| TOP STORIES
Evers to again propose marijuana legalization in state budget
Evers opposes GOP flat income tax cut plan
Evers says WI will monitor TikTok use on govt devices; federal ban proposed
WHITE HOUSE ^top^
– Trump’s former White House ethics lawyer [Passantino] told Cassidy Hutchinson to give misleading testimony to January 6 committee, sources say … Trump’s Save America political action committee funded Passantino and his law firm Elections LLC, including paying for his representation of Hutchinson, other sources say … Before her public testimony, Hutchinson dropped Passantino and got a new lawyer. … Passantino has not been accused of a crime. He said House investigators never reached out to him for an interview. … By Tuesday, Passantino’s professional biography had been removed from the website of a midwestern-based law firm where he was a partner – and he acknowledged in his statement he was on a leave of absence from the firm “given the distraction of this matter.” That firm, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, said on Tuesday it was not involved in the situation and Hutchinson wasn’t a client.
– Trump tax audits required by IRS were delayed, panel says … report released by the Democratic majority on the House Ways and Means Committee indicated the Trump administration may have disregarded an IRS requirement dating back to 1977 that mandates audits of a president’s tax filings. … found that the audit process was “dormant, at best.” … IRS only began to audit Trump’s 2016 tax filings on April 3, 2019, more than two years into Trump’s presidency and just months after Democrats took control of the House. That date coincides with [W&M chair] Neal … asking the IRS for information related to Trump’s tax returns. … [ranking GOP, ex-chair Brady] told reporters. “The era of political targeting, and of Congress’s enemies list, is back and every American, every American taxpayer, who may get on the wrong side of the majority in Congress is now at risk.” Pelosi vowed “swift” action on bill requiring IRS’ initial report no later than 90 days from the filing of a president’s tax returns. More details. Trump Organization was convicted earlier this month on tax fraud charges for helping some executives dodge taxes on company-paid perks such as apartments and luxury cars. Manhattan DA Bragg said probe continues.
STATE SUPREME COURT RACE ^top^
– Key WI Supreme Court choice could come before April, The primary in February could settle the pivotal question of ideological balance … “It is conceivable that you could have two conservatives prevail in the primary or you could have two progressives prevail,” says MU prof.] Fallone [who lost primary to Karofsky] … An ideologically determinant outcome, though still a longshot, would be most likely if all four announced contenders — the deadline for filing is Jan. 3, 2023 — were to garner vote totals within the same narrow range, say between 20 and 30 percent. The two candidates on each “side” would have to roughly split the votes between them. With four serious contenders, this is a serious possibility. … [after winning 2011 4-way primary] Kloppenburg … went on to face Prosser … losing by a razor-thin margin that went to a recount … [Fallone] says it is “incumbent on progressives to unite and avoid a split decision.”
STATE GOVERNMENT ^top^
– Sidney Powell should be sanctioned over WI election claims, guv tells appeals court … Evers, in a 75-page brief to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, argued that a judge who declined to sanction Powell did not recognize the “heart” of his argument: that Powell and a team of other lawyers “advanced meritless claims in their last-ditch effort to overturn the will of the people and have Donald J. Trump judicially declared the winner of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election.” … seeking $106,000 in attorneys fees from Powell and the others … [whose] lawsuits in both MI and WI alleged a vast, tangled fraud linking voting machines to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and hackers from China and Iran. … Judge Pamela Pepper denied Evers’ motion for sanctions in August, ruling that she no longer had jurisdiction … had quickly dismissed Powell’s lawsuit before delving into the merits … Powell separately appeared before the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this month in a bid to overturn a $175K sanction imposed by U.S. District Judge Linda Parker in Michigan against Powell and others. … Powell and other attorneys representing plaintiff William Feehan did not immediately respond. Evers’ attorneys and spokesperson also did not respond.
– Evers is not ruling out state funds for [Madison to Milwaukee] train [w/extension to Twin Cities] … “I thought that Scott Walker’s decision years ago continues to haunt us,” Evers said Tuesday. “But that said, we’ll see what the federal government has available for us.” … Robin Vos said only, “No state funding.” … “I don’t think it makes sense to build a rail, even if it’s mostly through federal money, if we’re stuck on the hook subsidizing it for the next 30 years,” [LeMahieu] told AP.
Evers listens to Green Bay’s state budget concerns … listening session Tuesday evening at UW-Green Bay … was the most popular session yet, aside from a virtual session he held a couple weeks ago. … “Budgets are about priorities,” said Evers. “They’re a reflection of your values, my values, the state of Wisconsin’s values. … doing the right thing for the people of the state.” … barely spoke for the rest of the night … took notes while people voiced their concerns. [LG] Rodriguez followed suit in her groups.
* Attendees shared their priorities, including better access to mental health resources, no income limits on choice vouchers, more farm-grown food in schools and hospitals.
