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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Quotes of the week
- Political stock report
- Records show few drug felons seeking public benefits failed drug tests
- Critics complain of insufficient outreach in DNR’s Kewaunee Co. bottled water program
- Week ahead
- Political TV
- Names in the news
- Lobbyist watch
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
I have accepted the reality that they don’t want to raise revenue. They need to accept the reality that we’re not going to borrow and spend.
– Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, responding to Senate GOP leadership on the transportation budget stalemate.
I’m not sure what his ultimate strategy is, but what I’m trying to do is maintain the composure of the Senate … I’m at a point now here I’ve got a fully flushed-out, completed document. I think the Senate’s in a good position and the Assembly is still searching for what their next move is.
– Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.
Here in Wisconsin, we expect to pass another budget that will continue to lower the tax burden, create jobs, and protect our most vulnerable populations. Our budget will address the loss of revenue from their tax hike. However, we expect that effect will be temporary as more and more companies are taxed out of Illinois.
– JFC co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, in a joint statement knocking tax hikes in Illinois that are expected to reduce Wisconsin tax revenues by $51 million over two years due to a reciprocity agreement between the states.
By singling out one industry with a targeted tax hike, this proposed trucking tax represents the opposite of sound tax policy.
– American for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist in a letter to state representatives asking them to oppose a “misguided idea” to add a new mileage-based fee on heavy trucks. The proposal, pitched by Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, initially appeared to gain traction, but ran into opposition in the Senate and from several businesses groups.
It’s a user fee. You could call it a user fee, you could call it an impact fee. But it’s certainly not a tax.
– Loudenbeck, R-Clinton
As you deal with budgets, when you’re talking about six million, we’re not scratching our heads like we are with the personal property tax and saying, ‘How do you pay for a quarter of a billion dollars?’
– Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, who said he’s “99 percent certain” that repealing the alternative minimum tax will be included in this budget. Kooyenga said he’s dropping his push for repeal of the personal property tax in this budget in deference to colleagues who want to focus on income tax cuts.
Passing a strong and responsible transportation budget without a gas tax or vehicle fee increase is a win for the taxpayers of Wisconsin.
– Gov. Scott Walker, who offered a compromise on transportation funding that included seeking increased federal aid, reduced bonding and approving contingency bonding for southeastern Wisconsin mega projects tied to receiving more federal money. It did not break the impasse.
Asking for money from the federal government is only good when it helps the governor save his job, but not when his constituents need health care.
– Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh and JFC member, knocking Walker for seeking federal money for transportation while rejecting funds to expand Medicaid. He accused the governor of seeking a bailout to get him through the next election while pushing off a long-term fix for transportation.
I’m certainly going to vote for a motion to proceed and I encouraged all my colleagues to do so.
– U.S. Sen, Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, who said he’ll vote to allow debate to move forward on a revised version of the Senate’s health care bill. Johnson was among those who’s opposition to an earlier draft led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to cancel a planned vote on the legislation. Johnson has not said whether he supports the new proposal.
*See more from Johnson on Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha.” Details below.
We should end this partisan nonsense and work together to protect the care people have and make it more affordable. We should work to lower costs, not make health care more expensive and price families out of the care they have today.
– U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison.
If the Senate is going to give us a health care bill, we’re going to stay and finish the health care bill.
– House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, who said he’s willing to delay the House’s August recess if the Senate passes its health care bill.
I’m not a politician. I’m a business leader with the progressive values necessary to beat Governor Scott Walker and make living in Wisconsin better for all of our residents.
– Dem businessman Andy Gronik announcing his run for governor.
Another far-left and out-of-touch candidate.
– A fundraising email from Walker, whose campaign announced new fundraising numbers the same morning Gronik announced.
*See the WisPolitics.com story:
This bill is not simply about legalizing marijuana. It’s about legalizing opportunity for our state and our families.
– Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, on her bill to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. She said her bill could help solve the budget impasse by generating millions of dollars in tax revenue, and also be “a powerful economic engine for our lagging economy.” Her two previous proposals to legalize marijuana did not receive hearings.
I think it’s serious. There’s no way to read it without having serious concerns and it further underscores the importance of having a thorough, independent investigation.
– U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, on Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
POLITICAL STOCK REPORT
–A collection of insider opinion–
(Jul. 8-14, 2017)
Tammy Baldwin: When the guv dropped his fundraising totals in the middle of Andy Gronik’s announcement, insiders saw Scott Walker trying to undermine a potential rival. When Baldwin dropped her haul on top of Walker’s numbers, some believed she was sending a message — the guv isn’t going to be the only fundraising force in Wisconsin heading into 2018. The Madison Dem raised $2.5 million during the second quarter of the year and finished June with $3.9 million in the bank. Add in the first quarter, and Baldwin raised $4.7 million between Jan. 1 and June 30, which her campaign said was the best first six months of an off year for a statewide candidate in Wisconsin, including those running for governor. And her backers take particular pleasure in pointing out she raised $1.2 million more than Walker over the six-month period even though he has much higher contribution limits. Neither has filed their full report to provide an accounting of how they raised their money. But insiders suspect Baldwin has been able to start tapping what they expect will be a national fundraising network for her. And putting up strong numbers like this, some say, will only make it easier to draw donations. After all, some say, donors like to bet on strong candidates. Not only is Baldwin pulling in good money, but the field of potential challengers still hasn’t materialized. Still, that’s not to say she should breathe easy. Outside groups have already shown a willingness to come into Wisconsin with big media buys to take shots at Baldwin, and her numbers in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll were even at 38-38 with 23 percent lacking an opinion of her. That’s down from March, when it was 40-35, and comes after a run of TV ads by a super PAC hitting Baldwin on her handling of the Tomah VA scandal and a response spot defending her. It’s still within the margin of error, though, and some Dems caution about reading too much into the latest numbers because the Marquette sample was more Republican than usual. But some Republicans see the first-term Madison Dem as very vulnerable and expect the hits to keep coming. The super PAC Stars and Stripes Forever starts a radio ad referring to Baldwin as an “abortion radical,” while Illinois businessman Richard Uihlein has pumped another $1.5 million into a super PAC that was created to support potential GOP U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson. That’s on top of the $2 million he gave the PAC during the first quarter of 2017. But there’s been little public movement in the potential GOP field. Businessman Eric Hovde, the last potential self-funder who’s publicly acknowledged looking at the race, is in no hurry to get in, and insiders say with his pocketbook and 2012 run, there’s no need to be. Nicholson has been fairly quiet since his appearance at the GOP state convention, and many insiders believe it’s a foregone conclusion that state Sen. Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield, will get in. But she’s still caught up in the budget as a member of Joint Finance, and every day that she’s working on a final deal is one day less to be out shaking the money trees. She doesn’t have the deep pockets of Hovde or a wealthy backer like Nicholson, putting that much more pressure on her to raise money the old-fashioned way, one check at a time. It all, some say, puts Baldwin in decent — but not safe — shape 16 months out from her re-election.
