Friday, January 31, 2014

WEMTA Alert: Public Hearing Set for BCPL Amendment

Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) introduced a new constitutional amendment, AJR 85, this afternoon, which would delete the office of the Secretary of State from the state constitution. As a result, the amendment would replace the Secretary of State with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

An informational hearing has also been scheduled on AJR 48, Schraa’s other constitutional amendment, for Wednesday, February 5; testimony will only be allowed by invited speakers.  AJR 48, would have deleted both the office of the Secretary of State and office of the State Treasurer, but due to constitutional concerns raised by members of the legislature and legislative council, Schraa decided to separate the two proposals.  Schraa has introduced a substitute amendment to AJR 48 so that the resolution would only delete the office of the State Treasurer and add the lieutenant governor to the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

The introduction of AJR 85 creates an interesting legislative situation. Since AJR 48 previously received a public hearing in October, the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations can pass the amended version of the bill, which will only apply to the State Treasurer, at any time. It is unclear why a second hearing is being held on AJR 48 on February 5.  AJR 85, which is a new proposal, must also receive a public hearing before it can advance through the legislature, but no hearing is scheduled on AJR 85 at this time.

To be enacted, a constitutional amendment must be passed by both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions and then win the approval of voters in a statewide referendum.

Full Committee notice by the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
10:01 AM
225 Northwest

The informational hearing will begin upon the conclusion of the public hearing.

Assembly Joint Resolution 48

Relating to: deleting from the constitution the offices of secretary of state and state treasurer (first consideration).
By Representatives Schraa, August, Knodl, Jacque, J. Ott, Craig, Nygren, Petersen, Murphy, Kerkman, Tittl, Knudson, Born, Honadel, LeMahieu, Bies, Kuglitsch, Marklein, Kestell, Sanfelippo, Stroebel, Nass and Endsley; cosponsored by Senators Gudex, Leibham and Vukmir.

Testimony will be limited to invited speakers only.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Common School Fund Amounts Posted

The estimated amount of Common School Fund aid to be distributed during the 2013-14 school year was posted to the Department of Public Instruction's website this afternoon. An estimated total of $30,200,000 will be disbursed, which is approximately $24.9 per student.

This year's numbers are a slight increase over the 2012-13 amount, which distributed $30,100,000, an average of $24.7 per student.

In addition to the disbursement information, there are informational resources on the Common School Fund posted on DPI's website.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Capitol Update, January 27

Rural Schools Task Force

The Rural Schools Task Force met with the Department of Public Instructions’ Advisory Council on Rural Schools, Libraries and Communities for an informal discussion on Thursday.

Representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander), the Task Force chair, said that he considers transportation, broadband access and teacher retention as some of the main issues that need to be addressed. 

The importance of libraries, digital learning, and library media specialists were heavily discussed by the two groups, and Representative Swearingen called libraries the “nucleus of small towns.”

Kurt Kiefer, assistant state superintendent of the division of libraries and technology, spoke at length about the importance of digital learning in rural schools.  Representative Mary Czaja (R-Irma) expressed a lot of interest in digital learning programs being used across the state and asked for more information on what school districts are currently offering.  Representative Swearingen said that improving broadband access will be crucial to the success of digital learning for students when they are at school and in their homes.  Connie Erickson of CESA 11 asked that the Task Force find a way to provide more flexibility for rural schools so that they can schedule digital learning courses in the evening or on weekends.

The Task Force has two hearings left and hopes to issue a final report by March. Unfortunately, the Task Force is running out of time to pass legislation this session (which ends in March) and Rep. Swearingen said he hopes to begin working on legislation at the beginning of next session with the possibility of including some recommendations in the next state budget

State of the State

Governor Walker delivered the fourth and final State of the State address of his first term Wednesday evening before a joint session of the legislature. Walker used the speech to highlight his proposed $800 million tax cut plan, job creation news, workforce development initiatives, and investments in the agriculture and manufacturing industries.

Specifically, Walker called for a Special Session of the legislature to pass his tax plan and increase funding for the Fast Forward workforce training grants by $35 million.
Walker highlighted several of his education initiatives, including the expansion of the school choice program, increased funding for the Youth Apprenticeship program, the implementation of Academic and Career Plans for middle and high school students and the UW System tuition cap.

"We are proud of our positive reforms in education," said Walker. "ACT scores continue to be higher than the national average, graduation rates are better than when I took office, and also, third grade reading scores are up."

In concluding his speech, Walker called on the legislature to pass his tax plan and continue implementing his reforms.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) delivered the minority response to the State of the State in which he called the Governor’s plan: “All talk. Anemic action.”  Barca called on the Governor to provide fair funding for public schools and provide good health care and  fair paying jobs for Wisconsin’s middle class.

Senator Alberta Darling: Statement on State of the State

Common Core

Governor Walker announced at the State Education Convention on Friday that he would like to create a commission to review the Common Core standards and make recommendations to DPI to develop Wisconsin-based model academic standards.  He said that “federal standards in education may be raising the bar in some states, but in Wisconsin, we can do better.”  Members of the commission would be appointed by Governor Walker, Superintendent Tony Evers and the legislature.

Internet Privacy

The Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that prevents employers, landlords and colleges from asking applicants for their passwords to private social media and email accounts.  The only information they will be able to view is what is already made public on the accounts.

The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate last year, but the Assembly approved an amendment that allows employers to still be able to “friend” employees on social media sites, so the bill will be returned to the Senate for approval.

