MON AM Update: Conservative groups warn lawmakers against adding new wedding barn regulations to state budget

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— A coalition of conservative groups is warning lawmakers against trying to add new regulations of wedding barns to the state budget.

The Evers administration earlier this year said it planned to continue the existing policy of not requiring wedding barns to obtain a liquor license. But the Tavern League and others have pushed for new restrictions, arguing the wedding venues should be required to get a license.

In the letter, the groups write non-fiscal policy shouldn’t be included in the budget, particularly through the 999 motion, typically the final addition to the budget in the Joint Finance Committee.

“If the destruction of wedding barns is a good idea, then let it be debated as a standalone piece of legislation, rather than smuggled into the budget or snuck into a last minute amendment,” the letter reads. “What is spoken in the dark will be heard in the daylight.”

Read the letter:

— With the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee preparing to wrap up work on the state budget, Sens. LaTonya Johnson and Devin LeMahieu on Sunday’s episode of “UpFront” debated the committee’s actions on transportation funding and Medicaid expansion.

The JFC last week scrapped Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed 8 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase, instead approving a $95 increase in the title transfer fee, pushing it to $164.50, and a $10 increase in the annual registration fee for cars.

LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, told host Adrienne Pedersen that with an increasing shift to hybrid and electric vehicles, the gas tax isn’t a long-term solution to funding transportation.

“Raising the gas tax may be a short-term fix, but we’re looking for long-term fixes for our transportation infrastructure in the state of Wisconsin, and a fixed fee increase like this provides that long-term stability,” he said on the program, which is produced in partnership with

LeMahieu also noted that under Evers’ plan, the gas tax would adjust with inflation without giving lawmakers a chance to weigh in on any increases.

Johnson, D-Milwaukee, said a gas tax increase spreads the cost to both drivers from Wisconsin and those who visit from other states.

“Proposing a title fee, that just sticks that cost to Wisconsin residents,” Johnson said, adding that the fee increases may be difficult to pay for those with low or fixed incomes.

Johnson said under the GOP’s plan, the title transfer fee will be the same regardless of the vehicle’s value, while a gas tax depends on how much people drive.

The two also addressed Evers’ proposed Medicaid expansion, which JFC Republicans removed from the budget.

Johnson said under Medicaid expansion the state would bring in $1.6 billion more in federal funds while saving the state $324 million. She said under Republicans’ plan, the state will spend $300 million more in state funds and bring in $1.2 billion less from the federal government.

“This is our opportunity to use money that Wisconsinites have already paid in taxes and to provide those services that are most needed,” Johnson said.

LeMahieu noted the state has consistently ranked in the top five in health care quality the top 10 in the percentage of those with insurance.

“Just expanding welfare … I don’t think is in the best interest of Wisconsin,” he said.

He noted Republicans put an addition $60 million into Medicaid reimbursement and increased pay for nursing home and personal and family care workers.

“We think we’ve provided a great solution to make sure the neediest in society have that coverage that they need,” LeMahieu said.

— Also on the program, Gov. Tony Evers and first lady Kathy Evers in a joint interview addressed women in politics and other issues.

Kathy Evers is chairwoman of a committee that planned the state’s celebration of its 100th anniversary of ratifying the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The event will be held today from noon to 3 p.m. at the Capitol.

“You look back 100 years, or even 70 years beyond that, at how women have worked very hard to try to get the right to vote,” Kathy Evers said. “We have to keep that legacy going. We still have issues of people having the right to vote and we want to make sure that the legacy of women’s suffrage continues within Wisconsin and make sure that everybody has the right to vote.”

Asked about the relatively large number of women on his staff, Tony Evers said he’s hired women throughout his career.

“They have been a rock,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the opportunity I have had to give women voice, and frankly, power and authority, to do really important and incredible things.”

