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She’s asked voters to vote for her so she can advocate for positions. It’s a platform of being an advocate from the bench.
– Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock taking a shot at left-leaning Milwaukee Co. Judge Rebecca Dallet, his opponent in the April 3 general election for Supreme Court. The conservative jurist finished first in Tuesday’s primary with 46 percent of the vote, while Dallet got 36 percent.

I will stand up for our values, and I will make sure that the court is protecting the rights of the people of our state and not protecting the rights of special interests or political allies.
– Dallet, who portrayed Screnock in a WisPolitics.com interview as a comparatively inexperienced judge and a tool of special interests.

As she moves towards April, she will be facing vicious attacks and huge sums of money from the NRA, WMC and other friends of the Koch Brothers who want to tilt the rules in the favor of big business and special interests.
– Middleton attorney Tim Burns, who finished third with 18 percent, in an email to supporters saying he’ll donate to Dallet and urging them to do so, as well. Burns ran openly as a progressive and often clashed with Dallet during the primary.

Law-abiding gun owners don’t go out and shoot up schools. … When you make a school a gun-free school zone, the only person that you’re stopping is the law-abiding gun owner that doesn’t want to get in trouble.
– Attorney General Brad Schimel, who said he would provide training to school personnel who want to carry weapons on school grounds if state law were changed to allow them to do so. His comments followed a mass shooting at a Florida high school.

It’s alarming that anyone — let alone our AG — would think arming teachers is a good idea.
– Democrat Josh Kaul, Schimel’s challenger for the AG’s office.

The unfortunate reality is that gun-free zones merely serve to concentrate populations of vulnerable targets on school grounds and surrounding areas.
— Rep. Jesse Kremer on a bill he’s circulating that would let those with concealed carry licenses bring guns onto private school grounds in an effort to safeguard teachers and students in the event of a school shooting.

Days after a deadly school shooting, Wisconsin Republicans want to put more guns in school. This is not the solution to preventing gun violence.
– Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, on Twitter.

Should school personnel be allowed to carry firearms? Share your thoughts in a new WisOpinion poll: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/should-school-personnel-be-permitted-to-carry-firearms/

[Trump] opened the door for comprehensive background checks, he opened the door for re-examining the age at which you can purchase a semi-automatic weapon and he opened the door for legislation to ban bump stocks. That’s not something we see very often.
– U.S. Sen Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, during a WisPolitics.com luncheon praising President Trump for pushing gun safety measures.

See more from the luncheon in an item below.

There are numerous factors that impact these decisions as part of the company’s global restructuring program. We are in the course of a collective bargaining process and will take your proposal into consideration. Any final decisions related to our facilities will be communicated by the company after negotiations with the union.
– Kimberly-Clark Vice President of Manufacturing, Adult and Feminine Care John Deitrich, who said the company will consider Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to give the paper manufacturer new incentives to keep 600 jobs in the Fox Valley.

We want them to know that we would fight for those jobs, and we would put WEDC in a position to put tools in their toolbox to negotiate with them.
– Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, on the company’s response. He noted Kimberly-Clark went from announcing at the end of January it would close two plants to indicating it’ll consider the incentives outlined in the bill.

This is a bailout. This is a bailout for one company for your re-election campaign and your governor’s.
– Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, who got in a heated back-and-forth with Kimberly-Clark bill co-author Majority Leader Jim Steineke during a committee meeting. Steineke said it was “really sad” to see Assembly Democrats “abandoning good-paying union jobs.” The Assembly approved the bill 56-37. It now goes to the Senate.

I want to be able to leave this chamber with something that I can carry with me. When we work together, both Democrats and Republicans, when we take the politics out the equation, when we roll up our sleeves, we focus on producing a bill that can change lives. Lives are going to be transformed.
– Rep. Mike Schraa, R-Oshkosh, on the bipartisan effort to reform juvenile corrections. The bill unanimously passed the Assembly and now heads to the Senate.

Today is a good day, and sometimes it doesn’t matter how you get here or how you come together. This is the first meaningful corrections reform that we’ve had since 2009 when we implemented the earned release program.
– Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh.

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Feb. 17-23, 2018)


