Hamilton Political Tidbits – May 12, 2017

Political Tidbits - May 12, 2017
Hamilton Consulting Group
 May 12, 2017
Wisconsin political news for clients and colleagues.

JFC efficiently wrapped up their second week of budget votes, but with the lingering debate on the transportation budget, many are predicting a long summer. In this week's Tidbits, we summarize JFC's actions to date, provide an overview of the Assembly GOP's transportation proposal and the recent comments from the JFC co-chairs on the governor's self-insurance proposal. Meanwhile, legislators have been debating various bills on the Senate and Assembly floors and in committees. Included in this edition is a full floor report and a focus on two bills: the REINS Act and clinician training grants. Keep reading about WRWA at the annual Municipal Government and Utility Day at the capitol.
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.

JFC Takes First Executive Action on 2017-19 State Budget

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) held its first executive session on May 1 on Gov. Scott Walker's proposed 2017-19 state budget. As with previous years, JFC typically takes up the less controversial, smaller budget items first and saves the big items - transportation, education and Medicaid - for last. JFC plans to meet each Tuesday and Thursday in May and June until their work is finished.

Assembly Republicans Release Transportation Plan

On Thursday, May 4, the Assembly Republicans held a press conference to announce a transportation budget proposal. The proposal, authored by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) aims to reduce the level of bonding in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed transportation budget by $300 million and to increase tax revenues to the transportation fund. Additionally, the proposal aims to move Wisconsin to a flat income tax by 2030.
Gov. Walker reiterated his opposition to raising taxes on motor vehicle fuel, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he did not "see any momentum" for the plan. Joint Finance Committee co-chairs also mentioned the possibility of removing transportation from the state budget and taking the issue up in a separate bill.
JFC Plans to Reject the Governor's Self-Insurance Proposal

On Monday May 8, the Department of Employee Trust Funds submitted signed contracts to self-insure the state's health program to the Joint Committee on Finance. This submission begins the 21-day passive review period for JFC to decide if they will act. With the submission of the state contracts, the governor publicly asked JFC members to approve his self-insurance plan. However, the response he received back from members was not positive. JFC co-chairs Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), told the press that the committee is likely to reject the contracts.

LFB Maintains January Revenue Estimates     

Wednesday May 10, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released their revenue projections for the current fiscal year (2016-17) and for the upcoming biennium (2017-19). This May release is timed with the Joint Finance Committee's budget votes, allowing for JFC to utilize updated revenue numbers.

In their memo, LFB Director Bob Lang explained that their January estimates are still on track and do not need to be adjusted. In January, LFB projected the state would take in $15.5 billion in the current fiscal year, $16 billion in 2017-18 and $16.6 billion in 2018-19.

Floor Report: May 2 & 10

The Wisconsin Senate and Assembly were in session on Tuesday, May 2 and Wednesday, May 10 to take up a variety of bills. The chambers sent personal delivery devices, high capacity wells and child labor legislation to the governor's desk, among other bills. The legislature also wrapped up the last of the Special Session bills to combat the state's opioid addiction crisis. All this and more in this week's Floor Report.

Bills of Note: REINS Act & Clinician Training Grants

On May 2, the Senate voted 19-14 to pass the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act. The bill (SB 15/AB 42) was reintroduced this session by  Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) after passing the Assembly last session, but stalling in the Senate.

The version passed by the Senate was Substitute Amendment 1, as amended by Senate Amendment 1. The main feature in the legislation is the requirement for explicit legislative approval - passage of a bill - for any rules costing $10 million over any two-year period. This legislative oversight was substantially weakened by an exemption for EPA air quality rules, including rules such as the controversial Clean Power Plan.

Continue reading about other provisions of the REINS Act.

Clinician Training Grants
Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) and Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) recently introduced AB 227/SB 161, relating to clinician training grants. The bill would provide training grants to advanced practice clinicians (APCs) such as physician assistants and advanced practice nurses, especially in rural areas.
APCs play a crucial role in rural hospitals because patients in rural areas rely on APCs as a primary care access point. However, there is an increasing shortage in APCs in rural areas. Over 80 percent of Wisconsin counties have hospital vacancies for APCs that exceed 10 percent. This bill aims to incentivize new clinical rotation programs to be established in rural communities that primarily rely on APCs for health care.

Wisconsin Rural Water Association, Others Hold Municipal Government & Utility Day

The Wisconsin Rural Water Association (WRWA), joined by other municipal government and utility organizations, held the annual Municipal Government & Utility Day at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Wednesday. Local officials and utilities met with their legislators about issues impacting local governments and municipal utilities.

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News Clips
Utilities and Energy
Economic Development
Wisconsin farmland values were up from last year: Wisconsin Ag Connection, May 12, 2017.
State ag secretary discusses milk dispute: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, May 11, 2017.
Senate OKs ending work permits for 16- and 17-year olds: Wisconsin State Journal, May 11, 2017.
Wisconsin a top 10 state for business, CEOs say: Wisconsin State Journal, May 10, 2017.
WEDC loan program gets green light from budget committee: Wisconsin State Journal, May 10, 2017.

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