THU PM Update: Darling, Nygren disagree over whether JFC will take up tax on vaping products

Exclusively for WisPolitics Subscribers

From …

— Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren today disagreed on whether the state’s budget panel will take up the vaping products tax Gov. Tony Evers proposed.

Speaking at a luncheon in Madison, Darling said the new tax Evers proposed on vaping products “is not something we’re going to look at in this budget” before adding that the issue is “something that we need to take up” outside the budget.

“All these issues don’t need to come to Finance,” the River Hills Republican said. “These are good issues to be brought to the committees and to discuss, have hearings, talk to people, get opinions. Just to have quick solutions in the budget is not always a good thing.”

But Nygren disagreed, saying that a vaping products tax would be something the co-chairs would have to “arm wrestle on.” The Marinette Republican did note, though, that he thought the tax the guv proposed on vaping products was too high.

“I think looking at it perhaps based on nicotine, or you know, ounces might be an opportunity for us,” Nygren said.

Evers’ plan calls for a 71 percent tax on the manufacturer’s list price of vaping products, regardless of the nicotine content. The guv’s administration estimated the tax would raise $34.7 million over the course of the biennium.

— The co-chairs presented a united front against Evers’ plan to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize small amounts of pot.

Nygren declared “it will not be in the final budget passed.”

“Something of that substance, no pun intended, needs a much larger conversation than being stuck into a 2,000-page document,” he added.

Under the guv’s proposal, marijuana would be legalized for medical purposes, possession of up to 25 grams of the substance would be decriminalized and the state would establish an expungement procedure for those with marijuana charges on their criminal record.

Darling noted that while “decriminalization is one issue,” under the Evers budget “manufacturing would be made legal and distribution may be made legal.”

“When you read what he actually has in his budget, it’s really off-the-wall scary,” she said.

The pair also expressed skepticism over Evers’ proposal to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, which his administration estimates would provide healthcare coverage to 82,000 low-income families and save the state an estimated $320 million over the course of the biennium.

Nygren said that a number of those families already have insurance through the federal exchange. He also noted that Medicaid insurance rates reimburse about 65 cents on the dollar, which he said means “we lose money when we see Medicaid patients.”

“We have unemployment under 3 percent and thousands of jobs available,” he said. “Why would we want to grow our welfare rolls, especially when you’re taking half of those people off of private insurance? It makes no sense to me.”

Darling also questioned the wisdom of making large-scale changes to the health insurance industry. She pointed to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality study that ranked Wisconsin health care as fourth best in the country and warned that Medicaid expansion could endanger that ranking.

“Why would we want to jeopardize what we’re doing since we have one of the best healthcare systems?” she asked.

— Legislative Dems teed off on Nygren following his comment at the luncheon that workforce development was a “missed opportunity” for Evers.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, wrote on Twitter that “another missed opportunity was the $1.08 billion cut from the (UW System) by Republicans over the past 8 years, during the second longest national economic expansion in US history.”

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling also responded to the “missed opportunity” comment on Twitter. The La Crosse Dem tweeted “I’m just going to leave this right here,” along with a link to a CBS News story from 2011 that reported then-Gov. Scott Walker’s budget slashed $1.85 billion from public schools and the UW System.

Nygren was responding to a question regarding compromise on a number of items in the guv’s budget.

“If we fund our schools appropriately, that would be K-12, UW, your tech schools, I actually say workforce development is, that was a missed opportunity for Gov. Evers,” Nygren said at the luncheon.

In an interview with, Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, slammed her JFC colleagues for having “their fingers in their ears” in regards to the public testimony on Evers budget.

“What Rep. Nygren and Sen. Darling have presided over is historic cuts to the UW system and they seem to be in denial over how that has hurt our workforce and hurt our economy,” she said.

— GOP legislative leaders today approved hiring private attorneys to represent them with Dem Josh Kaul in the AG’s office — this time in two environmental suits that are now before the state Supreme Court.

In one, the state Supreme Court agreed to take up a years-long battle over the DNR’s decision to allow a Kewaunee County dairy farm to expand to more than 6,000 cows in an area where concerns have been raised over groundwater pollution.

The other deals with the DNR’s approval of eight high-capacity wells.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Organization ballot — approved along party lines — didn’t include details of the possible cost to taxpayers for the attorneys. It only stated Committee Co-chairs Roger Roth, the Senate president, and Robin Vos, the Assembly speaker, will “approve all financial costs and terms of representation.” Those costs will be split evenly between the two chambers.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Republicans plan to hire Eric McLeod, a partner at the Madison firm Husch Blackwell.

