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Any time something like this happens — a change in administration or a new budget — there’s going to be a lot of political posturing and huffing and puffing. But at the end of the day we have to find common ground, and I look forward to doing that.
– Gov. Tony Evers on Republicans’ initial reaction to his budget proposal.

It’s disappointing that the governor decided to make his budget a liberal wish list that included proposals like these and billions of dollars in tax hikes.
– Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald opposing Evers’ plans to grant driver’s licenses and in-state tuition to people in the country illegally.

They’re all unproven. Nobody knows whether they’re hardworking yet and they’re getting a pay increase anyway? Yeah, I’m troubled by that.
– Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, criticizing Evers for paying 11 of his cabinet members at least 10 percent more than former Gov. Scott Walker did. An Evers spokeswoman defended the salaries, saying Evers “believes in fair compensation” for those who work in government.

The most difficult and trying experience of my life. … With the guidance of my family, church and an attorney, I was able to reach a resolution to this matter. Despite this unfortunate event from 14 years ago, I have a strong, caring relationship with my son. That relationship — and my long record of involvement in the community — define who I am.
– Dawn Crim, Ever’s pick to lead the Department of Safety and Professional Services, on a 2005 child abuse charge she faced. Crim was charged with reckless physical abuse of a child after she repeatedly poked her 5-year-old son’s hand with a pen, causing it to bleed. The case was eventually dismissed following a deferred prosecution agreement.

This incident certainly raises questions of Gov. Evers’ ability to properly vet his executive appointments. Secretary-designee Crim will have the opportunity to address the committee next week and explain this deeply troubling incident. Moving forward, the committee will have to evaluate whether her actions are disqualifying to her ability to lead the agency.
– Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, on the child abuse charge. Kapenga is chair of the Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations Committee, which is to hold a confirmation hearing for Crim on Wednesday. Evers said he stands behind Crim, whom he praised as an “extraordinary human being.” He said the charge surfaced during the vetting process before she was named as a cabinet secretary, but he said he was unaware of it when she joined the Department of Public Instruction in 2017.

Here’s the bottom line: Mormon theology is blatant heresy. Mormons are polytheists who believe we can become gods and who believe that both Jesus and Satan are sons of God the Father.
– Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn in a 2006 blog post pondering whether evangelicals would vote for Mitt Romney, a Mormon who at the time was considered a top contender for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. In the blog post, written the same year he graduated from Northwestern Law School, Hagedorn defined himself as a “conservative evangelical Christian.” He wrote he was not committed to having an evangelical Christian president, but one who “will most effectively stand up for and implement my values.” Hagedorn’s campaign said he voted for Romney in the 2012 election.

His writings are littered with extreme statements and his record is full of examples of him acting on them in both his personal and professional life.
– Joanna Beilman-Dulin, research director for One Wisconsin Now, which has criticized past Hagedorn posts. Hagedorn consultant Stephan Thompson said the race should be “about judicial philosophy, not theology,” but opponents had turned it into a “disingenuous debate over old blog posts.”

I would just like to add in 2016 when the census and the federal register asked for comment on this 77,000 people did comment, only four wanted to keep this provision. … That’s probably about the percent of people who think Nickelback is their favorite band in this country. It’s pretty low. And I think if you look at — Nickelback’s your favorite band? I apologize to the gentleman.
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, apologizing to Illinois Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in a lighthearted moment during debate over a measure related to how prisoners are counted in the census.

Why would you criticize one of the greatest bands of the 90s?
– Davis. Pocan replied in jest, “One more reason there’s a difference between Democrats and Republicans clearly found on the floor of Congress today.”

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Mar. 2-8, 2019)


Wedding barns: Gov. Tony Evers hadn’t tipped his hand much in the early going over whether so-called wedding barns need a liquor license. But in a new court filing, he signals for the first time that his administration won’t require such operations to have a liquor license for private parties. Instead, a spokeswoman says, the administration won’t deviate “from the Department of Revenue’s long-standing practice on this issue.” Still, those who sued asking a court for some clarity on state law governing the issue say they’re not dropping the suit yet as they review what the next step should be and “reach out to DOJ to see whether the matter can be put to rest.” The issue has been brewing for some time, even drawing a last-minute attempt last session to change state law. But that was dropped, and a study committee didn’t get anywhere. Then things got even murkier when outgoing AG Brad Schimel issued an informal opinion late last year that wedding barns needed a liquor license — which would be a break with past state practice. With all that swirling and a new administration taking over, the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and two wedding barn owners filed suit in January, urging a Dunn County judge to declare they don’t need a liquor license for private parties that rent their facilities. They want a judge to invalidate a state law requiring those in charge of a “public place” to get an appropriate liquor license before allowing alcohol consumption on the premises. The suit argues “public place” isn’t appropriately defined in state law. But representing Evers, the state Department of Justice wrote the suit should be dismissed, because there was “no case or controversy between the parties” and the issue “is not ripe.” In its response to the suit, DOJ admits state law doesn’t define a public place. But the filing also doesn’t respond to WILL’s contentions the statute should be invalidated for vagueness.

