News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope that your work week is off to a productive start, and that you were able to enjoy the last few days of September, which were unseasonably warm in much of the state. We would also like to take a moment to offer our thoughts and condolences to all of those impacted by the tragic events in Las Vegas last evening. Earlier this morning, President Trump his remarks from the White House. To see the video, click here. This week's Capitol Report will bring you the latest news regarding the proposed lifting of the mining moratorium in Wisconsin, the new DNR Secretary, the Wisconsin gerrymandering case being heard at the Supreme Court, where Wisconsin ranks with overall tax burden, garnishment of wages, and more.
As always, we hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,
Last week was big for the workforce, and in particular, big for small business.
We all know that there is a shortage of workers in Wisconsin that spans across several sectors, particularly skilled trades. A cousin of mine is a welder in northeastern Wisconsin, and recently commented that he was "relieved" he didn't go to a four year school. I asked him why, and he said that he was happy not owing anybody anything. He got the smart genes in the family, no doubt.
But his comments made a lot of sense, and growing up in our family, like most others, there was a perpetuated myth that all kids "have to go to college" if they want to live the American Dream. But is it true?
Lawmakers last week responded to what they're calling a "workforce shortage," by putting together an informational hearing on the issue. On Friday, both the Assembly and the Senate workforce committees got together with the hopes of turning some ideas into legislation.
Some of the issues they discussed were staggering, and the statistics that some speakers shared were enough to make any business owner shift in their seat. Wisconsin will need nearly 50,000 workers in the next seven years to fill vacancies, and this is coming at a time when the 65+ age group is expected to double by 2040 and the working population will remain stagnant. Chew on those numbers for a little while.
The good news is, Wisconsin has hundreds of thousands of small businesses that employ most of the private sector workers in the state. And it just happens that last week, Governor Walker announced his Small Business Agenda at a summit in Rothschild, which WPT's president was happy to attend.
In his agenda, the second step is "Prepare the Workforce," which consists of investing in K-12 education, increasing worker training, expanding opportunities in technical colleges, and strengthening ties between the UW System and the workforce. His fourth and final step is attracting new talent to Wisconsin.
These pieces of Governor Walker's small business agenda are exactly what the state needs to fix this workforce shortage crisis, and get the state prepared for the future. That's exactly why WPT plans to adopt parts of the Governor's small business agenda as our own agenda for the remainder of the legislative session. It's of the utmost importance for every young adult and child that you pass on the street every single day.
So what about that myth that we need to go to a university to realize the American dream? Is it true? I think the most recent findings and statistics related to Wisconsin's workforce tell us that saying is just a myth. The real advice is this; learn a skill and be ready to work, and the American Dream is waiting for you today, right here in the great State of Wisconsin.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns, feel free to reach out to me at any point directly at email@example.com. Thank you, and I hope you all have a wonderful week.
TAX BURDEN DROPS BELOW NATIONAL LEVEL
Some great news for taxpayers in Wisconsin, as our state's overall tax burden has dropped below the national average, giving us the best ranking we've had in more than 50 years. The tax burden ranking, as a percentage of personal income, was released by the US Census Bureau last week.
"Thanks to our property and income tax cuts, we've made incredible progress in lowering the overall burden for hardworking taxpayers across our state," Governor Walker said. "In 2010, Wisconsin was one of the ten worst states in the nation for taxation. Through our common-sense reforms, we brought Wisconsin out of the bottom 20, and we're putting more money back in the hands of hardworking taxpayers. We proved you can reduce the overall tax burden and invest in your priorities at the same time. We are working and winning for Wisconsin."
In 2010, Wisconsin was ranked as having the 9th highest state and local tax burden in the nation. According to the newest information, Wisconsin ranked 22nd among states in 2015, which was its best ranking since the 1960s. Additionally, our rate of improvement since 2010-2011 was the third quickest in the country, as well.
In 2014, Wisconsinites paid up to 10.5% of their income in both state and local taxes. The national average was 10.6%. At its peak in 1973, 14.7% of income went to taxation in Wisconsin. And while those numbers declined significantly, it wasn't fast enough compared to other states, leaving Wisconsin with third highest taxes in America as close back as 1994.
NEW DNR SECRETARY NAMED BY GOV. WALKER
The new head of the DNR Secretary was named by Governor Walker last week, which turned out to be a very short-lived vacancy since Sec. Cathy Stepp resigned to take a post with the Trump administration towards the end of summer.
Former northern Wisconsin lawmaker Dan Meyer was named to head the state's natural resources department, which earned praise from some, and caution from others.
Meyer, who served in the Assembly in the early 2000s ('01-'03), as mayor of Eagle River from '97-'01, and as a local chamber of commerce director, will re-enter state government at a time of much debate over environmental protection details during the Foxconn construction in Southern Wisconsin.