Michael Screnock/Rebecca Dallet: The circuit court judges advance out of the three-way primary for the state Supreme Court as insiders point to key questions that likely will determine who succeeds conservative Michael Gableman on the high court. How much more money are conservatives willing to put into the race? Can liberals find the resources to be competitive? And who will be motivated to turn out April 3 with very little else on the ballot? Heading into the primary, insiders were watching to see if the big money spent by conservatives — at least $800,000 — was enough to pull the unknown Screnock across the finish line. Another point of interest was Middleton attorney Tim Burns’ decision to run as an unabashed liberal. In the end, Screnock finishes first in the three-way race with 46 percent, Dallet second at 36 percent and Burns a distant third at 18 percent. Some try to extrapolate what the primary results mean for the April contest. Progressives point out Dallet and Burns won a combined 54 percent of the vote. Still, two years ago, conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley collected 44.6 percent in a three-way primary before winning 52.4 percent in the April election to fend off Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. But that April ballot also included the presidential primaries, where more 98,344 more voters cast ballots in the GOP race than the Dem contest; Bradley beat Kloppenburg by 95,515 votes. Some conservatives, meanwhile, tout Screnock’s first-place finish and argue it’s misleading to simply add up Burns and Dallet’s totals. After all, they argue, the two clashed in the lead-up to the primary; plus, Burns’ voters aren’t necessarily going to automatically turn into Dallet supporters. Still, after saying he wasn’t ready on primary night to talk about a Dallet endorsement, Burns announces to supporters that he’s making a donation to his one-time rival and encourages them to do the same. Ahead of the primary, Screnock got a significant boost on TV and radio from the WMC Issues Mobilization Council and the conservative Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, while the state GOP dropped at least $142,000 helping Screnock. It all added up to Dallet ($203,075 by one count from a Dem source) and Burns ($130,800) being significantly outspent on the airwaves. As bad as some Republicans feared the environment would be after Dems won the January special election for the 10th SD, Screnock’s numbers were decent. Still, Dallet and Burns focused their media buys on the Madison and Milwaukee airwaves, and no allies were touting them in the Green Bay, Wausau or La Crosse/Eau Claire markets. Considering the dominance his side had on the airwaves in those markets, some believe he underperformed in a few areas, pulling about 41 percent of the vote in the dozen counties that make up the La Crosse-Eau Claire media market. So some ask, are conservative groups going to dig deep once again for the general even though the loss of the Gableman seat would still leave the court controlled by conservatives 4-3? Dems have long complained they are regularly outspent in contested elections, and few would be surprised if that happened again in this race. But insiders also say progressives have to at least be competitive financially to have a shot. They can’t be outspent, say, 4-to-1. Some Republicans view Dallet as one of the better Supreme Court candidates liberals have put up in recent years. After all, she’s got a background as a prosecutor, a lengthy history on the bench, she’s from the state’s largest media market and women have won five of the past six Supreme Court races. On the other hand, Republicans undoubtedly will pick over Dallet’s record on the bench to pick out a few clunker cases and then pound on them over the airwaves to question her credentials. And some Republicans believe she’ll have a hard time pivoting back to the middle after her statements during the primary about defending “our values” and other efforts to win over progressive voters who may have been considering Burns. Some election watchers also believe Dallet will transition to a more traditional message in the general election, talking up her more extensive record on the bench than Screnock’s. But they also see opportunities to target bands of voters. Republicans know they have a problem on their hands right now with suburban women, and Screnock’s arrest years ago for blocking access to an abortion clinic likely will not sit well with them. It’s the kind of thing that can be an effective mail piece if it hits the right voters, they add. Whereas turnout topped 2 million voters two years ago — thanks to the presidential primaries — insiders are expecting a much more typical spring election with maybe 800,000 voters — turnout of a little less than 20 percent — heading to the polls. So insiders will be watching what kind of environment develops. Will it be a blue wave like the 10th SD? Or should conservatives take heart that primary turnout in a place like Waukesha County — deep red territory — was up slightly from the February vote two years ago. Does that mean conservatives are ready to answer the bell once again? Dems also warn Dallet won’t motivate liberal voters just by pointing out Screnock is a conservative. Part of Burns’ strategy, some say, was to excite not just progressive voters, but national liberal organizations to play in the Supreme Court race. Will Dallet have the same appeal? If not, progressives could have a hard time finding the resources to compete with the conservative coalition, some add. There’s a fine line for Dallet to walk of trying to excite segments of the Dem base that wouldn’t normally turn out for a spring election while also have an appealing message for moderate and possibly even some right-of-center voters that often help decide April winners.

Reinsurance: A month ago, Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to help those in the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace seemed liked the heaviest lift of his State of the State priorities. After all, some conservatives grumbled privately, they wanted nothing to do with anything that could be seen as propping up Obamacare. But it clears both chambers on big bipartisan votes with only one Republican — state Sen. Dave Craig, of Big Bend — opposed. Some insiders joke the change of heart was simple: Someone showed lawmakers the polling. Obamacare isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and there’s no point in fighting yesterday’s battles, some Republicans say, especially with the fall election challenge ahead. The GOP’s numbers with suburban women are a concern, and health care is the No. 1 issue for those voters. So some see the bill as an obvious nod to those voters and an attempt to show Wisconsin can get something done on health care even if the GOP-led Congress can’t. The original $200 million plan included requiring the Department of Health Services to find at least $50 million in savings within existing Medicaid funds to cover the state’s share. But the Joint Finance Committee stripped out the payment since the state wouldn’t have to pony up anything until after the next budget starts in mid-2019. The bill also won the support of Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, in Finance, and some believe that bipartisan vote helped change the view of the bill, particularly with conservative GOP Sens. Duey Stroebel, of Saukville, and Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield, supporting it in Finance, too. Some note there is a political risk for Vukmir as she pursues the GOP nomination to take on U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, considering how much the Republican base hates anything to do with the Affordable Care Act. But the bill was an ask of Walker, and some note Vukmir has also not been shy about linking herself to the guv in her bid. On top of all that, some add, the guv put out a long list of bills he wanted done before lawmakers adjourned, adding to the last-minute session crush. Health care can be complex and dull, they add, and the grumbling on it faded, particularly as other fights popped up like the guv’s child tax credit.