Campaign spending: The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found a record $93 million was spent on the guv’s race last year. It tallied a record $14 million in the campaign for AG. Now it completes the trifecta with a new report showing independent groups and candidates combined to spend a record $35.8 million on the 2018 cycle, 27 percent higher than the previous mark of $28.1 million in 2016. The new record is also double the $16.9 million dropped in 2014. And the WDC singles out a 2015 GOP re-write of campaign finance laws as one of the factors behind the record spending. That package, among other things, raised contribution limits to candidates and allowed unlimited donations to political parties, which in turn could make uncapped transfers to candidates. All told, 26 groups that played in last year’s legislative races spent $12.2 million on express advocacy — which is reported to the state — and issue ads — which aren’t. WDC found $6.7 million spent by Dem groups, compared to $5.5 million by Republicans. Meanwhile, GOP candidates outspent their Dem counterparts $14 million to $9.5 million. And WDC, which advocates for campaign finance reform and tracks spending, found six legislative races that topped the $1 million mark, led by the 17th SD at $4.5 million as Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, fended off a challenge from Dem Kriss Marion. The others were: 1st SD, where then-GOP Rep. Andre Jacque defeated Sen. Caleb Frostman, D-Sturgeon Bay, as nearly $4.2 million was spent; the 19th SD, where $2.3 million was spent as Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, defeated Dem Lee Snodgrass; 5th SD, where $2.2 million was spent as then-GOP Rep. Dale Kooyenga, of Brookfield, defeated Dem Julie Henszey; 23rd SD, where nearly $1.1 million was spent as then-GOP Rep. Kathy Bernier, of Lake Hallie, defeated Dem Chris Kapsner; and the 25th SD, where more than $1 million was spent as Dem Sen. Janet Bewley, of Ashland, beat back a challenge from Republican James Bolen. To compile the spending totals, the WDC used state finance reports, independent expenditure filings, fundraising and spending reports filed with the IRS, and TV ad buys.

UW System: The university stands to be one of the big winners in the guv’s capital budget with nearly $1.1 billion of the overall spending earmarked for its buildings. But with Republican lawmakers already looking to shave some of the $2.5 billion in projects that Tony Evers proposed overall, it’s likely the university won’t get everything the guv included in his plan, insiders say. The capital budget is three times the size of Gov. Scott Walker’s last request. But DOA Secretary Joel Brennan defends the plan at a WisPolitics.com luncheon, saying it’s a reflection of pent up demand and the need to address deferred maintenance. According to DOA, about half of the $2.5 billion would go toward maintenance or renovation. Some budget watchers expect Republican lawmakers to be sympathetic on the need to take care of the buildings the state already has and not further delaying needed maintenance. But they’re also balking so far at the nearly $2 billion in new bonding that’s in the document. Add in the proposed $338 million in transportation bonding Evers has proposed, and that’s a whole lot of debt for the state to be taking on, some argue. Until Republican lawmakers figure out a level of bonding they’re comfortable with, it’s hard to say exactly how the guv’s requests for the system will play out, some say.


Tony Evers: The guv is still getting some mileage out of his budget, hitting the road to tout a little bit of everything for the media markets he visits. But as Republicans start to tear into the document, driving the message is going to become more of a challenge for the guv, insiders say. Meanwhile, some warning signs emerge that Evers and his staff may struggle once the terrain gets a little more difficult. And some insiders see the stumbles as unforced errors, questioning why he and his staff are making some of the choices they have. For example, don’t pick a fight with the media over open records — particularly when it’s not worth it, some say. But Evers’ office initially declines to release a hand-written letter Gov. Scott Walker left him only to quickly reverse course under public pressure. What’s all the more perplexing, some say, is the letter is simply a nice note that encourages Evers to remember his true friends. To some, it raises questions about whether he and his staff are thinking ahead. The same goes with the pay boosts that Evers gave his cabinet secretaries. Evers defends the boosts, saying his nominees are running complex agencies. But the optic of the raises aren’t good, especially when put up against the backdrop of a budget that proposes spending $83.4 billion over the next two years with a $2.5 billion capital budget — both significant increases compared to his predecessor. Republicans say they’re already sensing new energy in their base with the proposed spending increases and question how Evers plans to win over swing voters with such an aggressive spending plan. Meanwhile, the guv says, unlike Scott Walker, he’s not planning to meet weekly with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, instead saying they’ll meet “as often as we need to.” No one is going to claim Walker’s less frequent meetings with Dem legislative leaders paved the way to compromise. But Walker didn’t need them to advance his agenda, while Evers needs buy-in from Fitzgerald and Vos if he wants to rack up any significant wins. To some, it’s a peculiar stand for someone who talked on the campaign trail and during his transition of reaching across the aisle to get things done for Wisconsinites. No, he and the GOP leaders aren’t suddenly going to become best friends just because they get into a room once a week. But if there’s any path to compromise on the state budget, the guv will need a relationship with both leaders to get there, some say. Then there’s the nomination of Dawn Crim to become Safety and Professional Services secretary despite a more than decade-old child abuse charge. Evers tells reporters he stands behind Crim, calling her an “extraordinary human being.” But while he didn’t know about the 2005 charge, which was later dismissed, when she joined the Department of Public in 2017, it surfaced during the vetting process for his cabinet. Insiders question if her nomination is really the fight Evers wants to have with the Legislature considering his call to put “kids first.” The GOP side howls about the fallout a Republican would’ve faced in a similar situation. Either way, insiders say the guv is still getting his feet under him when it comes to anticipating the next development rather than reacting to it. Everyone who takes that office struggles with it at first, some add, but it’s imperative to figure it out fast or risk being torpedoed by the GOP Legislature.