Governor Walker praised Meyer and said that he "understands the balance between protecting our natural resources" and supporting "economic prosperity" in Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, environmental groups weren't quick to celebrate, however did acknowledge that while in the legislature, Meyer voted to turn the DNR Secretary into an independently-appointed position, rather than a gubernatorial appointment- a proposal widely supported by environmentalists in the state.
When on the campaign trail to become governor in 2010, then-County Executive Walker said that he wanted somebody with a "chamber of commerce mentality" when choosing his DNR Secretary. It seems that he found somebody who fits the bill, as the new appointment has already gained praise from the state's largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, who said Meyer has a unique background and is well-prepared to run the agency.
PROPOSAL WOULD EASE WAGE GARNISHMENT LAWS
It could get easier for debt collectors to garnish wages in Wisconsin, under a new proposal that would make some changes to the current laws surrounding the common debt recovery practice.
Currently, a collection agency may be allowed to file a petition to garnish and individual's wages, if certain criteria are met. Once allowed, the debt collection agency needs to re-file every 13 weeks in order to continue taking somebody's earnings from their paycheck.
In Assembly Bill 476 from Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), which was heard last week in the Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions, the re-filing requirement would be lifted, therefore granting the ability for debt collectors to be given an unlimited time to continue the garnishment. Only in criminal court cases are garnishments currently allowed in Wisconsin.
The author of the bill believes the current process is too time consuming, with too much paperwork. Opponents of the legislation point to the fact that most debtors are low income individuals who do not have a steady stream of income.
The bill has not been scheduled for a vote by the committee yet.
MINING BILL TEED UP FOR VOTE
The Senate Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining, and Forestry is all set to vote on a bill that would lift Wisconsin's moratorium on sulfide mining. The committee is chaired by Sen. Tom Tiffany, who also authored the legislation.
In 1998, the legislature required that any company wishing to receive a permit for sulfide-rich mining would need to prove that a sulfide mine has operated for ten years and been closed for ten years without major instances of pollution. If they can prove that those twenty years passed without any instances, they would be granted a permit. No company has been able to demonstrate examples.
The bill, known as the "Prove It First" law by conversationalists, would remove that requirement, which now-Governor Walker voted to implement nearly twenty years ago.
Environmentalists point to pollution from sulfide mines, which mine for copper, zinc, gold, etc, and their impacts on water in particular. In fact, that was the reason for the '98 legislation in the first place. The Governor has not said whether he would sign the bill or not.
WPT WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Historic tax credit reduction · Carrying a concealed weapon with no permit · Tag requirement for deer and turkey lifted · Wisconsin ranks #2 for organic farming · Your favorite autumn pastimes
Gov. Walker has partially vetoed the state's popular historic tax credit, bringing the max award down to $500,000 from $5 million. The move will save taxpayers millions of dollars, though many developers are worried they will not be able to complete some projects. Good idea or bad idea?
I work in an industry...and have worked in other industries...where if the bill is going to the government it is jacked up as HIGH as it can go. I think the blame needs to go into the DEVELOPERS' laps. That's what happens to my little business when we underbid.
If a development project is good enough it will stand on its own to obtain conventional financing without this.
As with anything, there will always be some winners and losers; tax savings will be good for all, hopefully worthy projects will not be cast aside.
I saw a historic area developed and now the building sits empty
Out with the old, in with the new.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety approved a bill that would allow Wisconsinites to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. If you were a State Senator, would you have voted...
I would abstain now- but I do not know the best arguments for and against. If I were a legislator, I would hear those and vote accordingly.
I worry about too many nut cases running around with guns. I guess the "training" and permit wouldn't eliminate that. I don't know what the answer is.
Getting a permit is pretty easy and somewhat educational.
The police can not be every where. I once was an officer and 99% of the time we just cleaned up the mess, we did not prevent it.
Uneducated masses without firearms training who think they are going to Churck Norris out of a "situation." This isn't 2nd amendment protections...this is ultra rightwing/NRA pet projects that make people ultimately more unsafe...next up for deregulation, machine guns and silencers. If you want to have complete unfettered gun access, move to Afghanistan...see how safe you will be there.
There should be a permit for every gun owned. The permit for a concealed weapon was received after training. Training...key word!
The ridiculous difference between carrying open or concealed never made sense.
It's our right
2A already states in plain language that a person can carry. Laws against the Constitution are Unconstitutional and should not be followed.
What I would like to know is there gun training required? (no)
Just what we need, less regulation on yahoos with guns.
The budget eliminated the requirement for hunters to tag their deer and turkey carcasses. Good idea or bad idea?
Why buy a license either?
Uh. I see much poaching already. This will simply enable more.