Homeowners: Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly says the state had put homeowners in a “dilemma”: Choose their right to prevent a tax assessor from inspecting the interior of their home or their right to challenge a revaluation of the property. But writing the lead opinion for the state Supreme Court, Kelly finds homeowners will no longer have to make that choice because municipalities cannot force homeowners to “surrender one as the price for exercising the other.” In doing so, the court rules those who refuse to allow assessors inside their home cannot then be barred from having a hearing to contest their assessment in a victory for private property rights. And while the court delivers that win, several GOP lawmakers say they’ll continue pushing legislation to codify the decision and guard against a future court reversing the ruling. The decision stems from a 2013 case in which a Racine County couple denied the town assessor entry to their home. When the new assessments were released, four of the 43 properties in their subdivision saw their values go up, while the others decreased. The four were the only ones who did not allow assessors into their homes, and the couple argued the increased assessment on their home was punitive. But the circuit and appeals courts ruled in favor of the Town of Dover. The Supreme Court ruling, though, could impact how property is assessed in Wisconsin, leading to less equality in the system. Not seeing the inside of a home, some say, makes it that much harder to accurately place a value on it. In her dissent, liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson argued the decision could limit the ability of local governments to reach equitable assessments. State Rep. Robert Brooks, R-Saukville, and Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, have drafted legislation that would codify some pieces of the decision. In addition to allowing someone who has refused a written request to allow an assessor to view their property to still receive a hearing, the bill includes other provisions unaddressed in the court ruling. That includes allowing someone who owns an income-producing property to still appeal their assessment even if they failed to respond to an assessor’s survey. The lawmakers also argue it would be better to put the new standard into statute to guard against a future court overturning the latest decision. And they argue the bill was still needed because multiple opinions were filed in the case with two concurring opinions that largely reached the same result. But with the competing writings, they argued, the bill would provide clarity in state law.
Scott Walker: The guv has the fundraising machine turned on and his re-election bid cued up. But the longer the budget drags on, the more it delays his long expected announcement, and his efforts to break the impasse have failed to light a fire under GOP lawmakers, some say. So why not leave town for the NGA meeting? Still, that doesn’t mean he’s been sitting around idly while the Capitol hits the two-week mark without a new budget. The guv’s campaign announces he raised $3.5 million during the first six months of 2017 and finished June with $2.4 million in the bank. That matches what he raised during the same period in 2013 ahead of his successful 2014 re-election campaign and bests the nearly $2.1 million he had in the bank at the end of June that year. Campaign manager Joe Fadness notes in a memo laying out the fundraising figures that Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch had more than $1.2 million cash on hand, which he wrote was a record for a lt. guv, while the state GOP also finished June with more than $1.7 million in its state account. Altogether, the memo was meant to project strength with Fadness writing the Dem field is in disarray, Walker’s poll numbers offer positive signs, the economy is improving and the state GOP’s turnout operation remains the best in the nation. Some Dems pick at Walker’s numbers. After running for president and becoming head of the Republican Governors Association, he’s got a more expansive network of donors to tap. He should be pulling in more than he did at the same point in 2013, and the fact his campaign is also highlighting the Kleefisch and RPW numbers means it’s trying to pump up his number, critics contend. Walker fans note he pulled that money in without an announced opponent and on the heels of spending 2016 working to pay off his leftover presidential debt. Any suggestion there’s a malaise in his base, backers say, is bogus. What’s more the RGA, which he now chairs, reports a record haul for the quarter, and backers give the guv at least a little credit for that. What’s more, the RGA’s resources could help Walker if he ends up with a tough fight next year. Republicans also believe Walker is benefitting from a weak Dem field that’s still forming. With Milwaukee-area business consultant Andy Gronik now in, they add, the guv has a target for his fundraising letters, which should make pulling in contributions even easier. But fundraising and the GOP’s statewide organization don’t fix the short-term budget problem. Walker took a lot of flak two years ago for dropping the budget on lawmakers and then heading out to run for president, leading to a lot of grumbling among GOP legislators that he checked out on the document. So some see the guv having a weakened hand in trying to push lawmakers to polish off the budget. The letter he sent to GOP leaders offering a possible compromise on transportation didn’t move anyone, and it seemed to be quickly dismissed. He’s been meeting regularly with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. But he hasn’t taken sides with either or gone to the bully pulpit to really pressure them to reach a deal. What’s more, Walker — at least briefly — allowed talk of a new heavy truck fee to get legs when he didn’t publicly say he was for or against it. It then took business groups loudly protesting the fee to shut it down. That suggests to some insiders that the guv’s real priorities with this budget are protecting the investment he proposed in K-12 education, making sure the typical property tax bill in 2018 will be at or below 2014 levels, blocking a new gas tax or registration fee increase, and getting the thing done. Soon. Some Dems also express frustration their side hasn’t gotten in better shots on Walker with the impasse dragging on. Still, there are others who believe the stalemate really isn’t impacting Walker, at least not yet. This is the making of the Legislature, not the guv, and they’re the ones looking foolish, Walker boosters say. But the story is starting to become a little about the difficulty Republicans are having working together and governing after six years in control of the state Capitol. Once the budget is done, much of that talk will fade away, some say. But the ongoing impasse leaves the guv in the starting blocks of his re-election bid, waiting impatiently for legislators to fire the starter’s pistol so he can start running.
