Hamilton Political Tidbits – March 4, 2016

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Political Tidbits
Compiled by
The Hamilton Consulting Group
March 4, 2016

Governor Scott Walker's hands are awfully sore after signing over one hundred bills  into law this week (some of which you can read about below). While he signed his name one letter at a time for hours on end, the focus around the capitol is on the final Senate calendar for their last session day on March 15.

In the meantime, election season is heating up. New poll results from Marquette Law School, which you can also read about in Tidbits, show Donald Trump as the Republican favorite in Wisconsin. Also in election news, more state legislators are announcing their retirement, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates will go head to head in debates this month.

In agency news, read about DOJ's work in two major lawsuits, one regarding this session's right-to-work law, and the other a challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Finally, the DNR is one-step closer to an internal reorganization that will be implemented by midsummer, which could have an external impact on Wisconsin businesses.

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 Walker Signs Numerous Bills 

As a busy legislative session begins to wrap up, Governor Walker this week signed more than 100 bills into law. While the Assembly says they have adjourned for the session to begin campaigning, the body did not adjourn sine die, leaving open the possibility that the chamber could return. The Senate is scheduled to be in for one more floor session on March 15, where they could amend priority Assembly legislation, forcing that body to reconvene if they chose.

Below are highlights of some of the legislation signed by Governor Walker's hand. The newly signed legislation includes bills dealing with jail strip searches, tax incremental financing, minor driver's license liability, review of water quality standards, and placement of vehicle safety monitoring devices.

Legislation Eliminating Twelve-Hour Hold for Strip Searches 
On March 1, Governor Scott Walker signed legislation to remove the twelve-hour hold provision for strip searches. 2015 Wisconsin Act 206, removes the requirement that jail administrators hold detainees for 12 hours before being strip searched, if there is no probable cause to search them. The Senate passed the bill in January, while the Assembly concurred the legislation on the final floor period in February.

 Read more about this legislation.

Tax Incremental Financing Bills Signed
The governor also signed legislation as part of the tax incremental financing (TIF) bill package. The bills are a product of the 2014 Legislative Council study committee on TIF. The Senate passed the legislation in May and September of last year. Other bills recommended by the 2014 study are unlikely to pass this session, but may return in 2017-2018 legislative session.

Read more about this legislation.

Minor Driver's Sponsorship Liability Bill 
Governor Walker signed legislation to limit the liability that may be imputed to an innocent parent or other adult who sponsors a person under the age of 18 in obtaining a motor vehicle operator's license. Under previous Wisconsin law, Wisconsin is was one of only eight states in which a parent or other adult who sponsors a minor driver has unlimited liability for injuries caused by the minor's negligent acts while driving. 2015 Wisconsin Act 202 was authored by Sen. Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Rep. Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin).

Read more about the legislation.

Mounting Vehicle Monitoring Device
2015 Wisconsin Act 160  was signed by Governor Walker on Monday February 29. The legislation, authored by Rep. Spiros (R - Marshfield) and Sen. Wanggaard (R - Racine) allows one to mount a monitoring and feedback device to the front windshield of a vehicle around the rearview mirror area. The legislation changes the previously existing provision that did not allow one to drive a vehicle with objects mounted on the windshield. The fast-tracked legislation passed the Assembly and the Senate in February floor sessions.

New Review of Water Quality Standards Legislation Signed by Governor
2015 Wisconsin Act 205  modifies the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) multi-discharger variance program to meet the new federal requirements. Act 205 creates a new procedure for when variances must be reviewed. This includes a three-year review standard and a highest attainable review. Under the new law, every three years, DNR must review the water quality standards and variances to water quality standards including approvals under the statewide phosphorus variance. If DNR determines after the review that the water quality standard is attainable, and the variance is not needed, then DNR must modify the variance when the discharger's permit is reissued or modified.

DNR Continues to Move Toward Reorganization of Agency

The Department of Natural Resources is moving towards finalizing a plan to reorganize portions the agency, in order manage dwindling staff levels and improve the quality of the DNR's work with citizens.

The DNR originally announced its plan to reorganize in July 2015.  During a recent announcement to DNR employees, Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede announced the final alignment decisions will be made by June 30, 2016.