Michigan has been like this (no tagging of carcass) for as long as I can remember. It seems to work well there.
How will a warden check the registration if there is no tag?
Harder to enforce limits.
As long as the dnr gets the info they need.
The current tags are already worthless printer paper...no point to use them.
No hunt till DNR changes.
Don't hunt and not sure why needed, hence voting indifferent.
Wisconsin ranks 2nd for organic farming nationally. Do you regularly buy/consume organic foods?
Do people buying organic food really know what they're buying?
Grow our own produce, do not like gmo food substances feel that is what has given us increased cases of ADD, autism and cancers.
Organic has become the calling card of "jack the price up." There is too little to regulate what IS or is NOT organic.
Organic does not necessarily mean better.
Tomatoes, beans, beets, carrots, etc.
Organic Valley milk...the less chemicals that are used, the better. Organic farms are usually also smaller than the corporate farms that are more likely to pollute with their chemical use/manure generation.
We buy some organic vegetables.
All types, no pest or herb sprays.
Produce. Larger selection and prefer less chemicals in my body.
I feel that you can not know if its organic raised.
I avoid organic foods.
Wisconsin Football. GO BADGERS...
After the heat and bugs of summer, I like the clear deep blue skies and cooler temps that require a sweatshirt. Love the colors, evening campfires, FOOTBALL and Thanksgiving. We never get into Halloween, too strange.
The colors and harvest time!
I enjoy watching the leaves fall off the trees and buses taking the children to school, then Halloween with the fall colors.
WPT members are business people- not 9-5 employees. Who has time for this type of activity? (It would appear that quite a few people do!)
Harvest, Thanksgiving and football.
Apple orchard time and apple cider donuts, yum.
Packer Football and cooler weather.
Just love being outside in the cool, crisp air, enjoying the color change.
Hayrides, apple picking, pumpkin picking with the grandchildren.
Out in the woods cutting wood
Harvest Fair, Halloween and Thanksgiving- getting the family together and lots of pumpkin pie!
Each year, I look for the most sincere pumpkin patch where the Great Pumpkin will arise.
Beautiful fall colors on the Baraboo bluffs, Blue Mounds, and everywhere in between. Sunny days with fresh crisp air.
US SUPREME COURT TO HEAR WISCONSIN REDISTRICTING CASE
The Supreme Court of the Untied States on Tuesday will hear arguments in the case of Wisconsin's gerrymandering and redistricting lawsuit, which has been playing out in lower courts for years. Most recently, in November of last year, a lower federal court threw the maps drawn by Republicans in 2011 out the window, saying that they violated the constitution and the rights of Democrat voters. These types of cases are appealed directly to the Supreme Court. It's actually a very big deal, as any decision made by the court, which is expected by summer, will have a ripple effect across the nation. And any decision made by the court won't just impact state governments, it will also impact congressional boundaries, as well. After the census that takes place once per decade, every state in the country must redraw their legislative and congressional boundaries to account for changes in population. That means that in 2010, republicans had just taken control of every branch of Wisconsin government, so they were in total charge of how the maps turned out. Democrats have been in the same position in the past. Some Wisconsin democrats sued, and claimed that their rights had been violated since a majority of Wisconsin voters cast their ballots for Democrats, yet Republicans still controlled 60 percent of the legislative seats in the state. As always (it seems) Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, is expected to be the deciding factor, with both sides believing they have the advantage. It will be a massive decision that could result in an entirely different set of elected officials, not only in Wisconsin, but around the country.
LAWMAKERS CIRCULATING PROPOSAL TO RELAX WETLAND PERMITTING
In what one group called a "significant wetland reform," two Republican lawmakers on Friday circulated legislation that would allow developers to build on state wetlands without a permit. The bill being circulated by Representatives Steineke, Stafsholt and Senator Roth, would completely eliminate the permitting process for state wetlands, however developers would still be required to create 1.2 acres of new wetland for every acre that is developed, as is current law. The permitting process for developing on state wetlands has already been rolled back for the massive Foxconn development expected to take place in Racine County. That model would now be allowed statewide. This would mean that about a million acres statewide would be open for development, and about 300 pollutants would become unregulated. According to the State Journal, Wisconsin has regulated wetlands that aren't protected by federal agencies since 2001, but those laws were relaxed in 2012. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce said that the legislation would bring Wisconsin back into the mainstream nationally by exempting isolated non-federal wetlands, but still maintain mitigation requirements. The group also pointed to the fact that Wisconsin is a regulatory outlier, as other states do not have such stringent permitting requirements for isolated, non-federal wetlands. The co-sponsorship period is open through Friday of this week, at which time the bill will be filed with the clerk, assigned a bill number, and referred to a standing committee.