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It’s time to stop waiting for permission from the NRA. Enough is enough, folks. It’s time to be bipartisan, and it’s time to lead.
– Gov. Tony Evers during a Capitol press conference on Thursday unveiling a Dem bill that would expand background checks for firearms. The legislation does not include a so-called “red-flag” provision that would allow a court to order removal of firearms from a person deemed to present a danger to themselves or others.

Our kids deserve better than that. People deserve to feel safe going to school, they deserve to feel safe going to church or temple and they deserve to feel safe when they are in our communities.
– Attorney General Josh Kaul.

If I did have the answer, or if any other legislator had a clear answer to this issue, we would have already implemented it. It would already be in place.
– Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, who said he’s opposed to expanded background checks. But Fitzgerald noted there is a law on the books from the 1990s that is similar to a red-flag law and could be tweaked to include additional circumstances in which guns could be removed from someone. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, this week said increased background checks and red-flag laws would be ineffective.

Simply put, it is disingenuous to suggest that requiring background checks on private sales would have prevented the tragedies we’ve seen as a state and nation. That’s why Assembly Republicans have been and remain committed to providing and expanding mental health resources to those in need – which has time and again been a root cause of many of these shootings.
– Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna.

(This) does not seem like an accident to me. Everything they do is political and trying to make the other side look bad.
– Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, during a radio interview accusing Dems of political gamesmanship in pushing the issue of him refusing to allow Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, to call into committee hearings in order to accommodate his disability. Anderson is paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair. Vos said he didn’t think it was a coincidence the issue was being pressed just ahead of him becoming head of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vos has said Republicans plan to meet to discuss accommodations for Anderson beyond those already provided.

Leave it to Speaker Vos to make a story about providing disability accommodations about him.
– Anderson.

I know there is constantly, in the world we live in, a lot of sniping going on for some of the secretaries. But I believe Craig has been involved in transportation for a long time and I believe he will do a good job.
– Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon and chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Veterans and Military Affairs, before the committee voted to 4-0 to advance the nomination of Craig Thompson as transportation secretary to the full Senate. The appointment has drawn criticism from some GOP lawmakers due to Thompson’s former role as executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin. The committee also voted 4-0 to back Mary Kolar to lead Veterans Affairs.

There is a fundamental conflict of interest inherent in appointing the lobbyist of a group of vendors to head an agency that hands out contracts to those same vendors.
– Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg.

I’m not pro-Republican or pro-Democrat, I’m not here to advance any agenda other than faithful application of our constitution and our laws. I will be a pro-law judge.
– Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn during his public investiture this week.

Correction: A “Quotes of the Week” item in the August 2 edition of the Friday REPORT should have indicated that a bill from Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, and Sen. André Jacque, R-De Pere, would limit UW System tuition increases to the rate of inflation if lawmakers were to lift the system’s tuition freeze in a future budget, but would not in itself end the freeze. See more on the bill: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/RELEASE-Murphy-Jacque-UW-Bill-Package-4.pdf

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Aug. 3-16, 2019)


Birth control: It is still unclear if a GOP bill that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control will go anywhere this fall. But the politics of it all are fascinating, insiders say. For one, it’s typically Dems pushing legislation to expand access to birth control, and indeed Dems have a competing bill on the topic. To that point, some Dems are suspicious the Republican bill is a pure political move. After years of pushing anti-abortion legislation, including bills that Dems have argued infringe upon a woman’s ability to access some forms of birth control, skeptics see this as motivated by the 2020 elections. It’s the kind of thing that can give Republicans some cover on the issue, some say. But others insist that’s not what’s driving it. For one, backers see a pressing need, particularly in rural areas, to give women more health care options. Co-sponsor Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, also argues during a public hearing the bill would reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Still, that also puts GOP backers crossways with groups such as Wisconsin Family Action and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, both of whom often side with Republicans on social issues. A hearing on the bill also suggests splits within the Assembly GOP caucus on the topic. And Dems question why GOP backers went forward with their version when Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, had a bill of her own. But that version doesn’t include a requirement that women be 18 years old to get a prescription for hormonal contraceptive patches and birth control pills from a pharmacist; that’s a provision in the GOP bill. A bill with no age requirement would be a no-go with some Republicans who would fear minors would go around their parents to get access to birth control. The GOP bill faces a series of hurdles. While several Republicans raised concerns about the legislation during the hearing, where is the rest of the Assembly GOP caucus? There are 36 Assembly GOP co-sponsors — including Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester — and that’s typically a good sign of support. But if enough Republicans object to the bill, it would need Dem support to pass. Would enough Dems drop their objections and support this version?

