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Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!
– A tweet from President Trump, who this week said he would put a 20 percent tariff on softwood lumber from Canada after a policy change in Canada left dozens of Wisconsin dairy farmers without a buyer for their milk. Walker praised the action and said “it’s clearly gotten Canada’s attention.”

Dairy farmers should not have their businesses ruined and lives upended as a result of this unfair trade practice.
– U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison.

It just so happens that right now, it’s conservative voices on college campuses who feel that they are being suppressed and censored. And in the future, that could change, so we want to make sure that this is enshrined in law.
– Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, who authored a bill that would require the UW System to adopt a policy on freedom of expression and sanction students who interfere with others’ free speech rights. The bill would require UW campuses to suspend or expel students who violate the policy twice.

The minute you shut down a speaker, no matter whether they are liberal or conservative or somewhere in between, I just think that’s wrong. To me, a university should be precisely the spot where you have an open and free dialogue about all different positions.
– Gov. Scott Walker in an interview with “UpFront with Mike Gousha.” The episode airs Sunday. See details in the political TV section below.

Now, these Republicans want to make our campuses safe spaces for Republicans to be free of criticism and subject students to legal sanctions if they speak out.
– One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross, who called the bill’s co-authors “fragile snowflakes” looking to create safe spaces. Critics have suggested the bill would stifle free speech.

Government shouldn’t be paying for inflated wages on the backs of all taxpayers.
– Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, who along with GOP Rep. Rob Hutton, co-sponsored a bill to repeal the state’s prevailing wage laws for public projects.

Your bill makes it worse, driving people out of the middle class by cutting wages.
– Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, who said the bill would exacerbate income inequality in the state.

When citizens have a really strong moral objection to something like this … when we take their money from them and put it into something like this, that’s wrong.
– Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, on a GOP bill that would bar the state from covering abortions for its employees, with some exceptions.

This truly is a war on women that the Republican Party continues to further in our state and in our country, and it’s a shame.
– Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, on the bill.

If the state of Wisconsin is not gonna do their job, then … you should be investigated. We should investigate you and you should lose your job.
– Conservative activist James O’Keefe, who targeted Republican AG Brad Schimel in a video for what he said was an incomplete DOJ review of tapes that he submitted. Those tapes showed a Dem activist talking about busing people from outside the state into Wisconsin, which O’Keefe says is evidence of voter fraud.

I appreciate the work that groups like Project Veritas do to expose corruption and criminal conspiracies, but the war of words that has sparked up in the last 24 hours is incited by fake news, Mark. There is no story here. There’s nothing to report yet.
– Schimel in an interview Thursday on “The Mark Belling Show,” telling the radio host the investigation is not over. Earlier that day, he had told the Wisconsin Radio Network that the agency had looked at the issue and “concluded there’s not anything that presented itself as a viable investigatory lead.” A top DOJ aide had also said in a memo the videos don’t provide enough basis to conclude there was a violation of Wisconsin law. Listen to the Belling interview: ” >http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9cpLY2ol0A

The administration is on training wheels, and yet it still manages to fall off its bike.
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, who blasted President Trump’s first 100 days in office in a conference call with reporters on Friday, saying the “best the Republicans can do,” even with control of Congress and the presidency, is “pass a bill to extend funding for a single week.” Pocan called that “absolutely the characterization of the first 100 days.”

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Apr. 22-28, 2017)


REINS Act: The effort to add a new layer to the administrative rules process bogged down in the state Senate last session. So once a substitute amendment got Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald on board this session, it was a major step forward for the legislation. That, insiders say, means all that’s left is making sure the guv is OK with this version as well. The legislation, which calls for additional scrutiny of any proposed rule with an estimated economic impact of $10 million over a two-year period, gets tweaked in the sub. One change would allow lawmakers to permanently object to a proposed rule to prevent the agency from going forward with it. That would be a change from past practice, where the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules has to introduce bills in both houses of the Legislature to support any objection, which is temporary unless one of the bills becomes law. The other proposed change pertains to who pays for the economic impact study. If the cost of completing the analysis exceeded $50,000, the Joint Finance Committee would have to determine a funding source for the review. The revised version clears a Senate committee and will hit the floor May 2, according to a final calendar released on Friday. And an Assembly committee plans to take up the new version next week as well. Once it clears both houses, the bill would be off to the guv, who included his own version of the REINS Act in the budget only to see the Joint Finance Committee strip it out. The guv’s proposal, though, differed from the bill in several ways, including its provisions that would allow DOA to request an independent economic impact analysis and allowing the agency to contract for all of the studies. In addition to taking a different approach on those pieces, the bill’s provision on allowing JCRAR to permanently block a rule is just one provision that would impact the dynamic of the process. How comfortable Walker is with all of that, some say, could go a long way in determining whether he pulls out his veto pen.

