• WisPolitics

2015-16 Legislature: Printable directory | Leadership rosters | New faces

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

 9:57 PM 

Capitol closing in 15 minutes

The announcement has been made the Capitol will close in 15 minutes.

There are still some protesters in the building singing.

UPDATE: It appears everyone left without incident.

 9:40 PM 

Senate adjourns with chants of 'shame' from gallery

The Senate adjourned as members of the gallery chanted "shame."

Senate President Mary Lazich had to shout into the microphone to move the bill to the Assembly as the catcalls rained down and quickly adjourned the Senate after finishing up the procedural requirements.

 9:37 PM 

Senate approves right-to-work 17-15

The state Senate approved right-to-work legislation Wednesday night 17-15 as GOP Sen. Jerry Petrowski broke ranks to join Dems in opposing the bill.

The legislation next heads to the Assembly, which is expected to have a hearing early next week and will likely take up the bill March 5.

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, accused Republicans of rushing through the legislation to distract the public’s attention from the state’s $2.2 billion shortfall and the guv’s budget that proposes cutting $300 million from the UW System and borrowing $220 million to build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, among other things.

He charged the legislation isn’t about worker freedom, saying no one can be forced to join a union now. Instead, he said it was about increasing corporate profits at the expense of middle-class families and said no one was demanding the change other than Republicans’s millionaire friends and donors.

“They are evaporating the middle class and no one in this room seems to care,” Hansen said.

Republicans largely declined to engage Dems as they lobbed various bombs at the bill, with only Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, the bill’s author, rising occasionally to refute the claims. Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, accused Republicans of being no-shows and failing to explain their votes to the people of Wisconsin.

Still, during the debate over final passage Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said he wanted to interject to push back on the notion there’s no real public support for the bill.

He said right-to-work was a central issue in his fall campaign and noted his opponent was Randy Bryce, the first protester who was removed at the start of Wednesday’s debate. He heard about it while knocking on 21,000 doors and said former Racine County Exec Jim Ladwig has told him the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce is preparing to publicly back the bill. Ladwig is now president of the organization. 

“This is not just an issue that has fallen on deaf ears,” he said, adding lawmakers should back it because his constituents expect him to vote for it.

Throughout the course of the debate, Dems suggested GOP members had promised constituents, including labor unions, they would oppose right-to-work only to go back on their word because of pressure from leadership. They did not single out any senators by name in making the accusation, though Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said almost half a dozen GOP members didn’t want to support the bill but were going along anyway.

“What’s more important than your own integrity and your own freedom?” Taylor said. 

Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, questioned why Republicans did not include police and firefighters in the legislation, suggesting it may have been favoritism or payback for past political support.

“If you believe in freedom for the rest of these individuals, you should believe in freedom for all of them,” he said.

 8:12 PM 

Head falls off Lazich's gavel

The head of Senate President Mary Lazich's gavel fell off as she tried to quiet the gallery.

Chief Clerk Jeff Renk bent down to pick it up for her as lawmakers laughed and the gallery gave Lazich a Bronx cheer.

The gavel is back in working order.

 7:41 PM 

Senate rejects final Dem amendment

The Senate rejected the Dem amendment to delay implementation by three months.

Like the other amendments, it fell along party lines.

Dems argued right-to-work should not be rushed and unions should be given time to negotiate extensions.

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he considered versions in other states that delayed implementation and those that had it go into effect right away. He argued the bill still would have to go through the Assembly and the guv would have some options before he had to sign the bill that could extend the window. Fitzgerald said that would be enough time for those who want to work out an extension and some unions wouldn’t be able to reach a new deal even if they were given 90 days.

“This is what this caucus felt comfortable with,” Fitzgerald said.

Dems expressed concern about leaving the issue of timing up to the Assembly.

“I’d rather figure it out here,” Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said.

 7:22 PM 

Senate votes down amendment six as Dems question if right-to-work could impact Packers, Bucks, Brewers

The Senate rejected amendment six as Dems questioned whether right-to-work impacts the state's professional sports franchises, including the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks.

The NFL Players Association issued a statement yesterday opposing the bill. The statement cited a concern for the ability of food and commercial workers who service players and fans at Lambeau Field “will have their wellbeing and livelihood jeopardized.”

But Dems focused their comments on a provision that anyone who forces someone to join a union or pay dues would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor. They questioned of any players could run afoul of the law, particularly since it does not specify who could be charged. But the drafting instructions single out "specifically someone who uses force, intimidation, etc. to compel any person to either join/support a labor organization or not join/support a labor organization is subject to this penalty." 

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, read an email he said was from Leg Counsel that suggested the law would apply to professional sports franchises.

“They are covered by this because a union is a union,” he said.

