More than half of the appointees on the state Elections and Ethics commissions continued to make political donations to state candidates and groups even after joining the bodies, according to a WisPolitics.com check of campaign finance reports. The head of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which opposed the commission replacing the old Government Accountability Board, said the donations were "beyond inappropriate" considering the commissioners' role in state elections.
Republicans at the Capitol are working hard to curry favor with rural voters in this election year. There's the recent proposal from Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren, backed by Gov. Scott Walker, to pump more state money into small, rural schools and to allow low-spending districts to raise their caps.
Republicans in Madison and Washington are working to rein in those who get taxpayer-funded aid amid worries from social service advocates that the poor and underemployed are being unfairly targeted. In Madison, a Republican bill would up the penalties for defrauding the state's unemployment insurance fund. And in Washington, D.C., the Trump administration is saying Wisconsin is now free to enact work requirements for some Medicaid enrollees.
The state's first-ever advertising campaign to attract and retain Wisconsin workers is getting a thumbs-up from business and economic development leaders. Mark Tyler, president for OEM Fabrication, says it's a good idea given the workforce shortage plaguing Wisconsin manufacturers. "We're a state that doesn't beat its chest and say 'Look how good we are,'" Tyler told WisBusiness.com, a sister site of WisPolitics.com. "The problem is, you've got to find a way to get the message out."
In an era of extreme partisanship, here's an example of bipartisanship at the Capitol: An Assembly committee has unanimously approved legislation that would boost compensation for people wrongfully imprisoned. The Committee on State Affairs approved Assembly Bill 548 11-0 on Jan. 3 after signing off on a bipartisan amendment. Before it can be voted on by the full Senate and Assembly, it will have to go through a Senate panel and the Joint Finance Committee.
After the state Department of Justice released its report on the leak of John Doe records, Supreme Court candidate Tim Burns unloaded on Twitter. "The horror of Walker's rubber stamp Supreme Court: the people are left without a means to determine if public officials are abusing their power and an independent branch of government to stop the abuse. #JohnDoe #WIpolitics #SCOWIS," wrote Burns, running in a three-way race early next year for the seat being vacated by conservative Michael Gableman.
Scott Coenen, executive director for the newly formed Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, says the group will target Republican lawmakers with educational outreach on the benefits of renewable and alternative energy sources.
Gov. Scott Walker formally announced his re-election bid this week amid some potentially troubling early poll numbers.
Law enforcement officers have lined up in support of a bill laying out standards for handling video from body cameras, saying it would protect privacy while encouraging more departments to use the technology. But media and free speech advocates worried the bill's language is too restrictive and called on lawmakers to retool it to make footage more readily available. Under Rep. Jesse Kremer's bill, law enforcement would only be able to release body camera footage in case of a death, alleged physical injury, custodial arrest or a search during a temporary questioning.
Wisconsin Republicans are trying to make the case that bringing back large-scale hemp production would be a winner for Wisconsin agriculture and rural parts of the state. Bills backed by Republicans have appeared in the Wisconsin Legislature and Congress. The state legislation, from GOP Sen. Patrick Testin and Rep. Jesse Kremer, also received bipartisan support. The bill's authors highlighted the economic advantages it could bring to rural areas of the state.