Thursday, November 15, 2018

Study Committee on BCPL, CSF Drafting Constitutional Amendment

The Legislative Council Study Committee on the Investment and Use of the School Trust Funds met November 14 to decide on draft legislation, including a resolution to amend the state constitution to modify the investment requirements of the Common School Fund.  They will meet for a final time on December 6 to vote on whether or not they want to introduce any of the draft bills next session.

They have asked for five bill drafts to be prepared:

1.  A constitutional amendment related to the investment of the Common School Fund (CSF). Members of the Committee would like to allow BCPL to dip into the principal of the fund to make payments to school libraries. Currently, BCPL only makes payments to school libraries using the income from the Fund as directed by the constitution.  Others would like to see school libraries get a set percentage of CSF income every year with BCPL allowed to invest the remaining income. Currently, libraries receive all of the income from the CSF.

2. Statutory changes to put some of BCPL's current CSF investment strategies into state law (i.e. the smoothing account they created a few years ago).

3. Giving the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) the same authority to invest the CSF that BCPL gained in 2015 after the Legislature approved a bill allowing them use the prudent investor standard.

4. Eliminating the ability of municipalities to pass BCPL loan funds on to private developers.

5.  Allowing banks to lend to municipalities for longer terms.

BCPL testified to the Committee that they were given increased investment authority by the Legislature less than three years ago and are currently in the process of implementing a new investment strategy. They requested that the Committee give the current investment strategy a few years to fully take effect and then evaluate it to see how it's working. BCPL said the timing is not right to make a constitutional change.  They warned the Committee that other states have made changes to their trust funds with the goal of getting higher returns that have resulted in significant losses to the funds. Idaho adopted a new policy that led to a $342 million loss for their fund. BCPL said they have been cautious in their investment approach to avoid major losses like this. They told the Committee that every state that has a trust fund like ours looks different because every state has different needs, different beneficiaries and a different mix of assets.

Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is the current chair of the BCPL, sent a memo to the Committee urging them to be cautious when it comes to amending the state constitution. "I believe that BCPL should be given more time to transition its investment portfolio before considering significant changes to statutes or the constitution," wrote Schimel.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Two New BCPL Commissioners Elected

Democrat Tony Evers was declared the winner of the Governor’s race at about 1:30 a.m. It is the closest Wisconsin Governor’s race in nearly 50 years. At the time the race was called, Evers led Governor Walker by roughly 25,800 votes and that margin increased to 30,849 once all precincts reported. Walker conceded the race to Evers earlier this afternoon. 

The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which oversees the Common School Fund, will get two new Commissioners after Sarah Godlewski (D) won the race for State Treasurer and Josh Kaul (D) won the race for Attorney General. Doug La Follette (D) won re-election and will continue to serve on the Board. 

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s race against State Senator Leah Vukmir was called in shocking speed, with ABC News projecting her as the winner almost as soon as polls closed.

Republicans successfully defended their strong majorities in the State Senate and State Assembly.

Governor-elect Evers and the New State Legislature will be sworn-in in early January 2019.

Here are the highlights:

Governor: Tony Evers (D) upsets Gov. Walker (R).

U.S. Senate: Tammy Baldwin (D) fended off a challenge from Leah Vukmir (R)

Attorney General: Josh Kaul (D) defeated incumbent Brad Schimel (R).  

Secretary of State: Doug La Follette (D) will continue his 40-year career as Secretary of State.

State Treasurer: Sarah Godlewski (D) is the next State Treasurer.

State Senate: Republicans have increased their majority by one seat after State Rep. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) won his re-match against Sen. Caleb Frostman (D-Sturgeon Bay). They will start the next session with a 19-14 majority.

State Assembly: Republicans appear to have held on to their 64-35 majority in the State Assembly, though there is one race that has not been called. Democrats may flip one seat in AD  14 where State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk (R) leads Democrat Robin Vining by just 21 votes in a Republican seat.

Congressional Delegation: Bryan Steil (R)  will replace his former boss House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District after defeating Democrat Randy Bryce. All Congressional Delegation incumbents won re-election.


One of the most closely watched gubernatorial elections in the county came down to the wire. Tony Evers was declared the winner at about 1:30 a.m. beating Walker, 50%-48%. The margin of victory was just outside the window for a recount, and Walker concede the race to Evers on Wednesday afternoon.

Walker started warning supporters after the Spring Election in April that Wisconsin was at risk of a Blue Wave.

The two men were locked in a virtual tie in polling released by the Marquette University Law School throughout the race. The last MU Law Poll before the election had Walker and Evers in a dead tie, each with 47% support among likely voters. National polling consistently showed Evers leading Walker. Many national forecasting firms moved the race from “Leans Republican” to “toss-up” over the course of the campaign, and some outlets like Sabato’s Crystal Ball and FiveThirtyEight changed their ratings to “Leans Democratic” in the days before the election.

