Hamilton Political Tidbits – November 13, 2015

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Political Tidbits
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The Hamilton Consulting Group
November 13, 2015

The legislature will make their final floor votes for 2015 next week as the Assembly will be voting on campaign finance reform (read about below) and the Government Accountability Board. Things will slow down in the Capitol, until they pick back up again for the first floor session in mid-January. Also making final moves, Governor Walker signed 49 bills into law on Wednesday.

In major legal news, a judge has ruled in favor of a petitioner who brought a case involving high capacity well permits against the Department of Natural Resources.

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Judge Rules in Favor of Petitioner in
New Chester Dairy v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Judge McGinnis of the Outagamie County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the petitioner and intervenors in New Chester Dairy v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The court held that under 2011 Act 21 the Department of Natural Resources lacked explicit authority to impose monitoring well requirements in high capacity well permits. The court also clearly stated that under Act 21, agencies cannot use implied authority to impose regulatory requirements.
Legislature Releases $350 Million in Additional Bonding for Transportation

The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) has approved a motion to release $350 million in bonding for transportation projects. The motion will allow $200 million in bonding for 2015-2016, and $150 million in 2016-2017.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requested $200 million on October 19, which would require JFC to approve the request with no JFC member objections. However, in a letter to DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb, JFC Chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) announced multiple objections have been raised. Therefore a formal vote had to be held.

In a motion that passed 10-6, all Senate Republicans voted no, while all Democrats and Assembly Republicans voted yes.

Read more about transportation funding.
Senate Passes Campaign Finance Reforms Bill with Significant Changes to Coordination Restrictions

New campaign finance reforms continue to make their way through the legislative process. The reforms completely rewrite Chapter 11 in Wisconsin statutes and make significant changes.

The Senate passed the bill 17-15 with an amendment, which made the following changes to the bill:
  • Lowers the monetary threshold triggering registration for political action committees (PACs) and independent expenditure committees (IECs) from $5,000 to $2,500.
  • Changes the ongoing reporting requirement from quarterly reporting to twice-yearly reporting.
  • Eliminates automatic consumer price index (CPI) adjustment of contribution limits.
  • Creates an additional limitation on the use of a legislative campaign committee's or political party's segregated fund. Under the amendment, a segregated fund may not be used to make disbursements for express advocacy. The amendment also retains the prohibition on using a segregated fund to make contributions to a candidate committee.
  • Limits the amount a corporation, association, labor organization, or Indian tribe may contribute to such a segregated fund to $12,000 in the aggregate in a calendar year. The original bill had no limit.
  • Incorporates federal law prohibitions on activities by foreign nationals relating to elections
Read more about the extensive changes to coordination restrictions the amendment made.
Legislature Attempting to Exert Additional Control Over State Employee Health Insurance Plan

Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairpersons Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) introduced and championed  Assembly Bill 394  to empower JFC to review and approve changes proposed by the Group Insurance Board to the health plan for state employees. The Assembly passed AB 394 by a vote of  90-2  on October 27. Friday, November 6, the Senate unanimously concurred in AB 394 but narrowed its scope to allowing JFC to reviewing and considering for approval any contract to provide self-insured group health plans on a regional or statewide based to state employees. The bill now goes back to the Assembly to consider the changes made by the Senate.

Governor Walker has said he would veto the broader bill if it reaches his desk but has not publicly revealed his intentions if the narrower bill passes both houses of the legislature.
Building Materials Tax Exemption Passed by Senate

In an extraordinary session last week the Senate passed  Senate Bill 227 , a bill that will allow contractors to directly purchase construction materials on behalf of their tax-exempt clients without paying the sales tax. The proposal was originally included in the tax reform package of the budget by the Joint Finance Committee. However, the governor vetoed the language included in the budget that would allow the exemption, saying the language was "too broad" but he was supportive of the intention. In his veto message, Governor Walker encouraged legislation to be introduced with amended language.

Structured Settlements Bill Signed Into Law

Pictured left to right: Denise Rinear,Chief compliance Officer, J.G. Wentworth; Governor Scott Walker; Representative Jim Ott, (R-Mequon), Chair, Legislative Study Committee on Transfer of Structured Settlements

Governor Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 129 into law this week, creating a new set of statues to govern the transfer of structured settlement payments. With the bill's signing, Wisconsin joined 48 other states that previously had structured settlement transfer provisions already in place.