Dem guv field: Andy Gronik is in, Tony Evers is thinking about it, Kathleen Vinehout is exploring it, Dana Wachs has cleared a path to get in, and Kurt Kober is now on the radar. Sixteen months out from the 2018 election, Dems have plenty to choose from in the potential field to take on Gov. Scott Walker. But insiders say Dems don’t have a powerhouse candidate with the potential to rally the base in what could be a fractious primary. Gronik’s formal entry was long expected, though some aren’t sure he got the rollout just right. He does an interview with The Associated Press to break the news early Tuesday morning and then goes on a media binge, hitting every outlet he can. To some, it’s free publicity, something that will be needed for Gronik to build his name ID considering few people know anything about him. Others, though, say it provided too many opportunities for reporters to ask Gronik tough questions rather than focusing on the message he wanted to deliver. Still, some expect growing pains for Gronik as a first-time candidate. He’s had some tough patches already, they add, doubting Gronik is fully prepared for what he’s about to face in the crucible that is a primary. Evers, though, can argue he’s battle tested after three statewide wins. But those fights in officially non-partisan low-turnout spring races are nothing like the war he’d wage to take on Walker, some say. The state superintendent says some have encouraged him to take a shot after he won 70 percent of the vote this spring. But some question if he can expand his appeal beyond his expertise on education and raise the kind of money needed to take on Walker. After WisPolitics.com first reports Evers was looking at a run, the superintendent says in interviews that part of the encouragement he’s received likely was spurred by his three statewide wins and the margin of victory over Lowell Holtz in April after the Dem Party suffered historic losses in November. Insiders note Dems haven’t exactly had a good track record in statewide races since 2010 with Barack Obama and Tammy Baldwin in 2012, Doug La Follette in 2014 and Ann Walsh Bradley in 2015 as the only Dem/progressive candidates to win besides Evers. But some caution against reading too much into Evers’ win over Holtz. For one, the challenger’s campaign was a train wreck beset by problems almost from day one. For another, the roughly $500,000 Evers raised for his re-election bid pales in comparison to the $30 million some expect Walker to raise for his in 2018. Evers backers acknowledge he’d have to up his fundraising game. But, they also point out, none of the other possible candidates in the guv field has raised the kind of money he did for his spring race, meaning they’d all have to up their games. Vinehout, who said her registration for the guv’s race was just a formality to account for the expenses she’ll incur while exploring a bid, increased her cash on hand more than threefold at the end of June vs. the end of December. But that still only put her at $15,585 in the bank. Wachs, a trial attorney, is believed to have enough personal resources to seed his campaign, while Gronik says he’ll invest in his effort. But neither is expected to be a self-funder on the scale that would give Walker pause. Some also question what Evers would run on besides education, pointing out the guv sought to shore up any vulnerabilities on that topic with his budget proposing an additional $649 million for public schools over the next two years. Evers’ backers point out he’s dealt with health care and its impact on schools, tech colleges and the workforce, plus rural broadband, just to name a few. Evers wouldn’t be a single-issue candidate, his fans argue. Wachs, meanwhile, announces his law firm has merged with another, which insiders expect will help free him up to run statewide. His entry in the race could come yet this month, while Kober, a corporate exec and co-founder of a San Francisco-based enterprise design crowdsourcing company, tells WisPolitics.com he’s looking at a bid, among other options for 2018. As the calendar drags on without a dominant candidate, some Dems believe those who have passed on a run will start to take a second look, particularly if the field is still muddled come spring. They also are increasingly confident that 2018 will be a bad year for the GOP. Republicans, meanwhile, continue to be unimpressed with the current cast, saying they don’t have much to run on other than opposing the guv and disliking Donald Trump. Those two things aren’t enough to win an election, they argue.
Personal property tax: Assembly Republicans would like to kill the tax businesses pay on their equipment. But they also want to do the guv’s income tax cuts. The problem is Assembly Republicans don’t think the state has the money to do both in this budget. Senate Republicans want a full repeal in the second year of the budget, which could cost about $261 million. But the $51 million hit Wisconsin will take thanks to Illinois’ budget deal makes finding the money to offset the lost revenue for local governments more difficult. While transportation is pulling most of the attention in the continued budget standoff, there are other areas of disagreement Assembly and Senate Republicans are trying to work through as they look for a final budget deal, including what the tax package should look like. On the one hand, some Republicans say, at least the conversation is about which taxes to cut, which is more in their wheelhouse, than whether to raise the gas tax for roads. But there are also political considerations in the discussion of the personal property tax vs. Walker’s income tax cuts. The guv wants to reduce the marginal tax rates for the bottom two brackets and increase the threshold for when they kick in as part of a $203.5 million cut. The guv has hailed it as another effort to cut taxes for middle-class Wisconsinites. But Senate Republicans have questioned whether the impact is worth the price tag. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates those who would see a cut would save an average of $44 a year, and some Republicans argue that money would be better spent helping to repeal the personal property tax, arguing it’s a pain for businesses to deal with and would help spur growth. But they also don’t want to see the repeal result in those property taxes being picked up by homeowners, so they want to backfill it with state dollars. Grabbing the $203.5 million from Walker’s income tax cuts would get them a good chunk of the way there, and some have suggested nixing the guv’s proposed school sales tax holiday to pick up additional GPR to cover the repeal of the personal property tax. Add in a couple of tweaks that would move some of what’s covered by the personal property tax to the normal property tax bills for businesses, and the price tag would come down a little. Some Assembly Republicans, though, question the optics of rejecting the income tax cuts for middle-class voters Walker proposed in favor of a new business tax cut.