See more from the show:

— Lawmakers last week circulated nine bills for co-sponsorship, including one to add protections to a 2016 law creating criminal penalties for those who intentionally damage or trespass on the property of an energy provider and a Dem package of bills for Pride Month

See the Association of Wisconsin Lobbyist’s summary of last week’s bills circulated, including links to the co-sponsorship memos:



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LGBTQ Flag Flying Over Wisconsin State Capitol For First Time In History
Gov. Tony Evers Ordered Rainbow Flag Raised In Celebration Of Pride Month … will fly for the entirety of June … small crowd gathered outside the Capitol to watch the flag raising [some comment.] Evers’ EO: “Publicly displaying the Rainbow Pride Flag has become an important visual symbol of support for the LGBTQ community. The people of Wisconsin have made critical steps toward LGBTQ equity, but we recognize that there is more work to do to ensure that every person in our state is treated with respect and experiences full equality in their lives.” GOP Rep. Allen tweeted, “Is this any more appropriate than erecting the Christian flag over the Capitol?” GOP Sen. Craig tweeted: “The U.S. and Wisconsin flags are flown over us as unifying symbols for all Wisconsinites. The governor’s action today is in no doubt a statement to advance a cause. The only cause that the Capitol flags should represent is 50 states united in one republic.” Pride month in part commemorates Stonewall Riots in June 1969 in NYC, considered watershed event of gay rights movement.

GOP transportation plan would allow [JFC] to impose vehicle fees of any amount
… based on how many miles vehicles drove, starting in 2023. The rest of the Legislature wouldn’t get a say in the matter under the plan. … measure granting the committee new powers appears innocuous. It authorizes a $2.5 million study to look into mileage-based fees to pay for roads. Once completed, Evers’ [DOT] would be required to file a recommendation with the committee in January 2023 on whether such fees should be assessed. The committee could approve that plan — or write one of its own, including one with any level of fees. … “It makes it easier (to approve),” [WisDOT Sec.] Thompson said. “It’s just a matter of whether everybody’s represented.” Vos, Fitzgerald no comment. JFC Dem Erpenbach “not a fan.” MIkalsen for Sen. Nass cited “no taxpayer protection.” Rep. Loudenbeck said it may be best on unpopular solutions. Evers’-JFC road budget comparison.

Foxconn’s innovation center in Eau Claire sees little progress
… last July … In a major news conference, they announced plans to create 150 high-tech jobs by opening a downtown Eau Claire innovation center … in 2019. … reached agreement to acquire the former Wells Fargo building and about half of the ground floor of the Haymarket Landing building to house the project. Eleven months later … has purchased about 15,500 square feet of commercial space on the first floor of the Haymarket Landing building, but it remains empty. No people, no desks, no construction. … [city econ dir.] White and [City Mgr] Peters met with four members of the Foxconn team a few weeks ago for an update. “They didn’t have a specific timeline they could provide, but they also didn’t give any indication that the project wasn’t going to move forward,” White said, noting that Foxconn didn’t receive any incentives from the city for the project. Foxconn statement on Sat.: “Foxconn Technology Group is proud to be moving forward with this crucial part of our commitment to Wisconsin and will continue to work with our partners in the Eau Claire area and across the state on this project. … fostering the kind of economic activity they can help create is an effort to which we and our partners are fully committed.” Contractor Market & Johnson pres. Shea said construction start date is still unknown, “We stand ready to get going when they are.” ECCoC’s Minor: “Any business that moves in here and wants to employ 150 people, that’s a good thing for Eau Claire.”

Employee-strapped businesses: How soon can you start?
… “The challenge here is the lack of applicants,” said Mayers, who moved to the Fox Valley and is now the Grand Chute [PF Chang’s] operating partner. Unemployment numbers in the Fox Cities are hovering around historic lows of 2.4%. “Appleton and Oshkosh clock in at 2.4%, Neenah at 2.2%,” said [DWD’s] Long … Las Vegas, by comparison, had 4.5 to 4.9% unemployment last fall at the time P.F. Chang’s was hiring there [1,000 applicants]. … the economy is still experiencing one of the longest expansions on record, creating demand for goods and services, “which in turn puts upward pressure on the demand for workers,” said Long. Some area workers comment.

Petersen Elected As UW Regents President
… unanimously Friday … succeeds Regent John Robert Behling, whose term ended in May. Michael Grebe was elected vice president. Petersen is TDS Telecomm VP. Petersen statement said he will strongly advocate for UW because “an investment in the UW System pays great returns to taxpayers.”