Youth prisons: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the Assembly-passed youth prisons measure will have serious problems getting through his chamber without changes. But a plan to overhaul the state’s juvenile prison system emerges from the Assembly with a rare unanimous vote, and Gov. Scott Walker badly wants it to pass. So insiders say it may be a question of whether a deeper dive on the details in the bill can address Fitzgerald’s concerns as Senate Republicans have more time to digest the details. What’s more, as much as Walker wants it to pass, insiders ask if the Senate will really go home without approving a new juvenile corrections plan that would close the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth facilities by Jan. 21, 2021. Before the Assembly introduced a substitute amendment on the plan for troubled youth prisons, Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he wanted more input from the counties, sheriffs and even the state agencies that would be impacted by the plan. Still, backers say they’ve got the counties on board and the guv’s administration is good with the $80 million that would include $40 million in general fund supported borrowing to help pay about 95 percent of the cost for county residential care facilities for less serious juvenile offenders. It also would provide $25 million in general fund borrowing to establish DOC’s new type 1 juvenile facilities, which would house the most serious youth offenders, and would give the Department of Health Services $15 million to expand Mendota Mental Health Institute. The new plan also calls for a $750,000 annual increase in youth aids payments for counties that build residential care facilities. The substitute amendment also addressed concerns from the Department of Corrections regarding the employment status of Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake employees after the facility closes by giving them preferential status in seeking new employment within the agency. The plan would also allow DOC to convert Lincoln Hills into an adult correctional facility rather than an alcohol treatment center as outlined in previous versions of the bill. Some suggest Senate Republicans will properly view the plan with a skeptical eye until they’ve had time to dive into it as a caucus. Fitzgerald complains he hasn’t been included in negotiations on several high-profile bills moving late in the session. So there are questions on what his caucus might do. Will Senate Republicans simply accept the package as is on their last scheduled day of March 20; or will they amend it, send it back to the Assembly and try to force Speaker Robin Vos to bring his troops back to the Capitol, even as the Rochester Republican says that chamber is done after this week, period? In the end, some believe, Senate Republicans will recognize they’ve got to do something. And if there’s an opportunity for a big bipartisan moment this session, this is it.


Walker child tax credit: Considering the lengthy list of bills the guv added to the Legislature’s agenda in his State of the State address a month ago, insiders say Scott Walker has been fairly successful in getting GOP lawmakers on board. But he’s going to have to navigate a game of political chicken — and maybe twist some arms — if he wants them to deliver on the centerpiece of his pre-election agenda. And the tension over Walker’s plan for a tax credit of $100 per child, coupled with a sales tax holiday, shows no signs of abating. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told The Associated Press today the tax proposal will have a hard time passing his caucus without changes, underscoring his past comments that his caucus is skeptical, particularly over the sales tax holiday. Beyond that, Walker’s fans can tick off a series of legislative successes from his State of the State agenda: nine of the 10 welfare bills have cleared both houses; the sparsity aid package for rural schools is on its way to Walker’s desk; and the Obamacare reinsurance plan won bipartisan support in both houses. The per-child tax credit, though, is stuck in a standoff. The Assembly amended the deal Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, reached with the guv and approved the revised plan 61-35. Those changes include allowing small retailers to opt out of the holiday and a requirement that a parent receiving the rebate must be a U.S. citizen. But Fitzgerald notes he wasn’t part of any negotiations on the bill as he raises concerns. Vos fires back if the Senate doesn’t want to pass the tax cut, “they can kill it and take the blame.” Before today’s escalation, insiders saw several possible paths on the bill. One, the Senate could simply accept the Assembly version and deliver one of Walker’s top priorities. But Fitzgerald’s comments make that seem unlikely. Two, the Senate could amend it and send it back to the Assembly. But Vos has no interest in bringing back the Assembly. Republicans quietly grumble $100 checks to parents are kind of gimmicky. But they largely can go along with that piece of the plan. It’s the sales tax holiday that is holding things up. Assembly Republicans want to reach more people than the 671,000 households that would see the child tax credit checks, and the sales tax holiday is one way to send a message that all taxpayers are getting a piece of the surplus. But Senate Republicans have already killed one sales tax holiday for school supplies that Walker included in the budget, and the caucus has shown little interest in the latest version, which carries a price tag of $51.5 million. The checks alone are $122.1 million, not including the $832,200 to administer the program, and some in the Senate GOP aren’t happy with the building price tag on bills that have cleared the Legislature in the last-second rush. With Fitzgerald and Vos showing no signs of relenting, insiders note Walker could call lawmakers back for a special session. But even though he can call it, he can’t force lawmakers to actually meet. That has insiders wondering what pressure Walker can put on lawmakers to finish this piece of his agenda. Arm twisting has never been his strong point, but the guv may need to step in with fellow Republicans to break the stalemate, insiders say.