Overall, the reorganization is aimed at accomplishing the following:
  • Leverage staff expertise and accomplish core work;
  • Making strategic investments in information technology;
  • Improving service delivery to the public;
  • Enhance integration;
  • Streamline permitting; and
  • Streamline policy development.
The component of the reorganization that will have the most impact on Wisconsin's businesses is the DNR's changes to the permitting process. The DNR will create more general permits, allowing staff to spend more time on complicated permit cases, and less time working through individual permits. The streamlining will also include "alternative approaches to the development of permits". For example, the DNR is looking at a pilot air program where some qualified permit applicants would draft their own permits.

Elections Update: More Retirements and New Candidates for 8th CD

More Legislators Announce Retirements

Rep. John Murtha (R-Baldwin), Rep. Tom Larson (R-Colfax), and Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee) joined the growing number of legislators that will not seek re-election in 2016.

Read more about the districts the legislators represent.

Open 8th Congressional District Seat

Mike Gallagher, a Scott Walker presidential campaign staffer has announced his plans to run for the seat left open by U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Green Bay).

Also announcing his candidacy is Terry McNulty, a U.S. army veteran of over 20 years in numerous deployments, and Wendy Gribben of Marinette County, who is a former EMT and volunteer firefighter with more than 20 years of experience in customer service.

Interest Rates on Judgments Legislation Gets Hearing

A public hearing was held in the Senate committee on Judiciary and Public safety this week on Assembly Bill 95, authored by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Sen. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater). The bill seeks to change the interest rate for pre- and post- judgment interest for verdicts in small claims court. AB 95 will revise the formula created in 2011 Act 69 (Act 69) back to the pre-Act 69 rate of 12 percent per year. While introduced in March of 2015, the Assembly Committee on Judiciary passed AB 95, 5-4 in January. The Assembly passed the legislation via a voice vote in February.

Read more about the legislation.
State Supreme Court Candidates Agree to Debates

The first debate between Justice Rebecca Bradley and Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg will be held March 15 at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee. The debate is being hosted by Marquette University Law School and WISN TV.

The second debate between the two candidates will be three days later on March 18 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The Madison debate will be sponsored by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and will be broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Marquette University Law School poll found the two candidates in a virtual tie after the February 16 primary election. In a poll conducted between February 18 and 21, each candidate received 30 percent support of those polled, with another 31 percent remaining undecided. The poll also reported that over 50 percent of voters were unable to say whether they had favorable or unfavorable views of either of the two candidates.

Read more about the state supreme court race.

Wisconsin Presidential Primary Nears

When the presidential primary and caucus schedule was first announced, many believed one of the GOP candidates would have a clear lead for the Republican nomination, and Wisconsinites' votes would be irrelevant. However, Wisconsin voters may now have the chance to make a difference in the delegate totals when they vote in the presidential primary on April 5.

According to the  most recent statewide polling in Wisconsin, Donald Trump leads the race for the Republican nomination with 30 percent, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are close behind with 20 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Court Hears Arguments in Right to Work Lawsuit

On March 10, 2015 the International Association of Machinists Local 1061 and two other unions filed a complaint against the State of Wisconsin alleging the "Right to Work" bill passed by the legislature (2015 Act 1) constitutes an unconstitutional taking of the plaintiffs' property which violates Wisconsin Constitution Art. I, § 13. The plaintiffs argue that they have a property interest in their collective bargaining agreements with their private sector employers because they include security clauses (mandatory dues payments) which are a monetary interest. The plaintiffs then argue that 2015 Act 1 deprives them of their property without just compensation by prohibiting unions from charging non-members for its bargaining services which the unions are still obligated to provide. They contend that they are obligated to continue to provide these services to non-members because minority unions (unions that represent less than half of eligible employees) are prohibited under Wis. Stat. § 111.06(1)(e) and because the NLRA § 9 requires representatives designated by a majority of employees in a bargaining unit be the exclusive representative of all of the employees in the unit for collective bargaining purposes. Local 1061 asked the court to find Act 1 unconstitutional and permanently enjoin the implementation and enforcement of the law.

Read more about the lawsuit.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Host Annual Business Day

Last week, the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce hosted the 15th annual Business Day at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Attendees heard from speakers from around the nation on business and political affairs topics.

