WED PM Update: JFC to kill Evers’ Medicaid expansion plan, pot proposal in first actions

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— The Joint Finance Committee’s first actions on Gov. Tony Evers’ budget May 9 will be to pull out a host of his priorities, from expanding Medicaid to allowing illegal immigrants to get driver licenses.

Typically, the JFC co-chairs have the Legislative Fiscal Bureau identify policy items that can be pulled from a guv’s budget.

But in today’s memo, Co-chairs Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and John Nygren, R-Marinette, identified 131 fiscal as well as policy provisions they plan to include in a motion to remove from the document.

Along with the Medicaid expansion — which would save an estimated $324.5 million in general purpose revenue over the biennium — the committee’s first motion will seek to remove the cap the guv proposed on the manufacturing and ag credit. That proposal, which would limit the credit to the first $300,000 of income for manufacturers, would increase tax revenue by $516.6 million, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The other proposals JFC plans to remove from the budget include:

* Repealing the minimum markup on gasoline;
* Allowing undocumented immigrants to be eligible for driver’s licenses;
* Allowing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition;
* Legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing the possession, manufacturing or distribution of 25 grams or less of marijuana;
* Ending the transferring of 0.25 percent of general fund tax revenue to the state’s transportation fund;
* And nixing a series of provisions related to the state’s private voucher school and independent charter school programs, including the guv’s plan to freeze the number of slots available in the state’s voucher program and implement new requirements for licensing teachers working in the schools.

— Nygren and Darling pledged GOP lawmakers “will live within our means” while making “major investments in the people’s priorities” going forward.

“We believe the proposed budget by Governor Evers’ digs a Doyle-sized deficit,” the pair said in a release. “The governor spends so much, the next budget would start with a $2 billion structural deficit. The bottom line is his budget is unsustainable, irresponsible and jeopardizes the progress we’ve made in the last eight years.”

In all, the LFB identified more than 70 items as non-fiscal policy, according to Darling and Nygren, which they said is the second-highest number of those items in a guv’s budget plan since 2001.

An Evers spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

— The panel is also planning to work off of current law rather than using Evers’ budget as the starting point for its deliberations.

The decision comes after months of speculation over how much or how little members of the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee would defer to the guv’s recommendations.

Today’s memo notes that while Evers’ plan will be before committee members, it would take a majority vote to include the guv’s provisions into JFC’s version of the budget — just like it would take a majority vote to adopt a motion from a committee member.

Republicans control the committee 12-4.

— JFC members are planning to first take up the Ethics Commission, Historical Society, guv and lt. guv budget sections during their first meeting next week.

They’ll also consider the Department of Administration’s Division of Gambling, the Investment Board, the Employment Relations Commission and the Department of Health Services’ Care and Treatment Services, among several areas.

Members will convene at 11 a.m. May 9 in the Capitol.

See the memo:

See Nygren’s and Darling’s statement:

— Evers’ administration today sent an errata letter to lawmakers clarifying language in his budget, including nixing language that would have looked into changing how the state’s group health insurance program operates. previously reported the administration intended to remove the plan from the budget because it wasn’t intended to be included there in the first place.

Other changes include removing the guv’s recommendation to staff three barracks buildings with 72 positions in Evers’ capital budget for the Department of Corrections. That’s because, DOA Secretary Joel Brennan wrote, if the barracks are approved they wouldn’t be completed in the upcoming biennium, so the positions aren’t needed over the next two years.

See the errata letter:

See the past report on the proposed group health insurance program change:

— Evers today backed calls for legislation to enable communities in Wisconsin to form regional transit authorities.

The state in 2009 passed measures that allowed the creation of the authorities in different communities, but the Republicans’ 2011 biennial budget eliminated the initiative and dissolved the RTAs that had been created in Dane County, the Chippewa Valley in the Eau Claire area and Chequamegon Bay in the Ashland area.

But Evers renewed his campaign pledge to support bills that would bring back RTAs. Though he acknowledged the idea of regional transit authorities “scares some legislators,” the guv called on lawmakers to allow “regional entities to collaborate around issues.”

