TUE PM Update: Pocan pushes impeachment proceedings; JFC approves pay hikes for state workers, prison guards

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— U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan today called on fellow members of Congress to open impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

The Town of Vermont Dem cited Trump’s resistance to complying with Congressional subpoenas as evidence that the president and his associates are engaging in a “campaign of obstruction and lawlessness that undermines the rule of law.”

“Stonewalling Congress on witnesses and the unredacted Mueller report only enhances the President’s appearance of guilt, and as a result, he has pushed Congress to a point where we must start an impeachment inquiry,” he said in a release.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has consistently opposed beginning impeachment proceedings. Pocan’s call follows national media reports that Pelosi clashed with some Dems over opening impeachment proceedings yesterday in a closed-door meeting.

Pocan, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was among the first federal lawmakers to call for impeachment in 2017. He backed off those calls last year as the GOP controlled both houses of Congress.

See the release:

— The Joint Finance Committee signed off on Tony Evers’ plan to give state and UW System employees raises of 2 percent in each of the next two years while approving higher pay boosts for prison guards than the guv had proposed.

But it didn’t approve money to fund his call to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all non-UW executive branch employees. It also decided to keep flat funding to address positions that have proven difficult to recruit people to fill and retain them once on the job.

The votes fell along party lines as Republicans changed what the guv had proposed.

Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, accused Evers of a “failure to invest” in pay for corrections guards at the needed level. He also called “silly” a policy the Evers administration implemented to give a $5 an hour pay boost to guards at six maximum security facilities that are facing staff shortage. Born said it didn’t address issues across the system.

“The governor certainly did not do what was necessary to invest in our workers at correctional facilities,” Born said.

But in the debate over the raises, Dems slammed GOP policies on state employees over the past eight years, particularly with prison guards. Along with a lack of significant pay increases, Dems said, some Republicans under Gov. Scott Walker vilified state employees in their push to revoke collective bargaining powers for more of them.

The double whammy, Sen. Jon Erpenbach said, was prison guards haven’t had a seat at the table to advocate for safer work conditions at a time when they’ve been forced to do double shifts and fill overtime hours.

“And we’re wondering why this happens. We know why this happens. We’ve been telling you this was going to happen,” said Erpenbach, D-Middleton.

The move to boost wages for prison guards come as the state has struggled with vacancy rates at prisons with 14.5 percent of positions unfilled at adult institutions as of April. That includes a high of 31.8 percent at Waupun Correctional Institution.

Those unfilled jobs also were a significant factor in the state paying $50.6 million to cover 1.8 million of overtime hours in 2017-18. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the most common reasons for overtime were position vacancies, sick leave coverage and medical vigils.

For most state employees, the 2 percent pay hikes would kick in Jan. 1 and Jan. 1, 2021.

For prison guards, the impact of those general wage increases, coupled with Evers’ proposal, would result in a starting wage of $18.59 an hour by the end of the biennium, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The impact of the GOP motion would push that instead to $19.03 an hour.

The move also would push up the corrections guards pay increase to Jan. 1 rather than April 2020. But it wouldn’t apply in 2020-21 to those prison guards who are now receiving the $5-an-hour boost to work at some of the state’s maximum security prisons that are facing staffing shortages.

The GOP motion also would create one-time bonuses that would be: $250 after 10 years of service; $500 after 15 years; $750 after 20 years; and $1,000 for completing 25 years and every five years after that.

Overall, it would mean $13.1 million more into correction guards salaries than Evers had proposed. To help cover the costs, the committee later approved reducing some of the money the guv had proposed setting aside for anticipated overtime costs.

Evers has also called for setting a new minimum wage of $15 an hour for executive branch employees other than at the UW System. The move would require an estimated $93,300 in GPR to cover the costs. The committee didn’t approve the provision, but the Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the Evers administration could still take the move if it wanted. It would just have to find money to cover the cost with existing funds.

Evers also had called for $12.1 million to fund market wage and parity adjustments. Those were created to address recruitment and retention problems with some state positions because salaries are below market levels. The committee instead kept funding at the current level of $4 million for the two-year period.

— The committee rejected Evers’ proposal to boost funding for a Department of Corrections program that provides intensive case management and mental health services for parolees who struggle with mental illness.

The Opening Avenues to Reentry Success, or OARS, program was expanded in the previous biennium to cover 44 of the state’s 72 counties, and Evers in his budget proposed a $7.8 million boost to expand the program statewide.

But despite the objections of the panel’s Dems, the JFC today opted instead to expand the OARS program to seven additional counties by allocating nearly $2.4 million across the biennium.