Brian Hagedorn: It’s not just that liberal groups are starting to lay down markers on what they’re going to do in the upcoming Supreme Court race. It’s that conservatives ones — at least so far — aren’t participating in any meaningful way. And barring some infusion of cash from the GOP side of the aisle, some say, the path to victory for Hagedorn is very narrow. First, three groups combine to spend more than $229,000 canvassing for rival Lisa Neubauer before news drops that Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee is investing $350,000 in the state Supreme Court race backing Neubauer; most of that money is going to Together Wisconsin Acts for ads and $50,000 to Black Leaders Organizing Communities to help fund its ground game. On top of that, the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee releases new TV ads on back-to-back days hitting Hagedorn, asking how he can “possibly be fair” considering his views and accusing him of refusing to protect seniors. Hagedorn backers grumble that Neubauer once bemoaned independent money, but is now silent as it flows into Wisconsin. Others, however, sense a touch of frustration from conservatives that their groups aren’t stepping up to the plate — and some believe that’s unlikely to change much considering the hits that keep coming for Hagedorn. Between his old blog posts and his association with a school that bars employees and students from being in same-sex relationships, he’s already seen the Wisconsin Realtors Association pull its endorsement and seek a return of its donation. Now comes word that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which often sends money to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce to be a player in Supreme Court races, is sitting this one out. Hagedorn continues to defend himself, accusing others of attacking his faith, and some of his supporters bemoan what they see as a religious test to qualify for the court. Still, others have a hard time accepting those arguments after more blog posts surface, including one from 2006 that knocked Mormon theology as “blatant heresy.” Some conservatives note Hagedorn has a healthy fundraising operation on his own that will allow him to get his message out. And some still hold out hope that some deep-pocketed donors will step up in the final weeks to put together enough money to run a solid third-party effort on Hagedorn’s behalf. Plus, Americans for Prosperity has already been on the ground canvassing for him. But others just don’t see the checks coming. It’s also telling, they say, that conservatives are already doing some soul searching about the race with a pocket of Republicans outraged their normal allies aren’t going to bat for Hagedorn — and another group wondering how they ended up with the appeals court judge and former Walker aide in the first place. It’s all that much more difficult for conservatives knowing winning this race would give them some breathing room for what is expected to be a very difficult campaign in 2020 for conservative Justice Daniel Kelly. Liberals, meanwhile, are cautiously confident the winds are blowing their way, though they take nothing for granted and are continuing to watch for any signs of late infusion of cash for Hagedorn.

Dawn Crim: Several of Gov. Tony Evers’ picks for his cabinet have drawn blowback from Republicans. But insiders say this one has a somewhat different feel, because it’s personal, not policy. A 14-year-old child abuse charge surfaces as Republicans prepare to dive into Crim’s nomination to lead the Department of Safety and Professional Services, though the guv says he’s standing by his choice to lead the agency. According to court records, Crim was charged with reckless physical abuse of a child after she repeatedly poked her 5-year-old son’s hand with a pen, causing it to bleed. The charge was eventually dismissed as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, and Crim calls it “the most difficult and trying experience of my life.” But is it enough for Republicans to sink her nomination? And how much political capital does Evers want to burn on her behalf? When cabinet nominees run into problems like this, it’s not uncommon to see them fall on their own sword and withdraw from the job. But as he calls her an “extraordinary human being,” Evers says he wasn’t aware of the charge when he hired her at the Department of Public Instruction in 2017, but it surfaced during the vetting process. That prompts some to question the decision to appoint her to the post anyway. Nevermind whether it’s appropriate to have someone with an incident in her past leading an agency. By tapping her to lead the agency, he should’ve known this would come to light. If he’d just made her a deputy or some other post, however, that kind of nomination wouldn’t have received nearly as much scrutiny. Insiders, meanwhile, debate how this will play out. Will Republicans bring the nomination to the floor for a vote and possibly reject her? If it came to the floor, some believe, all 14 Dems would likely stand with their guv on his cabinet pick. That means it would only take three Republicans to get her through. Or would majority Republicans decide to keep her in limbo and not vote on the confirmation, instead allowing her to continue serving in the role? Then there’s the question of whether something that happened 14 years ago — for which she has since apologized and moved on to have a close relationship with her son — should be a disqualifying incident. Crim is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee, and her answers could go a long way in determining whether she survives the confirmation process, some say.