Abortion foes: Lawmakers approve legislation to ban the health plans for state employees from covering abortion, a win for abortion foes. Still, the bill is seen as a consolation prize for those who oppose abortion as Republicans once again fail to reach a compromise on banning the sale of fetal tissue — and want very little to do with legislation that sought to prohibit UW-Madison faculty from training resident physicians on how to perform abortions. The Assembly passed the bill in early November and sent it over to the Senate, which didn’t vote on it in committee until a week ago and then put it on Tuesday’s calendar. The bill, approved 18-14 along party lines, would ban the state from offering its employees health plans that cover abortion except in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. To some, the late movement on the legislation was a sign GOP legislative leaders wanted to check off something on the to-do list of anti-abortion groups considering the other bills they weren’t going to do. The fetal tissue ban has languished for several years now as some Republicans fear the version favored by the groups would hamper research at the university and others see the compromise ban as meaningless. Meanwhile, the bill to ban teaching abortion only got a public hearing in the Assembly while making it as far as a 3-2 committee vote in the Senate. UW officials had warned they must provide abortion training in order to maintain national accreditation for obstetrics/gynecological training. Without that, they warned, OB-GYNs would do their residencies in other states, which could worsen the shortage of those doctors. If they train here, they’re more likely to stay here, opponents of the bill argued, and more than a quarter of Wisconsin counties already lack an OB-GYN. Some believe the calculation is simple. The public isn’t a big fan of their tax dollars covering abortion, so it’s easier to take a stance that Republicans can argue is pro-taxpayer rather than one that would tag them as anti-science or anti-health care.


Tim Burns: The Middleton attorney took a big gamble with his Supreme Court bid. Without the judicial experience Wisconsin voters tend to like in their candidates for justice, could he instead run an overtly political campaign that laid out his views in plain sight rather than the wink and nod of typical Supreme Court candidates? Turns out it was a bad bet. For much of the primary, insiders on both sides saw the method to Burns’ madness. After all, in a low-turnout primary with liberal voters jazzed up, making it clear to base Dem voters that you’re one of them made some sense. What’s more, the 2016 Supreme Court primary saw a race with a clear liberal, a conservative choice and a candidate trying to run up the middle. But Milwaukee Judge Joe Donald got only 12 percent of the vote when he tried to appeal to voters in the middle in that three-way race. Burns also finishes a distance third with 18 percent of the vote. To some, that’s a sign Burns turned off voters who prefer to see their judges appear to be above the fray. Others believe he miscalculated who votes in February primaries and that the progressive, Bernie Sanders-type voters are more likely to turn out in November than they are this time of year. There are also those who believe liberal primary voters made a conscious calculation on who would be more likely to win come April. They may have been more in line with Burns in their hearts, some say, but they went with electability. Even in the liberal bastion of Dane County Burns only took 30.6 percent, while Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet won with 52 percent. Still, insiders also note Burns likely pulled Dallet to the left in the primary, forcing her to talk about some of his issues to appease progressives. Burns backers believe Dallet changed her tone in the weeks leading up to the primary, pointing to her campaign ad featuring Donald Trump as evidence she was trying to appeal to some of the same voters Burns hoped to pull in. Some conservatives had hoped Burns would get through the primary, believing he would have been an easier general election opponent because of his lack of judicial experience and unabashed political positions. That turns off voters who are used to their Supreme Court candidates sending signals about their partisan leanings, but not a full-on assault, some add. Burns makes no apologies for his approach to the race, saying he’s “committed to the idea that judges need to run this way and they need to behave this way” so they are up front with voters about their values. But some insiders say future Supreme Court candidates will avoid Burns’ gamble after seeing Tuesday’s results.

