FRI AM Update: Summit with Great Lakes, St. Lawrence leaders kicks off today in Milwaukee

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— Gov. Tony Evers is scheduled to attend the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers 2019 Leadership Summit that kicks off today in Milwaukee.

According to the agenda, Evers will take questions at a news conference alongside other regional leaders this afternoon before delivering opening remarks tomorrow morning.

The event will focus on managing, protecting and restoring the Great Lakes as well as strengthening and growing the region’s $6 trillion economy.

Govs. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, and Tim Walz of Minnesota are also scheduled to deliver remarks.

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Québec Transportation Minister Chantal Rouleau, Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Rod Phillips and other state and provincial leaders are also expected to attend.

See the agenda:

— The Medical College of Wisconsin says it could add up to 50 new research positions at a planned cancer research facility, following a Joint Finance Committee vote approving a grant for the project.

Earlier this week, JFC voted in favor of a $10 million State Building Commission grant for the Milwaukee facility, providing two-thirds of the funding that Gov. Tony Evers had originally proposed.

The GOP-controlled committee approved yesterday its version of the budget 12-4 along party lines. Now the biennial state budget must be approved by both the Assembly and Senate and be signed into law by the guv before going into effect.

John Raymond, president and CEO of MCW, says creating a dedicated facility for cancer research would “transform the future of cancer research in Wisconsin and beyond.”

See the JFC motion on the appropriation:

— Sen. Andre Jacques, R-De Pere, is circulating legislation for co-sponsorship that would change the state’s definition of solid waste to exclude certain sediments removed from the bed of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior.

A Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis included in the memo shows the bill would ensure the definition of solid waste doesn’t include sand “naturally deposited” in those lakes that is later removed and found to be largely free of contamination.

According to the memo, this change would make it easier to re-use “clean beach sand” without needing to transport it to a containment facility.

Jacques and co-author Rep. Shae Shortwell, R-Two Rivers, have set an initial deadline of June 25 for co-sponsorship.

See the bill text:

— Sen. Jon Erpenbach slammed the actions of JFC Republicans in this week’s Dem radio address.

Erpenbach said Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid was a leading example of how the GOP “slashed, removed, or destabilized” components of Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed budget.

The Middleton Dem cited health care, classrooms, local roads and accessible drinking water as other areas that would have received increased funding under the guv’s budget.

“The people’s budget is a sustainable investment in our future and would have made great strides towards undoing years of damage caused by Republican politicians,” he said.

See the release:

— Rep. Terry Katsma touted Republicans’ work on JFC’s “Wisconsin Budget” in this week’s GOP radio address.

The Oostburg Republican said the budget increases funding for education, infrastructure, health care and workforce development. The budget, which Katsma said was influenced by survey results and listening session feedback, was finalized yesterday by JFC.

“The Wisconsin Budget serves the needs of everyone in Wisconsin, from hard-working families, to students, to retirees, with a common-sense approach that provides opportunity for all, without overspending,” Katsma said.

See the release:


Free event: June 17: Navigating the New Economy: The booming border

–Sponsored by WAGET, the Wisconsin Academy of Global Education and Training in partnership with and the Kenosha News —

Even if the Foxconn development doesn’t reach its full promise, the southeastern Wisconsin border economy is booming. But that brings issues in the areas of workforce, housing and transportation. A panel of experts weigh in on how to navigate the issues and make the most of the boom.

When: Monday, June 17, 8 a.m. with breakfast served. Program from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Where: The Civil War Museum, 5400 First Avenue, Kenosha, Wis. 262-653-4141

What: Panel discussion featuring Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Barca; economics Prof. Cassie Lau of Carthage College; Heather Wessling, vice president of economic development for the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and former president of WEDA; plus area state Reps. Ohnstad and Kerkman.

Cost is free, thanks to the WAGET sponsorship.