Rep. Evan Goyke slammed the move, which he labeled as an investment that was “far too short for what our communities need.” The Milwaukee Dem reeled off statistics highlighting the program’s success at lowering the recidivism rate and noted that the Republican expansion plan would only have half the number of new slots available as compared to the guv’s plan.

“Fewer people will be the recipient of the services and support that they need and that just means that those recidivism rates, on average, likely trickle up,” he said.

The committee made cuts to the OARS program and a number of Evers’ Corrections proposals in a sweeping motion that passed 11-4 along party lines. That motion also included:

*a decrease in funding of around $8.4 million from Evers original proposal for contract beds and inflationary costs after a reestimate of the average daily population over the biennium.

*$108,200 less for staffing, operation of new institutional buildings and programming at Columbia Correctional Institution, Racine Correctional Institution, and the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility.

*a $50,000 cut to Evers’ proposed boost for the Windows to Work program.

The GOP’s motion included the guv’s proposal to spend roughly $4.8 million to expand a GPS tracking program designed to monitor sex offenders and those who violate certain temporary restraining orders and injunctions.

The motion came after JFC Dems saw their own motion on Corrections — which largely backed Gov. Tony Evers’ proposals but gave an additional $10 million boost to overtime funding — fail 4-11 along party lines.

The committee did not address Evers’ proposal to build three barracks units at Taycheedah and Jackson Correctional Institutions. JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, said the proposal will be addressed when the JFC takes up Evers’ capital budget.

Read the motion:

See the Dem motion:

— The committee also reworked Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to promote tourism in Wisconsin, including paring back money designated for marketing.

The centerpiece of Evers’ plan was a call to put in $5 million for the agency’s marketing appropriation while putting in another $186,700 for a new marketing position. He also wanted to add $200,000 over the budget for Tourism’s Native American Tourism budget, which is funded by tribal gaming.

Instead, Republicans approved placing nearly $1.6 million in general purpose revenue in the committee’s supplemental appropriation that Tourism could come back to seek later.

Republicans said they were hesitant to approve the proposed increase without additional information on how it would be spent. The agency plans to complete in July a new strategic plan to guide its future marketing strategy and didn’t have a defined role for the proposed new position.

The state now spends $12.5 million on tourism promotion, including just more than $1.8 million in GPR. The bulk of the effort is funded by tribal gaming revenues, and it hasn’t increased significantly since hitting $12.3 million in 2011-12.

Rep. Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg, said he couldn’t support the requested money because “there’s no concrete evidence of what’s going to be done.”

But Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, called what Republicans approved “anemic” and “pathetic,” saying it leaves the state behind others for investments in tourism.

“Your priorities don’t seem to be investing in local economies and local communities,” she said.

The marketing boost Evers proposed included an additional $3 million in 2019-20 that would support promotional efforts for national events, including the Democratic National Convention in July 2020 and golf’s Ryder Cup in September 2020.

Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said promoting those events was unnecessary because just hosting them will put the state in the national eye.

“We’re going to get millions upon millions upon millions of free advertising for Wisconsin next year,” he said.

But Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said that boost wasn’t included in the guv’s budget to get people to come to the DNC or the Ryder Cup. It’s to get those attending those events to explore other parts of the state and for those watching them on TV to visit as well.

In tourism, the committee also voted along party lines to:

*approve Evers’ request for two positions to do video production. But it offset that by using money already in the agency’s budget and deleting two vacant positions. Under the agency’s plan, the positions would produce videos that could be used on social media and other platforms, but larger projects, such as TV commercials, would still be produced through an outside contract.

*approve creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, but funded it on a one-time basis, requiring the agency to come back in two years to seek a renewal of the funding. The move would create three positions and provide $623,300 for the new office, which would promote outdoor recreational opportunities. It also would collaborate with the Department of Natural Resources to try to drum up visits to state parks, which the DNR currently promotes.

*approve deleting three vacant positions in the office of marketing services, which works with other agencies on communication and marketing. The agencies then pay the office for that work. The guv wanted to delete the three positions and fund the existing director’s job with GPR. The committee’s move would continue funding the position with the fees agencies pay for the services. The agency has indicated the office, created in the 2015-17 budget, has suffered from inconsistent revenues and a lack of awareness and usage by other agencies.

*reject an additional $143,800 in state aid for Wisconsin Arts Board within the agency. The board awards grants that aid local communities in promoting the arts.

— Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, said after the committee meets Thursday, it’s shooting to convene again May 28 after the long holiday weekend.

He said JFC will take the rest of next week “one day at a time.”

— Co-chair Alberta Darling, who is still recovering from a fall earlier this month, called in to today’s hearing, but didn’t participate.

“I feel a lot better,” she told the committee.

Her office said Darling, R-River Hills, is not expected at Thursday’s meeting. It’s being evaluated whether she will return to the committee next week.