Since Kaul took office, GOP lawmakers have hired private attorneys in three lawsuits challenging actions from the December extraordinary session, as well as a Planned Parenthood suit that is challenging abortion restrictions. A federal judge this week denied the GOP request to intervene in the Planned Parenthood suit, rejecting Republicans’ argument that Kaul wouldn’t defend the law strenuously enough.

In those suits, the legal contracts released so far have included rates of $500 an hour for attorneys.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Vos, R-Rochester, said they’re moving to intervene in the suits, because they involve a ban on state statute enforcing any requirement that is not explicitly permitted in state law.

“We can’t afford to go back to an era where overzealous bureaucrats bury the hard-working men and women of the State of Wisconsin with needless government red tape,” the GOP leaders said in a statement.

But Senate Minority Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, called the move ridiculous.

“Rather than ensuring every Wisconsinite is able to drink clean water from their tap, Republican leaders want to continue picking petty political fights on the taxpayer’s dime,” she said.

— Dem Bernie Sanders’ campaign is taking out an ad on the front page of the Green Bay paper ahead of the president’s visit, accusing Donald Trump of lying to Wisconsin workers.

The ad on the front page of tomorrow’s Green Bay Press Gazette promises, “In a Bernie Sanders White House, we will end the corporate greed behind the Shopko closures, Kimberly-Clark layoffs and Foxconn scam.”

It also invites readers to join Sanders events slated for around the state on Saturday, when the campaign is doing organizing kickoffs.

Trump announced his rally at Green Bay’s Resch Center as he again skips the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.

The state Dem Party and Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes are planning to hold a “Rally for the People” ahead of Trump’s visit Saturday morning at the Green Bay Labor Temple.

See the ad:

— Gov. Tony Evers will keynote the Dem state convention in June.

A party spokeswoman said the convention’s theme is “Moving Forward Together” to celebrate the change in leadership aft1er Dems swept the statewide races last fall.

The spokeswoman said the party didn’t invite any presidential candidates to speak at the convention to keep the focus on newly elected state leaders.

— Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ gun-safety group has filed a lawsuit urging the FEC to act on its allegations the NRA illegally coordinated with the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and other federal GOP candidates in recent cycles.

The suit — filed yesterday in federal court — argues the FEC has failed to take action against the NRA for alleged moves Giffords and the Campaign Legal Center Action say benefitted seven federal Republican candidates for office, including Johnson and President Trump.

A Johnson campaign spokesman didn’t return a request for comment. Meanwhile, an NRA spokeswoman slammed the filing as “a frivolous lawsuit based on a frivolous complaint,” according to a CNN report.

The filing argues the NRA used a network of shell corporations to coordinate political ad spending and placement for the candidates, thus circumventing federal contribution limits. The suit targets Johnson’s and Trump’s 2016 runs, as well as other candidates’ elections in 2014 and 2018.

The NRA paid more than $300,000 to Starboard for activities supporting Johnson or opposing his then-opponent, Dem Russ Feingold over the campaign, the filing said. It also notes Johnson’s campaign reported paying OnMessage $3.8 million over the timeframe for media, strategy and advertising expenses. Both Starboard and OnMessage shared the same address, the filing said.

The Johnson campaign in the summer of 2016 went through a shakeup where it dropped OnMessage and brought on consultants Terry Sullivan and Alex Conant, of Firehouse Strategies, according to past reports.

See the suit:

— The state Supreme Court today rejected a request from former GOP lawmakers to file an amicus brief in one of the lame-duck lawsuits.

The Republicans, including former Lt. Gov. and state Sen. Margaret Farrow and former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, filed their motion Tuesday, urging the court to affirm the legality of extraordinary sessions. The case centers around a Dane County judge’s ruling that lawmakers met improperly in the December lame-duck session, making all of their actions void.

The lawmakers, aided by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, submitted their proposed brief along with their request for the court to consider it. In the filing, the lawmakers argued the ruling “calls nearly 50 years of lawful actions in extraordinary sessions into question” while casting “a cloud of doubt and uncertainty” over past actions.

The court denied the motion without offering any comment.

Read the order:

— Gov. Tony Evers has reappointed Ivan Gamboa as WHEDA Board chair, the guv announced today.

Gamboa, the senior vice president of Tri City National Bank in Oak Creek, was first appointed to the post by then-Gov. Scott Walker in July 2016. His newest term will run through March 2020.

Evers has yet to name an executive director for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. An agency spokesman said he’s not aware of a timeline for naming a new head.

See the release:

— Evers today ordered flags to be flown at half-staff out of respect for former GOP Rep. Ed Brooks, who passed away Tuesday.

The order is effective beginning at sunrise Monday, when funeral services are scheduled for Brooks, and ends that day at sunset.