Randy Bryce: The union iron worker makes a splash with some $430,000 raised in the first 12 days of his campaign to take on House Speaker Paul Ryan, and a fellow Dem drops out of the 1st CD race and backs him over the third candidate. But Republicans jump on a CNN interview in which Bryce stumbles over some answers, declaring he’s not ready for prime time and is no real threat to Ryan, R-Janesville. Even if Bryce runs a perfect campaign, some say, he’ll have a tough time beating Ryan in southeastern Wisconsin’s 1st CD. The speaker has won each of his races there by double digits, the closest a 55-43 win in 2012 while he was off running for vice president. What’s more, Ryan won last fall with almost 65 percent of the vote, and he’s a proven fundraising machine. While Bryce had some early success, that pales dramatically to the $11.15 million Ryan’s campaign says he had in the bank to end June. Still, Bryce’s campaign is getting more national attention than the usual Ryan challenger. It kicks off with a video in which his mother talks about her multiple sclerosis and he touts 20 years as an ironworker before declaring, “Let’s trade places. Paul Ryan, you can come work the iron and I’ll go to DC.” The announcement video goes viral as Bryce’s campaign rolls out his early fundraising success. By comparison, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher raised about $520,000 during the first two months of his campaign last year, which his backers said was a record initial quarter for a first-time House candidate from Wisconsin. Some are dismissive of Bryce’s haul, saying it likely came in from out of state. Dems say it all spends the same, and some believe Bryce will be a vehicle for liberals nationally to channel their displeasure with Ryan, which likely will open some pocketbooks that otherwise wouldn’t pay much attention to a candidate who’s already lost two bids for the state Legislature as well as one for a local education board. Republicans like to point out his past failures as they question whether Bryce is as serious a candidate as Dems would like others to believe. That’s particularly true after he goes on CNN for what conservatives call a disastrous interview. Bryce says he’s open to a single-payer health care system even as the co-hosts press him on the potential costs — $32 trillion by one disputed estimate — and he defers when asked about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, saying he’s going to Washington, D.C., to get better educated on the topic. Republicans blast him. But Bryce’s backers say they must be onto something if Republicans are putting so much effort into trying to undercut a challenger they claim isn’t serious.
Transportation: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have been having a version of the same conversation — often through the media — for weeks now. The Assembly wants more revenue for transportation. The Senate wants more bonding for roads. Vos says no new bonding unless there’s new revenue to pay for it. Fitzgerald says new revenue is not going to happen with guv’s veto pen ready to strike. Wash, rinse, repeat. And as the budget now hits the two-week mark for being late, the two dig in a little bit more. This time, Fitzgerald says Vos needs to accept the reality there won’t be new revenue for transportation in this budget. The Assembly has, Vos says in an interview. “Now the Senate has to move to accept the fact we’re not going to have new bonding, and then we’re done.” Vos delivers a similar message to Capitol reporters the next day after meeting with Fitzgerald and Gov. Scott Walker, but it doesn’t go over well with the Senate majority leader, who takes a series of shots at Vos during an interview on a conservative radio talk show. It all suggests little hope for a quick budget resolution and has many in the Capitol wondering what Vos really wants. A popular theory is that Vos is working an angle in budget negotiations. After all, he very much wants I-94 north-south in his Racine County district to get back on track, and that wouldn’t happen if lawmakers do a transportation budget with no new revenue or bonding. But some insist it’s really about principles. Vos has repeatedly said the state needs a long-term solution to transportation, and there’s little to suggest one is coming. Two years ago, Republicans slapped a Band-Aid on the transportation fund with the guv off running for president, hoping this budget would provide a better environment to reach a grand bargain. Instead, it’s much of the same dynamic as last time with Walker sticking to his pledge against a gas tax boost and registration fee increase. What’s more, some insiders note little, if anything, is likely to change in the next couple of budgets if Walker wins re-election in 2018. Many expect Walker to take another shot at the presidency at some point, and there is no way he’d sign a gas tax increase with another national bid waiting in the wings. That’s not exactly something you run on with the GOP base, some add. So rather than stay with temporary patches, Vos is willing to forgo seeing his pet project done if it means shoring up the transportation fund’s long-term prospects, his fans say. Others continue to believe Vos is holding out for something. But they question how the impasse is going to build public pressure for a tax hike or new fees. Beyond being unlikely, it makes Republicans look bad to be in control of everything in state government, but unable to govern. Still, so long as Vos’ caucus sticks with him, there’s not much pressure on him to budge. There are members who want to know the end game and aren’t necessarily comfortable with the idea of holding out for a revenue upper. But so far, there has been no mass insurrection in his caucus. So long as that continues, Vos will continue to have leverage in the debate, and he’s shown no signs publicly of feeling pressured to make a deal. The flip side, some say, is there’s also little evidence that Vos’ hold out will pressure the Senate and guv into accepting some kind of revenue upper. And there are those who continue to see Vos outnumbered with Fitzgerald and the guv, meaning the speaker will have to give in on some new bonding. Fitzgerald and Senate Republicans are looking to reduce how much the state would borrow for roads over the next two years — $712 million is their latest target — but his members are also publicly sticking with him against a revenue upper. That stances drives some in the Assembly crazy that their Senate counterparts believe pumping new money into DOT that’s borrowed is OK, but finding new revenue is not. Some believe lawmakers could reach a deal with the guv that includes some new revenue down the line — maybe tolling — that could be tied to additional borrowing; they think that would be enough to solve the impasse. But it comes down to who’s going to blink first, and it’s not quite clear yet who that’s going to be, some say.
