Tag Archives: Scott Walker

Things to know about the new Wisconsin legislative session

Wisconsin legislators will start their next two-year session with plenty of pomp and circumstance Tuesday but the honeymoon will end quickly as lawmakers dive into a thicket of divisive budget issues.

Some key things to know about the upcoming session:


Republicans rode President-elect Donald Trump’s momentum to their largest majorities in both the Senate and Assembly in decades. The GOP goes into the session with a 64-35 advantage in the Assembly, their largest since 1957, and a 20-13 edge in the Senate, their largest since 1971. Republicans re-elected Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to their leadership posts days after the results came in. Republicans have now held complete control of state government since Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011. The party will be free again to pass whatever it can agree upon internally.


The session kicks off Tuesday with legislators taking the oath of office. The day is full-fledged production, complete with corsages for lawmakers, prayers and judges swearing them in. Then come handshakes, back-slapping and photos with family members and other well-wishers.


Almost immediately. Republican Gov. Scott Walker gives his State of the State speech a week later, on Jan. 10.

Governors typically use the speech to outline their priorities and introduce new programs and initiatives, sending ripples cascading across the state.

In February he’s expected to introduce the executive version of the 2017-19 state budget.

Deliberations on the budget will consume the Legislature through mid-summer.

If the State of the State speech is a thunderstorm, the budget is a hurricane as both parties try to fund key constituencies or protect them from cuts.


The stage is already set for GOP infighting.

The hottest topic will be how to fund road projects. The state pays for roads with the transportation fund, which is built on gas tax revenue and vehicle registration fees.

The fund faces a $1 billion shortfall but Walker, who faces re-election in 2018, has said he won’t raise the gas tax or fees to make up the difference.

Instead he has said his budget will delay major projects and rely on borrowing.

Assembly Republicans have said the governor’s plan is a short-term political solution. They say all potential revenue increases should be on the table, including raising the gas tax and imposing tolls.

The governor also has promised to increase funding for the University of Wisconsin System after cutting it by $250 million and extending an in-state tuition freeze in the last budget.

But the system has become a popular punching bag for Republican lawmakers, raising questions about what, if anything, the system will end up getting.

Some GOP lawmakers are already saying the system doesn’t deserve any additional money as long as a course on racism called “The Problem of Whiteness” is offered as planned this spring at UW-Madison.


Budget deliberations will consume lawmakers until mid-summer, when the Legislature’s budget committee finalizes revisions and kicks it to the full Senate and Assembly for approval. After that, anything could happen.

Some Republicans have talked about preventing candidates with no chance of winning from requesting election recounts after the Green Party’s Jill Stein forced a pre-Christmas recount of Wisconsin’s presidential election that changed nothing. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has talked about limiting early voting times and locations, even though a federal judge struck down attempts to do just that last session.

Republicans also are expected to resurrect failed bills forcing transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender at birth, and to allow concealed weapons in college classrooms and on school grounds.

Lawmakers also could be forced to redraw their district boundaries after a federal judge in November tossed out GOP-drawn lines. They also could be forced to grapple with the fallout if Trump repeals President Barack Obama’s health care reforms.


State of the State speech: Jan. 10.

First floor session: Jan. 17.

Governor’s budget introduction: Late February.

Final legislative budget approval: Late June or early July.

Last scheduled floor session: May 9, 2018.


The Wisconsin Legislature’s website, allows visitors to track bills’ progress. It also offers a list of all legislators, their phone numbers and their email addresses.

DNR deletes from website references to human role in climate change

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has quietly removed language from its website that said humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the website now says the cause of climate change is debatable.

Gone are sentences attributing global warming to human activities and rising carbon dioxide levels.

DNR spokesman James Dick says the new wording reflects the agency’s position on the topic and that climate change causes are still being debated and researched.

The vast majority of scientists agree burning fossil fuels has increased greenhouse gases and caused warming. A 2014 United Nations report found human influence on climate is clear.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker controls the DNR. He has been critical of President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives.


Democrats reorganizing for 2017 and beyond

Continue reading Democrats reorganizing for 2017 and beyond

Timber company’s sand plants would destroy Wisconsin wetlands

A timber company subsidiary is looking to build a pair of sand processing facilities in western Wisconsin that would eliminate more than 16 acres of wetlands.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Meteor Timber wants to build sand drying plant along Interstate 94 in Monroe County and a sand mine 14 miles away in neighboring Jackson County. Together the facilities would be valued at $65 million and create nearly 100 jobs, the newspaper reported.

Sand would be trucked from the mine to the drying plant. Meteor would build a 10-mile railroad spur to a Union Pacific line to transport the sand to Texas oil fields, where it would be used for hydraulic fracking.

The project would eliminate 16.6 acres of wetlands, including more than 13 acres of hardwood swamp. Jeffrey M. Olson, a section chief for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, called some of that land pristine, saying it’s never been touched.

The state Department of Natural Resources has issued 60 wetland permits to sand operators since 2008, allowing the destruction of 26 acres.

Meteor’s wetland use would amount to 60 percent of that total.

Meteor needs approval from both the DNR and the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed. Both entities require that disturbing wetlands be avoided whenever possible but Meteor is trying to persuade the DNR and the corps that no alternative sites are suitable.

Midwest Environmental Advocates, an environmental law firm, is representing the Ho-Chunk Nation, which has tribal trust lands in the area. The firm is urging the corps and the DNR to deny permits for the project. Sarah Greers, an attorney for the firm, questioned why other sites can’t be found and why the company wants to build the facilities since the sand mining industry has slowed.

Christopher Mathis, managing director of real estate for Meteor, said in a statement to the Journal Sentinel that the company is sensitive to wetland impacts but can’t find any other commercially viable sites.

Meteor would preserve 358 acres on the property, shut down a cranberry marsh and remove dams from the marsh to naturalize a creek on the property, the Journal Sentinel reported. The company also would pay to restore wetlands in the same watershed.

Meteor, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Timberland Investment Resources, has nearly 50,000 acres in forest holdings in Wisconsin.



Danger list: A look at the Republican agenda for 2017

Republicans emerged from the November elections holding their greatest level of power in decades. Not only will Republicans control the White House and Congress, but the GOP also will hold 33 governors’ offices and have majorities in 33 state legislatures. A look at the GOP agenda for state legislative sessions.


• Ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

• Ban dilation and extraction abortions, a procedure more commonly used in the second trimester.

• Lengthen the time women must wait to have an abortion after receiving counseling about its effects.

• Block government funding from going to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.


• Reduce or eliminate corporate income taxes.

• Relax business regulations and professional licensing requirements.


• Expand the availability of vouchers, scholarships or tax credits that allow taxpayer money to cover K-12 tuition costs at private schools.

• Expand opportunities for charter schools.


• Allow people with concealed gun permits to carry weapons on college campuses.

• Reduce the costs for concealed gun permits and ensure that permits from one state are recognized elsewhere.

•  Allow people to carry concealed guns without needing permits or going through training.


• Limit how much money plaintiffs can win in medical malpractice and personal injury cases.

• Restrict where lawsuits can be filed in an attempt to prevent plaintiffs from bringing suit in jurisdictions perceived to be favorable.=

• Restrict who can qualify to provide expert witness testimony.

• Reduce the rates used to calculate interest on monetary judgments.


• Enact right-to-work laws, which prohibit workplace contracts that have mandatory union fees.

• Restrict the collective bargaining powers of public employee unions.

• Require members of public employee unions to annually affirm their desire for dues to be deducted from paychecks.

• Curtail or repeal prevailing wage laws, which set minimum pay scales on public construction projects.

On the Web

Pew’s Stateline reports.