SWIB bonuses: The state’s investment managers are in for record bonuses after a five-year period of strong performance. The latest figures show staff at the State of Wisconsin Investment Board generated $1.2 billion in earnings over the market’s performance during that period. And so 152 SWIB staffers are getting $13.8 million in bonuses, the highest total agency staffers have ever gotten. It’s above the $11.1 million they got last year and the $12.2 million and $13.3 million they got the years before. David Villa, SWIB’s chief investment officer, is getting the biggest bonus — $582,489 — more than $100,000 above his annual salary. The Wisconsin Coalition of Annuitants, which represents retired public employees, says the bonuses are well-deserved. The group also says those bonuses — while large — help the agency make sure it keeps talented staff around. Meanwhile, its staff has grown in recent years after the 2011-13 budget let SWIB create or eliminate positions on its own. A Legislative Audit Bureau report last December found SWIB is now managing more and more of its roughly $100 billion in assets on its own, rather than contracting with outside fund managers. And to do so, it’s brought on additional staff. In announcing the bonuses, SWIB says hiring its own staff is cheaper than paying external managers, saving the agency $75 million a year. SWIB’s Board of Trustees chair, David Stein, also says the bonuses are meant to ensure the results-driven staff sticks around instead of heading to the private sector. “You get what you pay for,” Stein says, adding that the current model is working well.


Donald Trump: The president goes to bat for Wisconsin farmers in a move that even some Dems say will help him with state voters. And Trump could use it with a second poll showing his numbers upside down with voters in Wisconsin, a state that will be key to his re-election prospects in 2020. The president talked up a tough line on trade and promised to crack down on those he doesn’t believe are treating America fairly. Who knew a fight with Canada would be one of his first skirmishes? It all started when dozens of Wisconsin farmers struggled to find a buyer for their milk after a Canadian pricing policy change caused a company to cut those farmers’ contracts starting Monday. The state scrambled into action, as it announced plans to offer more favorable loan guarantees to eligible dairy farmers and processors, among other things. But the president carries a much bigger megaphone and first takes to Twitter writing “Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!” Dems snicker at the president’s perception that Wisconsin is a border state. Nonetheless, the president’s actions ramp up quickly as he first slaps a tariff on Canadian softwood and then raises the possibility of pulling out of NAFTA. But with national Republicans on edge over that prospect, the president announces he’s instead going to re-negotiate the deal after talking to the leaders of Canada and Mexico to get better terms for the U.S. The president’s moves don’t go over well with everyone, including homebuilders who say the tariff on Canadian softwood will drive up prices for homes. But politically, insiders say, it’s a winner. Threatening a trade war can get messy. But to the average Joe, the president is going to fight for their interests. Still, it remains to be seen whether Canada will back off its position and whether the president can cut a grandiose deal. That could be key to next year’s midterms. A new poll from Firehouse Strategies, comprised of GOP consultants Terry Sullivan, Alex Conant and Will Holley, and the firm 0ptimus finds 40 percent of Wisconsin likely midterm voters have a favorable view of the president, while 47 percent do not. That’s in line with last month’s Marquette University Law School Poll, which found 41 percent of registered voters approved of the job the president’s job performance, while 47 percent disapproved. Trump’s win in Wisconsin last fall wasn’t overwhelming at 47.2 percent of the vote. So he can’t afford much of an erosion of support. The Firehouse poll looked at Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, finding the president had the worst numbers in the Badger state. He was above water in Florida (45-41) and Ohio (45-40) and even in Pennsylvania (45-45). In looking at all four states, the poll found 80 percent of voters believe the president lies or exaggerates the truth. Still, the firms that conducted the survey concluded from the data while voters believe he’s dishonest, they don’t think he’s worse than other politicians and a majority don’t care.

Paul Ryan: The Janesville Republican manages to keep the government running — for at least another week. He sees a push for a GOP tax plan begin — just not the exact one he prefers. And his caucus keeps hope alive for a vote to repeal and replace Obamacare — but it’s anyone’s guess if he can nail down that final vote. In other words, it’s just another week in the life of the speaker. His Wisconsin-based fans continue to see Ryan performing well in a job no one else wants. But the constant churning in DC paints a less rosy picture. The White House’s tax announcement excludes the speaker’s proposed tax on imports and ignores Ryan’s belief that the effort should not add to the deficit. Considering many have viewed a tax overhaul as a defining moment for Ryan’s career, some see it as the speaker being rolled, especially amid reports the White House was unhappy about how he handled the health care vote and is forging its own path on this one. No matter, some say, Ryan isn’t going to simply give up the reins on this one and will have a significant say in what any final package looks like. Meanwhile, House GOP leaders delayed a vote on a renewed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, denying President Trump what he’d hoped would be a significant legislative victory during his first 100 days. Still needing votes, floor action is put off until at least next week as leadership tries to round up members. And what’s Ryan’s reward for the constant churn? More bad poll numbers. That includes a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that finds nearly three-quarters of Americans disapprove of Congress’ job performance. They also viewed Ryan less favorably — 22 percent said they had a positive view of him, while 40 percent did not; in February, his unfavorables outweighed his positives by 1 point.