Corrections: A federal court this week orders the Department of Corrections to significantly curtail its use of solitary confinement and pepper spray at Wisconsin youth prisons. The agency has long been facing a series of stories and a federal probe about alleged abuses at its youth prisons, including the release of videos showing youth inmates getting pepper sprayed. So the court battle this summer drew attention, as did U.S. Judge James Peterson’s comments that the Unabomber “has less restrictive confinement than the youth at Lincoln Hills.” Peterson now orders new restrictions on the agency’s practices that DOC isn’t planning on appealing. Peterson’s order follows a proposed injunction filed July 7 by both sides — one that the ACLU of Wisconsin says is the “first step” in reducing the use of solitary confinement, mechanical restraints and pepper spray. DOC, meanwhile, says it’s already made a series of changes to reduce those practices and that the agency’s “desire is to align with national best practices in juvenile corrections.” Some of the changes Peterson required will take place in a few days. He ordered DOC to limit the use of pepper spray and other chemical agents to only when a youth is harming others or to prevent the youth from hurting someone else. The maximum stay in restrictive housing will soon be only seven days, instead of 60. Those in restrictive housing will also need to have daily contact with a mental health provider, though that can happen over the phone or by video conference if needed. And by Aug. 14, the agency will no longer place youth in restrictive housing as discipline for minor infractions or non-violent incidents. The order, though, didn’t go as far as those suing the state wanted. The plaintiffs wanted the order to require the state to “entirely cease placing youth with mental health diagnoses in restrictive housing.” But the ACLU of Wisconsin says it’ll “continue to monitor conditions” to ensure DOC is complying with the court’s order as the case proceeds. The agency, meanwhile, faces a handful of other lawsuits and the FBI is still investigating the youth prisons.
Unions: Labor gets yet another loss in the courts this week as a federal appeals court upholds Wisconsin’s “right-to-work” law. The law — the first passed last session — was yet another achievement for Republicans looking to diminish unions’ power. And the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decides it’ll stay in place, ruling that a previous decision throwing out a lawsuit from unions was appropriate. A federal judge last year rejected the unions’ argument, citing a 2014 ruling from that court in a similar case from Indiana. A three-judge panel decides the unions suing did not give “compelling reasons” to revisit the Indiana ruling, though the unions are considering an appeal. AG Brad Schimel, meanwhile, says the panel’s ruling “affirms what we have argued” from the beginning — that the law is constitutional. The decision marks yet another defeat in court for unions, who’ve seen a pattern in recent years of getting victories only in the ultra-liberal Dane County. And it comes as Republicans look to pass another law at the Capitol that unions heavily oppose. Unions say repealing the state’s prevailing wage laws would lead to lower wages, but some GOP lawmakers commit to removing the requirements in the state budget. Gov. Scott Walker had proposed the repeal in his budget, though the Joint Finance Committee pulled the provision as a non-fiscal item. There’s also a separate bill making its way through the Legislature that would do the same thing. Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, the co-author of the bill and a JFC member, says this week that “any viable transportation budget proposal must include a full repeal of prevailing wage.” Other Republicans say they agree with her. Vukmir’s co-author, Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, says there seems to be a “strong consensus” among Republicans to remove the requirements in the state budget but adds doing so isn’t a make-or-break for him. If it doesn’t happen in the budget, observers say, expect another push from conservatives for a full repeal after the budget is finalized — and possibly another defeat for unions.
Abortion: Pro-life advocates this week celebrate as new Department of Health Services numbers show abortion rates in the state continue to drop. Last year, 5,612 abortions were performed in the state, which was 48 fewer compared to 2015 and a nearly 1 percentage point drop. And 2015 saw 140 fewer abortions than in 2014, a difference of 2 percentage points. The figures are part of a steady decline in abortions performed in the state dating back to 2009. This time, pro-life advocates like Wisconsin Right to Life have partially attributed the decline to a law Gov. Scott Walker signed in July 2015 banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life is in danger. Thanks to the law, advocates say, only 37 abortions occurred after 20 weeks in 2016 — down from 56 in 2015. But pro-choice advocates, including Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s Nicole Safar, say regardless of the figure, that still constitutes only 1 percent of all abortions in both years. And that figure, she said, “has always been incredibly small.” Instead, Safar says, the downward trend “can only be attributed to increased access to better, more effective and more affordable birth control,” furthered by the Affordable Care Act. But Right to Life Executive Director Heather Weininger says it comes down to outreach, education and legislation. That includes the passage of “Sonya’s Law” in 2013, which requires women considering an abortion to first have an ultrasound performed. “When a woman can see that this is not a blob of cells but my unborn baby, that has an impact,” she said.
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The vast majority of Wisconsinites who’ve committed drug felonies pass the required drug test when they apply for public benefits, with only 8 percent of them testing positive, records obtained by WisPolitics.com show.
Critics say that’s further proof that drug testing requirements are ineffective and a waste of money — even among a high-risk pool of people with a history of drug problems. They also warn that Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to dramatically expand those requirements to people without drug felonies is the wrong approach to helping people address their drug problems.
“This is a colossal waste of administrative costs, of taxpayer dollars, and those funds would be better spent on treatment programs and allowing individuals to self-identify and self-report and self-enroll in programs,” said Mike Bare, research and program coordinator at the liberal-leaning Community Advocates Public Policy Institute in Milwaukee.
But Walker’s office says he wants to encourage people to sign up for substance abuse treatment so they can get healthy and find a job. The governor, head of the Republican Governors Association, advertises this as one way to provide able workers in a good economy.
Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the governor “hears from employers all the time” that they’re looking to hire people who are ready to work and can pass a drug test.
“Public assistance should be more like a trampoline instead of a hammock, and so for those who are able to work we should enable them to get back in workforce. … These are reasonable, common sense reforms to help people move from government dependence to true independence,” he said.