Property values: The latest state figures show statewide equalized property values rose 6 percent in 2018 to $580.8 billion with growth across all property classifications. It is also the sixth straight year of growth after a downturn that followed the “Great Recession.” After hitting $514.4 billion in 2008, the state saw five straight years of declines, dropping to $467.5 billion in 2013. The Department of Revenue notes the values as of Jan. 1 marked the first time since 2007 that all counties saw positive changes in equalized values. The report highlights include that $22.6 billion of the $31.4 billion in growth was due to market value increases, while $8.8 billion was from new construction. Meanwhile, Menominee and St. Croix counties saw the largest increase at 10 percent. It’s also the second straight year that Dane County has had the highest equalized values after topping Milwaukee County for the first time in 2018. Dane County had $69.9 billion in equalized values for 2019, compared to $67.2 billion for Milwaukee County. That’s a sharp reversal from 30 years ago, when Dane County had less than half the property values as Milwaukee County.

*See an interactive map from DOR on property values: https://www.revenue.wi.gov/Pages/SLF/EqualizedValue.aspx


Vetoes: Gov. Tony Evers vetoes his seventh bill just seven months into his term, giving him the most full bills nixed over the past dozen years. But it’s unlikely he’s going to match the high of the past five decades — 54 in the 2003-04 session followed by 47 in 2005-06 — in part because the Legislature isn’t sending that much legislation his way. Evers’ latest vetoes nix two GOP bills Republicans leader billed as DOT reform measures that followed the Joint Finance Committee approving a series of fee hikes to pump more money into road construction. He vetoed AB 273, which sought to lower the costs to source materials for projects, because he believed the bill was “unnecessary and cumbersome.” And he nixed AB 284, which would create a discretionary merit fund to incentivize employees to look for cost-saving methods, calling it an “encroachment” on DOT’s authority, noting the agency already participates in an existing program to reward employees financially if they excel. Those vetoes come on top of Evers rejecting four abortion bills and a GOP income tax cut, just pushing him past the six bills that then-Gov. Jim Doyle issued in the 2009-10 session as fellow Dems controlled both houses of the Legislature for the first time in more than a decade. So far, Evers has signed 18 bills into law, including the budget where he used his line-item veto authority 78 times. During the 2017-18 session with Republicans still in control of both houses of the Legislature and the guv’s office, 370 bills became law. The Capitol is nowhere near that pace at this point. After the budget was signed into law, lawmakers largely cleared out of the Capitol to enjoy a full summer for once. Now, committees are just starting to crank up again, and GOP leaders will soon try to gauge their caucuses on a host of issues. But that doesn’t necessarily point to a heavy floor period. Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, again said he doesn’t expect the Assembly to come in until October, when the Legislature has three days set aside to meet. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, says the Senate is unlikely to meet during the two weeks set aside for floor periods in September. That leaves a narrow window in October and two weeks in November to advance legislative priorities before a spring session that seems to get shorter every cycle as election pressures grow. And while Evers hasn’t hesitated to use his veto pen so far this session, Vos has made clear he’d like to be able to neutralize it. The Rochester Republican declares at a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce event that his goal in 2020 is to pick up four Dem seats to give him 67 members and a veto-proof majority.