GOP unity: It’s time for everyone to go home and get away from each other. After the budget dragged into September, further fraying tensions between the two houses, the end-of-session flurry isn’t doing anything to mend relations, insiders say. Look no further than the latest dustup between Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester. Fitzgerald is unhappy he’s been cut out of negotiations between the guv and Vos on things like Scott Walker’s child tax credit, saying it will have a difficult time passing his caucus without changes. But Vos again says his chamber isn’t coming back and if the Senate doesn’t want to pass the plan, “they can kill it and take the blame.” The tax cut is far from the only dispute between the two houses, insiders say. They cite a Senate bill to revoke parole for those who commit a violent misdemeanor or felony. It was part of an anti-crime package, but Vos wasn’t thrilled it failed to include money to pay for increased capacity, believing it would inevitably result in more people being held in Wisconsin’s already over-capacity prisons. The Assembly amends the bill to add $350 million in bonding for a new prison and almost $4 million for new assistant DA positions, sending it back to the Senate. GOP senators have no appetite to keep spending money as the session winds down, making the money for new prosecutors a tough pill to swallow. Still, they also know their district attorneys back home have been calling for more prosecutors, putting the Senate in a difficult position. Same thing with the Assembly acting on a bill to keep wineries open until midnight rather than the current limit of 9 p.m. Passing the bill would tick off the Tavern League, while not doing it would anger others. Tensions are still high after the flurry of bills the Assembly passed during its final days on the floor. Some expect Senate Republicans to take a week or two to let the dust settle before taking a full accounting of what they could take up during their final scheduled day on the floor March 20. There’s still the possibility Walker could try calling lawmakers back for a special session if some of his priorities aren’t finished before the Senate adjourns. But some believe leaders in the two houses are looking forward to an extended breather from each other.


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A Madison law firm billed the Ethics Commission nearly $22,000 for an investigation of former agency Administrator Brian Bell that included reviews of his social media accounts and John Doe documents leaked to a British newspaper.

A copy of the bill obtained by WisPolitics.com shows the firm of investigator Patrick Fiedler, a former U.S. attorney and Dane County judge, charged the commission for 77 hours of work over eight business days to review records and interview agency commissioners and staff. The firm also contacted the offices of several GOP lawmakers for interviews.

Bell, the then-commission administrator, asked for the probe to clear his name after GOP lawmakers accused him of partisan behavior. Fiedler’s report concluded “there is not a scintilla of evidence” that he did so. Still, the GOP-run state Senate voted along party lines the day after that report was released last month to reject Bell’s appointment as agency administrator; he has since returned to the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

Commission Chair David Halbrooks defended the report as a proper use of taxpayer dollars, saying it validated the choice of Bell as the agency’s lead administrator, even if his appointment was rejected by the Senate.

“I can’t imagine anybody in their life wanting a better job reference than that document,” Halbrooks said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, was critical of the commission for approving the investigation, calling it a “joke” and “ridiculous” last month. But he declined to comment on the law firm’s invoice this week.

The engagement agreement with Hurley, Burish & Stanton, signed Jan. 2, called for rates as high as $495 an hour for firm attorney Stephen Hurley and set Fiedler’s rate at $350 an hour. It also called for paralegals to receive $125 an hour and an investigator to be paid $85 an hour.

All told the $21,980 bill for 77 hours of work averages out to $285 an hour.

Some of the charges included:

*$605 to review Facebook and Twitter, a call with the commission and a meeting with Hurley. The Jan. 22 report on the probe noted Bell provided access to his Facebook and Twitter accounts. According to the report, Bell’s Twitter history consisted of fewer than 20 tweets, though his Facebook use was more extensive, going back to 2005. Investigators did not find any evidence of partisanship in either account. It noted Bell, a veteran, demonstrated an interest in veterans and military issues and liked to share photos on Facebook of his dog and family, but “no political bent is discernible”;

*$2,275 for Fiedler to review Ethics Commission materials, interview four current or past commissioners, and meet with two other attorneys;

*$2,275 for Fiedler to review materials, meet with other attorneys, interview Elections Commission Administrator Mike Haas and communicate with Fitzgerald’s chief of staff, among other things;

*$935 to search files posted by The Guardian and another $385 to download the paper’s materials. A section of the commission report notes the paper reported on the records, and the state Department of Justice opened a probe into the leak. But a significant portion of that section in the commission report is blacked out.

Republican criticism of Bell and Haas ramped up after the DOJ report on the leak. That probe found leaking the documents was a crime, but the old Government Accountability Board’s recordkeeping was so sloppy that it could not be proved who was responsible.

Ethics Commission Legal Counsel David Buerger said the investigators were not given access to the John Doe records and only looked at what the Guardian had published.

Some lines in the bill for the investigation were blacked out, and Buerger said they were related to the redacted sections of the report for the commission. He could not comment further.

Halbrooks said some of the redacted portions of the report may be released later. But he couldn’t describe them.

“I was satisfied with the search and the effort that was made, and I was extremely pleased with all the individuals who came forward and spoke,” Halbrooks said of the report. “It certainly did not bear out any of the concerns that the members of the Republican Senate caucus had.”


Assembly Republicans made a last-ditch effort last night to act on the so-called “dark store” legislation that sought to significantly pare back the original version of the package.

But the attempted eleventh-hour deal fell apart.

The potential deal stemmed from talks between lawmakers, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. It saw at least two different iterations over the course of the evening as GOP leaders stalled on the Assembly floor to buy time.

WMC has been opposed to the legislation, which aims to address a loophole that has allowed retailers to appeal their assessed property tax values and argue they should be more comparable to vacant, but similarly-sized buildings.

