott Walker signs newborn birth defect screening bill: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 3, 2014.

Medical facility 'buffer-zone' law in court: Washington Times, March 2, 2014

Wisconsin Faces Looming Nursing Shortage: Public News Service, Feb. 27, 2014.



Committee advances frac sand regulations bill: WisPolitics.com, Mar. 6, 2014.

Nature calling: Temps aside, wildlife and plants sense spring: Appleton Post Crescent, March 3, 2014

Kohl's, Johnson Controls win national climate leadership awards: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 26, 2014.

For the Supreme Court, a Case Poses a Puzzle on the E.P.A.’s Authority: New York Times, Feb. 24, 2014.

Oil spill cleanup by sponge: Madison scientists tout tidy technology: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 23, 2014.  

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