Craig Thompson: Insiders believe if the DOT secretary’s nomination were put to a vote on the Senate floor, he’d be confirmed. Problem is his nomination might never get there. And the tension in the Senate GOP caucus over the nomination bubbles up as Thompson clears a committee with a unanimous vote. The former road building advocate immediately drew objections from some Republicans for his work with the Transportation Development Association, particularly for its advocacy to pump more money into highway work. Then there was Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to rescind Scott Walker’s appointments after a Dane County judge ruled their confirmations during the December lame-duck session were null and void. Eventually, that ruling was overturned and all of Walker’s appointees were allowed back on the job — even as tensions remained. Then tensions bubbled up as the Senate Committee on Transportation, Veterans and Military Affairs signs off on Thompson’s nomination 4-0 with Chair Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, praising the nominee as a “class act.” The day before, Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, had urged the committee to either put off the vote or reject Thompson’s nomination, citing a report that he was approving more single-bid contracts than his predecessor. But ahead of the vote, Petrowski bemoans the politics around Thompson’s nomination and that “there is constantly, in the world we live in, a lot of sniping going on for some of the secretaries.” An aide to Nass returned fire that the Whitewater Republican was “extremely, extremely upset” by the allegation of sniping and bashed Petrowski for “willfully ignoring your oversight duties.” That didn’t exactly sit well with some insiders, who say it’s a no-no for a staffer to take a shot at a legislator. It’s bad enough, some say, when members of the same party take public jabs at each other. But those kinds of comments are off limits for staff. Some conservatives, though, weren’t happy at Petrowski describing the concerns about Thompson’s nomination as “sniping,” saying lawmakers such as Nass and Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, have been up front about their concerns over the former TDA head leading Transportation. That’s not personal, that’s policy, they add. So now what? With the budget done, the state Capitol has largely cleared out since July, making it difficult to count votes on nominations. Some expect Senate Republicans to dive into the list of Evers nominations once they get together again and map out a path forward. Some of Evers’ nominations haven’t gotten any blowback, and the Senate could advance those during the fall floor period. But along with Thompson, concerns have been raised about Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim over old charges that she stabbed her son’s hand with a pencil, and Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, in part, because one of the top agency appointees used to work for Planned Parenthood. Then there’s Brad Pfaff at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. He seemed like an easy confirmation earlier this year, but after a dustup with Republicans over mental health services for farmers, that may be a trickier proposition, some say. Despite the concerns raised by some Republicans, insiders question if any of them would be rejected should they hit the Senate floor. For one, all 14 Dem members of the chamber would almost assuredly vote for Evers’ nominees barring some startling new development. That would mean just three GOP votes would be needed to confirm any of them. Two Republicans are already on record supporting Thompson during his committee vote, meaning he’d need only one more GOP supporter to clear the Senate, and there’s a pretty good chance it wouldn’t be hard to pick up the needed support, some say. Plus, some ask, what would be the upside for Republicans if they somehow managed to reject his nomination? Thompson has worked in the Capitol for years and earned a good reputation with those on both sides of the aisle, insiders say, adding it would be unrealistic to think Evers would replace him with someone more moderate. And for the concerns some conservatives have over a former Planned Parenthood official working at DHS, rejecting Palm’s nomination wouldn’t change that, either. An early test for Palm’s support will come with a Senate committee exec on Wednesday. With the unlikely scenario that one of the nominees would be rejected, some insiders expect Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, to just sit on those that lack 17 GOP votes. That scenario doesn’t undercut the nominees’ ability to do their jobs, but it also would create a unique situation. Going back to 1997, no cabinet appointment has been rejected, with all either confirmed or withdrawn, according to the Senate Chief Clerk’s office.

Gun control: The cycle continues to repeat itself. A mass shooting prompts Wisconsin Dems to call for new gun control measures at the state level. Republicans raise concerns about Second Amendment rights and put their efforts into treating mental health in Wisconsin. The nation’s attention moves on from the tragedy, and the urgency to act fades — until the next mass shooting. As the nation reacts to what happened in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Wisconsin insiders see the cycle largely repeating itself at the state level. Their bigger question is whether anything will move on the national front. President Trump urges Congress to strengthen background checks, piquing curiosity on whether something could move at the federal level. National media report that talks on gun measures are underway between the Hill and the White House. But even as that’s going on, the president’s focus seems to shift at a rally in New Hampshire, where he says it’s “not the gun that pulls the trigger — it’s the person holding the gun.” He also focuses on mental illness, saying new facilities need to be built “for those in need” and “we will be taking mentally deranged and dangerous people off the streets so we don’t have to worry so much about that.” Such comments exasperate those who advocate for the mentally ill, saying it stigmatizes the afflicted and fails to acknowledge the shooter in Texas, for example, had espoused a white supremacist ideology. In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers, AG Josh Kaul and Dem lawmakers unveil a universal background check bill that would include many private firearms sales and transfers. It includes an exemption for the sale of antiques, a transfer classified as a gift and others. Evers declares “It’s time to stop waiting for permission from the NRA. Enough is enough, folks.” But Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, countered it was “disingenuous” to suggest universal background checks “would have prevented the tragedies we’ve seen as a state and nation.” He instead called for expanding mental health services. Dems point to consistent polling that shows an overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites back universal background checks. But while some Republicans say there could be a new discussion among GOP lawmakers this fall about possible tweaks to state laws, they don’t see wholesale changes on the docket. One, they don’t hear as strong a push for background checks and other measures from constituents in their largely rural and suburban districts. Those laws may play well in Madison and Milwaukee, but it’s a different story outstate, they argue.