Tim Burns: The Madison attorney goes against the conventional wisdom of what liberals are looking for to win a Supreme Court race. But, some Dems say, what they’ve been trying isn’t working. So time to think outside the box. Sources say Burns, a partner at Perkins Coie, is looking at a run for the court next year, when conservative Justice Michael Gableman would be up for re-election. If he gets in, he’d cut against the profile some want in a liberal candidate. For one, he practices insurance law, not exactly a background that screams “progressive,” some say. More importantly, he doesn’t have experience as a judge, which has become all but a prerequisite to some for a bid at the state’s highest court. Some insiders also expect he would run as an unabashed progressive, pointing to an op-ed he wrote for the Capital Times in early April urging U.S. senators to vote against the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. He wrote in the op-ed, “Only if we are content to live in a hollowed country in which our small towns, small farms, and small and midsize businesses have been strangled by concentrated wealth should our senators confirm Judge Gorsuch.” That, some say, sounds like someone ready to put a progressive thumb on the scales. Some liberals note they’ve tried a judge with JoAnne Kloppenburg’s second run for the court and a professor in Ed Fallone against Pat Roggensack. Just doing the same thing over and over makes no sense, they argue. Give someone a shot who can connect with progressive voters on issues, inspiring the base to hit the polls in a low-turnout race. Other liberals aren’t so sure. Kloppenburg was supposed to be a base candidate, too, and with robes to boot. Then again, others point out, that race was run in an unusual environment with contested presidential primaries for both parties that saw higher GOP turnout than for Dems. Republicans, meanwhile, would welcome a liberal Madison attorney on the ballot with no judicial experience. Didn’t Dems just come off an election telling themselves they need to better connect with rural voters rather than focusing on Madison and Milwaukee? Conservatives ask how a Burns bid would fit that narrative.

School referendums: School districts breathe a sigh of relief after Gov. Scott Walker says he’s not looking to penalize those that raise operating revenues by going to referendum. That provision is currently baked into a GOP-backed bill that looks to cut future state aid for districts that go to the voters to raise operating expenses. Backers, though, say they’ll keep moving forward with the legislation. Meanwhile, multiple other GOP bills looking to limit a district’s ability to go to referendum are circulating. The guv tells WKOW-TV he’s on board with at least one, which would only allow referendum questions to be on fall or spring general election ballots. Still, districts around the state are still flying high from yet another round of elections where voters authorized the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on schools. In all, voters approved some $699.7 million in school referendum questions and rejected $265.1 million in this year’s spring general. Regardless of their success at the ballot box, though, Walker has repeatedly said he hopes districts will be able to avoid going to referendum in the first place under his K-12 budget plan, which gives a $649 million boost to schools around the state. The plan is now before the Joint Finance Committee.


David Clarke: The Milwaukee County sheriff has been unafraid to take shots from anyone — and often give it right back. After all, to some it’s part of his appeal to Trump world; he’s the tough-talking African-American lawman willing to take on the most sacred cows of the left. But at some point, some believe, the baggage starts to become too much, even for his supporters. And the latest round of bad publicity goes national as an inquest proceeds into the death from dehydration of an inmate at the Milwaukee County Jail. Even so, Politico reports the Trump administration is eyeing Clarke for assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Partnership and Engagement, which coordinates outreach to state, local and tribal law officials. The position does not require Senate confirmation, which could be good for Clarke considering the questions he’d otherwise likely face about the death of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas from dehydration after the water was turned off to his cell for seven days. According to testimony at the inquest, officers turned off the water after Thomas flooded his cell. But several pass the blame to others for the water remaining off for seven days, during which Thomas’ untreated bipolar disorder left him incapable of asking for help. Clarke has previously faced calls to be removed from office, and the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera is the latest to go to the guv, delivering petitions for Scott Walker urging him to use his power to remove negligent county officials from office. Clarke is defiant about the petition, calling Voces a “pro-criminal illegal immigration movement” that couldn’t beat him at the ballot box and this “is what scummy people and organizations do.” Walker, as he has before, declines the request, saying he’ll defer to voters. But, some note, he also doesn’t offer Clarke a ringing endorsement. Insiders also don’t believe there’s much of a chance Clarke will be facing the voters anytime soon. Politico cites a senior administration official who cautions the appointment is “not a done deal yet.” But the job would be a lifeline out of Clarke’s difficult political position. Though up next fall, many believe he’d pass on a re-election bid if a Trump administration appointment fell through. And few think he’s a legitimate U.S. Senate candidate at this point with the baggage he’s built up. Even if he didn’t end up in the administration, some say Clarke could still have an option to do well in conservative media or on the speaking circuit, where he’s already cleaned up while serving in office. Still, the possible appointment is what insiders have been watching for ever since Trump secured his electoral win in November, a reward for Clarke’s loyalty to the businessman during the campaign.

