Hamilton Political Tidbits- May 23, 2014

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Hamilton Consulting Group Political Tidbits
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The Hamilton Consulting Group
 May 23, 2014  

Legislative activity in the state capitol has given way to school tours and holiday visitors. Legislators are busy back home getting ready for their re-election campaign or implementing their retirement plan, whichever the case may be.


The 2014 elections are starting to take shape and feature a contested gubernatorial race, an open-seat Attorney General race, 17 odd-numbered Senate Districts, including 7 open-seat races, and all 99 Assembly seats with 23 open-seat races in the mix. The 2014 statewide ballot also features a constitutional amendment to protect the use of transportation revenue for transportation purposes.


An already interesting election season became a little more interesting this week with the release of the latest Marquette poll, showing a virtual tie between Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke. See related Tidbits articles below for the latest election news, a recap of the recent Marquette University elections poll, transportation related articles, new EPA rulings, and more. 

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.
Election News - May 23, 2014
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New Poll: Governor's Race Tied
A new poll, conducted by the Marquette Law School May 15-18, finds the governor's race a virtual dead heat with incumbent Governor Scott Walker (R) and Democratic challenger Mary Burke both polling at 46% support. The response represents a significant tightening of the race compared to the last Marquette poll in March, which had Walker leading 48% to 41%.
Wisconsin Tourism Enters Busy Season
With Memorial Day just days away, the Wisconsin tourism industry prepares its facilities as families plan their get-away.

While the Wisconsin Department of Tourism  launched its advertisements earlier this spring with celebrities Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the cast of Airplane!, the Wisconsin Association of Convention & Visitors Bureau website features different Wisconsin cities to help visitors plan their vacation and promote different regions of Wisconsin through videos, maps, guides, and planners.

Seventh Circuit Strikes Down Wisconsin's Campaign Finance Rules

In an 88-page decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit struck down a number of provisions under Wisconsin's campaign finance law, as well as rules issued by the Government Accountability Board. The case is Wisconsin Right to Life v. Barland.


Judge Diane Sykes, writing for the three-judge majority, began the decision by providing a comprehensive history of Wisconsin's campaign finance law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions addressing challenges to similar federal laws. Judge Sykes then analyzed each of the laws and rules challenged by the plaintiffs in the case.  

WEDA Members Named to Legislative Study Committee
Legislative Council, a nonpartisan legislative service has announced the legislative study committees and symposiums, which will meet throughout the summer with both legislators and citizens serving on the committee.


Mike Harrigan and Peter Thillman, both members of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association were named to the Legislative Council Study Committee on the Review of Tax Incremental Financing. The committee, chaired by Senator Gudex, with Vice-Chair Representative Loudenbeck, will study the intent behind tax incremental financing (TIF) laws and how their utilized by municipalities and counties.


LRB Releases Data on Tenure and Turnover in Legislature

This election season marks a major shift in the Wisconsin State Legislature as 22 representatives and 7 senators announced they will not be seeking reelection in their previously held seats. What is difficult to say, is whether this is a new trend, a rarity, or common. The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau released a report covering tenure and turnover in the Wisconsin Legislature from 1940 to 2012.



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WEDA Employee & WEDC Board Member Promoted to VP

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has named Tricia Braun as vice president of Economic and Community Development.


Braun, a board member on the Wisconsin Economic Development Association and previously WEDC's regional development director, was chosen for her connection  to Wisconsin and understanding the challenges facing businesses today.


"We conducted a nationwide search to find the most qualified person to lead the WEDC team that directly works with businesses and communities to continue to grow Wisconsin's economy," said Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of WEDC. Despite the nationwide search, WEDC hired from within by choosing Braun.


The WEDC leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing Wisconsin's business climate, with more than 600 regional and local business development partners.

EPA Poised to Set Carbon-Emissions Rules for Existing Power Plants

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Gina McCarthy, announced that the EPA is set to issue the much anticipated rules on June 2nd for existing power plants under ยง 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The regulations could significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and potentially force many existing coal-fired plants to cease burning the abundant and cheap source of electricity. This in turn could significantly harm states, such as Wisconsin, that rely heavily on coal.


The EPA last year issued proposed rules for new power plants, which in practical terms prohibits the construction of new coal-fired power plants. The public comment period recently ended on May 9. Once the rule is officially promulgated, it is expected to be challenged by industry in the courts. This rule could also significantly harm Wisconsin's economy and drive up electric bills.


Expect similar legal challenges to the yet-to-be-issued regulations for existing plants.

EPA Proposes Rule to Assess SO2 Air Quality
On May 13, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued proposed options for states and local air agencies to use air quality monitoring or modeling to determine whether areas meet the 2010 air quality standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2). Below is a discussion of the proposed rule.
DWD Awards More Than $1.5 Million in Grants

The next round of Wisconsin Fast Forward grants were announced earlier this month, and 17 applicants will be given more than $1.5 million in worker training grants. 37 different employers from 15 counties will train nearly 2,200 manufacturing workers.