Mandela Barnes: The lieutenant governor is a rock star with the base, in demand whenever presidential contenders come to town and projected by some as the future of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin. He’s also prone to some sloppiness in his personal life — things Republicans will be all too happy to advertise if he decides to run at the top of the ticket on his own some day. The latest example is the dustup over the mistaken perception that he’d graduated from Alabama A&M. Barnes tells the Madison alt weekly Isthmus that he did the coursework to make up an incomplete he received in a class and was working with the school to get the issue resolved. Problem is during the campaign he told some media outlets he “finished” college, resulting in them reporting he was a graduate. He also blames a former campaign staffer for the inaccurate information provided to one outlet for a candidate profile. And Barnes bristles at a Capitol news conference as reporters ask Evers right in front of the LG whether the guv believes he’s been truthful in the whole matter. “Hey, Mandela here. I’m actually here,” said a visibly exasperated Barnes after the question was asked the second time. The dust up comes after stories detailing Barnes’ failure to pay his property taxes on time and for being fined after failing to pay outstanding parking tickets. To some Republicans, it’s a pattern suggesting arrogance. After all, voters don’t get to shrug off parking tickets or paying their taxes on time, why should an elected official? They also add ruefully that it’s an indictment of how poorly the GOP opposition research arm functioned ahead of last fall’s election. Some Dems sigh at what they see as some carelessness on Barnes’ part, but they also argue it’s understandable. Nearly three years ago, his political career seemed dead in the water after he took on state Sen. Lena Taylor, of Milwaukee, in a Dem primary and lost badly. He then had impeccable timing to jump in the race for LG last year, easily beating Sheboygan businessman Kurt Kober for the nomination. Along that comeback trail, it may not have dawned on him the fish bowl he would face as not just one of the youngest lieutenant governors in the country, but only the second African-American elected to statewide office in Wisconsin history. What’s more, some argue, he’s just 32. Some people need a little more time to get their stuff together in life, and they aren’t doing it under such intense scrutiny. Then there’s the element of race and the questions some have of whether the color of Barnes’ skin has something to do with the scrutiny. Meanwhile, the debate over degrees and parking tickets isn’t doing any damage to Barnes’ standing with the Dem base — or with those seeking the party’s presidential nomination. While in Milwaukee for a town hall put on by a Latino organization, contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both ask Barnes to introduce them at separate events they did in Milwaukee. Likewise, Cory Booker comes knocking as he arrives in the city for a campaign event. And Dems say it’s no secret why. Barnes is a young, energetic African-American whose endorsement would be coveted by any presidential contender. What’s more, some Dems add that it’s no secret why Evers has dispatched Barnes all around the state as a surrogate since they took office. Not only is he an effective ambassador for the administration, but it is an opportunity for him to build relations around Wisconsin should he ever decide to run statewide at the top of the ticket and not just as a running mate. Should he pull that trigger on such a run, Republicans inevitably would seek to use these slipups against him, some say. But in the age of Donald Trump and the baggage that some voters seem willing to look past these days, insiders question if it will matter.

Opioid deaths: Finally some good news. The state Department of Health Services announces opioid deaths dropped 10 percent in 2018 to 838, the fewest since 2015. The dip follows steps Wisconsin has taken in recent years to address opioids; it reflects national numbers, too. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control releases preliminary data suggesting the number of Americans who died from drug overdoses fell in 2018 after years of increases. That includes about 47,600 opioid deaths in 2018 compared to 49,000 in 2017. In Wisconsin, the 838 opioid deaths were down from 932 in 2017 and were the fewest since 850 in 2015. DHS also reports emergency room visits for opioid-related overdoses increased by 64 percent from 2014-18. Still, inpatient stays for overdoses dropped over that period by 15 percent. The dip in deaths follows an announcement last fall that doctors in Wisconsin were prescribing fewer opioids, according to a new state prescription drug monitoring program — one of the many changes put in place in recent years. That system showed there were 872,735 prescriptions in the third quarter of 2018 compared to nearly 1.3 million in the first quarter of 2015.


Gov. Tony Evers today signed an executive order aiming to ensure the state is powered entirely by clean energy by 2050.

In a Capitol news conference, Evers announced he was creating the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy within the Department of Administration. That office was included in his initial executive budget proposal but was stripped out as a non-fiscal policy item by the Joint Finance Committee.

Along with ensuring all electricity in Wisconsin is “100 percent carbon-free” by 2050, the office will also be responsible for ensuring the state meets the carbon reduction goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, developing a plan to “mitigate the harm from climate change” and setting standards, among other things.

“Clean energy has not been a priority in our state and we’re going to change that,” Evers said. “We’re going to adopt policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impact of fossil fuels.”

Still, Evers made clear that the executive order was “not a mandate” on energy companies, adding the new office would work together utilities and nonprofits to set benchmarks.