– Evers casts doubts on Republican priorities for expanded private school vouchers, tax cuts for wealthy
– LeMahieu Announces JFC Appointments: Testin, Wimberger, Marklein, Stroebel, Felzkowski, Ballweg
– The new Wisconsin legislative session is around the corner. Here are the leaders in charge of the party agendas. Profiles LeMahieu, Kapenga, Agard, Vos, August, Peterson Neubauer, JFC co-chairs Marklein and Born.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ^top^
– NFL draft path cleared for Andre Carter II due to bill provision … provision has been included in the omnibus appropriations measure, expected to pass this week, to make Carter and other current academy upperclassmen eligible for a waiver that will allow for a legacy exception for a 2019 ruling that allowed deferred service to play pro sports. This provision appeared on the Senate appropriations website Tuesday morning. … initial bill was introduced by Mike Gallagher … Gallagher added Tuesday: “I’m glad the updated text grandfathers existing athletes as we phase in a new system that prioritizes service. Moving forward, there is much more work to be done to ensure our military service academies are laser-focused on their core, tax-payer supported mission: training the next generation of warfighters.”
– Gwen Moore Talks About Wealth Inequity, House committee she serves on produces 30-minute documentary, ‘Grit & Grace,’ exploring the problem. … “Housing is a crisis everywhere in the country,” says Moore. Unlike San Francisco, where high housing costs have priced even upper-income residents out of the city, in Milwaukee low wages are the biggest problem for people who can’t afford housing. The committee’s visit to Milwaukee presented its members with a city marred by de-industrialization and divided by racial housing covenants and redlining. Moore, who grew up in Milwaukee, stresses that it’s a city where “17,000 jobs were lost in a 30-year period, which really hollowed out the middle class.” … committee’s report also provides several recommendations [including pre-K, job training/apprenticeships, free community college, child-care/transit for students, paid leave]
– Funding for WI community projects on the line as Congress works to pass federal budget … Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation have tucked $306M+ for community projects across WI into the $1.7T bill … Baldwin secured the most earmarks among delegation Democrats in the latest version of the omnibus bill — allocating about $250 million across more than 68 projects. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore had $23.8 million, retiring U.S. Rep. Ron Kind had $16.7 million and Pocan had $16.2 million intended for community projects. (About $37 million of Baldwin’s earmarks overlap with those from Wisconsin’s House members.) … The Senate could vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday before sending it to the House for passage before lawmakers leave for the holidays. … “This is the gateway drug to the massive deficit spending, to the mortgaging of our children’s future,” said Johnson, holding a printed version of the bill. “It has to stop.” … Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday. “We have a bipartisan bill. We have a path forward now.” Pocan last year called earmarks “part of your job .. a real no brainer.” Details.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ^top^
– Youth Detention in Racine Approved, Supervisors quietly approve policy they previously rejected … In September, DHHS went to the board for [approval to send overflow juves to Racine detention] and it was narrowly denied on a 9-7 vote. … on December 15, the supervisors flipped … unanimously approved as part of a single vote on a handful of items before the board. … Milwaukee County runs an alternative-to-incarceration program much like Racine’s, but an ongoing waitlist means there’s nowhere for the children to go if the detention center is full and they can’t be ordered to Racine. … [DHHS dir. LaGrant-McClain] reminded supervisors that the cost charged to the county to incarcerate a juvenile in a state prison is two to three times what Racine charges for their detention center and their alternative-to-incarceration program. … [In Sept.] Sup. Felesia Martin told her colleagues, “It is far better to have them in Racine than to have them at Lincoln Hills, Copper Lake.” … it appears, all the supervisors had come to agree with her view.
– Lake Hallie board sending two referendum questions to voters in April
– Milwaukee Believes Census Didn’t Count 15,800 Residents, City submitting formal challenge with $21M+ in federal aid on the line. … Census Bureau established its own list of 257,723 housing units as of April 1, 2020, but the city believes the correct figure is 260,132. … bureau reported 22,313 vacant housing units, while [USPS] reported 18,258. … 700 inmates at the downtown jail were incorrectly reported as [Franklin] residents … apartment building with approximately 70 units … was incorrectly counted as part of the City of Glendale. … Without a change in the total, the city would lose approximately $7 million in federal aid over the next decade and Milwaukee Public Schools would lose $14 million. “We are here to set the record straight. Since 2010, the Milwaukee population has been relatively stable,” said [Mayor] Johnson, while flanked by [Ald. Zamarripa, Urban League’s Hall, Forward Latino’s Morin, ElevAsian’s Kennedy, NAACP’s Royal, pastor Lanier, Af-AmCoC’s Purvis, DOA’s Robinson.] … Congresswoman Gwen Moore and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin submitted a joint letter of support of the city’s challenge and encouraged the bureau to undertake a quick review [in a queue of 40-50 challenges].