Homebuilders: President Trump’s plans to add a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber draws cheers from the state’s timber industry but faces major concerns from homebuilders, who say it’ll drive up the prices of building a home. The move was yet another escalation of a trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada that’s shown few signs of getting resolved yet. The issue has gotten headlines over the past few weeks as a Canadian policy shift led to dozens of Wisconsin dairy farmers being told their contracts would be terminated in a month. The immediate crisis appears to be solved, as many of those farmers have found new buyers for their milk, even if they had to accept lower prices. But the long-term pricing issue is far from over as Canadian officials decide to reconsider actions that President Trump called “very unfair.” The Trump administration adds another layer to the trade battle this week with its plans to add a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber. The lumber issue isn’t new — the two countries have been fighting over it for decades — but it adds to the rift between the two countries. The dispute went even further as reports noted Trump was considering an executive order to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA. He’s somewhat backed off after talking to both Mexico and Canada, saying he wants to re-negotiate the deal but leaving open the possibility of withdrawing. Still, homebuilders slam the Trump’s administration’s plan for tariffs on Canadian lumber imports, which are largely used to build homes. The National Association of Home Builders says a third of the lumber in the U.S. last year was imported, virtually all of it coming from Canada. Reducing those imports, the association says, will lead to price hikes for Americans who are already seeing the price of lumber increase. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross disputes that, saying the policy will have little effect on homebuilding costs, but the NAHB says it will lead to $500 million in lost wages and salaries for U.S. workers. The decision, though, is good news for U.S. timber producers, who have long said Canada heavily subsidizes its industry. That means that Canadian producers can easily get U.S. paper mills and saw mills to buy their much cheaper wood instead of American wood. The tariff, they say, will ensure Canadian lumber no longer floods the market.

Abortion rights advocates: Conservatives and anti-abortion advocates score another win as they continue to steadily chip away at abortion practices in the state. The latest win comes from the Assembly Committee on Health, which approved legislation to ban state health plans from covering abortions. Under the bill, the Group Insurance Board is prohibited from providing abortions for public employees or contracting to do so, although it does allow exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the mother’s life. Dems also lost big two years ago when Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy — and makes no exceptions for rape or incest. Abortion rights supporters can find one upside: the lack of movement on a fetal tissue bill. But it’s not for a lack of GOP legislation. Eight Republican lawmakers this session began circulating a bill that would impose a blanket prohibition on acquiring, providing or using a fetal body part from an abortion, while a competing bill would ban the sale of fetal tissue, but allow more avenues to continue research. The result is a stalemate, just like last session. But that inaction is a problem for some. And fetal tissue is likely an issue that’s just going to smolder until someone pipes up and tries to force something, insiders say.


Thursday, May 4: WisPolitics.com luncheon: “Medicaid in Transition”

The WisPolitics.com lunch at the Madison Club on Thursday, May 4 features a “Medicaid in Transition” panel discussing proposed changes to the federal-state Medicaid program.

– Michael Heifetz, state of Wisconsin Medicaid director
– John Russell, president and CEO, Columbus Community Hospital
– Eric Borgerding, president, Wisconsin Hospital Association;
– Jon Peacock, research director, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families

Sponsors: Husch Blackwell, American Family Insurance, Xcel Energy, Walmart, AARP Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

Register: https://wispolitics-medicaid.eventbrite.com



State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, who is leading the Assembly GOP’s transportation package, is melding his charge with an ambitious plan to overhaul Wisconsin’s tax code, according to multiple sources.

Among other things, the sources said the Joint Finance Committee member has floated the idea of cutting the state’s excise tax, now 30.9 cents a gallon, while applying the state’s 5 percent sales tax to gasoline. He also has suggested paring back the minimum markup on gasoline.

Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, was put in charge of the Assembly GOP’s effort to find $300 million in tax cuts to pave the way for a boost in transportation funding and shore up its long-term finances. Still, the sources stressed Kooyenga’s overall plan has moved well beyond that effort. They also caution that final details are still a moving target as he pulls the plan together for the full caucus to review.

Kooyenga declined comment on the details of his plan, though he acknowledged he’s working on what he called “the most substantial tax and transportation reform Wisconsin has seen in the last two to three decades.”

Several of the sources also said the package would put the state on the path toward a flat tax, a goal of conservatives, while touching on a host of tax policies. That, they said, means some groups will love a majority of what he proposes, but equally despise some pieces Kooyenga wants to include.

Kooyenga conceded as much in saying he has sought out a host of groups for their feedback on his ideas.

“Listen, it’s not a buffet. This is eat your broccoli, too,” Kooyenga said.

Several of the sources said one of the questions going forward is whether Kooyenga’s plan will survive scrutiny from various groups, his fellow Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker, who opposes a gas tax or registration fee increase.

“He used the leverage he had in transportation to do some big tax reform stuff,” one GOP source with knowledge of the outline said of Kooyenga’s plans.

Key elements of the emerging plan, according to sources:

*A proposal floated last session that would allow a local half-cent sales tax to pay for local road projects. Under the proposal, the sales tax would have to be approved by referendum and then would last five years. It could be re-authorized by voters for another five years, potentially giving locals 10 years to levy the tax.