Public Service Commission Chair Rebecca Cameron Valcq conceded a shift to clean energy could lead to a bump in rates for consumers. But she said with retirements of coal-fired power plants on the horizon, rate hikes are “something that we talk about all the time.”

“Everything that is going to be occurring between now and 2050 will have a customer impact, and we are aware of that and we are ready and willing to find all sorts of different solutions,” she said.

The order did not specify staffing or funding levels for the new office. When quizzed by reporters on the subject, Evers said resources would be reallocated from the governor’s office and DOA and his office was “still in the process” of determining staffing levels.

“This should’ve been a priority for the entire Legislature, but it wasn’t and so we’re making it a priority,” he said.

In his executive budget, Evers called for six full-time positions and just over $6.2 million in funding.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leaders Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, were not immediately available for comment.

But in a statement, Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, called the order “irresponsible,” noting “the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow.”

“We need to have a reliable energy grid as it is literally the economic engine that keeps moving Wisconsin forward,” he said. “To have a goal is one thing, but to mandate it without assurance that the technology will exist is negligent.”

See the executive order:

See Kuglitsch’s statement:

Evers says Barnes ‘truthful’

Evers said that he believes Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has been “truthful” about his status as a college graduate.

In a profile in the Madison weekly Isthmus, Barnes said he received an incomplete grade in a class, a “small technical thing” that was never resolved and prevented him from graduating.

But in a questionnaire in the run-up to last fall’s election, Barnes indicated he had a bachelor’s degree from Alabama A&M. A Barnes spokesman told WisPolitics.com in an email earlier this month that was an error made by a former campaign worker.

Evers was asked by reporters on two occasions in the aftermath of the clean energy news conference whether he felt Barnes was being honest in his depiction of himself as a college graduate, which drew a tetchy response from the lt. guv.

“Hey, Mandela here. I’m actually here,” said a visibly exasperated Barnes after the question was asked the second time.

Barnes went on to again place blame on a former campaign worker before Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff interjected to allow Evers to answer.

“I believe those responses are responsible responses and as a result, I believe he has been truthful,” Evers said.

Hear the first question and response:

Hear the second question and response:


Under a fourth of the 48 guards who accepted transfers to take advantage of the state’s offer for an extra $5 an hour to work at the most understaffed prisons went to the two facilities with the highest vacancy rates.

Columbia Correctional Institution, which has the highest vacancy rate among DOC institutions, received only four transfers while Waupun Correctional Institution, the prison with the second-highest vacancy rate, got seven.

What’s more, data the Department of Corrections provided WisPolitics.com showing nearly 40 percent of transfers, 19 of the 48, went to the facilities at Green Bay and Taycheedah. Despite being made eligible for the add-on program, those two facilities have lower vacancy rates than at least three other DOC facilities that were not made eligible for the pay boost, according to a May Legislative Audit Bureau report.

DOC Secretary Kevin Carr conceded the pay add-on had not brought about the results he hoped it would produce in terms of transfers, telling WisPolitics.com in an interview increasing staffing levels at several institutions “certainly has been a challenge.” He added that the program was “going well” overall and highlighted a sizeable bump in enrollment in training academies.

But for a prison guard on the front lines at a critically understaffed institution, “it feels like they’re abandoning us.”

WisPolitics.com recently reported that in the first three months, only 48 of the 387 Division of Adult Institutions officers and sergeants that originally put in for transfers have followed through with the request to change facilities — just 12.4 percent.

The low follow-through rate is blamed by some on the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents a large swath of DOC employees. An AFSCME spokeswoman said the union encouraged its members to file so-called “protest transfer requests” in solidarity with the employees at the 30 other Division of Adult Institutions facilities that were not given raises.

The results didn’t surprise Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam. The former corrections supervisor told WisPolitics.com he doesn’t think “money alone” will solve the problem.

“I didn’t expect the add-on to be any sort of a magic wand, and it appears it’s not,” he said.

Most of those who did transfer did not choose the facilities in most desperate need of DOC veterans. In addition to the four transfers to Columbia, only seven prison guards chose to move to Waupun Correctional, the institution with the second-highest vacancy rate.

Prison guards at Waupun and Columbia, both of whom requested anonymity to speak freely about their work conditions, said they were disappointed by Carr’s comments and the number of new hires the add-on program brought to their institutions.

“They said this was a crisis, yet they get less than a dozen new guys in and call it job done,” said the Waupun guard, where the seven transfers joined four academy graduates.

“It’s clear that this is fading to the back of people’s minds in Madison.”

The guard at Columbia was similarly disheartened when presented his institution’s recruiting haul that saw only four new transfers and three new recruits.