See his obituary:

See the Evers release:


LRB-1945/1: Teacher preparatory programs and granting rule-making authority. By Rep. Myers and Sen. Kooyenga.

LRB-2349/1: Self-defense for victims of sex trafficking. By Reps. Bowen and Ramthun and Sens. Bernier and Johnson.

LRB-1041/1: Notices of eligibility to receive a prize. By Sen. LeMahieu and Reps. Tittl and Vorpagel.

LRB-2961/1: Using taxes collected from a large lottery prize for building and improving local roads and making an appropriation. By Sen. Carpenter.

LRB-0971/1: Requiring a statement relating to food allergies on menus at retail food establishments. By Rep. Snyder and Sen. Petrowski.

LRB-2268: The application of payment for delinquent property tax debt. By Sen. Wanggaard.

LRB-2997/1: Use of certain public building restrooms. By Rep. Quinn and Sens. Petrowski and Bewley.

LRB-2979/1: Honoring May 2019 as Wisconsin Motherhood Month. By Reps. Vining and Snyder and Sen. Johnson.

LRB-1146/1: An income tax exemption for cash tips paid to an employee. By Rep. Horlacher and Sen. Jacque.

LRB-1598/1: Placing, possessing, or transporting a bow or crossbow in or on a motorboat, vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, or utility terrain vehicle. By Rep. Ballweg and Sen. Olsen.


AJR 30: Celebrating June 10, 2019, as the 100th Anniversary of ratifying the 19th Amendment. Referred to Committee on Rules.

AJR 31: Recognizing September 1 to 7, 2019, as Resiliency Week. Referred to Committee on Rules.

AJR 32: Reserving to the people the power of referendum to reject acts of the legislature and the power of initiative to propose and approve at an election laws and constitutional amendments (first consideration). Referred to Committee on Constitution and Ethics.

AB 184: Local reporting requirements related to general transportation aids. Referred to Committee on Local Government.

AB 185: Entering into an agreement among the states to elect the president of the United States by means of a national popular vote. Referred to Committee on Campaigns and Elections.

AB 186: Allowing minors to operate temporary stands without a permit or license. Referred to Committee on Consumer Protection.

AB 187: Micro market licensing fees. Referred to Committee on Regulatory Licensing Reform.

AB 188: Facilities for holding juveniles in secure custody. Referred to Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

AB 189: Transferability of courses between the University of Wisconsin System, technical college system, and tribally controlled and private colleges. Referred to Committee on Colleges and Universities.

AB 190: Wetland mitigation banks, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, providing an exemption from rule-making procedures, and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority. Referred to Committee on Environment.

AB 191: The use of billboards to recruit Department of Corrections employees. Referred to Committee on Corrections.

AB 192: Mental health clinical consultations under the Medical Assistance program and making an appropriation. Referred to Committee on Medicaid Reform and Oversight.

AB 193: Authorizing a biennial budget procedure for political subdivisions. Referred to Committee on Local Government.

Track bills for free:

State Journal: Tony Evers won’t meet with Donald Trump in Green Bay

Journal Sentinel: Bernie Sanders trolls Donald Trump’s visit to Wisconsin

AP: Republican leaders say Evers’ pot proposal to be snuffed out

WPR: GOP Lawmakers Defend Foxconn Amid Mixed Signals About Job Creation

Journal Sentinel: GOP legislators seek to intervene in more lawsuits at taxpayer expense — this time over environmental laws

AP: Foxconn executive’s ‘crystal ball’ tweet gains attention

CNN: Joe Biden announces he is running for president in 2020

CNN: Florida House passes bill that would require ex-felons pay all fees before exercising voting rights

CNN: Democrats look to courts as White House stonewalls on subpoenas

Politico: Trump leaves Pentagon power vacuum

Politico: Vulnerable Dems find refuge outside Mueller-obsessed Beltway


– 7 a.m. – 11 a.m.: BizTimes Media: “Waukesha County 2035: Competing in a New Era of Innovation.” Features a keynote address from “Mapping Innovation” author Greg Satell.

– 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.: Worker Justice Wisconsin: 19th Annual Faith-Labor Breakfast.

– 9 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.: Thompson Center on Public Leadership: “The Future of Transportation in Wisconsin.” Among speakers are Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson, former Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb and Sen. Jerry Petrowski, chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Veterans and Military Affairs.

All rights reserved. Reproduction or retransmission of this publication, in whole or in part, without the express permission of is prohibited. Unauthorized reproduction violates United States copyright law (17 USC 101 et seq.), as does retransmission by facsimile or any other electronic means, including electronic mail.