Evers told the Madison Rotary Club that though the state plays a big role in transportation, “the counties and the municipalities do most of it, and they have been underfunded since the last eight years.”

The call to bring RTAs back came as Evers touted his budgetary priority to fund the state’s transportation system, which he noted had “some significant issues” and “ranked really low.”

“We’re working hard on this, and this is going to be an extraordinarily important part of our budget,” he said.

— The guv also told Rotary Club members the state has “a historic opportunity” to improve health care by accepting the federal Medicaid expansion and chided lawmakers for opposing the move for “ideological reasons.”

Evers said his administration plans to use the estimated $1.6 billion to improve health outcomes for African-American women and babies, as well as invest in opioid addiction treatment, youth mental health programs and clean drinking water initiatives.

The guv also riffed on his frustration with lawmakers who questioned the amount of money allocated to address lead pipes and poisoning in Milwaukee.

“Why the hell should those kids be drinking lead?” he asked. “We are a civically minded state; we have to put the money where there’s difficulties.”

His comments came before the Republican JFC co-chairs stripped out key parts of Evers’ budget plan.

— Evers signed two bills into law today.

That includes one naming a highway interchange in Winnebago County after former GOP state Sen. Mike Ellis, and another that makes changes to the denial, suspension, and revocation procedures of certain licenses related to motor vehicle dealers.

Today’s action comes after the guv signed two other bills into law yesterday.

See the release:

— Evers today spoke to the board of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which ran ads last fall opposing his bid for guv.

The business group, whose ad knocked Evers for giving raises to DPI employees, tweeted a picture of the Dem speaking to the organization.

Today’s event was the first time Evers spoke at a WMC event, a spokesman said. He had previously been invited to WMC’s Business Day event in March but was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.

Spokesman Nick Novak noted Evers in late November also attended WMC’s Wisconsin Statesmanship Reception, though he didn’t speak there. The event is co-hosted by Godfrey & Kahn and the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Novak added it’s customary for the group to invite sitting governors to address members of the board, as well as sitting U.S. senators.

See the tweet:

— The guv also announced three staff appointments for his Milwaukee office.

They are: Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams, who’ll serve as the director; Edwin Huertas, deputy director; and Revelle Williams, constituent services manager.

See more on their backgrounds:

— DOT released a list of 212 projects — broken down by legislative district — that it says would be delayed or removed if lawmakers fail to approve Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to invest an additional $320 million in the state highway rehabilitation program.

The agency released the list a week ahead of the Joint Finance Committee likely taking its first votes on the budget.

“It is imperative we establish a forward-looking and sustainable revenue stream so that Wisconsin’s local communities and businesses can plan for their future growth,” said DOT Secretary Craig Thompson. “More short-term, patchwork approaches would be inefficient, expensive and put us further and further behind our neighboring states. Wisconsin deserves better.”

A check of the list shows the projects highlighted range from one in the 5th SD, represented by Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, to 28 in the 12th SD, represented by Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst.

The value of the projects in the 12th SD range from $51 million up to $76 million.

See the release:

— Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Paul Bugenhagen Jr. has officially announced a bid to challenge former state Supreme Court candidate Lisa Neubauer for the 2nd District Court of Appeals.

Bugenhagen in a release today said he’s running because the court “deserves a judge who will uphold the rule of law and defend our Constitution — including the religious liberties of all Wisconsinites.”

He was in private practice from 2005-15, when he unseated 12-year incumbent Linda Van De Water.

Neubauer lost each of the 12 counties in the Waukesha-based district. Collectively, she took 36.6 percent of the vote.

She first began serving on the court in 2007.

See Bugenhagen’s release:

— Protesters and activists rallied at the Capitol today to pressure lawmakers to back Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to be eligible for driver’s licenses.

The annual “Day Without Latinos and Immigrants” protest drew people to Madison today as part of a national movement to bring awareness to the work and priorities of Hispanic immigrants.

Speaking to a crowd DOA estimated at 4,000, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and others gathered on the steps of the Capitol to tout the guv’s plan as a means to make communities safer and reduce the number of uninsured drivers.