*The additional money the plan would free up for transportation would not pay for new projects in this biennium. Instead, it would be used to reduce the $500 million in bonding Walker proposed to support transportation in the 2017-19 biennium. Though it would not help pay for new projects in 2017-19, the move would be intended to free up money in future budgets, easing the funding crunch, the sources said.

*The move toward a flat tax would occur over a number of budgets. That approach, some said, likely will get some pushback from some who see a flat tax as lowering taxes for the wealthy.

Senate Republicans have been working on their own transportation package, but the expectation among budget watchers is it will focus largely on freeing up money in the general fund that could then be moved over to transportation.

Freeing up general fund money could take any number of forms, they said. Past suggestions have included moving transit aid from the transportation fund to the general fund. That aid, $110.7 million annually, helps cover local bus systems and other shared-ride operations.

There’s also been chatter about wiping out the guv’s move to eliminate the forestry tax, the state’s portion of homeowners’ property tax bills. Walker proposed $180.4 million to wipe out the tax and backfill it with state dollars.

Critics of that approach, however, say that using GPR to fund roads creates an ongoing issue in the general fund and pulls resources away from schools, Medicaid and other program paid for with those tax dollars.

Walker, though, has expressed an openness to looking at GPR for transportation and other moves, particularly after his administration freed up another $100 million for transportation; that occurred through a combination of $38 million more in revenues than what was previously expected, along with DOT saving money on projects thanks to more competitive bids and lower fuel costs.

“I’ve said repeatedly in my meetings with the (Assembly) speaker and the Senate majority leader that I think we can free up some more money, looking at general purpose revenue in the state budget and some other areas we think we can save on,” Walker told reporters Monday.


From adding time limits for Medicaid to drug testing some enrollees, Gov. Scott Walker is looking to join a handful GOP-led states that are testing the boundaries of change to the health care program for the poor.

The Obama administration drew a line in the sand on several issues, such as requiring able-bodied adults on Medicaid to work if they want to get health care benefits.

But the Trump administration says it’s committed to “ushering in a new era” for the program, fast-tracking waiver requests from states that want to, for example, make their Medicaid programs look more like private insurance by adding premiums.

That worries liberal critics who say the changes — in Wisconsin and elsewhere — will push people off their health insurance and lead to higher costs of uncompensated care at hospitals. But conservatives see a chance to encourage people to become more engaged in their health care, helping them make wiser choices in how they use their benefits like avoiding costly emergency room visits.

“Making sure that everybody has skin in the game and focusing on using the program well is hopefully a step in the right direction,” said Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute.

The major changes Walker is proposing would only apply to most childless adults and therefore wouldn’t affect parents, children, the elderly or those with disabilities. The plan, which the Department of Health Services plans to submit on May 26, is open for comments and has another public hearing on Monday in Milwaukee.

Although it goes further in some ways, Walker’s plan looks similar to the major restructuring of Medicaid in Indiana developed by Seema Verma, who’s now the director of the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS is the agency that approves the waiver requests from states.

Verma and Tom Price, the U.S. health secretary, wrote in a letter to governors that they want states to lead the way on Medicaid reforms, pointing to several areas of possible changes that line up with Walker’s proposal.

Read the letter:

Experts say those indications surely mean Walker’s proposals have a better shot with CMS than they would’ve under a Clinton administration, though Robin Rudowitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation said “we’re all waiting to see how the administration responds.” Rudowitz is an associate director for the foundation’s Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

There’s also the broader question of whether Republicans find consensus on a replacement to the Affordable Care Act. GOP leaders have said they want to give states more flexibility to manage their programs, so the process of seeking changes could change dramatically if that happens.

Here’s what other states have done and tried on three of Walker’s key proposals:


The Obama administration allowed a handful of states that took the Medicaid expansion to add premiums to Medicaid, including Indiana, Arizona and Montana.

In those states, those who are above the federal poverty level of $12,060 a year can lose eligibility for Medicaid if they don’t pay their premiums. But so far, no state has gotten approval for removing eligibility for those who fall below that benchmark.

Walker’s proposal adds premiums for those under the federal poverty level, though those who make between zero and 20 percent of it wouldn’t be subject to the premiums. The amounts people would pay range between $1 to $10 per month, depending on the household’s income. The proposal applies to non-pregnant childless adults between 19 and 64 years old, and those who don’t pay premiums can lose Medicaid benefits for six months.

Other states are also planning waivers that would require premiums for those under the poverty level, said Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Maine is racing you on that one with an even harsher proposal,” Solomon said.

Solomon said research shows adding even the smallest amount of premiums pushes low-income people off Medicaid, as people choose to pay for other priorities like food and rent.

In the draft of its waiver application, DHS says adding monthly premiums helps “prepare members for the norms of the private marketplace.” The agency also says that adding premiums encourages enrollees to think more critically about how they use their care, potentially leading to a decline in expensive emergency room visits.

On that front, DHS’ plan also proposes discouraging unnecessary emergency room visits by adding copays of $8 for the first visit and $25 for any visits in the next year.