But in the end, LWM Executive Director Jerry Deschane said the group called on Rep. Rob Brooks to kill the proposed amendment. The Saukville Republican was one of the original co-authors of the two “dark store” bills and had been working to push through an amendment on the Assembly’s final floor date of the year, according to Deschane.

Deschane said while stakeholders earlier yesterday evening thought they’d reached a deal that could pass the chamber and appeal to critics’ concerns, a “significantly revised version” was later circulated around 11 p.m. that he said was “significantly worse than current law.”

“All day long we were talking about dark store, dark store, dark store,” he said. “And then all of a sudden at 11 o’clock at night we were handed something that took us in an entirely different direction.”

Scott Manley, WMC’s senior vice president of government relations, said the group was against both amendments but was much more open to the second version from late last night.

Rep. Kevin Petersen, who worked with Brooks on the amendment, said he’s planning to put out a statement next week about the process.

“In the end, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities that has been requesting a legislative fix to the dark store bill was the entity that actually stopped the dark store bill from being written into law,” the Waupaca Republican said. “I will be releasing the details on why next week.”

Both iterations of the amendment, obtained by WisPolitics.com, represent a scaled-back version of two pieces of legislation this session aimed at addressing the issue.

The first version of the amendment WisPolitics.com received specifically discouraged the consideration of vacant properties, or “dark stores,” in the assessment of a commercial property under certain circumstances to satisfy concerns from counties that businesses are using “dark stores” to undervalue their properties. It included no provision that would have barred the consideration of above-market lease agreements as outlined under AB 387.

But the later version largely included very limited mention of the “dark store” loophole and focused more on lease agreements under AB 387 rather than the sale and rental of property, outlined in AB 386.

Manley said WMC could have struck a compromise with the second version of the amendment, because it would have specified which vacant properties, or “dark stores,” could be used as a comparison in assessing property values.

The later version specified that vacant properties suffering from physical deterioration could not be included. It also would have banned the consideration of market-rate leases in evaluating the value of a property.

WMC endorsed that provision, because it it would have prevented what they see as unfair practice where similar buildings can be assessed very differently based on financial transactions.

But Deschane said LWM wouldn’t have been able to support it, because the way the version was written meant it would have effectively upheld a 2008 state Supreme Court decision that property tax assessments for leased retail property must be based on “market rents,” which is similar property, rather than “contract rents,” what is paid to lease the property.

“It gave a little bit of lip service to dark stores, but then it also brought in the leased property issue for the first time and frankly dealt with leased property in the opposite way that it needed to be dealt with,” he said. “Instead of closing the loophole (regarding leases), it put the loophole in law.”

If lawmakers and stakeholders would have reached an agreement on an amendment, it would have been attached to AB 40 from Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. That bill, the last one the chamber took up early this morning, would authorize the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to award entrepreneurial assistance grants.

Petersen, R-Waupaca, earlier this week signaled he was interested in bringing up the “dark store” legislation. He had initially sought to amend a bill that would match Foxconn incentives for Kimberly-Clark in an effort to keep two plants and more than 600 jobs in the Fox Valley. That bill, which cleared the chamber 56-37, ultimately passed without Petersen’s dark store amendment being brought up on the floor.

See the earlier version of the amendment:

See the later version:


U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson repaid himself $90,000 during the fourth quarter of 2017 for loans to his campaign, pushing his personal reimbursement to more than $1.6 million since 2010, a WisPolitics.com review shows.

Johnson, a plastics manufacturers exec who gave himself $9 million for his 2010 campaign, repaid himself $230,000 a year from 2010 through 2015, according to FEC filings reviewed by WisPolitics.com. Those repayments dropped to $89,549 in 2016 before bumping up to $179,549 in 2017.

The fourth-quarter report also shows he could repay another $420,451 if he wanted to cover parts of loans he gave his campaign in 2010, 2012 and 2016. FEC rules can limit how much a candidate can repay from old loans.

The outstanding balance on Johnson’s latest report includes: one from August 2010 with $10,111 outstanding; one from October 2010 with a balance of $89,840; one from September 2012 with $74,500 left; and one from November 2016 with a balance of $246,000.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, has said he won’t seek re-election in 2022, and a spokesman this week said his plans haven’t changed. The spokesman also said any future decisions on repaying Johnson’s outstanding loans would be made on a quarter-by-quarter basis.

For the final three months of 2017, Johnson listed $80,465 in receipts and spent $120,551, including the loan repayment. He finished the year with $404,673 in the bank.

Johnson’s biggest donations in the three-month period included: $5,000 each from: the Ho-Chunk Nation; the American Optometric Association PAC; the International Association of Firefighters; the National Funeral Directors Association; Jeffrey Carmichael, the CEO of Tower Management Group LLC in California; Nicholas Prouty, a developer in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Altogether, PACs and committees comprised $48,500 of the money he raised.

He also listed two $5,000 donations from Massachusetts-based Strategy PAC that were listed as contributions toward debt retirement.