David Clarke: The former Milwaukee County sheriff’s 15 minutes in the conservative media spotlight appear to be up. The Daily Beast reports that Fox News effectively banned Clarke after he had been a fixture on the conservative outlet. The Daily Beast quotes an email from Clarke’s email address in which an unnamed assistant says the sheriff spoke to Fox in late 2017 about becoming a paid contributor, because he was “no longer wanting to work for free for them while they made money on ratings off of him.” The outlet also reported that Clarke is no longer a senior adviser with America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, where he headed after resigning as sheriff in 2017 before his term was up. Clarke’s assistant tells the Daily Beast he’s moved on from the PAC to take a position with We Build the Wall, a 501(c)4 trying to raise private donations for a barrier along the southern border. To insiders back in Wisconsin, the drama was all too predictable. Clarke built an image as a tough-talking sheriff who had no patience for “libs.” But once he left office, one Dem adds, all that was left was him being outrageous, and that only goes so far.


Assembly Republicans two months ago laid out a marker for Gov. Tony Evers on policy areas where compromise could be found.

But a WisPolitics.com review found fundamental differences remain between the two factions on a number of items.

While there seems to be consensus on some issues highlighted in the Jan. 10 letter, including expansion of high-speed internet access and prevention of homelessness, Evers and Assembly Republicans disagree on a number of items, based on a comparison of the guv’s executive budget proposal to the GOP letter.

Overall, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he was disappointed by Evers’ budget. While he noted there appeared to be several areas where the two sides could find compromise, he called the document “divisive.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he would “rather work from a clean slate.” Kit Beyer knocked Evers for proposing a budget with specifics on a number of topics in the letter without feedback from Republicans. She said the goal of the letter was to collaborate with the guv by highlighting broad topics where consensus could be found, but no collaboration occurred.

But an Evers spokeswoman said it’s time to “stop playing politics and get to work on the issues that matter most to Wisconsin families.”

“It’s unfortunate that Republicans are now backpedaling and threatening to craft their own budget instead of working with the governor on these priorities,” said spokeswoman Britt Cudaback.

Here are the issues Assembly Republicans spotlighted in their letter, compared to what Evers proposed:

*Income Tax Reductions

Evers recommends creating a family and individual reinvestment credit, which would cut into the leftover tax balance of single filers making up to $100,000 and married joint filers making up to $150,000 by up to 10 percent.

The budget also calls for paying for the tax break by limiting the manufacturing and agriculture credit to only the first $300,000 of income per tax year for manufacturers. Limiting that tax credit would only cover roughly 60 percent of the estimated cost of the middle-class tax cut over the course of the biennium.

The proposal comes after Evers previously vetoed a GOP-backed measure that would provide a similar tax cut, but fund it with the budget surplus.

*Enhancing high-speed internet access

The budget contains a nearly $75 million boost to the Public Service Commission to expand access to broadband internet.

Evers also recommended that the commission partner with the Department of Administration to provide a report on internet access in the state, complete with recommendations on how to incentivize telecoms companies to provide access to underserved communities.

Additionally, Evers in his budget targeted reaching 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabit per second upload speeds statewide by 2025.

According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, the Legislature hasn’t addressed broadband access so far this session.

*Pre-existing coverage guarantee

Evers includes an item in his budget recommending “that the insurance marketplace guarantee health insurance for individuals with preexisting conditions.”

An Evers spokeswoman referred WisPolitics.com to a document highlighting differences between SB 37 — a pre-existing conditions coverage bill from Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton — and AB 1, the effort by the Assembly GOP to cover pre-existing conditions.

According to the document, Erpenbach’s bill encompasses many of the same principles as the GOP plan. But it also requires coverage of preventive services and a number of essential health benefits, sets a floor instead of a cap on the length of the open enrollment period, and applies to short-term plans. SB 37 has not been voted on in the Senate.

AB 1, meanwhile, remains hung up in committee in the Senate. Spokesmen for Fitzgerald and Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point — who chairs the Senate Health and Human Service committee — did not provide comment on when the bill will be taken up.

*Support for K-12 education

Vos and Assembly Republicans called for a return to funding two-thirds of K-12 education in their letter.

Evers’ proposal meets the two-thirds mark in the first year of the biennium and exceeds it in the second year. His budget also includes an item restoring the requirement for the state to provide at least two-thirds of partial school revenues, which was repealed as part of the 2003 state budget.

*Expanding SeniorCare to cover flu shots

The guv fully funds SeniorCare in his budget but does not include any additional money to expand the program.

*Preventing homelessness

In his budget address, Evers said he plans to adopt each of the recommendations the Interagency Council on Homelessness called for in its November 2018 report. The council was headed up by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

The budget contains lines for each of the fiscal recommendations made by the council, though it does tweak one program to provide grants rather than forgivable loans.

As for the non-monetary suggestions, Cudaback said the guv “is looking forward to working with the Council, state agencies, and stakeholders on addressing the Council’s non-fiscal recommendations.”

*Addressing the debt level in the transportation fund

Assembly Republicans called for a long-term funding proposal that did not rely on borrowing money to finance highway repairs.