Secretary Reggie Newson of the Department of Workforce Development, who awarded the grants said, "As our states' improving economy creates new opportunities for workers to support themselves and their families, the Wisconsin Fast Forward program will help individuals develop new skills that lead to new jobs or higher pay."


The Wisconsin Fast Forward program was created through legislation passed in 2013, and has appropriated $15 million in grants for worker training and other workforce development.


To see a full list of businesses that received grants, and to find out when the next round of grants are available, check out the Wisconsin Fast Forward website. 

DOT Projects $600-$700 Million Funding Shortfall
In early-April, DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb publicly announced that the state is facing a $600 - $700 million shortfall in the next state budget to maintain the current transportation program and services. He warned that, absent new revenues, current major projects like the Zoo Interchange and I-39/90 from Madison to the Illinois state line could be delayed. If the shortfall were to be addressed by cutting back on infrastructure improvements, it could mean as much as a 30% reduction in the highway program. 

Claims Board Rejects $66 Million High-Speed Rail Claim

The State of Wisconsin Claims Board has rejected a claim by Talgo, Inc. against the Department of Transportation (DOT) for nearly $66 million for a 2009 contract regarding a set of train cars.


The train cars were to be part of a rail extension between Madison and Milwaukee, and a high-speed rail that would then stretch to Minneapolis-St. Paul in the future, through a plan set out by then-Governor Jim Doyle. Talgo, Inc. claims the DOT illegally breached the contract for political reasons, when Governor Walker took office and terminated the project, delivering on his campaign agenda item to "Stop the Train."


Wisconsin Lauded for "Common Sense" Legal Reforms
Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber of Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), recently wrote an article (Wisconsin: Capital of Common Sense), in which she commends Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature for leading the nation over the past three years in enacting civil justice reforms.



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News Clips 


Poll: 55 percent support same-sex marriage in Wisconsin: WPR, May 21, 2014

Obama on VA Scandal: 'I will not tolerate it': Vox, May 21, 2014

John Doe judge sends Scott Walker records back to county for possible release: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 21, 2014

Race tightens, with Scott Walker, Mary Burke tied among registered voters

: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 21, 2014 


Tea Party challengers fall short in primaries: USA Today, May 21, 2014 

Talgo to file lawsuit against Gov. Walker for killing trains built for high-speed rail: WHBL, May 20, 2014

Scott Walker, ex-governors attend funeral mass for Patrick Lucey: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 19, 2014

GOP lawmakers promise campaign finance reform: Appleton Post Crescent, May 16, 2014

Federal court strikes down issue ad regulations, urges re-write of campaign finance laws: WisPolitics.com, May 15, 2014.

Prosecutors file appeal in attempt to revive John Doe probe: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 15 2014.

2 parties ask to intervene in lawsuit over John Doe probe: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 14, 2014.


Economic Development and Finance 

Unemployment down in Wisconsin's metro-areas: WSAU, May 22, 2014

UW-affiliated entrepreneurs win Ideadvance funding: Milwaukee Business Journal, May 21, 2014

Fed puts 10 Midwestern cities under microscope: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 20, 2014

Walker reports adding 28000 jobs in 2013: Sheboygan Press, May 15, 2014

Dropping birth rate signals economic trouble ahead: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 11, 2014

State panel pays off winter road costs, will track UW surpluses: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 6, 2014


Utilities and Energy

Xcel Energy, others tout pocketbook, environmental benefits of natural-gas powered vehicles: Leader-Telegram, May 21, 2014

Cleaner air could mean higher electric bills: Madison.com, May 21, 2014

Alliant Energy adds pollution controls to Sheboygan power plant: Wisconsin State Journal, May 20, 2014

Integrys Energy growing, shareholders told: Appleton Post Crescent, May 17, 2014

Buffett could covet Wisconsin utilities: BizTimes, May 15, 2014

Energy efficiency technology firm's sales fall in first quarter: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 15, 2014

Badger unleashed in Wisconsin: Renews, May 14, 2014

Public to weigh in on Badger Coulee line: Poynette Press, May 12, 2014

De Pere pollution control, energy storage firm sold for $155 million: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel



Rogers Memorial opens new PTSD program at West Allis location: BizTimes, May 21, 2014

Medica collaborates with Mayo Clinic Health System: Insurance News, May 21, 2014

BadgerCare Plus sheds 60000, gaines 80000 under new guidelines: BizTimes, May 19, 2014

Aide: Obama 'madder than hell' over VA allegations: WAOW, May 10, 2014

Mental health concerns common theme among homeless: Leader-Telegram, May 17, 2014

Pregnant women gain new options under health law: WAOW, May 10, 2014

Boeign and Xiamen Airlines to implement airplane health management solutions: Aviations Pros, May 6, 2014

Joint Finance approves release funds to allow expansion of mental health services: DHS, May 6, 2014

Report: Wisconsin's health care system again ranks in top 10: BizTimes, April 30, 2014


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