Walker’s proposing to ask tens of thousands more people getting public benefits whether they use drugs — and then drug testing those whose answers indicate they have a drug problem.
He wants to, for example, make Wisconsin the first state in the country to drug test childless adults on Medicaid, with those who test positive getting the option to enter treatment. His administration is also working on finalizing a similar requirement for some able-bodied adults without kids on FoodShare, more commonly known as food stamps. The administration projects the agency would ask roughly 66,200 people about their drug usage and would end up testing about 2,000, with the drug tests costing about $100,000 every year. Walker’s also proposing in his biennial budget to expand the requirement to able-bodied adults with kids.
And he wants to ensure people who get unemployment benefits don’t use drugs, though that plan is on hold for now as the Trump administration writes new guidance for states.
If all of that happens, he’ll be building on a history of drug testing in Wisconsin that’s largely affected those who have previously been convicted of drug felonies.
Up to 10 states, most led by Republicans, prohibit those people from getting welfare benefits or food stamps, according to a Congressional Research Service report from last year.
Wisconsin is not on that list.
The state does not, for example, have a ban for people who apply for the W-2 work program. Drug felons who test positive get their benefits reduced but are still able to participate in the program.
But Wisconsin does prohibit drug felons who test positive for drugs from participating in FoodShare for a year. That puts it among the 26 states with a “modified ban” for the program, although 21 states have no ban at all.
Critics such as Marc Mauer, the executive director of the DC-based Sentencing Project, say Wisconsin should join the states that don’t punish applicants for their drug usage. That’s because, he said, taking away the little resources those people have “inevitably means they’re more likely to engage in criminal behavior” again to pay for essentials like food and rent.
The figures WisPolitics.com obtained, Mauer said, fall along the same lines that other states have seen: testing large amounts of people but getting few positive results.
The Department of Health Services, which manages FoodShare, says about 92 percent of the tests the agency required for eligibility between 2012 and 2016 came back negative, with 9,404 passing and 786 failing.
The agency, which tests those who’ve had a drug-related felony within five years, deems people who fail the test ineligible for the program for a year.
The local agencies that manage FoodShare benefits pay for the tests and are then reimbursed by the state, although DHS was unable to say much the drug tests have cost.
The Department of Children and Families also has testing requirements in place for people identified as drug felons who apply for the W-2 jobs program.
DCF was also unable to say how much it’s cost to drug test 350 people over the past five years, although the agency said the tests cost between $30 and $100, depending on where they’re taken.
Between 2012 and 2016, 314 people passed the drug tests, while 36 people failed, according to data DCF provided.
People who test positive get their benefits reduced by at most 15 percent. They are tested again a year later if they’re still on the program, though many naturally drop off since the average time on W-2 is four months. If people do test positive again, the local social service agencies that administer W-2 benefits might require them to enter into drug treatment.
But only three of the 36 people who tested positive failed again a year later. Most of the 36 people that tested positive the first time had already left the program, with only nine remaining a year later.
DCF cautioned that the figures might be incomplete, as some local W-2 agencies might not enter in the information they keep on paper into the state’s data system.
Drug testing supporters include some business groups that say they help ensure the state has a healthy workforce — at a time when employers are having trouble finding enough workers to fill their open jobs.
That includes Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Inc., whose members are companies and residents looking to lower property taxes. John Jacobson, the group’s government and member relations director, said his members strongly support drug testing people on public benefits and questioned the notion that those policies have a “vindictive tone.”
“This is really just people who want the best possible workers out there, and they want to make sure that their workers are on the up-and-up, but also that people are getting help who actually need it,” he said.
The public has also indicated support for drug testing in the past. A Marquette University Law School poll from October 2014 found 55 percent of Wisconsin registered voters backed drug testing those on food stamps or unemployment benefits, with 41 percent opposing those measures.
Walker expanding drug testing for those without criminal background
Though the state previously only tested drug felons, Walker in recent months started to expand testing to those without that criminal history through several DCF work experience programs.
Those requirements were aimed at noncustodial parents, but Walker’s proposing expanding them to custodial parents in his biennial budget. Although lawmakers on the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee approved the provision, budget discussions have stalled and the document has yet to pass the Legislature.
Under the current DCF requirements, 2,009 people as of April 21 were asked about drug usage in a questionnaire, or screening, which then lets staff determine whether some need to follow up and do an actual drug test.
Of those 2,009 who were screened, 44 people were referred for drug tests. Six of those people refused to take a test, while nine failed their tests. Seven of those nine entered substance abuse treatment but two refused to do so.
Jacobson, the Wisconsin Property Taxpayers lobbyist, said that’s seven more people who “have gotten help and who are that much closer to being ready for the workforce.”
“I think that’s tremendous,” he said.
DCF said in a statement that the rules help people enter the workforce because “substance abuse and addiction can be significant barriers to employment.”
“Helping Wisconsinites with high employment barriers learn the skills that lead to sustainable employment is the most effective way to combat poverty,” the department said. “However, if participants are unable to pass a drug test their path from dependence to independence is often blocked before their journey can begin.”
But Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said any time and money spent on the program should instead go into expanding drug treatment programs.
The state, she said, could also expand health care access so people can talk to their doctors about their drug problems by accepting the federal Medicaid expansion.
“It seems like a big waste to me,” Subeck said. “This is not the right way to help people get into treatment.”
Nearly three months after the Department of Natural Resources unveiled a bottled water program to help Kewaunee County families cope with contaminated wells, no one has signed up.
But that’s no surprise to critics, who cite the program’s constraints and DNR’s limited outreach.
Still, DNR spokesman Jim Dick says the agency discussed the plan at public meetings, and worked with the county to ensure private well owners who reported contamination could get access.
