TUE PM Update: JFC Republicans working on deal to fund DHS, DCF; Cross presses lawmakers to approve UW capital budget

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— The Joint Finance Committee was in a holding pattern late this afternoon as GOP members tried to work out final details of a deal on the departments of Health Services and Children and Families.

The committee was scheduled to convene at 1 p.m. but pushed back the start time several times. There had been no new announcement of a revised start time as of 4:30 p.m.

Follow this evening’s developments in the Budget Blog:

— UW System President Ray Cross today pressed lawmakers to OK the university’s capital budget, saying it was needed to attract talent to Wisconsin and educate students to fill high-demand jobs.

Cross ticked off projects around the system he said amounted to $38 million just to modernize classrooms. In all, the university requested $1.9 billion in projects.

“You simply cannot run a chemistry lab out of your kitchen. We need modern, advanced labs to do that,” Cross said.

The appeal from Cross and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank today came as the Joint Finance Committee looks to finish work on the budget by the end of next week, when it is expected to take up capital projects.

While the system requested $1.9 billion in projects, Gov. Tony Evers proposed $1.1 billion for the university in his $2.5 billion capital budget. Overall, the guv sought nearly $2 billion in borrowing, but Republicans have vowed to pare back the plan.

Blank noted today’s news conference was in a lecture hall that opened in 1903 and looks much like it did when it first opened; she said that wasn’t a good thing. After noting a number of upgrades the university says are needed for the room, Blank also pointed out significant pieces of the UW request that don’t rely on taxpayer money, but gifts, grants and program revenue, such as student fees.

Those projects include replacing UW-Madison’s natatorium, renovating Sellery Hall, improving the Kohl Center and upgrading Camp Randall.

“We have the money, and these renovations have to take place. All we need is approval from the state,” Blank said.

— Lawmakers and activists today gathered at the Capitol to advocate equality for the Wisconsin LGBTQ community.

They unveiled the Equality Agenda, which features nine proposals that would enhance LGBTQ rights as the state celebrates Pride Month. The bills introduced today offer gender-neutral terminology regarding same-sex marriage and parental rights and eliminate the “panic” defense.

In addition to those measures, lawmakers also announced a bill to prohibit mental health providers from engaging in conversion therapy with minors. Studies have shown the controversial practice is harmful and largely ineffective.

“While this bill addresses licensed professionals here in the state, the truth is we need to go even beyond that to all institutions and make sure that conversion therapy is never used on anybody ever again,” Rep. Amanda Stuck said.

Conversion therapy has been made illegal in 18 other states and the Appleton Dem has attempted for the last two sessions to outlaw the practice in Wisconsin.

Dem lawmakers also unveiled a measure that would create a Transgender Equality Task Force. The group would seek to provide recommendations to the governor on how to ensure protection and equality for a group that includes transgender, intersex, non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals. Lawmakers noted this community is often denied health care, face rejection by their loved ones and victimization by others.

“These bills are going to lift up the voices that are too often, often silenced in our communities,” said Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison.

— Lawmakers appeared alongside advocates, allies, and members of the LGBTQ community who highlighted their personal experiences of discrimination.

Carl Hubbard, president of the LGBT Center of South East Wisconsin, shared stories about the rejection LGBTQ youth face. Hubbard described a school counselor who told a young person he worked with to “try being someone else.”

“You folks try being someone else. It’s just not possible, it’s not fair,” Hubbard said.

Quizzed about the legislative goals for the Equality Agenda package, Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said the coalition aimed to pass all proposals, but said that starts with having the bills heard in committee.

Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos were not immediately available for comment.

See the release:

See the conversion therapy bill:

— First responders today called on Wisconsin lawmakers to increase funding for road repair and maintenance.

In a Capitol news conference, first responders said lawmakers need to find solutions so they can more effectively and safely do their jobs.

“We stand here as a united group focused on public safety, and we’re asking the state Legislature to find some common-sense, sustainable solutions to transportation funding,” said Racine Fire Department Lt. Mike DeGarmo.

Gov. Tony Evers yesterday said he would be open to paying for road work without increasing a gas tax boost if the funding was sustainable. The guv included an 8-cent gas tax increase in his budget, but legislative Republicans have indicated they will not support the measure and have instead pushed for increased registration, title and heavy truck fees.

The coalition of first responders did not offer specific policy solutions or endorse any of the proposed revenue generators. Instead, they advocated for a “sustainable” boost to funding in order to improve roads and highways statewide.

Jim Brigham, a Dane County Sheriff’s deputy and a representative from the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said poor road conditions often lead to lane closures and accidents that can put first responders in danger.

“Anytime someone is on the side of the road, whether it’s a citizen or a first responder, you’re putting those people’s lives at risk,” Brigham said.

Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper Brandon Ferrell said emergency lane closures caused by poor road conditions often impact his work patrolling highways. He recalled a situation this spring in which a section of I-94 buckled, rendering the busy freeway undrivable.

“They had to close a lane in the middle of the day on a Friday, which is not ideal,” Ferrell said. “The subsequent backup due to that delay caused two more secondary crashes.”