While Darling was on the phone, she didn’t vote. Traditionally, the committee hasn’t allowed members to vote unless they are present.

See the Budget Blog:

— A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, confirmed Republicans are considering an increase in state aid to school of $200 per student in each year of the upcoming budget.

Fitzgerald spoke with the Wisconsin State Journal about the option, but provided no details.

Fitzgerald spokesman Alec Zimmerman said Senate Republicans will caucus Wednesday to discuss school funding, which Joint Finance is scheduled to take up Thursday. He added no final decision had been made, a $200 per year boost was one of several ideas under consideration and details would be discussed in tomorrow’s caucus.

See more in headlines below.

— Gov. Tony Evers made clear today he would veto all four abortion bills that cleared the Assembly last week if they reach his desk.

Evers has publicly opposed the “born alive” bill, saying there were existing protections in state law for those instances and he believed there were more pressing priorities in the Capitol.

The other bills include banning abortions on the basis of a fetus’ race, gender and other qualifiers; requiring physicians to tell women considering taking an abortion-inducing drug the process could be reversed; and barring Planned Parenthood from receiving money under the Medical Assistance program.

“We shouldn’t be limiting the right for women to make their own healthcare decisions,” Evers tweeted. “That’s why I’ll veto the bills passed by the Assembly last week if they arrive on my desk. It’s time to listen to women. #StopTheBans”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, suggested on “UpFront” over the weekend there was a small chance Evers would sign the “born alive” bill due to public pressure.

The state Senate expects to take up all four bills in June.

— AG Josh Kaul today joined a broad coalition of municipalities, cities and states suing the Trump Administration over a rule that allows health care providers to refuse to perform abortion or sterilization procedures on religious or moral grounds.

Along with 19 other states, the District of Columbia, the cities of New York and Chicago, and Cook County, Ill., Kaul is challenging a U.S. Department of Health and Human Service measure known as the Final Rule. The lawsuit alleges the policy would “undermine the delivery of health care” by giving individuals and institutions the right to refuse care based on their personal views.

“The federal government shouldn’t be making it more difficult for patients to get needed health-care services,” Kaul said in a release.

The complaint alleges that the Rule violates the federal Administrative Procedures Act, the Spending Clause and separation of powers principles in the U.S. Constitution.

See the complaint:

— Gov. Tony Evers today named John Tate II as the chair of the Parole Commission.

Tate has served as the 3rd District Alderman in his hometown of Racine since 2017 and is a social worker for the Department of Corrections. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in social work.

“I know that John Tate II will be a strong advocate for the change we need to ensure our criminal justice system treats everyone fairly and focuses on rehabilitation,” Evers said in a release.

Tate’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. A spokesman for Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was not immediately available for comment.

See the release:

— The state Supreme Court today suspended Racine County Judge Michael Piontek for five days for judicial misconduct, finding he inappropriately contacted the prosecutor in one case and violated his duty of neutrality in another.

The discipline stemmed from two cases Piontek handled after about two years on the bench.

In one, he received an informal visit in his chambers from a prosecutor seeking adjournment of a trial in late 2014. He then called the prosecutor without including the defense counsel. During the call, he told the prosecutor he wanted the case to go to trial as scheduled and said any plea deal should include a felony because people like the defendant involved “in scams like this” need to be stopped. The call wasn’t disclosed to defense until the prosecutor summarized it in a letter and Piontek recused himself.

He initially denied to the Judicial Commission details that were in the prosecutor’s letter.

In the second case, he used erroneous information from an internet search he conducted as he sentenced a nurse who had pled guilty to two counts of delivering a non-narcotic controlled substance. Before sentencing, he provided no notice that he planned to use the information, nor did he allow the defendant the chance to rebut his incorrect findings that she hadn’t had a nursing license in Illinois.

Instead, he instructed her that her “lies are getting [her] in trouble” and suggested she “close [her] mouth,” according to court records. Her sentence was later overturned and sent to a different judge.

A panel recommended a suspension of between five and 15 days, noting he hadn’t had any previous discipline cases. It also noted he’d only been on the bench for two years.

“Regardless of his newness to the bench or the weight of his caseload, Judge
Piontek’s ex parte communication with the prosecutor on the merits of a criminal case was obviously unethical; even the newest and busiest judge must know as much,” the court found.

Read the ruling:


June 13: WisPolitics.com luncheon: The future of transportation funding in Wisconsin

Transportation funding has become one of the key debating points in the two-year state budget making its way through the Legislature. Gov. Tony Evers proposed an 8-cent-a gallon increase in the gas tax plus while getting rid of the minimum markup on gasoline — something the administration said would more than wipe out the increase. Republicans have removed the minimum markup provision and left in the gas tax increase for now. Where will the debate lead and will it result in a long-term solution?