Featured speakers this year included political commentator Stephen Hayes from The Weekly Standard, who discussed the nation's political climate and the current state of the presidential election. Demographer Ken Gronbach gave a talk about changing conditions of the workforce and the future of education, communications and marketing. Senator Ron Johnson and Governor Scott Walker each discussed their priorities of growing the economy and improving Wisconsin's business climate.

Wisconsin Joins New Affordable Care Act Challenge

In what Governor Walker characterized as a challenge to an "unconstitutional and coercive tax", Wisconsin joined five other states, including Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Indiana and Nebraska, suing the federal government over a provision in the Affordable Care Act. The states filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on February 24. Texas is the lead plaintiff.

The lawsuit surrounds an obscure part of the Affordable Care Act, the "Health Insurance Providers Fee" which is imposed on all health insurance providers. The fee, which began in 2014, has collected over $8 billion, and is expected to collect over $14 billion by 2018. This fee does not become a legal issue until it intersects with another provision of federal law, which requires that negotiated capitation rates (payment arrangements for health care service providers) be actuarially sound. In the context of Medicaid the state government would, in part, pay the capitation rate to health care providers. Under federal regulation to be deemed "actuarially sound" a rate must be certified by an actuary under the standards established by the American Academy of Actuaries (Academy), a private organization.

Read more about the lawsuit.
Wisconsin Women in Government Announces 29th Annual Gala Keynote Speaker

The WWIG Board of Directors have announced that the 29th Annual Scholarship and Recognition Gala will feature Donna Shalala, President of the Clinton Foundation, former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, and past Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison as the keynote speaker. Shalala is making her second appearance as the speaker, returning to WWIG almost 30 years after headlining the very first gala in 1988.

The gala will be held on Thursday, April 14, 2016 at the Edgewater Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Those interested in attending the event can  register here.

For the first time ever, this year's gala will also feature the inaugural presentation of WWIG's Rising Star and Legacy awards, bestowed upon remarkable women in government who have made outstanding contributions to their field.

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News Clips 

Economic Development
US adds a strong 242,000 jobs; rate holds at low 4.9 pct. : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 4, 2016.
State business group dissuaded WEDC from contacting Kraft Heinz : Wisconsin State Journal, March 2, 2016.
Feds finally decide to impose steel tariffs : Business North, March 2, 2016.
Wisconsin job market on the rise : Northland News Center, March 2, 2016.
Possible development surfaces near busy Water St. area : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 2, 2016.
Plan board approves Titletown District : Green Bay Press Gazette, March 1, 2016.
Poverty spikes in Wisconsin, study shows : River News Online, February 29, 2016.

Homeowners wary of massive oil pipeline : Stevens Point Journal, March 3, 2016.
Senate committee votes to protect Wisconsin's plastic bags : Wisconsin Public Radio, March 1, 2016.
Plan to pipe Great Lakes water draws fire : Duluth News Tribune, February 29, 2016.
Number of polluted waters in state, counties continue to rise : Green Bay Press Gazette, February 29, 2016.
DNR blacklisted 16 citizens viewed as pests, chronic complainers : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 29, 2016.
DNR might allow some firms to draft own environmental permits : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 29, 2016.

Health officials search for source of mysterious, deadly infections : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 3, 2016.
Senate rejects adding $600M to anti-heroin legislation : La Crosse Tribune, March 2, 2016.
Three factors keeping health care center out of the black : Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, March 1, 2016.
Scott Walker signs bills on strip searches, Family Care : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 1, 2016.
Wisconsin uses Affordable Care Act but rejects funding for it : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 29, 2016.
Ashland Schools fight increased drug busts : Northland News Center, February 29, 2016.
Senate readies for battle over opioid abuse : The Hill, February 29, 2016.

Board reviews Business 53 upgrade plans : Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, March 2, 2016.
Winona board closer to new off-road vehicle rules : La Crosse Tribune, March 2, 2016.
Ignition lock bill supported : Beloit Daily News, March 1, 2016.
More backups coming as Zoo Interchange project accelerates : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 29, 2016.
DOT gets blowback after it cut down 100-year-old pine in Whitehall : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 29, 2016.
Streetcar budget sheds $6.5 million from WEC Energy utility relocation costs : Milwaukee Business Journal, February 29, 2016.

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