Register in advance here:


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Evers Brings Back Pardons Board Dropped Under Walker
Move Fulfills Campaign Promise By Democratic Governor … In a press release, Evers announced his picks to the pardon review board. [Hancock, Holton, Kremers, Nilsestuen, O’Donnel, Perez-Reyes, Warrington, Wray.] … will only consider pardons, not commutations … anyone on the sex offender registry will be ineligible, a new requirement. WISDOM’s Liners: “The first things that I think they’re going to tackle won’t necessarily so much reduce the prison population as get people out from under the cloud of having a felony conviction.” … then start looking at pardoning prisoners who may have been “over-sentenced” during the “tough on crime” era of the 1990s. … “I think it was political stance. I think Gov. Walker kind of painted himself in a corner with his tough on crime positions and didn’t take the commonsense steps that a lot of governors do. It’s just part of the job.” Corrections chair Schraa considering bill requiring Legislature-appointed Pardon Board, “I’m not a huge fan of executive decisions. I believe that is the role of the Legislature,” pardons could be useful for folks imprisoned under “the old law … I think the fear that is out there right now is that there’s going to be a mass release of individuals that are currently incarcerated and I would just caution him to be wise about the selections and to make sure that everybody is vetted in a proper way.”

Republican-Led Finance Committee Passes State Budget
On 12-4 party-line approved budget with a $457.6M tax cut overall that will save the average taxpayer about $75 in 2019, $136 in 2020, compared to Evers’ $833.6M tax cut, estimated to save about $216/yr. But Evers funded his cut in part by boosting taxes > $1B on manufacturers and capital gains, which GOP won’t support, and GOP funded their cut in part through changes in online sales taxes included in a separate bill. JFC co-chair Darling: “We can do the tax cut without losing our priorities. I think that’s really important.” GOP income tax changes would be aimed most directly at the lowest two income tax brackets [drop from 4% to 3.76 and 5.84 to 5.21], using the Lottery Tax Credit to reduce property taxes by about $59M. JFC Dem Taylor said Evers’ cut targets “low- and middle-income people who need it the most. … You favor the people who don’t need it.” GOP tax motion axed Evers’ $10M child care tax credit, bumped e-cigs by $5.5M, but $29.2M smaller than Evers’. Assembly would vote on the budget on Tuesday, June 25, and the Senate could pass it later that week. While some GOP, like Nass, oppose the total borrow and spend, including fee hikes on vehicle titles and registration. But Fitzgerald said, “I’m here to tell you this is a good budget.” Vos cited hefty boosts to road and school funding, “I am not accepting the fact that Tony Evers is going to veto this budget.” But Vos earlier said an Evers veto might not face override votes until October. While GOP budget boosts spending, the boost is smaller than Evers proposed.

JFC has approved the two-year spending plan. What’s next?
… Assembly … eyeing June 25 [floor] vote … setting up a possible Senate floor vote for later that week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters. … isn’t ruling out making any amendments to the plan on the floor … [no complaints yet from his caucus] but rather discussions about “big targets. … We always arrive kind of at this position where you gotta have that back and forth with the individual legislators to see how we can get them comfortable to support the document,” he said. [Nass, Craig skeptical on aspects] … Thursday, Vos said he refused to accept that Evers would veto it.

Land Trusts Voice Mixed Feelings Over Short-Term Stewardship Program
Budget Committee Extends Funding For 2 Years: Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts’s Carlson “happy [and] disappointed … Two years just doesn’t really create that predictability or the time horizon that’s really necessary to get good projects done,” hard to put a limit on Stewardship land “in terms of quality of life, in terms of outdoor recreation opportunities.” Sen. Tiffany said buying and managing public lands has created too much debt, paid $871M in debt service since 1989 inception, another “$800 million are on taxpayers’ credit card at this point as the result of stewardship purchases. … I believe there should be a land cap … perhaps the state needs to dispense of some of the land.” WPF found land purchases down since 2011 peak, but debt and local aid payments remain high. DNR spokeswoman pleased JFC accepted Evers’ proposal, looks forward to working with a blue ribbon commission that will provide recommendations on long-term reauthorization. Landmark Conservancy’s Remington, Nature Conservancy’s Dallman comment.