U.S. Senate

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin defeated State Senator Leah Vukmir to win one of the nation’s most expensive U.S. Senate races with a solid, 57%-43%, victory. More than $47 million was spent on this race, which heavily focused on health care.  Polling released throughout the election cycle consistently showed Baldwin with a sizeable lead over Vukmir. The final Marquette Law School poll released before the election had Baldwin garnering 54% support among likely voters.

Vukmir, who has served in the Wisconsin State Legislature for the past 16 years, had to give up her State Senate seat to challenge Baldwin and will not be returning to the Legislature in January. State Representative Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) won the race to fill her seat.

Attorney General

Democrat Josh Kaul was declared the winner over incumbent Brad Schimel in the early morning hours with a margin of 50%-49%.  Schimel led Kaul in every Marquette Law School Poll released during the election cycle, but the race began to tighten in recent weeks. Kaul led Schimel in fundraising but struggled with poor name recognition throughout the race.  

State Treasurer

Democrat Sarah Godlewski beat Republican Travis Hartwig, 51%-47%, to become the next Wisconsin State Treasurer just seven months after Wisconsinites overwhelmingly voted to keep the Office. Both candidates made restoring financial oversight duties to the office a central part of their campaigns. Godlewski, who was heavily involved in the campaign to keep the office, has also proposed using it to help Wisconsinites refinance their student loans. Current State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a strong proponent of eliminating the office, chose not to run for re-election and ran for a State Assembly seat instead. Adamczyk was leading his Democratic opponent in AD 14 by just 21 votes as of this writing, but the race has yet to be called.  

Secretary of State

Secretary of State Doug La Follette beat his Republican challenger Jay Schroeder, 52%-48%. La Follette has held the office for nearly 40 years and survived a primary challenge from Madison Alder Arvina Martin in August. Schroeder had previously said that he wanted to eliminate  the Office, but appears to have changed his position over the course of the campaign, arguing in recent weeks that he wanted the Office to be an “Election Watchdog.”

State Senate

Democrats had the momentum going into the general election after picking up two seats in special elections held in January and June. This left Republicans with a narrow, 18-15 majority. However, Republicans were able to defend all of their seats and pick up one additional seat in Senate District 1. The will have a 19-14 majority in the State Senate next session.

Senate District 1: State Senator Caleb Frostman (D-Sturgeon Bay) lost his re-match with State Representative Andre Jacque (R-De Pere). Jacque won, 54-46%, just five months after losing the special election to fill former State Senator Frank Lasee’s (R-De Pere) seat.

Senate District 5: State Representative Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) defeated Democrat Julie Henszey in the race to fill the State Senate seat vacated by Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) who gave it up to run for U.S. Senate.

Senate District 17: State Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) beat Democrat Kriss Marion, 54%-46%,  in one of the most closely watched State Senate races of the night. Democrats heavily targeted this district after liberal Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet carried it in the April Election.

Senate District 19: Senate President Roger Roth (R-Appleton) fended off a challenge from Democrat Lee Snodgrass in the other closely watched race of the night, 53%-47%.  Democrats also chose to target this district after it was carried by Dallet in April.

Senate District 23: State Representative Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) beat Democrat Chris Kapsner, 59%-41%,  to fill the open seat vacated by retiring State Senator Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls).

Senate District 25: State Senator Janet Bewley (D-Mason) won her race against James Bolen, 51%-49%. The  Republican State Leadership Committee ran an ad campaign targeting Bewley and attempting to brand the Northwest Democrat as a “Madison liberal.”

Senate District 31: Democrat Jeff Smith beat Republican Mel Pittman to fill the open State Senate Seat vacated by Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma). Smith is a former Democratic State Assembly Representative.  Vinehout, who gave up the seat to run for governor, had held it for 12 years.

State Assembly

Assembly Republicans went into Election Day with a solid 64-35 majority and they appear to have  successfully defended it. There is still one race that has not yet been called, so Democrats could potentially flip one Republican seat. Democrats needed to pick up 15 seats to take the majority.

Assembly District 2:  Republican Shae Sortwell beat Democrat Mark Grams and two third-party candidates to fill the open Assembly seat vacated by Representative Andre Jacque (R-De Pere), who gave it up to run for State Senate. Sortwell is a veteran and former state legislative aid.

Assembly District 14: State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk currently leads Democrat Robin Vining by just 21 votes in the race to fill State Representative Dale Kooyenga’s (R-Brookfield) open seat. had rated this race as a toss-up.

Assembly District 23: State Representative Jim Ott (R-Mequon) won his race against Democrat Liz Sumner, 51%-49%. Sumner put up strong fundraising numbers during the campaign, and rated it as a toss-up.