Drug testing

Walker’s looking to drug test those on unemployment insurance and FoodShare, but he also wants Wisconsin to be the first state in the country that screens Medicaid recipients for drug abuse.

Childless adults would have to answer a set of written questions, which would then indicate to DHS who might need a drug test. If people test positive, they would have an option to enter a treatment program.

Those who refuse to comply with drug screening or testing or refuse to enter the treatment program would lose eligibility for six months.

CBPP’s Solomon says states with drug tests end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for testing that “don’t turn up a lot of positives.”

Edmund F. Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the proposal is aimed at identifying people who need help and get them treatment.

“That makes sense from a health policy perspective,” he said. “Because if you want to look at something that’s expensive and chronic in this population — low income people with no kids — that would be the one: substance abuse disorders.”

He also noted it’s accompanied by a separate DHS request that would ensure the feds help fund coverage for residential substance abuse treatment, which the feds currently don’t cover.

Time limits and work requirements

Walker wants to set a 48-month eligibility limit for able-bodied adults between 19 and 49 years old, though the time they spend working or in a job training program wouldn’t count toward the limit. People would lose benefits for six months if they hit the limit and could re-enroll after that.

Kaiser’s Rudowitz said no states have gotten approval for adding time limits for Medicaid enrollees.

CBPP’s Solomon questioned the effectiveness of Walker’s proposal, noting it applies to a narrow subset of people and saying the state would be setting up “the most complicated tracking system” likely managed by an outside vendor.

“You’re taking money away from people’s health care and shifting it to a vendor that is going to monitor people’s activities on a monthly basis,” she said.

But Cass, of the Manhattan Institute, said giving people four years without attempts at working is a “reasonable condition.” With its limited amount of dollars, he said, the state must prioritize money toward people who need it most instead of “able-bodied adults not making an attempt to work.”

Meanwhile, the letter from the top CMS and HHS officials said they want to work with states on “meritorious innovations that build on the human dignity that comes with training, employment and independence.”


The state is looking to cut the achievement gap in half within the next six years under a plan released today by the state’s Department of Public Instruction, which acknowledges it’s an “ambitious goal.”

The plan, which lets local school districts decide how to improve in order to meet the goal, lays out how the state seeks to comply with the Every Students Succeeds Act. DPI released the plan today amid a lawsuit threat from a conservative group over how it was devised and a push from some Assembly Republicans to give the Legislature’s education committees the power to review it before being sent to the feds.

Sen. Luther Olsen, the Senate Education Committee chair and a member of the council that helped DPI develop the plan, said the achievement gap goal was “not too low and not so high.” He noted No Child Left Behind had set a target that all students be proficient by 2014, which the U.S. failed to meet and Olsen said was “really not realistic.”

“I think it’s a realistic plan,” said Olsen, R-Ripon. “If we haven’t moved the needle one iota [in six years], then it’s a complete failure. But if we have gotten there or gotten almost there, then I think it’s a success.”

To meet DPI’s achievement goal, the state’s minority students would need to increase their English Language Arts and mathematics proficiency between 1.4 percentage points and 4.2 percentage points per year for the next six years.

Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb and a member of the council, said those advising DPI arrived at the figure after getting “all kinds of suggestions.”

Pope described the goal as a “high bar” but warned that lawmakers need to make sure they fund K-12 adequately and help address some of the underlying issues that contribute to it, especially poverty.

The plan makes no recommendations on funding for schools.

“I think we, as legislators, have a bigger responsibility for the success than some of us would like to think,” she said.

DPI’s 103-page plan, which sets state education policy, including a framework for school improvement and accountability, also outlined a goal to increase the four-year high school graduation rate to more than 90 percent of all students across the state within the next six years. Based on 2015 data, the four-year graduation rate was 88.4 percent, which would require an annual increase of 0.3 percentage points a year over the next six years.

Rep. Adam Neylon, the other GOP lawmaker on the council, said he’d like to see a more ambitious goal, although he added the number is a result of input from stakeholders with varying levels of educational and policy experience.

“While it may not be as lofty as halving the achievement gap, a 90 percent graduation rate would be incremental progress and a step forward for students in our state,” Neylon said.

Pope, meanwhile, said the state’s already one of the best in the nation on that figure but “we can always improve.”

Under ESSA, the state is also required to identify the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools every three years, as well as all public high schools in the state with an average graduation rate below 67 percent, and develop a policy to address districts that fall below those benchmarks. Those schools will first be identified in the 2018-19 school year.

Olsen said it’s a good approach because it focuses on how to “put out the hottest fire.” He added that one of the strengths of ESSA is that local communities get to decide on improvements instead of having the process be driven by the feds or the state.

Under NCLB, 119 schools in the state fell into the lowest-performing category. But DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said because ESSA presents new metrics, it’s difficult to tell how many schools will land there.

Those new metrics include the following five criteria for the lowest-performing schools: academic achievement, student growth, English learning proficiency progress, graduation rates and chronic absenteeism.