Voter ID

The committees in both the Assembly and Senate held public hearings this week for bills that would require proof of residence for all electors registering to vote unless they are in the military or living overseas.  This would be a change from current law that only requires proof of residence from those who register to vote by mail and have not voted previously in Wisconsin or for those who register after voter registration has closed.  Opponents of the bill are concerned that it may impinge upon some elector’s right to vote, especially the elderly and young voters who don’t always have the required proof of residence.


Representative Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) has announced that he will not seek re-election.  Bies has served the 1st District in the State Assembly for the past 14 years.  He may potentially be joining the race for Secretary of State.

Julian Bradley, the current vice chairman of the 3rd Congressional District Republican Party has announced that he will run for Secretary of State.  Bradley says the he will make the duties of the secretary more transparent, open communication with state government and restore the former duties of the position.  Current Secretary of State, Doug La Follette, a Democrat, has not announced yet if he will run for re-election.

Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, a Democrat, filed her registration papers to run for attorney general.  Three other candidates have already entered the race: Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, a Republican, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, and Representative Jon Richards, a Democrat.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Jefferson County district attorney enters attorney general race

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gov. Walker to Deliver State of the State Tonight

Governor Walker will deliver his annual State of the State address tonight at 7 p.m. before a joint session of the legislature. The speech will focus on the income and property tax cuts the Governor is proposing in light of the state’s nearly $1 billion surplus.

According to the Governor's office, the proposed tax cut plan will:

·        Cut $406 million from property taxes, resulting in a $100 reduction on the average homeowner’s property tax bill
·         Reduce income taxes by $98 million, which cuts taxes for the average filer by $44-$58
·         Reduce the amount of income taxes withheld on paychecks.
·         Deposit $100 million into the state’s rainy day fund

The plan will increase the state’s projected structural deficit by $100 million. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau currently estimates that the state will have a $725 million shortfall going into the next biennial budget.  Democrats and several Senate Republicans have expressed concerns over the state’s structural deficit and have urged the legislature to use caution when considering any further tax cuts this session.  However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) says Assembly Republicans are “united behind the idea” of additional tax cuts.

Ways to Watch the State of the State

1.       Wisconsin Eye will live stream the speech and provide additional analysis before and after the address. Coverage will also be available on Wisconsin Eye’s T.V. station (Charter 995 - Time Warner 363)

2.       Governor Walker launched yesterday, which will live stream the speech and provide additional information on the Governor’s plan

3.       Wisconsin Public Television will provide coverage online and on T.V.

4.       Several local T.V. stations will be providing live streams of the address on their websites, including Channel 3000 and WKOW in Madison, check your local station’s website to see if they are also covering the event

    5.  Wisconsin Radio Network will provide live audio of the speech 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Capitol Update, January 17

State Treasurer

State Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) announced Wednesday that he will be making changes to his proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the offices of Secretary of State and State Treasurer due to concerns raised by other legislators and legislative council. Schraa intends to amend his current resolution, AJR 48, to only delete the State Treasurer position, and he is currently circulating a bill for co-sponsorship to delete the Secretary of State position. By separating the two proposals, Schraa says he can avoid any constitutional issues relating to the referendum process.

Representative Schraa: Schraa renews call for legislature to eliminate Treasurer, Secretary of State

Common Core

The Senate Select Committee for Review of the Common Core Standards Initiative met on Thursday where they discussed their findings from studying the standards.  The chairman of the committee, Senator Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) will be creating a final report.  The committee did not vote on any recommendations.

Channel3000: Senate committee discusses Common Core changes
Sen Farrow: Senate Common Core committee concludes hearings

State of the State

Governor Walker will hold his State of the State address next Wednesday, January 22, during which he intends to unveil additional income or property tax cuts due to the state's $1 billion surplus. 

WJFW: State of the State will focus almost exclusively on job initiatives and training.


The Department of Administration has reopened the first floor doors of the Capitol building for regular use for the first time in 12 years.  After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the ground floor doors became the only primary entrance and exit, and the first floor doors, located at the top of the steps, remained locked for security purposes.

Department of Administration: DOA Reopens First Floor Capitol Doors

New Representative

Representative Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin) was sworn in as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly on Tuesday.  He won the special election for the 82nd district last month.  There are no longer any vacant seats in the Assembly.

Representative Vos: Welcoming Rep. Ken Skowronski to Assembly
Representative Skowronski: Rep. Ken Skowronski Takes the Oath of Office

Governor’s Race

State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) has announced that she will not be running for Governor this year.  Speculation had increased in the past couple of months that she would run, but after receiving a severe broken arm in a car accident last month she says that her recovery is not at the point where she is able to run.  Senator Vinehout previously tried her hand at running for Governor during the recall election.

Marcia Mercedes Perkins will be running for Governor as a Democrat, which will force a democratic primary election.  Wisconsin elections records show that she registered to run on Monday, and that she also filed for the 2010 governor’s race.  Little is known about her.

La Crosse Tribune: Kathleen Vinehout says crash injuries prevent run for Democratic nomination for governor
Vinehout for Wisconsin: Senator Vinehout Statement on Not Running for Governor This Year
Green Bay Press Gazette: Mystery Democrat jumps into governor’s race


Representative Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade) has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the session.  He has represented the 59th district in the Assembly for the past 12 years.

Representative LeMahieu: Rep. LeMahieu Announces Retirement