The first responders also highlighted that deteriorating roads have become a pressing concern for the general public. They referenced a recent WPPA poll that found road conditions had surpassed education, local economy, protecting the environment and taxes on a “high priority” list.

They also noted that poor road conditions have led to increased wear and tear on their vehicles and the cost of frequent maintenance was being passed on to taxpayers.

The Joint Committee on Finance is set to take up the Department of Transportation’s budget on Thursday.

See the WPPA survey:

— Rep. Lisa Subeck today unveiled legislation aimed at eliminating a state law that criminalizes abortion.

Under state statute, abortion has been illegal in Wisconsin since 1849. While that longstanding law was rendered unenforceable in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, the provision was not repealed and remains on the state’s books.

The Madison Dem said in a Capitol news conference that if the Supreme Court were to overturn its decision in Roe, abortion would once again be criminalized, except in cases where a physician determined the pregnancy posed a threat to the mother’s life.

She warned that with the appointment of conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and a number of measures restricting abortion passing state legislatures across the country, “the threat to safe and legal access to abortion care is the greatest since Roe was decided.”

“We need to make sure that Wisconsin women can make our own personal healthcare decisions based on what is best for our own health and our own wellbeing, without interference from politicians,” she said.

Wisconsin Republicans have pushed for legislation that would limit abortions. A package of four abortion-related measures, including a so-called “born alive” bill, passed the Assembly last month and will be heard by the Senate tomorrow. Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to veto all four bills should they reach his desk.

But while the guv and GOP lawmakers spar on proposals that have received votes on the Assembly floor, Subeck was non-committal when reporters asked if her bill could get a committee hearing in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

“The fact that the Democrats may not control the two houses in the Legislature is no reason not to do the right thing,” she said.

See the release:


LRB-0045/1: Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a person’s gender identity or gender expression. By Reps. Spreitzer, Zamarripa and Cabrera and Sen. Carpenter.

LRB-2160/1: Recognizes same-sex marriage by making references in the statutes to spouses gender neutral. By Reps. Spreitzer, Zamarripa, Novak and Cabrera and Sen. Carpenter.

LRB-3314: Recognizing June 28, 2019, as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. By Reps. Spreitzer, Zamarripa and Cabrera and Sen. Carpenter.

LRB-2628: Establishing a task force to study the legal and societal barriers to equality for transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals. By Reps. Sargent and Spreitzer and Sen. Carpenter.

LRB-3317: Eliminating constitutional restrictions on marriage. By Reps. Zamarripa, Spreitzer and Cabrera and Sen. Carpenter.

LRB-2490/1: Eliminating criminal defense of adequate provocation or self-defense if the claim is based on the victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation. By Reps. Neubauer, Cabrera and Novak and Sen. Carpenter.

LRB-2400/1: Eliminating the requirement to submit a certified copy of the decedent’s death record to the register of deeds when seeking termination of certain property interests. By Rep. Ballweg and Sen. Olsen.

Track bills for free:


AP: Cross, Blank make case for University of Wisconsin buildings

State Journal: ‘Money for nothing’: consumer groups, utilities at odds over who pays for closing plants

Capital Times: Wisconsin Senate to take up abortion bills Wednesday despite Evers’ veto threat

WPR: Police, Firefighters Call For Road Funding Fix

La Crosse Tribune: Wisconsin civil contractor awarded $17 million for Lock and Dam repairs

WPR: Scientists Concerned With Federal Plan To Remove Protections For Gray Wolf

Capital Times: Experts: Wisconsin criminal justice reform starts with looking at pretrial detention

WPR: Conservation Groups Threaten Federal Suit To Protect Lake Sturgeon

Politico: Republicans threaten revolt, may block Trump’s Mexico tariffs

Politico: White House instructs Hicks, Donaldson to defy Dem subpoenas

Reuters: House judiciary’s top Republican urges hearings into Russian election meddling

Reuters: U.S. shared nuclear power info with Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi killed: senator

NPR: 2020 Census Could Lead To Worst Undercount Of Black, Latinx People In 30 Years

NPR: What Economists Think About Democrats’ New Education Proposals

Washington Post: After a biblical spring, this is the week that could break the Corn Belt

Washington Post: Trump dismisses protests, says he would have sued over Brexit


– Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. Featured speaker is tech creator, designer and author John Zeratsky.

– 7 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.: Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative 2019 Annual Conference. Among elected officials participating in panels are Niagara Falls, New York, Mayor Paul Dyster and Sheboygan Mayor Mike Vandersteen.

– 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.: June 5: WisPolitics.com D.C. Breakfast with CNN’S Manu Raju. Raju, senior congressional correspondent at CNN, will analyze the relationship between the Republican Senate and the Democratic House and how Democrats will handle the impeachment question. He is a former Politico reporter and a UW-Madison grad who grew up in the Chicago area.

– 10 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Sporting Heritage informational hearing. Members will hear from invited speakers on the trapper education course.

– 10 a.m.: PSC hearing.

– 11 a.m.: PSC hearing.

– 12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.: Madison Rotary Club. Guest speaker is Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County President and CEO Michael Johnson. Rotary meetings are open to members, invited guests and media.

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