After the lowest performing schools and high schools with graduation rates below 67 percent have been identified, the plan outlines a two-tiered approach to improve. The first tier requires local officials, in collaboration with community stakeholders, to use a research-based solution to focus on improving some aspect of the school. If three years pass and the school still finds itself in the lowest 5 percent, state officials intervene and provide assistance to improve the school.

State schools Superintendent Tony Evers, who led the development of the state plan, said school districts will ultimately be making decisions on policy changes.

“We have to trust our local communities and families to identify the needs of their students and tailor policies that best serve their kids, Evers said.

Now that the plan’s released, it will undergo a public review period. While federal law requires a minimum 30-day review, DPI officials have previously said they’re looking at allocating three months to that end: May, June and July. Then in August, the plan will head to the governor’s office, where Gov. Scott Walker gets one month to review it before sending it back to DPI with recommendations. DPI then has to submit the plan to the feds by Sept. 18.

DPI has gotten criticism from some GOP lawmakers who say the Legislature should have a greater say in the process, prompting the bill that would require more legislative input. But Olsen said lawmakers had plenty of chances to weigh in throughout the process and he has no plans to take up the legislation in his committee.

The conservative think tank Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is also considering suing DPI over the process and argues DPI should’ve followed the typical administrative rules process. DPI refutes that, with senior policy adviser Jeff Pertl telling lawmakers in February that “elements of the plan may require a rule or statutory change [but] the plan itself is like an application.”

WILL attorney Libby Sobic said the group is still reading through the plan but it still has “serious concerns over whether DPI is complying with state law.”

She said other states have gone further in their school improvement plans under ESSA than DPI’s plan. Lawmakers, she said, should have a greater role in whether ESSA needs significant changes.

“We’re looking forward to the public hearing Wednesday to hear why Tony Evers made the decisions he did,” she said.

See the plan:


Justice Annette Ziegler’s campaign sent letters to donors this week offering to refund 70 percent of their contributions after she failed to draw an opponent for this spring’s election.

Ziegler raised $379,322 through March 20 and spent $95,237, about 25 percent of what she took in.

Ziegler adviser Mark Graul said the campaign expects to spend about 30 percent of what it raised by the time the final bills are paid. That’s why donors are being given the opportunity to request 70 percent of what they donated be returned.

“We had a campaign. It just ended earlier than we anticipated when we were building toward it,” Graul said. “The thing that made the most sense to the justice and everyone that was helping her was giving it back.”

Ziegler raised the bulk of her money before the end of 2016, and her fundraising dropped off dramatically after early January, when no one filed to challenge her for a 10-year term on the court. Her pre-election report shows $6,216 raised between Jan. 1 and March 20. Only $111 of that came in after Feb. 7.

Graul said Ziegler ceased actively fundraising after early January other than an event in Appleton that had been scheduled in December. Some money also trickled in early in the year from a direct mail piece that was sent in December.

Under state law, candidates can keep leftover campaign funds so long as they keep their committees active. Otherwise, they can donate it to charity, give the money to the common school fund, contribute to other committees under contribution limits or return it.

Those who would be in line to receive the biggest refunds include GOP mega donors Richard Uihlein, an Illinois businessman, and Diane Hendricks, a billionaire Beloit business owner. Both contributed $10,000, as did car dealer Russ Darrow and seven others.

Two donors gave Ziegler the $20,000 maximum: Daniel McKeithan of Milwaukee, the executive officer and director of Tamarack Petroleum, and West Bend retiree Margaret Ziegler.

“Annette thought the fairest and smartest thing to do was to offer people to get their money back,” Graul said.


Thursday, May 18: WisPolitics.com luncheon: “Focus on UpLift MKE: Jobs and inner-city Milwaukee.”

The luncheon at the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee features a panel discussion with Milwaukee County Exec Chris Abele; DR. Eve Hall, leader of the Milwaukee Urban League; and Alex Lasry, senior vice president with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Sponsors: Wisconsin Academy for Global Education and Training, ELEVEN25 at Pabst, UW-Milwaukee, Medical College of Wisconsin, Charter Communications, Milwaukee Police Association, and The Firm Consulting.

Register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/may-18-wispolitics-com-panel-focus-on-uplift-mke-jobs-and-inner-city-milwaukee/



Monday: The Joint Finance Committee holds an executive session on portions of the 2017-19 biennial budget.
– 2 p.m.: 412 East, State Capitol.

Tuesday: The Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform is to take up a bill to repeal the prevailing wage.
– 9 a.m.: 400 Southeast, State Capitol.

Thursday: WisPolitics.com luncheon: “Medicaid in Transition.”
– 11:30 a.m.: The Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St., Madison.