Johnson also collected $8,018 for renting out his fundraising list.

Johnson’s largest expenses outside of his loan repayments included $12,002 for compliance consulting and $6,041 for fundraising consulting.


U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, known as a progressive, is openly commending President Trump, and that goes to an interesting election-year question:

Will there be a significant group of Baldwin-Trump voters at the polls this November?

A WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison this week provided some clues.

The Madison Democrat commended Trump several times during the luncheon and concluded by saying she had met more than a few Baldwin-Trump voters in her tours across the state.

She started off the conversation at the Madison Club yesterday by saying she was encouraged by Trump’s announcement early Tuesday that he’d support comprehensive background checks, raising the minimum purchasing age for certain guns to 21, and banning bump stocks that allow semi-automatic guns to rapidly fire rounds.

She followed with other pro-Trump comments regarding the administration’s handling of trade agreements, its push to “Buy American, Hire American,” his support of her water infrastructure bill that would have included “Buy American, Hire American” principles, certain NAFTA negotiations and ending the so-called carried interest tax loophole.

While Baldwin’s comments provide a potential foreshadowing of her campaign’s strategy to tackle re-election in a Trump state, overall she has found little common ground with the Republican president when back in Washington.

Instead, she has staked out opposing positions on the new tax law, immigration, budget, healthcare and more.

But while talking about her tours around the state, Baldwin said she had come across Trump voters who said they planned to cast a ballot for her in November.

“Why?” Baldwin asked. “Because I’m fighting for the dairy farmers. They’re struggling right now, and they see the work I’m doing, especially with how they manage their risk.”

Baldwin went on to talk about an iron worker she met at the Neenah Foundry.

“He just loves the ‘Buy America’ stuff,” she said. “He’s definitely a Trump voter. And he comes up and goes, ‘Don’t bash Trump but you’ve got my support.'”

While Baldwin said efforts to renegotiate NAFTA “aren’t going smoothly or quickly,” she said she backs them because they’ll provide an opportunity to improve the arrangement in areas it hasn’t provided enough benefits for American workers.

She argued that the arrangement has generally benefited the agriculture industry but has failed to provide similar benefits to Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry.

“We gave away too much, is basically the bottom line there,” she said.

She also said an improvement of relations between the U.S. and Mexico could go a long way toward establishing a secure and beneficial trade relationship between the two countries.

She then came out in support of Trump’s effort to end the so-called carried interest tax loophole, which allows private equity and hedge fund managers to be taxed at the lower capital gains rate for the profits on their investment as opposed to the higher earned income rate.

“I’m going to boost President Trump again,” she said. “It is nonsensical as a tax-break, and President Trump ran on closing it.”

But Baldwin said the so-called tax loophole still exists even after the passage of the GOP tax bill, and that she will continue to call for eliminating it.

She also underscored her agreement with Trump on “buy American, hire American” principles that require the purchasing of American-made materials and the hiring of American workers, which she originally included in her water infrastructure bill.

When the discussion turned to infrastructure, however, Baldwin took a more critical tone. She argued that more should be done to provide funding for crumbling roads and bridges in the state. But she stopped short of endorsing Trump’s infrastructure plan, which requires that $1.3 trillion of the planned $1.5 trillion come from states, municipalities and private industry.

Because of that provision, Baldwin said it’s likely the infrastructure plan will prioritize states that have more infrastructure dollars from tolling and other measures.

“I do think we have to have a sustainable, predictable funding source for our infrastructure, and not borrow against our children’s future,” she said.

She added that increases in the federal gas tax should “be on the table.”

And she went on to criticize Trump’s plan for not including “buy American, hire American” principles in the plan.

On healthcare, Baldwin said due to inaction across the board and damaging moves from Republicans, healthcare is still too expensive for many Americans.

“After years of not being able to work constructively in Congress, it does need fixing,” she said.

She suggested Congress will need to take up a variety of short-term and long-term proposals to address the Affordable Care Act. To that end, she’s signed on to a number of initiatives that would: allow people to buy into Medicare and Medicaid; provide a public health care option in places where there’s insufficient competition from the private industry; and, of course, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” initiative.

Baldwin, who’s faced attacks over her handling of problems involving opioid overprescription at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, said the problems there existed at other VA facilities across the country. She said she’s worked to make things right.

Baldwin’s office received an inspection report in 2014 from a whistleblower describing high amounts of opiates prescribed at Tomah but waited months to call for an investigation. She since regarded her office’s handling of the inspection report as a mistake, and disciplined several of her staff.

The issue has been the subject of several attack ads against Baldwin, including a $1.5 million statewide TV and digital ad campaign from the Concerned Veterans for America earlier this month.

“Tomah has turned around,” Baldwin said. “The dosages (of) opioids have gone down, the number of veterans who are being prescribed narcotics has gone down, and every prescriber in the VA has been retrained.”