“We raised hell just to get people to notice how bad it is here and don’t really have much to show for it,” he said. “It really sucks.”

Instead, the largest chunk of the transfers to facilities eligible for the pay boost went to Dodge Correction — 18 of the 48. The institution is known within the DOC community to be highly desirable due to its status as an intake facility.

A former DOC official described the facility as a “revolving door” where new inmates learn about what life in prison is like before being shipped out to another max facility for the duration of their sentence. The relatively short stays for a majority of the population decreases the likelihood of gangs forming and long-simmering grudges boiling over into violence.

While Dodge’s vacancy rate ranks third-highest among DOC institutions — less than a percentage point behind Waupun — guards tend to stay longer: it has by far the highest median tenure of security personnel of any maximum-security facility.

Veterans guards are considered to be prized assets when it comes to lowering vacancy rates. Those with experience in the system understand the rigors of the job and can be relied upon when work conditions get tough. Academy graduates, on the other hand, are seen by some DOC personnel as the driving force behind the high turnover rates.

Carr told WisPolitics.com that despite the program’s failure to significantly boost staff at the two most undermanned institutions, he was not considering using further financial incentives to drive recruitment.

“There won’t be any higher rates of pay or anything like that targeted for those two institutions. That’s not in the picture right now,” he said.

Instead, both he and Born focused on the across-the-board pay raise for prison guards approved by the Joint Finance Committee and signed into law as part of the budget by Gov. Tony Evers.

Carr said he hoped those raises, coupled with morale-boosting effort to ensure that DOC personnel feel their input is “valued and impactful” on day-to-day operations, could improve staffing levels long-term.

Those long-term goals match with what AFSCME spokeswoman Valerie Landowski said the union hoped to accomplish with the collective action. Landowski told WisPolitics.com AFSCME was aiming to “restore employees’ voice in the workplace” and “have management invested and care about what the issues are within the workplace.”

But in the short term, neither Carr, Born or Landowski seemed to have the magic bullet to help those guards who feel that they’ve been left behind.

“This is something that built over time,” Born said. “The bottom line is that we need to be more competitive with other professions and jobs in the areas of these prisons.”


The PAC Randy Bryce rolled out in March to back working-class congressional candidates has yet to make a single donation to someone running for office, according to his latest FEC report.

Instead, nearly half the money it spent went to pay the ironworker for consulting, cover his travel costs or buy email contacts from his old campaign.

But Bryce told WisPolitics.com that’s because 2020 campaigns are just now getting off the ground and he’s planning a re-launch of Iron PAC within a month to expand its reach.

“We’re going to have more people helping us out, and we’re going to be able to reach out more to candidates as well,” the former 1st CD candidate told WisPolitics.com.

Late last year, the Working Families Party announced Bryce was joining the progressive group as a senior adviser to recruit and elect working-class candidates. But Bryce said he left that role in March, when Iron PAC launched. He also has been working on other things, including going back to work as an ironworker.

Beyond the money Iron PAC paid Bryce, it also paid $5,964 to the consulting firm Strategy and Hustle, which helped the former Dem congressional candidate roll out the PAC back in March. It also spent $3,186 on telecommunications services and another $2,895 on compliance services.

State GOP spokesman Charles Nichols said the spending suggests Bryce started a “scam PAC to pad his own pockets,” referencing issues that popped up during the 2018 campaign over the Dem’s past.

“This is the behavior we have come to expect from Randy Bryce,” Nichols said.

In his fundraising pitch to roll out the PAC, Bryce made a promise to backers that “with your support, Iron PAC will seek out and support working people who do more than acknowledge that the middle class is struggling. Iron PAC will work with men and women who are struggling and give them the tools to fix our country.”

In the interview, Bryce noted he’s started promoting Dem House candidate JD Scholten, who’s challenging U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. That includes traveling to Iowa recently to join Scholten for an event. Iron PAC also sent a fundraising pitch Thursday on Scholten’s behalf based on King’s comments about the impact of rape and incest on the world’s population.

The Caledonia Dem was a powerhouse fundraiser as he sought to take on then-House Speaker Paul Ryan before the Janesville Republican announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2018. All told, Bryce raised and spent nearly $8.6 million in his bid for Wisconsin’s 1st CD that he lost to Republican Bryan Steil with 42.3 percent of the vote.

Iron PAC, meanwhile, reported receipts of $23,736 between March 1 and June 30 with expenditures of $21,622, leaving it with $2,114 in the bank.