MPS is hemorrhaging workers, MTEA says. Will a new salary schedule help?
… [since Act 10,] MPS has been particularly hard hit. It saw a net loss of 730 teachers between 2010 and 2014, according to 2015 [PPF] report … more than 1,600 resigned, retired or were dismissed in the last four years alone … district has 330 vacant positions, 268 of them for teachers. … net effect, teachers say, is a hodgepodge system in which students are taught by fledgling teachers on emergency licenses, or teachers aides and subs — if schools can get them. … Many retired out of fear they’d lose benefits in the years after Act 10. But wages are a big part of it, they say, in part because Act 10 also cut into their take-home pay by requiring workers to pick up a portion of their health care and retirement costs. Graph compares area teacher salaries to regional avg. MTEA’s MIzialko and Anderson, some teachers comment.

Madison school-based officers emphasize relationships as new contract considered
… Madison School Board is scheduled to take up a new contract that could keep the officers in schools next year, despite protests against their presence. … As two of the four Madison Police Department officers stationed at the city’s comprehensive high schools, Franco and Turner said they emphasize building relationships with students, especially if it can prevent them from committing a crime. But those relationships sometimes don’t come easy, the officers said. Students have cussed at them in the hallways or ignored their commands when they try to break up fights. … responded to criticisms that the presence of officers in schools disproportionately impacts students of color and feeds a “school-to-prison pipeline” as opponents have argued for more than two years at School Board meetings. Freedom Inc.’s Gomez said police act differently when they are being observed, argued community policing model does not prevent or reduce youth crime. Black students make up about 18% MPS students, but 83% of physical arrests in SY17-18 we blacks, 79% of citations were to blacks. Turner, who is black, had no good answer about disproportionate black arrests, said he does not single out any group and his arrests have been for more serious violations, such as bringing a weapon to school or stealing a car. Franco blamed systemic problem of people of color lacking equal access to healthy food, stable housing, quality health care or good-paying jobs, which she said can traumatize children and result in more contact with police.

DNR refers Johnson Controls case to state prosecutors over failing to report pollution
… saying [Tyco] failed to inform state officials it knew that so-called forever chemicals [PFAS] had been found at a fire training facility in northeastern Wisconsin and did not take steps to minimize their impact. … Johnson Controls said in a statement Friday that it believed it was not obligated to notify authorities when the chemicals were first detected because the company believed the contamination was confined to its property. … In a statement, Johnson Controls spokesman Fraser Engerman said, “we believed in 2013 that Tyco had no such reporting obligation; we stand by that position today.” … Tyco and Johnson Controls are currently providing bottled water to 125 residents. The companies have installed 38 water treatment systems on properties. … In an April 24 letter to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) Johnson Controls said that after discovering the PFAS on its property, the company “immediately conducted further investigation” and discussed the situation with a consultant. … [DNR’s HOye] declined to provide additional details on [confidential] documents … [DOJ] spokeswoman said that the agency “generally does not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, except in unique public safety circumstances.”

Police officer’s company had ties to defendant in Wisconsin human trafficking case
… Fernando U. Hernandez, a Moultrie Police Department sergeant, is the only officer of G&H Harvesting … federal case is centered on two companies — Garcia & Sons Harvesting and C&D Harvesting — that brought seasonal farm workers from Mexico to work [legally] on farms in Georgia. … many were illegally sent to work on farms in Wisconsin in 2016 … Hernandez acknowledged his ownership of G&H Harvesting … denied any wrongdoing. … has not been charged in the case, which was filed in late May in federal court in Milwaukee.

Wisconsin National Guard infantry battalion mobilizing for Afghanistan
… Eau Claire-based 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry will provide security for coalition forces … includes companies from Menomonie, New Richmond, Rice Lake, Arcadia, Onalaska, River Falls and Abbotsford. Soldiers in 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry deployed to Iraq in 2004-’06 and 2009-’10 but the battalion has not yet served in Afghanistan. Another Red Arrow infantry battalion – 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry – was the first to deploy to Afghanistan, arriving this spring with around 400 soldiers.


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– 10 a.m.: PSC hearing.

– 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.: Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration. Speakers include: first lady Kathy Evers, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.

– 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Sen. Testin’s birthday party.



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