Assembly District 28: Republican Gae Magnafici beat Democrat Kim Butler, 59%-41%, to fill the open seat vacated by Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake). Magnafici worked as a registered nurse for 35 years, retiring in 2017. Jarchow gave up the seat to run in a special election for State Senate in January, which he lost.

Assembly District 38: Republican Barb Dittrich beat Democrat Melissa Winker to fill the open seat vacated by Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc). Dittrich has two children with special needs and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Christian Council on Persons with Disabilities (now LIFT Disability Network). She also founded a nonprofit called Snappin’ Ministries, which provides faith-based support to parents of children with special needs.  

Assembly District 42: State Representative Jon Plumer (R-Lodi) won his re-match with Democrat Ann Groves Lloyd, 58%-42%. Plumer won the special election to fill this seat in June.

Assembly District 49: State Representative Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) won his race against Democrat Mike Mooney, 59%-41%. Mooney outraised Tranel in early fundraising reports, which led to speculation that the seat could flip.

Assembly District 50: Republican Tony Kurtz beat Democrat Art Shrader, 55%-43%, to fill retiring State Representative Ed Brooks’ (R-Reedsburg) open seat. rated this race as a toss-up. Kurtz describes himself as a veteran and farmer.

Assembly District 51: State Representative Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) won his race against Democrat Jeff Wright, 51%-49%.  Wright put up strong fundraising numbers early on in the campaign, leading to list it as a toss-up.

Assembly District 62: Republican Robert Wittke beat Democrat John Lehman, 55%-45%, to fill retiring State Representative Tom Weatherston’s (R-Caledonia) open seat.  Wittke is the Racine Unified School Board President.

Assembly District 68: Republican Jesse James beat Democrat Wendy Sue Johnson to fill State Representative Kathy Bernier’s (R-Chippewa Falls) open seat, 58%-42%. James is the Altoona Chief of Police. Bernier ran for State Senate and won.

Assembly District 88: State Representative John Macco (R-De Pere) won his race against Democrat Tom Sieber (D-Green Bay), 53%-47%.

Assembly District 90: Democrat Staush Gruszynski of Green Bay will fill retiring State Representative Eric Genrich’s (D-Green Bay) open Assembly seat. Staush was unopposed. Staush is a Brown County Board Supervisor.

Assembly District 91: Democrat Jodi Emerson  beat Republican Echo Reardon, 67%-33%, to fill State Representative Dana Wachs’ (D-Eau Claire) open seat. Emerson is an anti-human trafficking advocate. Wachs gave up his seat to run for Governor, but lost in the Democratic primary.

Assembly District 92: State Representative Treig Pronschinske (R-Mondovi) won his race against Democrat Rob Grover, 55%-45%. Pronschinske beat former Democratic State Representative Chris Danou in a surprise upset in 2016. rated this race as a toss-up.

Assembly District 96: Republican Loren Oldenburg defeated Democrat Paul Buhr to fill retiring State Representative Lee Nerison’s (R-Westby) open seat, 52%-48%. rated this race as a toss-up.

U.S. House of Representatives

CD 1: Republican Bryan Steil will replace his former boss House Speaker Paul Ryan in Congress after defeating Democrat Randy Bryce, 55%-42%.  Steil earned the endorsements of Ryan and Bryce’s brother, who appeared in a campaign ad for a political action committee supporting Steil. Bryce first announced his candidacy with a viral video before Ryan said that he would not seek re-election. The video helped him garner significant national attention and fundraising support, but his past arrest record posed serious challenges to him throughout the campaign. Steil criticized Bryce for relying on out-of-state donations to fuel his campaign. Ryan held this seat since he was first elected to Congress in 1998.

CD 2: Congressman Mark Pocan (D) ran unopposed for this seat. This will be his third term in Congress.

CD 3:  Congressman Ron Kind (D)  beat his Republican challenger Steve Toft, 58%-42% . Kind was first elected to this seat in 1996.

CD 4: Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D) easily defeated her Republican challenger Tim Rogers, 75%-23%. Moore was first elected to this seat in 2004.

CD 5:  Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R) easily defeated his Democratic challenger Tom Palzewicz, 63%-37%.Sensenbrenner was first elected to this seat in 1978 and is the second most senior member of the U.S. House.

CD 6: Congressman Glenn Grothman (R) beat his Democratic challenger Dan Kohl, 56%-44%. Grothman, who hasn’t lost a race in his 24-year political career, called this one the toughest of his career. Kohl consistently led Grothman in fundraising, but it wasn’t enough to help him overcome the district’s strong conservative roots which has been in Republican control since the 1960s.  

CD 7: Congressman Sean Duffy (R) defeated his Democratic challenger Margaret Engebretson, 60%-39%. Duffy was first elected to this seat in 2010.

CD 8: First-term Congressman Mike Gallagher (R) easily won re-election in his race against Democratic challenger Beau Liegeois, 64%-36%.