MON AM Update: Roundup from GOP state convention, Fitzgerald on ‘UpFront’

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— U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson pitched his vision for bringing a corporate structure to the Republican Party of Wisconsin at this weekend’s state convention, while GOP leaders and the guv’s spokeswoman got into a dustup.

Meanwhile, GOP members of the congressional delegation warned activists that Dems are going to bring “crazy” to Milwaukee with the national convention next summer, and Justice-elect Brian Hagedorn thanked them for his election in April.

Johnson’s presentation to the convention on Saturday in Oshkosh was part of the party’s review of the postmortem on the 2018 elections.

Johnson said his vision for the party includes viewing the state GOP as the corporate headquarters and the county parties as 72 divisions or franchises. Headquarters would drive policy, direct communications and offer best practices. The county parties then would carry out that mission into their communities — and be held accountable for doing so.

“There’s an expectation of excellence involved in that,” Johnson said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

— Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, complained during a panel discussion about the relationship Republicans have with Gov. Tony Evers.

Fitzgerald said while there was collaboration with former Dem Gov. Jim Doyle, that didn’t exist with Evers.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said the guv has told Fitzgerald and Vos they should work with his chief of staff, Maggie Gau — Evers’ former campaign manager.

“That directive wasn’t confusing to them when the chief of staff was a man,” she said. “Vos and Fitzgerald are clearly uncomfortable or simply unwilling to work with a leadership team made up entirely of women.”

Vos responded to the dig with a tweet pointing out his chief of staff, communications director and policy director are all women.

“Evers staff – Clueless,” Vos tweeted.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson spoke with about his latest efforts to bring people into the conservative movement — and the possibility of running again.

See more from this weekend’s activists in the GOP Convention Blog:

— Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he thinks there is a small chance Tony Evers could sign the GOP’s so-called “born alive” abortion bill – a bill the Dem governor has said he will veto.

“I know it’s a long shot. I’m not naïve,” Fitzgerald said Sunday on “UpFront,” produced in partnership with

“But I think there’s going to be some pressure that’s going to build, because the ‘born alive’ bill is a much different type of take on a pro-life piece of legislation than what we’ve seen in the past in Wisconsin,” Fitzgerald said.

The bill would require doctors to care for babies who survive abortion attempts, or possibly face prison time. The bill passed the Assembly last week, and is expected to be taken up in the Senate in June. Fitzgerald said it will pass the Senate.

Evers has said the bill is redundant with state law and that he objects to its criminal penalties.

Fitzgerald said Republicans are moving several pieces of anti-abortion legislation to “demonstrate and underscore the commitment that Republicans have had to making sure that Wisconsin is as pro-life as possible.”

— On other topics, Fitzgerald said flatly that he doesn’t support medical marijuana, and Wisconsin should sit back and watch what happens in other states that have approved various uses of marijuana.

He said his relationship with Evers is “pretty minimal.”

He said “it just doesn’t seem necessary that we have to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin.”

About work on the next two-year state budget, Fitzgerald said “we’re on a good pace right now.”

“It’s going to be a real fiscal document that I think many of the members can get behind and say, ‘Hey, this is a responsible investment, whether it’s K-12 education, transportation, health, this is a real investment; this is reality.’ And I think because of that we’re going to have the votes and we’re going to pass through both houses in June,” he said.

He also said some Republican senators still have hard feelings over PSC Commissioner Ellen Nowak being turned away from her job during court rulings in lawsuits over the extraordinary session. He said the Senate is holding up confirmation of Evers’ cabinet appointees.

— Also on the program, DATCP Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff said many months of tariffs have taken a toll on Wisconsin’s agricultural community.

“These tariffs are hurting farmers, rural communities, rural residents, consumers. All of us are impacted by tariffs,” Pfaff said.

The interview was recorded before the Trump administration announced on Friday afternoon that it would end tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico. Tariffs on Chinese products, and the tariffs China has imposed on U.S. products, remain in place.

See more from the show:

— Lawmakers last week circulated 16 bills for co-sponsorship, including one to ban selling cats and dogs at pet stores and another clarifying state law on online or telephone sales of alcoholic beverages that are picked up by customers.