“Under the Constitution, all people, no matter their immigration status, have the right to free speech, the right to peaceably assemble and the right to ask their government for needed change,” Rhodes-Conway said in both English and Spanish at the rally.

The mayor, along with Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and Voces de la Frontera Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz, argued it is unsafe for immigrants to drive without a license and the current situation causes them to live in fear when commuting to work or school.

“This isn’t just a question of economics. It’s a question of decency and human rights,” Koval said.

As the speakers addressed the crowd, protesters waved signs sporting phrases such as “No Hate in the Dairy State” and “Classrooms not Cages.” Oftentimes, the crowd broke into chanting “S’ se puede,” or roughly translated, “Yes we can.”

The driver’s licenses and ID cards Evers is proposing would be clearly marked that they aren’t valid for voting purposes or proof of citizenship or immigration status. The driver’s licenses would be valid for four years and the ID card for two.

Previous efforts to allow those illegally in the state to have driver’s licenses and ID cards failed to move in the Republican-controlled Legislature in recent years.

The state previously allowed special driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. But the Legislature in 2007 moved to add requirements that applicants be U.S. citizens or residing in the nation legally.

— PSC Commissioner Ellen Nowak said her return to work today was “professional,” though she said there were some lingering hard feelings after she was barred from her job by the Evers administration as the guv sought to rescind her appointment.

The state Supreme Court’s order late Tuesday cleared the way for Nowak to return to the agency today, and she said there were no issues other than needing some time to get her security badge and email working again.

She also said “it didn’t have to be this way” with Gov. Tony Evers rescinding her appointment shortly after a Dane County judge overturned her confirmation in the December lame-duck session. Nowak, a former DOA secretary and GOP legislative aide, said the guv could’ve waited for the appeals process to play out rather than leaving her without a job for six weeks.

“They made it personal, and unfortunately politics has been interjected into the PSC like it never has before,” Nowak said. “These last six weeks have been awful.”

Nowak is planning to seek back pay and restoration of things like sick days for the time she was barred from the job. She said she met with human resources today and hoped to reach a resolution on those issues without having to file a complaint or go to court.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters last month several of Evers’ cabinet picks were in danger of being rejected following the guv’s decision to rescind some appointments. Fitzgerald specifically mentioned Nowak in telling reporters some GOP senators wanted to shoot down cabinet picks to show their anger at the guv’s moves.

Fitzgerald spokesman Alec Zimmerman said Senate Republicans planned to caucus soon and the majority leader wanted to speak with them to “see where everyone is at” on the cabinet picks in light of yesterday’s development.

— Abortion rights advocates today slammed a slate of new GOP bills — including “born alive” legislation — that they said would harm women and their doctors.

And they also touted a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the state’s 170-year-old law that only allows physicians to perform abortions in order to save the mother’s life. The law, which has been unenforceable since the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, is one Dems have sought to take off the books.

National Institute for Reproductive Health President Andrea Miller during a call with reporters today tied the two together as efforts that showcase Republicans’ “true agenda, which is to push abortion out of reach and punish women and abortion providers.”

“What we are witnessing is nothing short of a coordinated attack on women’s ability to control their lives, their futures and their families,” she said.

The group, in partnership with the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, launched a campaign Monday to draw attention to the law, which states “any person, other than the mother, who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child is guilty of a Class H felony” punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or as many as six years in prison, or both. The campaign includes shared social media posts and placed billboards around Madison.

The push comes as Republicans have introduced their “born alive” legislation as well as other abortion bils that would ban the procedure solely because of race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex or due to a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome or another congenital disability; and prohibit Planned Parenthood from being certified to provide services under the Medicaid Assistance program, among other things.

Sara Finger, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health founder and executive director, said the bills are “a thinly veiled effort by Republican state legislators to advance their anti-abortion agenda.”

And she charged the GOP released the bills to distract from Gov. Tony Evers’ budget priorities — specifically his plan to accept the federal Medicaid expansion dollars and allocate $28 million to up funding for women’s and infants’ health care as a way to help address racial disparities in maternal care.

The bills are up for a public hearing before the Assembly Health Committee on May 7.