Hear the audio:


Tuesday: Ethics Commission meeting. Commissioners will discuss the appointment of an interim administrator, among other things.
– 9 a.m.: 212 East Washington Ave., Third Floor Board Room, Madison.

Friday: State Supreme Court debate.
– 7 p.m.: Broadcast live on WISN 12.

(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 BOB BUTLER of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards on school safety; former state Supreme Court Justice JANINE GESKE on the high court race; and ALEX LASRY on Milwaukee’s bid to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
*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 spring primary results, the mad dash to finish the legislative session and the fate of some of the bills hung up in the dispute between the Senate and Assembly.
*Watch the show: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/12229

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG talks with Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman REID MAGNEY about voters who were removed from the rolls before the spring primary; Dem Rep. CHRIS TAYLOR and GOP Rep. JOE SANFELIPPO on what the state can do regarding gun control; and Feeding Wisconsin Executive Director DAVID LEE on the proposed changes to the state’s FoodShare program.

“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 featuring former Democratic Senate Majority Leader CHUCK CHVALA and former Republican Assembly Speaker SCOTT JENSEN. This week, they debate Gov. SCOTT WALKER’s recent health, education, and rural funding proposals in light of his re-election candidacy.

*See the show or hear the podcast: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-debate-the-politics-of-walkers-recent-proposals/

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

Upcoming WisPolitics.com events in Madison and D.C. include:

*A March 7 DC breakfast with U.S. Rep. MIKE GALLAGHER. Register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/march-7-wispolitics-dc-breakfast-with-u-s-rep-mike-gallagher-and-the-millennial-action-project/

*A March 8 Madison Club luncheon with Dem guv candidate and state Sen. KATHLEEN VINEHOUT. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-kathleen-vinehout-tickets-41390911330

*An April 12 special election-year preview at the Concourse Hotel in Madison sponsored by the Wisconsin Counties Association along with Charter Communications. The evening event will feature Marquette Law School Poll Director CHARLES FRANKLIN plus Democratic strategist TANYA BJORK and GOP strategist KEITH GILKES. Register here: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/wispolitics-com-election-year-preview/

*And an April 17 Madison Club luncheon with Dem guv candidate and Madison Mayor PAUL SOGLIN. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-mayor-paul-soglin-tickets-43322492742

ZACH BEMIS, chief of staff to JFC Co-chair JOHN NYGREN, is joining the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance March 5 as the agency’s general counsel, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.

The state’s congressional delegation is seeing two recent staff moves. BERNADETTE GREEN, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. GLENN GROTHMAN, is heading to Silicon Valley to work as a public relations specialist at PayPal. Green worked in the Glenbeulah Republican’s office since May 2016. Meanwhile, AMANDA SHERMAN, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. RON KIND, will be working at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to give communications aid to Dem congressional candidates running in rural and suburban Republican-held districts. Taking over for her in the La Crosse Dem’s office is AARON WHITE, who has worked in Kind’s office since 2015 as a scheduler and press assistant.

U.S. Sen. TAMMY BALDWIN was recently named Outstanding Senate Legislator of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans. The title, part of the DAV’s Advocacy Awards, was given to Baldwin for “her strong leadership and willingness to work across party lines to engage stakeholders on combating the opioid epidemic with a commitment to ensuring ill and injured veterans have personalized care and safe alternatives for pain management,” according to a DAV post. See more: https://www.dav.org/learn-more/news/2018/dav-recognizes-outstanding-veterans-advocates-washington-2/

Dem guv candidate MATT FLYNN has recently hired BOBBI GREEN as the campaign’s regional organizer for the northwestern part of the state. Green will be working out of Eau Claire.

“Fire and Fury” author MICHAEL WOLFF is making two stops in Wisconsin as part of a national speaking tour, where he’ll share “new, exclusive details about his experience inside Trump’s White House that have yet to be publicly disclosed,” according to a release. He’ll be at Madison’s Overture Center on April 18, and Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater on May 9. Tickets went on sale Friday.

The Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame is seeing four new inductees this year: former DNR secretary and current Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director GEORGE MEYER; ROY and CHARLOTTE LUKES, a married couple who worked to develop a conservation center in Door County; and ARLIE SCHORGER, co-founder of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, former member of the Wisconsin State Conservation Commission and former president of the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Art and Letters. The four will be enshrined in a Stevens Point ceremony April 14. See more: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wisconsin-conservation-hall-of-fame-2018-induction-ceremony-and-luncheon-tickets-42719763964?aff=erelexpmlt

EZRA JAMES STEPHENSON was born Wednesday to SEAN STEPHENSON, director of government affairs for the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, and his wife, RACHEL.

ENDORSEMENTS: The following is a list of endorsements made for statewide and congressional district elections in the last week, based on emails received by WisPolitics.com:

— U.S. Senate:


— 1st CD:


— Supreme Court:

MICHAEL SCRENOCK: Waukesha County Circuit Court candidate JACK MELVIN

— Attorney General:


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)

Twenty-three changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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