The FEC filing shows the PAC paid Bryce $9,000 in $3,000 increments over April, May and June. It also reimbursed him $524 in travel costs and paid his congressional campaign $900 for email contacts.

When the PAC was announced, one report noted Bryce had some 450,000 donors that he planned to tap to help other Democratic congressional candidates who lack personal wealth or a network of wealthy backers.

Of the money the PAC raised, $13,607 was unitemized, meaning it came from donors who gave $200 or less. The donations the PAC detailed included $1,015 from Alex Lawson of Washington, D.C., who founded the firm Strategy and Hustle, which helped with the PAC’s rollout.

Iron PAC’s biggest donation was $4,663 from Middle Seat Consulting in Silver Spring, Md.

Meanwhile, Bryce’s latest filing for his congressional campaign shows it has more debts than assets despite his impressive fundraising haul starting in spring 2017 through the 2018 election.

The campaign listed $3,678 in receipts during the second quarter, $4,327 in expenditures, and $372 cash on hand with $19,951 in obligations and debts.

Almost all of the receipts his congressional campaign reported were from Rapid Returns, a California-based direct mail firm that worked for Bryce during his failed congressional bid.

The report listed three debts: $10,095 to TOSKR Inc., a California telecommunications firm; $6,100 to Akerman LLP, a Florida law firm; and $3,756 to Blue State Digital, of New York, for software.

Bryce said the campaign sought to pay off individuals first and was now seeking to rent his fundraising list in accordance with FEC regulations as it looks to retire the remaining debt.

“We are taking care of our obligations to make sure that people do get paid off and everyone that we owe money to,” Bryce said.

See the first filing from Iron PAC:

See the latest filing from Bryce’s congressional campaign:

See the Iron PAC email sent on Scholten’s behalf:


Tuesday: Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions executive session on regulating hemp.
– 10 a.m.: 201 Southeast., State Capitol.

Wednesday: Senate Committee on Health and Human Services executive session on Andrea Palm’s nomination as DHS secretary.
– 10 a.m.: 411 South, 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, hosted by ADRIENNE PEDERSEN, features Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator MEAGAN WOLFE, 1st CD Dem candidate JOSH PADE and Milwaukee County Supv. SYLVIA ORTIZ-VELEZ.

*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 latest gun control debate in the Capitol, concerns over election security and state Sen. LENA TAYLOR considering a run for Milwaukee mayor.
*Watch the show: https://wiseye.org/2019/08/16/rewind-your-week-in-review-for-august-10-16/

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG speaks with Transportation Secretary CRAIG THOMPSON about funding for local improvements, and Bayfield County Highway Commissioner PAUL JOHANIK talks about a bill sponsored by Sen. TAMMY BALDWIN to change how federal emergency funds are disbursed.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison. Host NEIL HEINEN interviews CHRIS ARENZ, executive director of Badger Air Community Council and ZACH BRANDON, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce on the possibility of new F-35s being stationed with the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field 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. Guests include League of Wisconsin Municipalities Executive Director JERRY DESCHANE, state GOP Chair ANDREW HITT and state Rep. MELISSA SARGENT, D-Madison.

“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 consider the chances Wisconsin will approve medical marijuana.

*Watch the video or listen to the show: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-consider-the-chances-wisconsin-will-approve-medical-marijuana/

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

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

*A Sept.12 luncheon at the Madison Club with the two new state party chairs to talk about the 2020 election cycle. Wisconsin will play a pivotal role in the presidential contest, through the spring primary, the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee and the general election. The two major state parties now have new leaders going into the cycle: ANDREW HITT at the Republican Party of Wisconsin and BEN WIKLER at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. See details and register: https://wispolitics2020election.eventbrite.com/

*A Sept. 18 breakfast at the AT&T Forum in Washington, D.C., with Milwaukee Mayor TOM BARRETT and a top DNC official on preparations for the Democratic National Convention in Wisconsin next year. See details and register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/sept-18-wispolitics-d-c-breakfast-on-2020-democratic-national-convention-with-milwaukee-mayor-tom-barrett/

*A Sept. 24 luncheon with Gov. TONY EVERS at the Madison Club. Evers is set to discuss the budget and the fall legislative session, as well as other topics. See details and register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-governor-tony-evers-tickets-67362128941

And save these dates …Thurs., Oct. 24 in Madison, Senate Majority Leader SCOTT FITZGERALD; and Tues., Nov. 5 in Madison, LIZ GILBERT, executive director of the local organizing committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