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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Republicans, Gov. Evers spar over working with women

At RPW convention, Vos called Evers “out of touch” and Fitzgerald … “There’s a real disconnect on all different levels with this governor,” noted he and Vos have only met with Evers twice for five minutes since January. Baldauff for Evers said boss “has communicated repeatedly to GOP leadership that they should work with his chief of staff, just like they did under the previous governor. That directive wasn’t confusing to them when the chief of staff was a man. … Vos and Fitzgerald are clearly uncomfortable or simply unwilling to work with a leadership team made up entirely of women.” Fitzgerald statement denounced “completely asinine” accusation, “The most powerful senator on the budget committee is a woman, and perhaps they’d know that if someone from the governor’s team was actually engaged in budget negotiations.” Vos tweeted that his chief of staff, communications director and policy director are all women, “Evers staff – Clueless,” later lambasting Evers’ camp’s resorting to “name-calling,” adding, “An elected official negotiates with an elected official,” and Medicaid expansion “will be over our dead bodies,” needs to be “continually evaluated” because terms of accepting the federal money is a “moving target,” said Evers’ “wacky” and “crazy” state budget never stood a chance with the GOP. About 650 attended RPW conventions hearing Congressmen supporting Trump, including Steil praising Trump’s direct messaging bypassing MSM. Duffy said DNC convention will “bring their crazy to the doorstep of Wisconsin.” Johnson dubbed Biden a congenial company sales manager, “a likable guy,” but Trump will win on the issues. Justice-elect Hagedorn told conventioneers they’d “saved the Supreme Court,” showed that Justice Kelly will win in 2020 despite Dems’ confidence in high turnout from 2020 presidential primary.

GOP leaders say they aren’t sexist; Evers’ aide says they won’t work with women on governor’s team

… Fitzgerald and Vos regularly met with Eric Schutt, the chief of staff under former Gov. Scott Walker. They have said they were able to work through Schutt because of years of trust they built up with him and Walker. Vos tweet: “Chief of Staff – Jenny Toftness (woman). Communication Dir – Kit Beyer (woman). Policy Director – Heather Smith (woman). Evers staff – Clueless.” Baldauff tweet: “Calling women “clueless” is not a great response to claims of sexism.”

No progress apparent between Evers, GOP lawmakers as budget nears key juncture

… linchpin of Evers’ $83.5 billion plan … is to give K-12 school districts a $1.4 billion increase [most for poorer districts, special ed] … Republican lawmakers say they expect to increase school funding but by substantially less … [JFC] is set to take up the schools budget Thursday. [before sending revised budget to the Legislature] … Both sides acknowledge budget talks have been scarce and strained. … “These are missed opportunities,” Baldauff [for Evers] said. “Republicans don’t want to work with the governor.” … [Vos] pointed the finger at Evers in a recent press conference, saying the governor canceled “several” recent meetings … Evers, Vos and Fitzgerald are scheduled to meet Wednesday, according to Baldauff. Rehash leaders at RPW convention blaming Evers, Baldauff for Evers blaming GOP aversion to women. GOP vow to pass on-time budget. JFC-er Marklein said ed funding talks ongoing. Leader Fitzgerald touted $639M FY17-19 school funding boost. JFC-ers LeMahieu doubts it, Tiffany likes it, but prefers incremental hike, not “a big increase, then ratchet them down,” understands Evers “wish list … But there’s a lot of other needs out there.” Rehash Evers budget items removed. Vos on Evers meeting: “if it’s going to be repeated discussion of things that we are never going to support, I would hope that he would re-think that strategy,” noted no full-budget vetoes since 1931. Evers pushing for “affordable and accessible health care … increases in resources for our education system, and fix the damn roads.” Rehash Guv veto powers. Tiffany: “I don’t know what’s going on between our leadership and the governor. All I know is we’re going to create a good budget. … I hope Governor Evers signs it.”

Ron Johnson doesn’t support Alabama law, says abortion issue should be up to states

… Johnson has proposed a nationwide ban on abortions [after] 20 weeks … in line with Wisconsin law. … Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion nationwide until a fetus is [viable] outside a woman’s uterus. Johnson said he wishes the court had … “let that process play out democratically state by state … you allow it that way, if you don’t like the result in the state you currently reside, you can move. … [does not support AL’s near total ban, or fetal-heartbeat ban at 6 to8 weeks, “That’s pretty early in the process. I may personally support that, but in terms of public policy … what you really need to do is gain a consensus of voters, where will we eventually end up in this country I can’t really predict.” … said “born alive” legislation in New York, Virginia and in Congress … “energized” Republicans. Speaker Vos, also speaking at the convention, defended GOP efforts to limit abortions in WI, “We are always trying to push the envelope because we all stand to win.”