Evers’ proposal cuts new bonding to its lowest levels in two decades and establishes an additional revenue stream for transportation by increasing the gas tax by 8 cents. The budget ties the gas tax hike to a proposal to eliminate the minimum markup on fuel, which the Evers administration says will minimize the effect on consumers while raising an additional $485 million.

*Childcare affordability

The guv includes a number of proposals to address the cost of child care, including investing in the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program. According to the budget, Evers wants to invest over $23 million per year to increase care provider rates in order to ensure the Shares program can repay providers at least half of the market rate for their services.

*Clean water

Evers includes a number of proposals to address water quality in his budget, most notably authorizing nearly $70 million in bonding to address water contamination and to replace lead pipes.

But Vos said he doesn’t believe there is a need for $70 million in bonding, because the Legislature created a program last session that allowed municipalities to replace lead pipes by partnering with local governments and property owners.

“I understand why he wants to look like he’s doing something, but the lucky thing is the Republican Legislature already has,” he said in a press conference after the budget address.

*Investments in infrastructure

Assembly Republicans called for a thorough review of state-owned buildings to examine possible cost-saving measures and ensure proper maintenance and management.

The Department of Administration lists increasing the efficiency of buildings as a goal, and targets a vacancy rate of less than 5 percent in department-owned buildings. The guv’s budget also allocates an additional $2.3 million for operating costs and maintenance staffing but does not address a top to bottom review.

*Attracting qualified employees

The guv’s budget slashes the $10 million the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. requested for talent attraction and retention.

When asked about talent attraction initiatives by WisPolitics.com, an Evers spokeswoman highlighted investments in K-12 education, the UW System and technical colleges, transportation infrastructure and economic development.

“We know that these are issues workers and businesses alike value, and believe this type of investment is key to attracting and retaining a talented workforce,” said spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff in a statement.


See the letter:

See the budget:


Gov. Tony Evers’ budget would increase the maximum weekly rate for those on unemployment and repeal drug testing requirements.

The guv also wants to eliminate a one-week waiting before beneficiaries could claim their first check — a policy that Republicans put in place nearly six years ago — and repeal current law on requirements such as work searches.

And it would make all of those changes without first going through the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council.

That body, comprised equally of labor and management representatives, has often reached agreements on various changes to the program before forwarding proposals to the Legislature.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce’s Scott Manley, who sits on the council, said it was disappointing that Evers chose to go around the body and put the provisions in his budget instead.

“When you go through that process, as a member of management, I’m giving up things in exchange for labor giving up things,” Manley said. “When you go in and you change that, you’re essentially upsetting that negotiated process and tipping it in favor of one side of the table vs. the other.”

Sally Feistel, who’s with United Steelworkers District 2 and sits on the council as a labor rep, said she prefers to see the body be a key piece in recommending changes to unemployment. Still, she noted Republicans made a series to changes to the program over the last eight years without council input and said the message from Gov. Scott Walker’s administration was that the council was advisory, period.

“I think the council works. I think it’s a good process. I would like to see it get back to what it was before the Walker administration made the changes,” Feistel said.

The changes Evers wants to make to the unemployment program are just one example of the slew of proposals he tucked into the document he released last week. Like with some of those other proposals, at least some of the unemployment package would reverse things Walker and GOP lawmakers put into place over the former guv’s two terms.

For example, Republicans implemented a one-week waiting period for those laid off before they could begin receiving benefits. Included in the 2011-13 budget, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated at the time it would reduce benefits paid to claimants between $41 million and $56 million annually depending on the unemployment rate.

Others changes Evers is proposing include:

*eliminate pre-employment drug testing provisions in the program, though those requirements are currently on hold. Under federal law, states can require drug testing only in accordance with regulations from the U.S. Department of Labor, which has yet to issue the guidelines. There is also a voluntary option for employers to send DWD results of a positive drug test, which would make the employee ineligible for benefits until requalifying. That provision also would be repealed.

*increase the maximum weekly benefit to $406 from the current $370. The 2014 increase was the first since 2009, and the maximum wasn’t increased as frequently under the Walker administration compared to past years. Between 1988 and 2009, there were 18 hikes in that 21-year period.

*index the maximum weekly earnings wage threshold for benefit eligibility based on the change in the consumer price index.

*expand eligibility upon voluntary termination to include cases where a spouse has been reassigned by his or her employer. Republicans changed state law in the 2013 budget to restrict that option to only those whose spouse is in the U.S. Armed Forces and is required to relocate by the military to be able to claim unemployment. The provision also added the requirement that it would be impracticable to commute to the person’s old job after moving with their military spouse.

*repealing current law defining suitable work and instead having it defined via administrative rule. Those on unemployment have to conduct searches for suitable work to remain eligible, and the program has a tiered definition of what that means. During the first six weeks on unemployment, beneficiaries can remain on unemployment even if they pass on a job that’s of lower skill than their previous one and pays 75 percent less. But after that, beneficiaries have to accept any work they’re capable of performing.

Feistel said she personally favors increasing the maximum weekly benefit but as a member of the council, the proposal should be discussed with others. Part of the consideration, she said, has to include the health of the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, which is in fairly good shape.