Hear details from some of the key players in the debate at a WisPolitics.com issues luncheon set for Thursday, June 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at UW-Milwaukee’s Waukesha campus just off I-94.

Panelists for the discussion: Wisconsin DOT Secretary Craig Thompson, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, state Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville and a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin and a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee.

WisPolitics.com subscribers and members receive discounted pricing for WisPolitics luncheons of $20 per person, including lunch. Price for the general public is $25 per person, including lunch.

This event is sponsored by: Kapur & Associates, UW-Milwaukee, Wisconsin Academy of Global Education and Training, ELEVEN25 at Pabst, Milwaukee Police Association, The Firm Consulting, Medical College of Wisconsin and Spectrum.

The Waukesha County Business Alliance is an event partner.

For more information and registration, visit: https://wispolitics.com/2019/june-13-wispolitics-com-luncheon-the-future-of-transportation-funding-in-wisconsin/



LRB-1845/1: Adding rights for survivors of sexual assault beyond Wisconsin’s existing victim/witness bill of rights. By Rep. Brandtjen and Sen. Jacque.

LRB 2751: Creating three refundable tax credits for volunteer firefighters, emergency medical responders, emergency medical services practitioners, and ambulance drivers. By Reps. Pronschinske and Mursau and Sens. Testin and Nass.

LRB 1548/1: Providing a grant to the Center for Suicide Awareness. By Reps. Rohrkaste and Bowen and Sens. Taylor, Darling and Schachtner.


AB 221: Exempting from taxation the pension benefits of certain retired federal employees. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

AB 222: Revocation of operating privilege for certain offenses related to operating while intoxicated. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

AB 223: Supplemental state aid for consolidated school districts and making an appropriation. Referred to Committee on Education.

AB 224: Determining shared costs and the secondary cost ceiling for the purpose of general equalization aids for school districts.Referred to Committee on Education

AB 225: Allocation of early stage seed investment credit to offset taxes imposed on insurers. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

AB 226: Prohibiting food and beverages from being served in foam polystyrene packaging and providing a penalty. Referred to Committee on Consumer Protection.

AB 227: Allowing local governments to regulate pesticides. Referred to Committee on Local Government.

AB 228: self-defense for victims of sex trafficking. Referred to Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

AJR 46: honoring Wisconsin native Megan Gustafson for an incredible college women’s basketball career. Referred to Committee on Rules.

Track bills for free:


AP: GOP approves $37m in pay raises for prison workers

Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan calls for Trump impeachment inquiry

State Journal: GOP leader: State Senate eyeing $200-per-pupil increase in each of next two years

WPR: Budget Committee Passes Tourism Marketing Funds

AP: Kaul joins federal lawsuit over health care objections

Journal Sentinel: Supreme Court suspends Racine County judge for ethical violations

Capital Times: Wisconsin budget committee passes Corrections funding plan, puts off barracks proposal

Politico: ‘We’re at an inflection point’: More Dems pressure Pelosi on impeachment

Politico: House Judiciary Committee subpoenas Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson

Reuters: U.S. lawmakers see tamping down of Trump rhetoric on Iran

Reuters: Trump administration considers tapping U.S. TSA funds for border

Washington Post: Business Despite national security concerns, GOP leader McCarthy blocked bipartisan bid to limit China’s role in U.S. transit

Washington Post: White House, congressional leaders push for two-year budget deal


– 8:15 a.m.: Natural Resources Board. Members are to take testimony on proposed rules affecting chapter NR 812 related to well construction and pump installation, hear a report on the 2019 Wisconsin Conservation Congress and receive an update on CWD.

– 12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.: Madison Rotary Club. Guest speaker is Wisconsin Historical Society Director Christian Overland, who is to discuss plans for a new Wisconsin History Museum. Rotary meetings are open to members, invited guests and media.

– 1 p.m.: Assembly Committee on Medicaid Reform and Oversight public hearing on AB 162, relating to participation in the Volunteer Health Care Provider program by agencies serving homeless individuals; and AB 192, relating to mental health clinical consultations under the Medical Assistance program.

– 1 p.m.: Assembly Committee on Local Government executive session on AB 159, relating to the operation of electric scooters on highways; AB 141, relating to due dates for paying property taxes; and other bills.

– 1:05 p.m.: Assembly Committee on Local Government public hearing on AB 184, relating to local reporting requirements related to general transportation aids; and AB 170, relating to the method for providing notice of a special meeting of a school board.

– 2:30 p.m.: Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations public hearing on Clearinghouse Rule 17-073, relating to food processing plants.

– 2:35 p.m.: Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations executive session on SB 133, relating to violations of the law relating to the practice of massage therapy or bodywork therapy, and other bills.

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