The “born alive” bill has been knocked by the guv, who also this week blasted President Trump’s suggestion at a recent rally that Wisconsin doctors “are executing babies is just a blasphemy.”

Trump’s comments prompted controversy nationally after he said, “The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don’t think so.”

The comments, and the bill, have also sparked debate over the frequency — or lack thereof — of the procedure.

Doug Laube, the former UW-Madison Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology chair and currently an active abortion provider in Madison, said the process “just doesn’t happen.”

He also slammed Trump’s comments as “grotesque” and added they’re “not backed by any clinical or scientific information.”

Republicans have said the bill would address “gray areas” in current law and the bill is coming up now in response to a national debate over late-term abortions.

“What is the harm in putting things in state law in making sure that these babies are protected?” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steinke said in a interview this week.

— Two GOP lawmakers are looking at setting up an innovation program across three UW System schools to bolster the state’s struggling dairy industry.

The bill, from Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, would create a “Dairy Innovation Hub” to look at developing new dairy products and new uses for those products, as well as opening additional markets for them.

“Unfortunately, the dairy industry and agriculture is in crisis,” Marklein said during a news conference this morning at the Capitol. “We’re often asked to do something about it. I believe the hub has real potential to answer this call.”

The bill would allocate $7.9 million in general purpose revenue annually to the UW-Madison, Platteville and River Falls campuses for new dairy industry innovation programs. Fifty-two percent of all funding will go to UW-Madison, while the remainder of the money would be split evenly between the other two campuses.

Marklein said the hub is meant to attract world-class researchers who will help steward the environment, improve nutrition, care for animals and grow dairy businesses.

“It’s important to point out that the Dairy Innovation Hub is not about increasing production,” Marklein said.

Tranel, a dairy farmer himself, said the bill is a long-term solution and is “not gonna help overnight.”

The dairy industry has seen a steady decline in milk prices since late 2014, and hundreds of dairy farms closed last year at a rate of nearly two a day, while others are struggling to stay in business.

Marklein and Tranel said the idea for the bill originated from the Dairy Task Force 2.0, formed by former Gov. Scott Walker last year with the goal of creating a profitable dairy industry.

Both lawmakers said they hoped the legislation could be incorporated into the final budget bill.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said the guv recognizes “the importance of continued research, innovation, and development for our state’s dairy industry.”

“That’s why The People’s Budget includes a number of important initiatives, like a $150 million investment in the UW System, portions of which could be used for the proposed Dairy Innovation Hub,” she said.

See a WisEye video of the news conference:¬if_t=live_video_explicit


LRB-1479/2: Termination of parental rights; the rights of alleged fathers in certain proceedings; and payments allowed in connection with an adoption. By Sen. Jacque and Reps. Brandtjen and Fields.

LRB-2733/1: The Mississippi River System. By Rep. Oldenburg and Sen. Marklein.

LRB-2418/2: Applying the indoor smoking ban to vapor products and marijuana. By Reps. Kolste and Mursau and Sens. Jacque and Risser.

LRB-1431/2: Limiting condemnation payments made by a county or a redevelopment or community development authority. By Reps. Brooks and Jagler and Sen. Tiffany.

Track bills for free:


AP: Immigrants, backers rally for driver’s licenses in Wisconsin

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State Journal: Gov. Tony Evers declares Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month

WPR: Bipartisan Bill Would End Use Of ‘Personal Conviction’ Waivers For Immunization In Wisconsin

AP: Wisconsin, Illinois sued over transgender name-change laws

AP: GOP legislators propose UW dairy hub

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– 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.: Sustain Dane’s Sustainable Business Network Quarterly Breakfast Meeting. Speakers are Lauren Yang, StartingBlock’s Give Back team leader; and Jay Patel, Impact investor and social entrepreneur.

– 11 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety executive session on several bills related to operating while intoxicated.

– 11 a.m.: Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety public hearing on AB 143, relating to violations of the law relating to the practice of massage therapy or bodywork therapy; AB 104, relating to battery or threat to an officer of the court in a tribal proceeding; and AB 135, relating to going armed with an electric weapon by private security personnel.

– 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce Legislator Meet and Greet.

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