Governor Walker Creates New Commission on Government Reform, Efficiency, and Performance

Governor Scott Walker's newly created bipartisan Commission on Government Reform, Efficiency, and Performance met for the first time last week.

Governor Walker created the commission by executive order in order to "explore methods to reduce government spending, reduce service duplication, eliminate waste fraud, and abuse in government, and look for better ways to operate state government that increase efficiency and reduces the burden on taxpayers" according to a statement from the Governor's office. Governor Walker also expressed that deciding between high taxes or poor governments services is a "false choice" and that the commission will help the Wisconsin taxpayers' dollars go further.

Those serving on the commission include a variety of state legislators, members from the Governor's cabinet, local government administrators, and private sector business professionals.

Read about the members of the Commission.

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News Clips 
On road funding, GOP lawmakers say they're ready for a real fix: Wisconsin State Journal, November 13, 2015.
Paul Ryan expects protracted, unpredictable GOP race: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 12, 2015.
5 takeaways from the GOP debate: Politico, November 11, 2015.
Wisconsin reflects GOP's vigor and its vulnerabilities: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 10, 2015.
GOP lawmakers reverse course, balk at campaign donor reporting : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.

Economic Development
Rise in job openings may be another spark for Fed to raise interest rates: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 12, 2015.
Strike at Kohler Co. seems possible as contract deadline approaches: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 11, 2015.
Scott Walker 'very interested' in helping create Madison public market : Wisconsin State Journal, November 11, 2015.
Top GOP lawmakers might rebrand troubled jobs agency : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 10, 2015.
Milwaukee-area home sales continue to rise : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 11, 2015.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin calls for federal investigation into some WEDC loans : Wisconsin State Journal, November 10, 2015.

Abele announcement of MPS turnaround district leader brings complaints: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 12, 2015.
Abele taps suburban school leader Means to lead MPS turnaround district: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 12, 2015.
School districts discuss consolidation : WiscNews, November 10, 2015.
UW-Madison pledges $3 million for faculty raises : Wisconsin State Journal, November 10, 2015.
Project teams win UWM start-up challenge grants : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.
Jeb Bush praises Scott Walker, school choice in Waukesha : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.

Senate bill would drop protections for wolves in MN: Minnesota Public Radio, November 12, 2015.
Deer harvest increases 6.3 percent during first weekend: Superior Telegram, November 11, 2015.
Area of Horicon Marsh to be drained to kill off invasive koi fish: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 11, 2015.
Safe, clean drinking water eludes many Wisconsinites : Wisconsin Watch, November 9, 2015.
Wisconsin's century-old model of forestry comes under pressure : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.
Curtiss plan to meet water needs OK'd : Marshfield News Herald, November 9, 2015.
EPA pledges $20M for Clinton River watershed cleanup work : Racine Journal-Times, November 9, 2015.

Pat Roggensack praises Shirley Abrahamson's tenure as chief justice : Wisconsin State Journal, November 11, 2015.
Obama to appeal immigration ruling to Supreme Court : New York Times, November 10,  2015.
Bankruptcy judge confirms Milwaukee Archdiocese reorganization plan : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.
Shirley Abrahamson drops suit in attempt to regain chief justice post : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.
Kloppenburg calls on Rebecca Bradley to reject Clarke's endorsement : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.

Accidents tick up after speed limit increases to 70 mph: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 12, 2015.
Wis. oil train derailment due to broken rail: CBS Minnesota, November 11, 2015.
Watertown derailment had upgraded tankers, Alma's did not: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.
Marsh route common denominator as DOT narrows strategies: La Crosse Tribune November 9, 2015.
Crews cleaning up after train derails in Watertown, spilling crude oil: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.

Utilities and Energy
Energy opportunity offered to Altoona: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, November 13, 2015
PolyMet mine opponents to lay out objections to new review: La Crosse Tribune, November 13, 2015.
Sun Prairie Utilities seeks water rate hike: Sun Prairie Star, November 10, 2015.
Ethanol at a crossroad: Minnesota Public Radio, November 10, 2015.
Low oil prices could lead to energy shortages: Channel 3000, November 10, 2015.
Illinois attorney general questions utility project: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 9, 2015.

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