According to the last update provided to the council, the balance was more than $1.7 billion at the end of August, an increase of 18.3 percent from the year before. Meanwhile, benefit payments through August were down $29.7 million on the year compared to the same period a year before.

The tax on employers to cover unemployment payments depends on the fund balance. The trust fund is now operating at the lowest tax level and would have to dip below $1.2 billion before that tax would increase.

Manley raised concerns the proposed boost in the weekly benefit rate could quickly drain the fund.

“If you’re going to gobble up a bunch of money out of the trust fund because you’re raising benefits, that’s almost certainly going to end up as a tax increase on businesses,” he said.


If Dem Gina Walkington were to win the race for the vacant 64th AD, women would have the majority in a state Assembly caucus for the first time in Wisconsin history, according to a WisPolitics.com analysis.

The check, done in collaboration with the Wisconsin Women’s Council and based on a report from the Legislative Reference Bureau, found that since 1925 when women were first elected to the Assembly, female lawmakers haven’t made up more than 50 percent of either a Dem or Republican caucus in the chamber.

At the beginning of the session, the Assembly Dem caucus was at gender parity — 18 female lawmakers to 18 male lawmakers. If Walkington wins the race next month for the heavily Dem 64th, vacated after former Rep. Peter Barca was appointed Revenue secretary, women would have a 19-17 majority in that caucus.

Walkington in an interview with WisPolitics.com this week said she’s aware of the potential for the first majority female caucus in that chamber, and it’s something she’s considered as she’s campaigned throughout the district.

A community organizer who ran unsuccessfully for the neighboring 61st AD last fall, Walkington said a female-dominated caucus would represent “a really big, important, overdue milestone.”

“I think that that representation and that parity should be the norm,” she said. “It shouldn’t be something that’s a long-off goal.”

And she also noted a different milestone her candidacy for the district represents: Walkington says she’s the first woman to ever run for the Kenosha-area seat.

As a working mother and a young parent — she had her first son at age 22 — Walkington, 33, said “understanding those dynamics” as a candidate and representative would be important for the area.

The WisPolitics.com analysis found that while women have never had a majority in either caucus in the Assembly, women in both Senate caucuses have outnumbered their male counterparts twice in the last 20 years.

The first time was in the 2001 session, when eight of the 15 GOP senators were women. In the 2017 session, female senators made up seven of the 13 Dem seats.

Women were first elected to the state Senate in 1975.

Walkington faces two other Dems in an April 2 primary: Tip McGuire, a Milwaukee County assistant DA, and Spencer Zimmerman, a perennial candidate who lives outside the Kenosha-area district. The winner will then meet Republican Mark Stalker, who said he spent 30 years working for paint companies in various sales positions, in the April 30 general.

See the LRB report:


Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan says local governments investing in infrastructure near the Foxconn development are “out there on a limb” with little certainty ahead.

“I think we’re all looking for certainty, and looking for Foxconn to make sure that they’re able to certify for us what they’re going to be doing in the next several months,” Brennan said yesterday at a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison.

Brennan says administration officials are meeting frequently with Foxconn representatives, with a goal of nailing down more specifics of the company’s plan. He notes that national and local news stories have highlighted the ambiguity surrounding elements of the project.

“That ambiguity didn’t start the day Tony Evers was elected governor; it didn’t start the day he was inaugurated,” he said. “In fact, it started probably from the time the project was first announced.”

He says he’s seen “a whole host of differences” between what was first promised in late 2016 and what’s happening now.

Brennan believes it’s “too soon to tell” if the Foxconn development will reach its full potential and create 10,000 jobs. But he says there is “fervent hope” in the surrounding communities that Foxconn will deliver on its promises.

“Not just because they’ve laid out resources for it, but because Racine has had the highest unemployment rate in the state of Wisconsin going back 25 years,” he said. “The promise of manufacturing is something they really have latched onto.”

Brennan also discussed provisions in the guv’s state budget proposal that would change the state’s laws around tax incremental financing, an economic development tool used by municipalities.

“I think there’s enough recognition that the tool has not always been used in the appropriate way,” he said.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Association has come out against the TIF budget provisions, saying they would hold back economic development in the state. A lobbyist with WEDA said several private developers have expressed concern with the provisions.

But Brennan says others in the state would argue TIF was originally meant to support public infrastructure.

“I think the value is in having conversations about what is the appropriate use of those tools,” Brennan said. “There’s always opportunity for debate, always opportunity for change and discussion on those things.”

Listen to audio from the luncheon here: http://soundcloud.com/wispolitics/wispoliticscom-luncheon-with-doa-secretary-joel-brennan/s-EljJI


WisPolitics.com is profiling some of the newly announced state agency heads. This week features our sixth installment with Department of Tourism Secretary Sara Meaney.

Meaney was most recently chief marketing and development officer for Milwaukee Film and was involved with the firms BVK, Comet Branding and Hanson Dodge Creative.

Birthplace, age?
44 years old, born in Milwaukee.

Job history?
Held executive leadership and management roles at several advertising and marketing agencies. Owned her own marketing agency, Comet Branding + PR, before leading a successful merger with Hanson Dodge Creative. Most recently worked as chief marketing and development officer for Milwaukee Film.