UW-Eau Claire Foundation Sues City To Avoid Property Taxes
Student Housing Complex Owned By The Nonprofit Owes $233K In Taxes From 2018 According To City Attorney … Blugold Real Estate Foundation, an offshoot of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, is pushing to get a property tax exemption for student housing built in 2017 designed to hold 201 students. … but the exemption was rejected by the city assessor and city council. Blugold’s Way: “As I think the community knows we’ve had a chronic shortage of housing for decades. So the Blugold Real Estate Foundation has had a commitment to identify, either purchase or construct housing that would be made available to house students.” City Atty. Hoffer reminded WI law presumes taxability, “In order to qualify for a tax exemption the property needs to be owned by the state and this is owned by a private entity, which does not qualify for that exemption,” pointed to 2009 state budget amendment that provided a narrow exemption for a specific 300-bed student housing project owned by the University of Wisconsin Foundation, “A logical inference that can be drawn is that if you need to get a statutory exemption added for that particular property it’s because there isn’t an existing exemption that applies,” noted city has not been served, hopes for settlement but ready to litigate. Foundations have become more visible in the wake of UWO Foundation’s lawsuits, 2018 bankruptcy.

Some WI lawmakers double as landlords, passed laws that undermine renters’ rights
… Backed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — a college-town landlord with 23 properties worth about $3.8 million — the Republican-controlled Legislature enacted five major bills [all sponsored by landlord F. Lasee, 3 by landlord Stroebel] largely benefiting landlords. … about one out of five of state lawmakers who voted on these bills owns or manages rental properties … At least five lawmakers who double as landlords sponsored the various measures, each of which passed on mostly party-line votes. … “People tend to legislate in areas that they understand the best … Wisconsin was a very bad-tenant forgiving state,” said Lasee. … Call it the Landlords’ Legislature. Voss deflected conflict of interest, “The idea of having a citizen legislature where people have experience is what everybody says they want, right? They don’t want professional politicians.” Landlord-tenant law changed little until 2010, then GOP have made at least 100 changes, most of which Vos acknowledged favored landlords. “As a conservative, I fundamentally believe in the idea of private property rights,” he said, showed 2019 Leg Council memo [Vos requested in light of media probes] green-lighting self-interested votes provided lawmaker is not sole beneficiary, reflecting similar finding in 2011 GAB memo. Beyer for Vos: “We requested the May 8th opinion after learning you were doing this story in order to provide you with a more recent one in writing.” Rehash 2012 lawsuit filed by VOs against Whitewater tenants. Vos, landlord groups claim motivated by statewide uniformity, but locals see micromanaging. Mayor Barrett: “I call it the Bad Landlord Protection Act,” argued bills “create a business model where it is cheaper to violate the law” than to follow it. About a dozen Dems since 2011 were landlords — including Hebl, Risser, Taylor – though routinely voted against the laws. Tenant advocates Kozlowski and Ramos, Risser, landlord atty. Pettit, Legal Aid’s Koneazny, Oshkosh Mayor Palmeri comment.

Bill allowing names of students’ parents to be released prompts privacy concerns
… [Rep. Born bill] modifies the state’s list of “directory data” — a provision in the open records law that allows information such as students’ addresses or their participation in a sport to be released — to include the name of parents and guardians. … said the addition would be a minor change to the decades-old law. “As a parent, why would my name not be tied to my kid?” he said. “They can release all this sort of information about my kid, but not that I’m their parent. It just sounds weird to me.” Rep. Hebl concerned about “unintended consequences … ulterior motives that are not in the best interest of the person.” Assembly Ed 10-5, with Dem Vruwink, advanced bill to floor vote next week. NO hearing on Senate version. ACLU, MSD opposed; WASB, MMAC support. WASB’s Rossmiller argued bill more federalizes state law, has parental opt-out and board discretion. Born details incident that inspired bill, which was recommended by Dodge County school safety group. Dems cite 2015 voucher school seeking directory data for marketing.


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– 12 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.: Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers Leadership Summit.

– 10 a.m.: PSC hearing.

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