– Milwaukee is challenging its 2020 census numbers. Here’s why. If the city is successful in the challenge, it would be eligible for millions more in federal funding
– Seeking a roof over their heads … Doubled-up homelessness refers to people without a permanent place to live who end up staying with friends, relatives or strangers. … Doubled Up Workgroup is comprised of Madison and Dane County service providers, community agency representatives, school social workers and people who have experienced homelessness. MMSD’s Koester, community social workers Hemauer and Rogers, UW youth advocate is Litchman, Dane DHS’ Prescott, YWCA’s Gaines, MOM’s Carlson, Connections Program’s Verhagen comment.
– Hamilton senior addresses girls’ locker room concerns through student newspaper: senior girl athlete got to see boys locker room during tornado warning and complained boys locker room is bigger and nicer.
– Appleton schools have 100 fewer subs than before the pandemic. Here’s why staffing problems are persisting.
– Here are the 5 GOP, 1 Dem lined up to run for WI’s crucial SD8: details GOP Reps. Dan Knodl and Janel Brandtjen and Concordia University student Robert Albrightson, ex-sen. Randy Hopper, Thiensville pres. Van Mobley, Dem Jodi Habush Sinykin. Mobley, Brandtjen, Hopper, Sinykin comment.
– NEA Poll says: CRT was no election winner. Nationwide, voters generally wanted to protect public schools and the children in them … findings help explain why a number of Democratic governors and gubernatorial candidates ― [including Evers, Kelly, Hobbs] ― were able to successfully fight off conservative Republicans who made the treatment of transgender students, and the previously obscure academic framework known as critical race theory, into prominent issues in their races. … In Wisconsin, Evers successfully portrayed GOP Gov. Tim Michels’ support for school choice as a threat to public schools. … The Darkansas side of this coin: The last election demonstrated there’s a negligible sliver of persuadable voters unless they are disproportionately represented among those registered to vote who didn’t go to the polls.
– Scientists: Atmospheric carbon might turn lakes more acidic … [after adapting] supersized algae blobs to invasive mussels and bloodsucking sea lamprey that nearly wiped out fish populations. … Two sensors have been attached to a floating weather buoy at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary near Alpena, Michigan. One measures carbon dioxide pressure in the water column and the other pH. Additionally, crews are collecting water samples at varying depths within the 4,300-square-mile (11,137-square-kilometer) area for chemical analysis. … “If you change things chemically, you’re going to change how things behave and work and that includes the food web,” said [NOAA’s] Errera. “Does that mean your favorite fish might not be around any more? We don’t know that, but we know things will change. Maybe where and when they spawn, where they’re located, what they eat.” … Data also is needed from lakes Erie, Michigan, Ontario and Superior … “It’s like walking into a buffet and instead of having the salad bar and roast turkey, you have just Skittles,” [U-LA prof.] Stauffer said. … A 2018 study of four German reservoirs found their pH levels had declined — moving closer to acidity — three times faster in 35 years than in oceans since the Industrial Revolution. … “The only solution is a global solution,” [Columbia prof.] McKinley said. “Everyone cuts their emissions.” … “I honestly don’t see this as a thing that we as lake scientists should be freaking out about,” [UW prof.] Stanley said. “There are so many other challenges facing lakes that are larger and more immediate,” such as invasive species and harmful algae.
– Green Lake County public hearing to address concerns over limestone quarry plan
HEALTH CARE ^top^
– DHS reports first pediatric influenza-associated death of the 2022-23 season in Wisconsin
– CVS and Walgreens limit sales of children’s meds as the ‘tripledemic’ drives demand
LAW AND ORDER ^top^
– Sheriff-elect Matt Izzard studies up for new role, The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will change hands for the first time in two decades.
– ‘We have no other options’: Solutions needed for WI’s EMS dilemma: BTC’s Balsamo, Munies’ Deschane, BFD chief Pease, EFD chief Pickering, LFD chief Schafer, WFD chief Treesch comment.
– Milwaukee-area business and community leaders we lost in 2022: pics and tributes for Margaret Farrow, John Steinmiller, William Petasnick, Robert Kern, Wallace White, James Hyde, Mary Dowell, Isabel Bader, David Baum, Susan Loris, Allen Rieselbach, Stanton Bluestone, Nicholas Lascari, Herbert V. Kohler, Mike Cudahy.