Earned a degree from UW-Madison and majored in psychology and pre-med. Attended executive education programs at Harvard Business School and Kellogg School of Management.

Married. Mother of four children.

Favorite non-work interest?
Passionate about the arts and film in particular. Enjoys going to art museums with her family. Dabbles in art and writing. Fond of home improvement projects and working in her garden at home.

Why the interest in being in the Evers administration?
“I had never met Gov. Evers until I entered the interview process. I had read a lot about him, I know his style of leadership is something I believe in and I hope to espouse in my own leadership in my professional career. So when I had the opportunity to meet him in person, it connected the dots for me to understand he is exactly how he seems. He’s a man of integrity, he is a person who inspires people to lead and lead by example. So I’m really excited and really honored to be a part of the team he put together.”

What are your priorities for the agency under your leadership?
“Tourism is this incredible strength for this state. The tourism economy in the state of Wisconsin is the third largest industry, so what’s really important is that we build off of the strength that’s already in place. Wisconsin has some incredible natural resources that are widely known throughout the state. Ultimately, in order to see the growth and prosperity we would like to see through our efforts, we’re going to need to find new opportunities to attract new audiences. So one of the really important ways to do that is to understand what is our greatest strength or what are the greatest strengths we can build off of. And the data tells us that the number one reason people report that they come to the state of Wisconsin is outdoor recreation, and outdoor recreation happens to be a large majority, a huge majority of the actual total tourism industry in the state of Wisconsin. So I think we see an opportunity to dig a bit deeper there, look into how we can best leverage that existing base, that existing resource, and make sure we tell the story to more people in the future to really leverage what we already have.”

What should the agency be doing differently?
“There’s always something in terms of change that we can look into and do a bit more of. With marketing, what we have is the opportunity to do a lot of tweaking… We have an opportunity to invest further in paid advertising within specific audiences. But also mixing it up with earned media, which is of course PR and influencers and things like social media, but also owned media. So owned media of course is kind of that third leg of the stool. It’s that piece of content, what we put on our website, the types of videos we create, the blog posts we create, the stories that we can write and the people we can tap into to be telling the story of Wisconsin.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received since getting the job?
“I think Gov. Evers gave really, really good advice to all of us when we agreed to take the position and that is to do what you do best and lead by example, be compassionate leaders and be transparent and strong communicators.”

Worst advice?
“As a marketer I find it to be both refreshing and interesting when people offer their recommendations for the next state tourism slogan or campaign. What I can’t say is that all of them are terrible ideas, but I can’t say all of them are the best either. So I’m not going to be taking everyone’s advice, but maybe a couple folks will see some of their ideas play out in the future.”

*See a WisPolitics.com video of the conversation:


Monday: Elections Commission meeting.
– 10 a.m.: 412 East, state Capitol.

Tuesday: Senate Committee on Utilities and Housing public hearing on Rebecca Cameron Valcq’s nomination to the Public Service Commission.
– 10:30 a.m.: 400 Southeast, state Capitol.

Wednesday: Senate Committee Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations public hearing on Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim.
– 1 p.m.: 201 Southeast, state Capitol.

(Check local listings for times in your area)

“UpFront” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show, with host ADRIENNE PEDERSEN, features Assembly Speaker ROBIN VOS on the budget; AG JOSH KAUL on why he says the Department of Justice needs more than a dozen new positions; and more on Gov. TONY EVERS’ plan to raise the minimum wage.
*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 Gov. TONY EVERS’ budget request; Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary DAWN CRIM’s 2005 child abuse charge that was later dismissed; and cabinet secretaries’ salaries under Evers compared to former Gov. SCOTT WALKER.
*Watch the show: https://wiseye.org/2019/03/08/rewind-your-week-in-review-for-march-1-8/

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison.

“Capital 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, the two discuss the budget battle ahead.
*Watch the video or listen to the show: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-discuss-the-budget-battle-ahead/

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

Upcoming WisPolitics.com events in Wauwatosa, Madison and Milwaukee include:

*A March 28 issues forum at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa. The event, on whether the Medicaid expansion is right for the state, features JIM JONES, the Medicaid director for Gov. TONY EVERS’ health department; and Assembly Health Committee members Reps. JOE SANFELIPPO and DANIEL RIEMER. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/march-28-medicaid-expansion-is-it-right-for-wisconsin/

*An April 4 Milwaukee University Club luncheon sponsored by Canada and UW-Milwaukee. The event focuses on new developments in the complicated issues affecting Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. Speakers include PETER ANNIN, author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars”; MOLLY FLANAGAN, vice president for policy at the Alliance for the Great Lakes in Chicago; J. VAL KLUMP, dean of the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences; and STEPHEN GALARNEAU, director of the Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Great Waters. See details: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/april-4-coping-with-diversions-invasives-and-politics-in-the-great-lakes-region/