(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 Gov. SCOTT WALKER, who discusses the state budget, fixing roads, more money for K-12 education, fears of a trade war with Canada and his expected bid for re-election in 2018.
*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 transportation funding, campus speech, the Canadian trade dispute and more.
*Watch the show: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/11482

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG talks to Washington Post reporter AMY GOLDSTEIN, the author of the book “Janesville: An American Story” telling the story of the GM plant closing. Also on the show is CHRIS HOLMAN, district director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, on the trade dispute affecting Wisconsin dairy farmers.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison. Host NEIL HEINEN talks with KAREN MENENDEZ COLLER, executive director of Centro Hispano of Dane County and winner of the FCI’s Nan Cheney March For Justice Award; SABRINA MADISON, founder of HeyMiss Progress and creator of the Black Women’s Leadership Conference; and MORENA TAYLOR-BENELL, owner of Madre Yerba. The three explain the significance and the impact of the 2nd Annual Black Women’s Leadership Conference.

“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 featuring former state Sens. TED KANAVAS, R-Brookfield, and CHUCK CHVALA, D-Madison. This week, the two debate transportation and self-insurance.
*Watch the video: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/the-insiders-debate-transportation-self-insurance/
*Listen to the show: https://soundcloud.com/wispolitics/the-insiders-debate-transportation-self-insurance

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

The next four WisPolitics.com events in Madison, Milwaukee and D.C.:

*A Thursday luncheon in Madison featuring a “Medicaid in Transition” panel discussing proposed changes to the federal-state Medicaid program. Panelists include MICHAEL HEIFETZ, the state Medicaid director; JOHN RUSSELL, Columbus Community Hospital president and CEO; ERIC BORGERDING, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association; and JON PEACOCK, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families research director. Sponsored by Husch Blackwell, American Family Insurance, Xcel Energy, Walmart, AARP Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Hospital Association. Register: https://wispolitics-medicaid.eventbrite.com

*A May 18 luncheon in Milwaukee featuring a panel discussion on Focus on UpLift MKE:Jobs and inner-city Milwaukee. The panel will be led by County Exec. CHRIS ABELE and starts at 11:30 a.m. It’s sponsored by Wisconsin Academy for Global Education and Training, ELEVEN25 at Pabst, UW-Milwaukee, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Police Association and The Firm Consulting. Venue and registration information will be announced soon.

*A June 7 breakfast gathering at the Monocle in D.C. featuring U.S. Rep. MARK POCAN, D-Town of Vermont. Sponsored by Michael Best and Michael Best Strategies, WPS Health Insurance, AARP Wisconsin and Xcel Energy with assistance from partners UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Association. Register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/june-7-wispolitics-com-dc-breakfast-with-u-s-rep-mark-pocan/

The June 7 WisPolitics.com breakfast in DC is in cooperation with the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural “Meet Madison” day in the nation’s capital. The chamber will host a reception June 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Rayburn Courtyard (Rayburn Cafeteria if bad weather). Contact the chamber for more information.

*A June 22 luncheon in Madison featuring a “Secrets of the Capitol Building” panel on the Capitol’s 100th anniversary. Speakers include LAURA DAVIS of Isthmus Architects, lead architect of the restoration; JIM SCHUMACHER of J.P. Cullen, the lead contractor on the restoration; and MICHAEL EDMONDS, author of an upcoming book, the historian behind the exhibit at the Capitol and director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Programs and Outreach. Sign up for the event: https://wispolitics-capitol.eventbrite.com

For sponsor information, contact: schmies@wispolitics.com

The latest WisPolitics.com Book Club podcast this week features Washington Post reporter AMY GOLDSTEIN, author of “Janesville: An American Story” about the closing of the GM plant. Hear the podcast: http://madisontalks.com/podcast/jeff-mayers-for-wis-politics-book-club-04-25-17/

Gov. SCOTT WALKER today appointed UW-Eau Claire sophomore RYAN RING to the Board of Regents as the traditional student representative. Ryan, a Green Bay native, is a student senator on the Eau Claire campus and vice president of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Ring, whose term expires in May 2019, replaces James Langes III, a UW-Whitewater student who was appointed to the board in 2015.

Sen. FRED RISSER, the longest-serving legislator in U.S. history, is celebrating his 90th birthday on May 5. He’s holding a birthday celebration in downtown Madison next week. See more on Risser’s birthday plans: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/red-rissers-90th-birthday-celebration/

CHRIS MARTIN, who served as spokesman for the state GOP and then worked for the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform during the 2016 election cycle, is now a regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. His region is based in the Northeast, but he’s also covering the Wisconsin races after his experience here.

Wisconsin Women in Government this week announced two award winners: HELEN McCAIN, who will receive the Legacy Award for her professional contributions to state government; and MARGARET DARR, who will receive the Rising Star Award, honoring a woman who has been in her profession for 10 years or less. McCain, now retired, worked previously in the Department of Public Instruction, UW System, the Department of Administration and others. Darr is currently Janesville’s management information specialist, where she developed the city’s first strategic communications plan and spearheaded other new initiatives. The awards will be presented at Wisconsin Women in Government’s 30th Annual Gala on May 9. Register: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07edxbq9sb6f36fa00&oseq=&c=&ch=

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/

If you have a contribution, e-mail staff@wispolitics.com

(from the state Ethics Commission)

Thirty-five changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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