The program is just one short-term remedy in the dairy-farm intensive northeastern county, where residents have long been raising concerns over groundwater pollution. It began shortly before a recent study, paid for in part by the DNR, found that nearly 60 percent of the county’s private wells were contaminated by either human or livestock fecal microbes.
Meanwhile, some in the area are holding out for stricter DNR rules to deal with the spreading of livestock manure. A draft of the rules, released July 7, contained provisions governing the application of liquid manure and prohibiting manure spreading in some areas. But those wouldn’t go into effect, under the DNR’s timeline, until next summer.
The bottled water program was first publicized on DNR’s website on April 24. Dubbed a “low key” rollout in media reports in early May, some living in the area say the agency should have done more to publicize it.
Kewaunee County Board member Lee Luft, who chairs the county’s Groundwater Task Force, said DNR’s rollout of the program was “very quiet,” and involved the agency sharing information with the two county departments and entrusting them to get the word out.
“I would have liked to have seen Secretary [Cathy] Stepp or even a high administrative DNR administrative official maybe come to Kewaunee County, or even in Dane County do a public announcement that says, ‘We recognize we have a significant issue and here’s one way to provide immediate relief to people who have a problem,'” he said.
And Nancy Utesch, a local beef farmer and member of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, said it was “disturbing” DNR hadn’t done more to advertise the program.
“It’s kind of akin to calling 9-1-1 and being put on hold,” she said. “The fact that these environmental organizations and advocates are doing this [outreach] and not the DNR is really askew.”
Midwest Environmental Advocates staff attorney Sarah Geers, whose organization published a press release about the plan on May 9, said that approach, and the lack of active outreach from DNR, means “most regular people that live in Kewaunee County don’t even know about this program or how to navigate it.”
But Dick, of DNR, said DNR had spoken with county health and conservation departments, and completed other outreach efforts. That includes a May 4 meeting with county officials, DNR representatives and other community stakeholders, according to an agenda provided to WisPolitics.com by Utesch.
“The target audience for this implementation plan was not necessarily the general public in the larger sense but the members of the public who own private wells and potentially met the specific criteria,” Dick said. “We provided the necessary information to the people who could best get that information to that specific audience.”
Cindy Kinnard, who heads the county’s Public Health Department, said after receiving information on the program from the DNR, the county posted it online, in waiting rooms and provided it to inquiring individuals. County staff members are also well-educated on the program and its requirements, she said, and are able to help anyone in need of more information.
Meanwhile, Luft, the county board member, said the program is “very limited,” so even if people wanted to access it few would be able to.
In order to receive bottled water, a resident can notify DNR of a possible contaminated well. DNR would then visit the home and take a water sample. If it looked like the well was contaminated, DNR would offer bottled water to the residents. But only if the results uncovered a positive E. coli hit from livestock would the DNR pay for the home to continue getting bottled water for up to six months or until the contamination is gone.
If the E. coli contamination wasn’t livestock-related, or was instead from nitrates or other bacteria, the home wouldn’t be eligible to get bottled water through the program.
Dick said the program is administered that way because it’s created under an agency rule, NR 738, which lays out the framework and stipulations for the allocation of temporary emergency water.
But getting a positive E. coli hit could be an issue, even if the pathogen has at one point contaminated someone’s well water, according to Town of Lincoln Chairman Cory Cochart. Because of factors like the weather, someone could see a positive hit for E. coli one day and a negative hit the next.
Other barriers to receiving water under the program include what Utesch calls the “psychology of contamination,” which she said manifests itself in the pride residents feel about their “rural independence.” That, she said, could prevent some from asking for help.
And Luft said there are others who “simply don’t want anyone else to know they have a water concern.”
Utesch said some may also not want to know if there is a problem.
“Some people would rather not know than be living with the fear of knowing that they’re at risk,” Utesch said.
Another reason some may not be taking advantage of the program, the Town of Lincoln’s Cochart said, is that they feel “it’s too late” for them, considering the years of contaminated water they’ve already been exposed to.
“DNR had more than their fair share of time to come up with something for the people affected,” he said.
Regardless, the lack of people taking advantage of the program isn’t due to a lack of pollution. The recent study found some sampled wells contained parasites like Crypto, rotavirus A and pathogens like E. coli. It’s known that “dozens, if not more, people in the county who have a positive E. coli hit,” Luft said.
In addition, some 70 families are drawing water regularly from a water kiosk established at Algoma High School last January. Advocates say that signals a need for a clean water supply — even if the contamination isn’t necessarily E. coli from livestock.
“If someone cannot use their well water and whether you’re talking about human E. coli, high nitrates, bacteria, we need to provide relief to those people because they really should not be using their water,” Utesch said.
Tuesday: The Assembly Science and Technology Committee holds a public hearing on a bill that would prohibit a UW System or UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority employee from performing an abortion.
– 10 a.m.: North Hearing Room (2nd Floor North), State Capitol.
(Check local listings for times in your area)
“UpFront with Mike Gousha” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show features U.S. Sen. RON JOHNSON on the Senate’s revised health care bill and Dem candidate for governor ANDY GRONIK.
*See viewing times in state markets here: http://www.wisn.com/upfront/
*Also view the show online each Monday at WisPolitics.com
“Rewind,” a weekly show from WisconsinEye and WisPolitics.com, airs at 8 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. on Sundays in addition to being available online. On this week’s episode, WisPolitics.com’s JR ROSS and WisconsinEye’s STEVE WALTERS discuss the transportation impasse, the court order on Lincoln Hills and fundraising numbers. Meanwhile, on “Rewind Milwaukee,” the two discuss a bill to allow the Common Council to hire and fire the police chief.
*Watch the show: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/11705
*Watch “Rewind Milwaukee”: http://www.wiseye.org/mp4stream/REW/REW_170714_MILWAUKEE.mp4
Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG talks with U.S. Sen. TAMMY BALDWIN on the latest version of the health care bill; Oklahoma State University economics professor DAN RICKMAN on a new study comparing the tax freeze impact on the state budgets of Kansas and Wisconsin; and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PATRICK MARLEY on Lincoln Hills.