Johnson [at RPW] says wife’s preference is he not run for third term

… promised in the 2016 election that it would be his last, but after Republican Gov. Scott Walker lost in 2018, Johnson has backed off the pledge. … Johnson is the only Republican in statewide office in Wisconsin … not ruling out anything in 2022, including a run for governor. … focus now is on the 2020 presidential race. … Walker has also talked about running again in 2022. As for the possibility they would both be running for office that year, Johnson says “anything’s possible.”

Milwaukee County Launching Own Investigation Into Former Register Of Deeds

John La Fave Retired Amid FBI Investigation … FBI has [reportedly] subpoenaed Iowa-based Fidlar Technologies for records related to La Fave and his … agency’s connection with Fidlar — who has almost $300,000 in contracts with Milwaukee County for 2019 — is in question … This week, the Milwaukee County Board’s Finance and Audit Committee voted to launch its own audit and legal analysis … full board will vote Tuesday on launching the investigation. Chair Lipscomb said “the audit is a necessity for public confidence to be restored. And for the new register of deeds to have the information of how that department has been functioning to be able to start with a clear slate.” On May 10, Gov. Evers appointed long-time litigator Israel Ramón to fill out the La Fave’s term, whose next election is November 2020. County Comptroller’s Office has been working with the FBI. County audit chief Folliard: “if there are any recommendations we can make, we will try to pursue that.”

The Equality Act Passed the House. Here’s What Happens Next

… Leader Mitch McConnell has said he has no plans to bring the Equality Act, which has 46 bipartisan cosponsors, up to a vote. Even if the Senate did decide to vote … [cloture needs] at least 13 Republican members … (barring no Democrats defect). US Sen. Baldwin: “I think you don’t just give up before you’ve engaged. We hope we can have a debate on it in the Senate. And then, we use the large coalition of civil rights organizations — over 200 that have endorsed the bill — we all work together to talk about how necessary it is. … I do believe that a lot of folks, not only across America, but even within the LGBTQ community, who think that once the marriage equality case was decided that formal equality was achieved. And so, educating around the fact that [a majority of] states still lack full protections is a key to advancing this.”

Federal lawmakers seek more accountability with sexual assault allegations in Wisconsin National Guard

… In April, following a request by Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the National Guard Bureau, confirmed … Investigators have begun to collect and examine Wisconsin’s Guard records. Their review is scheduled to take six to nine months and include surveys of climate and morale in Guard units and interviews with soldiers and airmen and airwomen. … Sen. Ron Johnson said he will also push for more accountability. … introduced a [with Ernst] … that would streamline and standardize how federal agencies, including [DOD] collect data on sexual assault and harassment. … Pocan, D-Madison, said it is “clear that the (National Guard) officers responsible for dealing with these issues have acted inappropriately.” Kraus for Baldwin comments.

Baldwin introduces bill to help create jobs for veterans

… The Boosting Rates of American Veterans Employment or BRAVE Act … would let the VA give preference to businesses that employ a high percentage of veterans when awarding government contracts. Baldwin announced the legislation while visiting Green Up Solutions in Butler on Friday, which is run by a member of the Army Reserves. … “We still persistently have had issues where veterans who have served our nation, worn the uniform, gone into harm’s way, and there’s a gap, and the transition is not what it needs to be,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) Wisconsin said. Green Up’s Wiens: “Any time that we can reach across the aisle and come together is good for vets. I don’t know that being supportive of veterans should be a partisan thing ever.”

New Survey Data Finds Many Wisconsin Fields Treated With Disputed Herbicide

… A California court awarded more than $2 billion to a couple who claim the herbicide [glyphosate] caused their cancer. It’s the third case decided against Bayer, the parent company of Roundup-maker Monsanto. UW agronomist Proost said glyphosate is used sparingly due to cost, would hurt if it was taken off the market, “Can we live without it? Yeah, but it’s going to change things a lot.” UW prof. Werle: “in Wisconsin we have diversified crop rotations and tillage is a common practice, farmers in our state here, they tend to use less herbicide. … I think farmers are realizing that managing weeds with herbicides alone won’t be a sustainable strategy, particularly because we haven’t had a new herbicide in 30 years.”


– 12 p.m.: Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention public hearing. Members are to hear from invited speakers and take public testimony.

– 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.: WEDC Board. Members are to meet in closed session via telephone.

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