Hamilton Political Tidbits – October 30, 2015

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Political Tidbits
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The Hamilton Consulting Group
October 30, 2015


Next week the legislature is winding down their work for 2015 with their last floor days before the January session. Before policymakers take off for winter break a few key items might see action. The budget committee has yet to act on the DOT request for $200 million in additional bonding for road projects, and campaign finance and Government Accountability Board reforms are meant to be passed. In addition, Rep. Nygren's HOPE agenda, which attempts combat the heroin and opiate epidemic in Wisconsin, could be approved.. Read about all of these items in the articles below.
 
On the national stage, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan has been elected the new Speaker of the House, a position never held by a Wisconsinsite. Also, the federal government has published the final version the EPA's Clean Power Plan Rule, which has already been halted via litigation. Read about these items below.


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Federal Government Publishes Controversial Clean Power Plan Rule

A coalition of 24 states filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging the Obama Administration's signature environmental regulation, the Clean Power Plan, in response to the regulation being published in the Federal Register last Friday, October 23.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading the litigation against the plan which he has called, "the single most onerous and illegal regulations that we've seen coming out of D.C. in a long time."

In Wisconsin, both Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel have denounced the rule. The governor stated the rule would unnecessarily harm families and kill manufacturing jobs in the state. AG Schimel called the rule "an unlawful plan to radically restructure the ways electricity is produced and consumed throughout the country."


Governor Walker Urges Legislature to Release $200 Million in Additional Bonding for Transportation

Governor Walker called upon the legislature to provide $125 million to help get these five projects back on track and to provide $75 million in additional funding for the State Highway Improvement Program.

For the money to be released, which was requested by DOT on October 19, JFC would have 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. Now, JFC must meet and vote on the request. Only a majority vote in favor from the committee will allow DOT the request, and Republican members of the committee are split on approving the request.

While a JFC vote has not been scheduled yet, WisPolitics.com reports JFC Co-Chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) expects JFC meet in early November.


Campaign Finance Reform Slows Down

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 Assembly passed the bill 61-0, after all Assembly Democrats recused themselves from the vote. Democrats argued they had a substantial financial interest in seeing the bill pass, therefore it would be inappropriate to vote on the bill at all. Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) reacted by referencing Wisconsin statutes;  a state public official is not prohibited from voting on this type of measure.

Read more about the bill and the action the Senate may take on it.
 
U.S Rep. Paul Ryan Elected Speaker of the House

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was elected the 54th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, October 29.

The congressman needed 218 votes to win the speakership, and received 236. Just nine Republican congressmen didn't support Ryan, instead voting for U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.).

Ryan, a native of Janesville, is the first Speaker of the House from Wisconsin.

Governor Walker Signs John Doe Legislation

Governor Scott Walker has signed legislation limiting the types of crimes allowed to be investigated using John Doe proceedings and making changes to several of the procedures and processes of John Doe investigations. The bill was approved by the legislature on party line votes in both the Senate and Assembly. Wisconsin is the only state with John Doe proceedings. Prosecutors will continue to be able to use John Doe proceedings but in more limited circumstances, and like prosecutors in other states, will be able to use grand jury proceedings to prosecute political misconduct and other crimes.

2015 Wisconsin Act 64 significantly changes the laws governing John Doe proceedings. Under the old provisions, a John Doe proceeding was used to investigate any crimes. The new procedures limit John Doe investigations to be used ONLY for drug offenses, certain listed felonies, felony murder and racketeering or continuing a criminal enterprise, if the underlying crime being investigated is one of the aforementioned crimes and is a crime listed in the statutory definition of racketeering activating. In addition, any crime committed by an on-duty law enforcement officer, corrections officers, or state probation, parole or extended supervision officer can continue to be investigated by a John Doe proceeding.

Read more about the bill.

Legislature Moves Bill to Change "Dog Bite" Statute

Senator Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) introduced Senate Bill 286 on October 2. This bill proposes to change Wisconsin's long standing, and flawed, "dog bite" statute. Under current law, Wis. Stat. § 174.02(1)(b) mandates double damages for dogs that cause injury to people, domestic animals, or property if they have previously done so. Current law does not take into account the severity or type of the damage done. For instance, a dog could cause minor property damage, which would count as the first bite, and then cause physical damage to an individual on the second bite. The owner would be liable for double damages in the same manner as an owner whose dog caused disfiguring personal injuries on both occasions despite the fact that the first owner had no notice their dog was capable of causing such damage. SB 286 is an attempt to remedy this unfairness.

The largest change is to the double damages provisions. Now an owner may be liable for double damages for injuries caused by their dog only if a dog bites a person with "sufficient force to break the skin and cause permanent physical scarring, or disfigurement" if the owner knew the dog had previously done so. This change ensures that dog owners will not unfairly have double damages triggered by minor damage to personal property.

Read more about this bill.
 
TIF Bills Pass Committees

The Assembly Ways and Means committee has passed legislation for numerous bills that are part of the tax increment financing (TIF) bill package. The package comes from recommendations from 2014 Legislative Council Study Committee on the Review of TIF.