“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison.
“Capitol City Sunday” airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on WKOW-TV in Madison, WAOW-TV in Wausau, WXOW-TV in La Crosse and WQOW-TV in Eau Claire.
“The Insiders” is a weekly WisOpinion.com web show. This week, former state Sen. CHUCK CHVALA, D-Madison, talks about his late co-host and friend TED KANAVAS, a former GOP state senator from Brookfield.
*Watch the video:
*Listen to the show:
NAMES IN THE NEWS
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GOP state Reps. MIKE KUGLITSCH and ADAM NEYLON were appointed this week to serve on Gov. SCOTT WALKER’s Autonomous Vehicle Steering Committee. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/reps-kuglitsch-neylon-appointed-to-autonomous-vehicle-steering-committee/
Wood County Circuit Court Judge GREGORY POTTER was selected this week to chair the Committee of Chief Justices starting Aug. 1. He’ll replace the outgoing committee chair, St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge SCOTT NEEDHAM.
Gov. SCOTT WALKER this week appointed Rock County Corporation Counsel JEFF KUGLITSCH to the Rock County Circuit Court, replacing Judge MICHAEL FITZPATRICK. See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/gov-walker-appoints-jeff-kuglitsch-to-the-rock-county-circuit-court/
The new research director at One Wisconsin Now will be JOANNA BEILMAN-DULIN, who currently works for Rep. TOD OHNSTAD, D-Kenosha, and was membership and finance director for the state Dem Party. Beilman-Dulin, who starts in August, takes over for JENNI DYE, who was recently named the incoming executive director of the State Senate Democratic Committee.
Rep. DANA WACHS’ law firm announced this week it’s merging with Gingras, Cates & Luebke. The combined firms’ new name is Gingras, Cates & Wachs. Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair MARK THOMSEN also joined the merged firm. See the release: https://www.gcwlawyers.com/richie-wickstrom-wachs/
Attorney General BRAD SCHIMEL this week announced MICHAEL AKSELRUD was promoted to Department of Justice Training and Standards Bureau director. AKSELRUD previously worked as a DOJ compliance officer for nearly three years. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/ag-schimel-appoints-new-training-and-standards-bureau-director-michael-akselrud/
The Independent Journal Review “Cutest Dogs On The Hill” poll includes two dogs owned by spokespeople for U.S. Reps. JIM SENSENBRENNER, R-Menomonee Falls, and GLENN GROTHMAN, R-Glenbeulah. Maddie is NICOLE TIEMAN’s dog, while Todd is BERNADETTE GREEN’s dog. Vote in the poll: https://cutestdogsonthehill.com/
Rep. STEVE DOYLE will be the Dem co-chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Foster Care, according to Minority Leader PETER BARCA’s office. Doyle, D-Onalaska, will co-chair the task force with Rep. PAT SNYDER, R-Wausau.
The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families this week changed its name to Kids Forward in a ceremony in downtown Madison attended by Executive Director KEN TAYLOR. See the new website: http://kidsforward.net/
The Trump administration this week announced the appointment of STEVE KING, a longtime GOP activist in Wisconsin, as ambassador to the Czech Republic. According to the White House announcement, King also investigated civil rights violations for the FBI, was as an investigator for the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and was special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Capital Times Editor and Executive Publisher PAUL FANLUND this week unveiled the publication’s upcoming Idea Fest, a two-day event featuring two dozen sessions on UW-Madison’s campus slated for Sept. 16-17. The festival’s theme is “Reach a Better State,” with sessions focusing on economy, equity, education, politics, journalism and culture. Featured speakers include MARTY BARON, Washington Post executive editor; KEVIN CONROY, CEO and founder of Exact Sciences; DEB CAREY, founder of New Glarus Brewing Company; CHARLES FRANKLIN, Marquette Law School Poll director; AMY GOLDSTEIN, Washington Post reporter and author of “Janesville: An American Story”; U.S. Sen. TAMMY BALDWIN; former Gov. TOMMY THOMPSON; and more. See more information and buy tickets: http://host.madison.com/ct/opinion/column/paul_fanlund/paul-fanlund-announcing-the-cap-times-idea-fest-a-new/article_4c6665c1-120f-54a4-ba8e-d7ead927a7ca.html
ENDORSEMENTS: The following is a list of endorsements made for statewide elections in the last two weeks, based on emails received by WisPolitics.com:
JOSH KAUL: U.S. Reps. GWEN MOORE, MARK POCAN; former Gov. TONY EARL; former Lt. Gov. BARBARA LAWTON; Dane County Exec. JOE PARISI; Winnebago County Exec. MARK HARRIS; former Dane County Exec KATHLEEN FALK; former Brown County Exec. NANCY NUSBAUM; former U.S. Rep. STEVE KAGEN; State Sens. DAVE HANSEN, MARK MILLER and LENA TAYLOR; former state Sen. JESSICA KING; state Reps. JIMMY ANDERSON, DAVID CROWLEY, STEVE DOYLE, ERIC GENRICH, GORDON HINTZ, NICK MILROY, SONDY POPE, CHRISTINE SINICKI and AMANDA STUCK; and former state Rep. MANDY WRIGHT.
1st Congressional District:
RANDY BRYCE: State Sens. CHRIS LARSON, BOB WIRCH; Reps. TOD OHNSTAD, CHRISTINE SINICKI, JOCASTA ZAMARRIPA and DAVID CROWLEY; and DAVID YANKOVICH, who dropped out of the race to back Bryce.
For more Names in the News, see subscriber products from earlier in the week plus the press release page at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/
For upcoming events, see the “Week Ahead” in this product and in your e-mail Monday morning. Click here for the online calendar: https://www.wispolitics.com/category/events/
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