– Two deaths, including man who caught fire, underscore problems at King veterans home … [Ricky Engstrom, who had advanced multiple sclerosis, used an electronic wheelchair, was 98% nerve dead from the waist down, went outside in negative windchill to smoke pipe, caught his pajamas n fire.] Although the veterans home’s care plan for Engstrom required that he be monitored while smoking, no one saw him as he tried to put himself out, according to the sheriff’s report and the video … [6 months later] Tom Link, 83, came to King to recover from back surgery. He was a diabetic, but staff failed to check his blood sugar regularly and monitor his surgical wound, which developed a severe infection. Link was found unresponsive, in a coma. He died four days later, less than a month after coming to King. … Since 2017, the King home … has had 59 federal citations, above the national average for veterans homes nationwide. … issued $3,250 in fines, according to [CMS] … findings follow a Journal Sentinel investigation in May that showed a pattern of federal violations at another veterans nursing home, Union Grove in Racine County. Federal lawmakers from both political parties then called for an investigation and more oversight of Union Grove, but no such review has been done. … [DVA] did not make Secretary Mary Kolar available for an interview, but spokeswoman Colleen Flaherty said in an email that King staff “works incredibly hard to maintain a high level of quality care.” She said that throughout the pandemic, the home has maintained 4- and 5-star ratings, or “above average” and “much above average,” from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; those ratings are partly based on information that is self-reported by the facility. Link’s, Engstrom’s family comment.
– State regulators seek federal help to investigate unsafe PFAS levels in Stella, DNR asks EPA to help investigate PFAS levels with no obvious source for contamination … Testing of private wells in the community of Starks in the Oneida County town of Stella showed levels as high as 11,900 parts per trillion for PFOA … prompted additional sampling [of] private wells for 31 of 56 homeowners offered … About half had PFAS levels exceeding the state’s health guidance, and nine had levels above 1,500 parts per trillion. The rest either showed low or no trace of the chemicals. … “This is a rural area without really any industry or anything nearby, so, if we were to try to pinpoint a source, it would all be speculative at this point,” said [DNR’s] Yach. “We don’t really have an idea where it’s coming from. … it’s uncertain as to the effectiveness of the water treatment systems above [1,500 ppt].” … “we have communicated that the well water should not be used for drinking, making drinks, and preparing foods that take up a lot of water (like oatmeal, rice, and jello),” [DHS’] Yang said. … will work with the county and DNR to examine health risks as additional results become available. … Well compensation grants of up to $16,000 may be available for residents, but grants must be approved prior to any work. More details on findings, PFAS locations, remediation. Stella Board chair did not respond, supvs declined comment.
– 3M to end manufacture and use of harmful PFAS by the end of 2025, 3M will stop making the “forever chemicals” that for decades have bedeviled the environment.
– Governors’ TikTok Bans Make Sense, Cybersecurity Experts Say … At least 18 states, all led by Republican governors, have banned staffers’ use on government devices [fearing Chinese govt. access to data] … Some states [including GA, NH, VA] have gone even further, banning apps and products such as WeChat, QQWallet and AliPay from other Chinese companies. … [MD ban] prohibits state employees from using [info-tech] products and platforms from four other Chinese companies and one Russian one. … action at the federal level has been bipartisan. Last week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that would prohibit federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices. [Pelosi and McCarthy both support the ban. Recaps FBI Dir. Wray’s warnings. TikTok’s Oberwetter] said the accusations against the company are false and that the Chinese government is not involved in its operations. … But China has laws that require private companies to provide information to the government. Experts said TikTok goes beyond marketing data. SideChannel’s Haugli: “That thing can tell you where your eyeballs are looking.”
– CT Editorial: Take a Christmas break, but it shouldn’t be your only day off
– KN/RJT editorial: Peace at the polls an encouraging sign
– John Nichols: The January 6 Committee Just Put Kevin McCarthy in Charge of an Investigation Into Kevin McCarthy, Nearing the anniversary of the Capitol riots, the dysfunctional structure of the House Ethics Committee virtually guarantees inaction by a Republican-controlled House.
– Dave Zweifel: Memo to Robin Vos: Trains are not a partisan issue … Passenger rail — just like highways and airports — wasn’t considered a Democrat or Republican issue throughout American history.
– Mark Lisheron: State needs greater transparency, clarity: Audit bureau wants details on how state is spending nearly $6 billion in federal ’emergency’ funds
– M.D. Kittle: “Power Up” podcast with U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald on Title 42 … Fitzgerald said ending the policy that has prevented hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the United States since March 2020 will create chaos at the Southern border and beyond.
– Ruth Conniff: Wisconsin GOP chair wants to have it both ways on Trump … In an interview Sunday with WISN TV’s UPFRONT, Schimming announced his plans to lead his party wherever the wind may blow.
– Kenosha victims family member Catherine M. Koessl: We need equitable enforcement to stop the traffic fatality crisis on our roads
– Dan O’Donnell: The Christmas Truce … The legacy of the Christmas truce lives on more than a century later as perhaps the greatest example of the true magic of Christmas.
– Bill Barth: Tax reform should lead to compromise