*An April 25 Madison Club luncheon featuring Joint Finance Committee Co-chairs Sen. ALBERTA DARLING and Rep. JOHN NYGREN. The two will discuss Gov. TONY EVERS’ budget plan and Republican budget priorities. Register: https://aprilwispolitics.eventbrite.com

*And a May 7 Madison Club luncheon on Wisconsin’s role in the presidential race featuring Republican operative KEITH GILKES, Democratic strategist TANYA BJORK and Marquette University Law School poll Director CHARLES FRANKLIN. See details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-wis-role-in-the-presidential-race-tickets-57234684482

WisPolitics.com, the State Bar of Wisconsin and WISC-TV are partnering to host a March 15 debate between Supreme Court candidates BRIAN HAGEDORN and LISA NEUBAUER. The debate at the State Bar Center will begin at 6:30 p.m. See details: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/190307Debate.pdf

President DONALD TRUMP’s campaign announced this week ERIN PERRINE will serve as the deputy director of communications. Perrine previously worked on U.S. Sen. RON JOHNSON’s 2010 campaign, as well as former House Speaker PAUL RYAN’s 2012 campaign. She starts in the role later this month.

DOUG ANDRES, a former PAUL RYAN staffer, is now working as a senior adviser for outgoing Food and Drug Administration Commissioner SCOTT GOTTLIEB.

Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin has named state Rep. JILL BILLINGS its 2019 Scenic Wisconsin Champion award winner. The award was presented to the La Crosse Dem at the group’s Legislative Day Program last month.

ALICIA NALEID is the Wisconsin Builders Association’s new communications manager. She began in the role last month. Prior to working for WBA, she held positions as communications director for the state’s Department of Safety and Professional Services; marketing coordinator for Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce; and two different positions in then-Gov. SCOTT WALKER’s office.

CARRIE SPRINGER has returned to Dane County to serve as its legislative liaison. She previously served as County Executive JOE PARISI’s interim communications director, before taking a job at UW-Madison as the university’s strategic communications specialist. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/dane-county-exec-parisi-announces-carrie-springer-as-new-legislative-liason/

UW-Stout Chancellor BOB MEYER announced this week he’s planning to retire from his post in August after a five-year stint as chancellor. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/190304-Stout-Chancellor.pdf

Waukesha County community leader KRISTIN HANSEN has been elected to the Common Cause in Wisconsin State Governing Board. Hansen has served as the state Dem Party’s 5th CD chair, as well as the party’s administrative committee. See more: https://www.commoncausewisconsin.org/2019/03/kristin-hansen-of-waukesha-elected-to.html

UW-Waukesha history professor and author JONATHAN KASPAREK has penned the first comprehensive biography of former Wisconsin U.S. Sen. BILL PROXMIRE. Read an excerpt at WisOpinion.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/jonathan-kasparek-excerpt-from-proxmire-bulldog-of-the-senate/

The Waukesha County Business Alliance is hosting a breakfast program April 4 with CELIA SHAUGHNESSY, Ascension Wisconsin’s vice president of HR & Operational Excellence. See more: https://bit.ly/2tTH23l

The Boys & Girls Club of Wisconsin is hosting its Wisconsin Youth of the Year Awards Monday night in Madison. Awards will be presented by First Lady KATHLEEN EVERS. See details: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/boys-girls-club-wisconsin-youth-of-the-year-awards/

UW-Milwaukee is hosting its sixth annual Summit on Black Male Youth March 18 and 19. Organizers, including Institute for Intercultural Research Director GARY WILLIAMS, say this year’s theme is “Black Boys Thriving: Reimagining the Narrative.” See more: https://uwm.edu/specialevents/event/summit-on-male-black-youth/

This year’s UW-Madison Faculty Research Showcase luncheon features presentations from: SUSAN PASKEWITZ, on disease transmission from mosquitoes and ticks; CHRIS KUCHARIK, on agriculture cropping systems ecology and understanding the impacts of climate change on land management; and NICOLE ROGUS-PULIA, on improving the care of swallowing disorders in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. The event is March 20 in Washington, D.C. See more: https://www.uwalumni.com/event/uw-day-washington-dc/

Applications are now open for the Wisconsin Women in Government’s annual Leadership Seminar Program. The seminar, which runs from May 9 to 17, is led by La Follette School of Public Affairs Director SUSAN YACKEE and professor emeritus DENNIS DRESANG. Applications are due March 29. See more: http://wiscwomeningovernment.org/leadership-seminar/

The Milwaukee Press Club has named CHUCK TODD, moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” as the club’s 2019 Sacred Cat Award honoree. The award, which recognizes excellence in journalism at the national level, will be handed out at the club’s annual Gridiron Dinner on May 10 in Milwaukee. At the event, the club also will honor its 2019 Headliners: former Wisconsin Gov. MARTIN J. SCHREIBER and MARY LOU YOUNG, former CEO of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. See more on the event: https://milwaukeepressclub.org/events/gridiron-awards-dinner-2/

ENDORSEMENTS: The following is a list of recent endorsements made for statewide elections, based on emails received by WisPolitics.com:

— State Supreme Court:

BRIAN HAGEDORN: Wisconsin Right to Life PAC.

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)

Fifty-six changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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