Plus, get ready for WisPolitics.com’s Midwest Polling Summit on Oct. 9 at the Madison Club. An array of top pollsters and public opinion researchers will highlight the all-afternoon event. It’s an opportunity to see top experts talk about the issues and trends that will affect campaign 2020 and key Midwest battlegrounds, including Wisconsin. The afternoon begins with a primer on Midwest views on health care issues from nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation polling expert ASHLEY KIRZINGER and then gets the political perspective from top campaign advisers with strong Midwest ties: CELINDA LAKE, PAUL MASLIN, B.J. MARTINO and SARAH SIMMONS. A “future of polling” panel will be led by Marquette University Law School Poll Director CHARLES FRANKLIN and include the AFL-CIO’s MICHAEL PODHORZER, senior adviser to the organization’s president and former political director, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Political Director ASHLEE STEPHENSON. This will be followed by closing thoughts on public opinion research from UW-Madison political scientist and author KATHERINE CRAMER. To reserve a table of eight or sponsor this event, contact Colin Schmies: schmies@wispolitics.com

BRANDON THALER will serve as chief operating officer for the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention. He previously served as chief of staff at Surgo Foundation, a nonprofit that addresses social issues through data and analytics, and managed operations for BlueLabs, an analytics company. The Maryland native also has experience in local, state and federal campaigns.

Assembly Speaker ROBIN VOS has formally taken over as the head of the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Rochester Republican has spent the past year as president-elect and succeeds Dem Sen. TOI HUTCHINSON of Illinois. He is the first NCSL president from Wisconsin.

UW-Green Bay Chancellor GARY MILLER is leaving his role at the end of September to become president at the University of Akron.

Gov. TONY EVERS is profiled in the new “2020 Almanac of American Politics.” The almanac also details President TRUMP’s victory in Wisconsin in the 2016 elections as well as an overview of the state’s political history. See an excerpt: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/book-excerpt-the-almanac-of-american-politics/

In other book news …Former Senate leader, cabinet secretary and health insurance official TIM CULLEN has written another book, with the help of DOUG MOE. Due out this fall, it’s titled: “DISASSEMBLED: A Native Son on Janesville and General Motors — a Story of Grit, Race, Gender, and Wishful Thinking and What It Means for America.”

And a long-awaited book on Dem Gov. PAT LUCEY, titled “Patrick J. Lucey: A Lasting Legacy,” is due out in May 2020 from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. UW-Madison political scientist DENNIS DRESANG completed a biography on the man from southwestern Wisconsin who counseled JOHN F. KENNEDY, served two terms as governor in the 1970s, left to become ambassador to Mexico and ran for vice president with independent JOHN ANDERSON in 1980.

Political strategists Democrat SCOT ROSS and Republican BILL McCOSHEN have launched a new podcast, “WIN2020 With McCoshen and Ross.” The show will feature the duo talking politics with a new guest each episode to figure which party will win Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes and how they will do it. See more and listen to a sample podcast: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/win2020wi-veteran-wisconsin-political-operatives-launch-win2020-podcast/

Gov. TONY EVERS has appointed PATTY EDELBURG, DAN SMITH and CARLA WASHINGTON to the DATCP board. The trio succeeds NICOLE HANSEN, DEAN STRAUSS and DENNIS BADTKE, respectively. See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/gov-evers-announces-appointments-to-the-board-of-the-wisconsin-department-of-agriculture-trade-and-consumer-protection/

The guv has also made seven appointments to the Wisconsin Women’s Council. They are: ZE YANG, of Madison; PATTY CADORIN, of Milwaukee; LISA ARMAGANIAN, of Brookfield; DENISE GAUMER HUTCHINSON, of Green Bay; CHANTIA LEWIS, of Milwaukee; ROSALYN McFARLAND, of Brown Deer; and NERISSA NELSON, of Stevens Point. See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2019/gov-evers-announces-appointments-to-the-wisconsin-womens-council/

KARL ROVE, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff for President GEORGE W. BUSH, is scheduled to speak Oct. 22 at the Badger Institute Annual Dinner at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee. See details: https://www.badgerinstitute.org/Events

The Department of Public Instruction has announced GRANT HUBER will serve as its new legislative liaison. Huber has worked as a budget and policy analyst for DPI since 2015.

DENNIS BURNS has retired from his post in the office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms due to health issues after serving for over 30 years.

No Better Friend Corp., the organization set up by former Republican U.S. Senate candidate KEVIN NICHOLSON, has hired EMELIA ROHL to serve as communications director. Rohl previously worked on Nicholson’s 2018 Senate campaign and most recently served as communications director for state Sen. DAN FEYEN, R-Fond du Lac.

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)

Nineteen changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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