During the committee,  Assembly Bill 136 had a delayed committee vote due to amendments that were offered by Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Kenosha). If passed, AB 136 would increase tax increment district value increments to total equalized value of taxable property in a city or village from 12 percent to 15 percent. The amendment would limit any city or village to 12 percent if the city or village:
  • Contains a TID whose value increment in a year has declined at least 25 percent from the district's highest value increment, or;
  • Contains a TID that allocates positive tax increments generated by that district to another TID.
However, the amendment failed on a bipartisan 9-3 vote. The bill passed the committee, unamended, 10-2.


Nygren HOPE Agenda Moves Forward

The Assembly Committee on Health unanimously approved all four of Representative John Nygren's (R-Marinette) HOPE Agenda bills during an executive session last week. Additionally, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services unanimously approved Senate Bills 268, 271, and 272. The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety also passed the bill on law enforcement PDMP reporting unanimously.

Rep. Nygren announced the bill package, if passed, would provide additional heroin, opiate prevention and education to combat the heroin and opiate epidemic in Wisconsin. The bills are a continuation of Rep. Nygren's plan to combat the heroin epidemic.


GOP Presidential Debate to Arrive in Milwaukee

The fourth GOP Presidential Debate is set to take place in Milwaukee in two weeks on November 10. Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal have teamed up to host the debate at the Milwaukee Theater.

The network has announced the debate will include an "undercard" debate for candidates registering at least 1 percent, but polling below 2.5 percent in recent polling data. All other candidates polling above the 2.5 percent mark will be invited to participate in a main stage debate starting at 8PM Central Time.

The debate in Milwaukee is exactly one year before the 2016 general election.

Moderators for the debate are Fox Business Network's Neil Cavuto, Global Markets Editor Maria Bartiromo, and the Wall Street Journal's Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker.

New Legislator Gets Committee Assignments

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has announced newly elected Representative Cindi Duchow (R-Town of Delafield) shall sit on the following Assembly committees:
  • Committee on Education
  • Committee on Children and Families
  • Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety
  • Committee on Ways and Means

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News Clips 
Politics
Paul Ryan elected House speaker: Washington Post, October 29, 2015.
5 takeaways from the third GOP debate: Politico, October 28, 2015.
Senate could vote on GAB, campaign finance bills next week: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 28, 2015.
Assembly passes overhaul of civil service system: Wisconsin State Journal, October 28, 2015.
4 reasons Paul Ryan might succeed as speaker - and 3 reasons he might not : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 26, 2015.

Economic Development
Jobs shifting to Milwaukee chocolate plant: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 29, 2015.
Janesville GM plant identified in UAW contract as closing: Janesville Gazette Extra, October 28, 2015.
Milwaukee Bucks submit downtown development plans for city review : Milwaukee Business Journal, October 26, 2015.

Education
Wisconsin holds steady while U.S. slips in national test report: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 28, 2015.
Statewide voucher school enrollment more than doubles: Wisconsin State Journal, October 27, 2015.
Superintendent blasts plan to limit school district referendums: Wisconsin Public Radio, October 27, 2015.
Lutheran voucher school seeks to buy surplus MPS building : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 26, 2015.

Environmental
Wisconsin state parks setting attendance records: La Crosse Tribune, October 29, 2015.
Petition drive started to preserve ultralights in crane migrations: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 29, 2015.
Dam repair project to restrict winter use of Lake Altoona: Eau Claire Leader - Telegram, October 29, 2015.
Campbellsport sand mine faces legal challenge: Fond du Lac Reporter, October 28, 2015.
Clean Water Act enforcement a sticking point at DNR board meeting: Wisconsin Public Radio, October 28, 2015.
New Fednav vessel features ballast water treatment system : Business North, October 26, 2015.
Great Lakes iron ore trade down 20.6 percent in September : Business North, October 26, 2015.
Wisconsin joins clean air rules lawsuit : Milwaukee Business Journal, October 26, 2015.

Health
Wisconsin Senate committee unanimously approves anti-heroin bill: Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 28, 2015.
Assembly to take up health insurance changes: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, October 27, 2015.
Appleton Planned Parenthood suspends abortions: Appleton Post Crescent, October 27, 2015.
Overdose deaths set another grim pace in Milwaukee County: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 27, 2015.
Meth again rearing its ugly head in Brown Co. : Green Bay Press Gazette, October 26, 2015.

Legal

Transportation
New name likely for Green Bay's airport : Green Bay Press Gazette, October
Wisconsin DOT opposes roundabouts bill: La Crosse Tribune, October 28, 2015.
DOT, small Wis. town fight over streetlights: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, October 28, 2015.
DOT is one step closer to Beltline revamp: Channel 3000, October 27, 2015.
City gets $14.2 million federal grant for streetcar expansion: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 26, 2015.
City poised to sign contract with streetcar manufacturer : Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 26, 2015.

Utilities and Energy
Generac continues to struggle in record low power outage environment: Milwaukee Business News, October 28, 2015.
We Energies parent company cuts jobs in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Chicago: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 28, 2015.
Federal loan buoys Wisconsin utility: Telegraph Herald, October 28, 2015.
Nuclear plants store waste using funds meant for dismantling: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 26, 2015.
Duke Energy to acquire Piedmont for $4.9 billion : New York Times, October 26, 2015.

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