Strategies Newsletters 01/27/2017
Best Insights Newsletter
Strategies is pleased to announce that we are starting a newsletter service to provide timely information about what is happening in the Wisconsin Capitol, state agencies, the courts, and other relevant public policy arenas. Each Strategies team member brings a unique and varied background, covering almost every aspect of state government. This experience will be extremely helpful in identifying and spotting the most important and pressing issues affecting Strategies’ clients.
Feel free to send this newsletter to colleagues and let them know they can sign up to receive future newsletters for free.
Introducing Michael Best Strategies’ Wisconsin Team
As we enter 2017, Strategies would like to introduce the entire Wisconsin team: Ted Kanavas, President; Rob Marchant, Partner; Andrew Hitt, Partner; Karen Timberlake, Senior Advisor; Andy Cook, Senior Advisor; and Nathan Houdek, Senior Advisor.
We are excited to announce that Rob Marchant and Andrew Hitt are now partners. Additionally, Andy Cook and Nathan Houdek joined the Strategies team in December 2016.
Updates from Strategies
Profile of the 2017-2018 Wisconsin State Legislature
In addition to winning the presidency and holding majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House in the November 2016 elections, Republicans also increased their majorities in the Wisconsin State Senate and State Assembly.
In the State Senate, Republicans gained one seat – increasing their majority from 19 to 20 members – after defeating Senator Julie Lassa, the Democratic incumbent from Stevens Point. Four new members will be joining the State Senate in 2017: Patrick Testin (Stevens Point), who defeated Lassa; Dan Feyen (Fond du Lac), who won former Senator Rick Gudex’s seat; Dave Craig (Big Bend), who won the seat being vacated by Senator Mary Lazich; and LaTonya Johnson (Milwaukee), who won the seat being vacated by Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd.
Both Senator Fitzgerald and Speaker Vos have modified the committee structures for the 2017-2018 session as a result of the larger Republican majorities in both chambers.
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will continue to be co-chaired by Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren. The Senate members of JFC will also remained unchanged, with Republican Senators Luther Olsen (Vice-Chair), Sheila Harsdorf, Howard Marklein, Tom Tiffany, Leah Vukmir, and Democratic Senators Lena Taylor and Jon Erpenbach continuing on the committee. Rep. Nygren will be joined by Republican Reps. Dale Kooyenga (Vice-Chair), Amy Loudenbeck, Mary Czaja, Mark Born, and Mike Rohrkaste. The Assembly Democratic members will be Representatives Gordon Hintz and Katrina Shankland.
Key Issues to Dominate Budget Debate
Governor Walker is scheduled to deliver his biennial budget address at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8, 2017.
As legislators get ready for a new session and another state biennial budget debate, a few key issues are already beginning to dominate the conversation. Transportation and education funding are shaping up to be the biggest budgetary issues. Speaker Vos and Democrats in both chambers are calling for increased revenue for transportation funding, with proposals for increased gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, as well as tolling, being discussed as potential options. However, Governor Walker and Senate Republicans are remaining firm in their opposition to generating new funding, instead focusing on potential cost savings in the Department of Transportation to finance transportation projects. The Governor has said repeatedly that he will veto any gas tax or vehicle registration fee increase unless it is offset by a tax cut elsewhere. This is certain to be a hot topic as the budget debate continues.
Gov. Walker Calls Special Session to Combat Opioid Abuse
On Thursday, January 5, 2017, Governor Walker called on the State Legislature to convene a Special Session in the ongoing effort to fight against opioid abuse. The Governor referred to the continued fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic as a “public health crisis,” and said that the Legislature and state agencies must do more to “ramp up the state’s response.”
More information about the specific legislative and funding proposals included in the Governor’s Executive Orders calling for the Special Session can be found here.
Gov. Walker Delivers State of the State on Jan. 20
Governor Walker delivered his seventh State of the State address at the State Capitol on January 20. In his speech, Walker highlighted his support for $35 million in increased funding for rural broadband expansion, and emphasized that the safety and maintenance of the existing transportation infrastructure is his priority, rather than new funding. He also said that workforce development would be his top priority for 2017. Additionally, after four years of freezing tuition at University of Wisconsin System campuses, Walker announced that his 2017-19 Executive Budget would include a tuition cut.
Excerpts from the State of the State address can be found here.
Key Spring Elections to Watch
State Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler will go unchallenged this spring in her race for re-election. Justice Ziegler will serve another ten-year term following her re-election in April 2016.
State Superintendent Tony Evers was not as fortunate, as he had two opponents file to run against him. John Humphries and Lowell Holtz will challenge Evers. The three will face off in the primary on Feb. 21, 2017, with top two candidates advancing to the Spring General Election on April 4, 2017. Stay tuned for more information about this and other spring elections in upcoming Best Insight newsletters.
Action by the Joint Finance Committee
DHS. Report on the overall condition of the Medicaid benefits budget and any changes to the program in the past quarter. No action required.
DHS. Report on Reliability and Consistency of Aging and Disability Resource Center Functional Screening and Options Counseling. No action required.
DHS. CR DHS16-87
Hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and facilities serving people with developmental disabilities. The department proposes to adopt the 2012 edition of the LSC (Life Safety Code) in these chapters, in order to promote safe and adequate care for patients and residents in Wisconsin health care facilities, and to achieve consistency between federal and state rules.