 7:01 PM 

Fitzgerald explains why penalty in bill is class A misdemeanor

Dems are now questioning a provision in the bill that anyone who compels someone to join a union or pay union dues is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

Dems are listing off a series of crimes that are also considered a class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to $10,000 and/or nine months in jail. Those crimes include fourth-degree sexual assault.

The drafting notes show the bill originally called for a $500 forfeiture before going to a $1,000 fine and then a class A misdemeanor.

Fitzgerald said the original $500 figure was something he pulled out of the air and it went to $1,000 as some wanted a stiffer penalty. He said conversations with Leg Counsel eventually led him to call for a class A misdemeanor as the cleanest approach considering the way statutes are written while getting to an appropriate penalty to underscore the severity of the offense while also staying away from a felony.

 6:48 PM 

Petrowski issues statement explaining planned no vote

GOP Sen. Jerry Petrowski, who indicated weeks ago he was unlikely to support right-to-work, issued a statement this evening affirming he will vote no, saying "I am keeping my word."

"Both sides in the debate have provided economic analysis to support their arguments, but none are definitive as to what actually causes the differences among the economies of different states," said Petrowski, R-Marathon. "I am not convinced that the supposed benefits of passing this bill will materialize and offset a potentially disruptive impact on our economy."

Petrowski called himself a "Ronald Reagan Republican" and noted like Reagan he was a union member for many years.

Petrowski's biography on the Legislature's website says he was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #1791.

"Under the law as it stands, unions are formed by a majority vote and everyone gets to choose where they work," he said.

 6:05 PM 

Fitzgerald moves to table school aid amendment

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Vinehout's amendment to double aid to poor school districts is a laudable attempt to raise awareness of the problems associated with poverty, but moved to table it, saying it doesn't belong in the bill.

"I can't make a leap to this being part of the right-to-work bill," Fitzgerald said.

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said the amendment is needed to deal with the increase in poverty she said right to work would bring.

 5:42 PM 

Senate takes up school poverty aid amendment

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout introduced an amendment that would double aid to high poverty school districts.

The bill would increase aid by $16.8 million annually over the next two years.

Vinehout, D-Alma, said right to work would lead to more poverty and the amendment would address the consequences of it.

"RtW means less money in people's pockets," she said.

 5:38 PM 

Senate tables minimum wage amendment

The Senate tabled Sen. Bob Wirch's amendment to raise the minimum wage on an 18-14 party-line vote.

Wirch, D-Kenosha, spoke briefly about the bill, saying it would help low-income workers.

He noted that Fitzgerald said polls have backed right to work.

"You ain't seen nothing until you've see the polls on minimum wage," Wirch said.

 5:32 PM 

Senate takes up "just-cause" amendment

The Senate is now debating Amendment 3, which would require employers to show cause to fire an employee.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said Wisconsin is an "at-will" state in which employers do not need a reason to fire an employee and the language would change Wisconsin into a "just-cause" state.

Erpenbach said he views right to work as an attack on workers' rights and that the amendment would give some protection to workers,

"If we're taking away their rights, let's give them some protection in the whole scheme of things," Erpenbach said,

Fitzgerald said the amendment creates a new cause of action under wrongful discharge and places a new burden on employers. He said it should be taken up as separate legislation, but quipped that it would not be legislation he would author.

Erpenbach responded that Republicans have framed the bill as protecting workers rights.

"You can't be for workers in Wisconsin if you won't give them tools to protect their jobs and themselves," he said.

Sen. Tim Carpenter said some workers are "treated like dirt" and that the amendment would provide them protection.

 4:42 PM 

Hansen introduces amendment to boost tech college funding by $30 million annually

The Senate is now considering and amendment from Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, that would increase technical school funding by $30 million annually for the next two fiscal years.

Hansen said the funding boost is needed to make up for the potential loss of funding from unions for training programs.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said training would fall to technical colleges under right to work.

She praised the union trade facilities for the options they provide to young people.

She said while the tech colleges may provide training, the students would leave to other state that do not have right-to-work laws.

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, recounted a story about a workplace death involving heavy equipment due to inadequate training.

She said the state faces a skills gap and that the right-to-work bill would make the situation worse.

Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said the training unions provide could go away under right to work. She noted that the training is provided free and allows workers to go into a job without student debt.

See the amendment: http://docs.legis.wi.gov/raw/proposal/2015/a0078

 4:36 PM 

Amendment to restore purpose statement defeated.

On another party line vote, the Senate voted to reject an amendment that would have restored the policy declaration in the employment relations statutes the right-to-work bill removes.

Speaking in favor of the amendment, Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said the bill and the striking of the policy declaration doesn't pass the smell test.

Bewley said that while Republicans have argued that the language is not necessary, she is suspicious it is trying to set up legislative intent.

"What is next?" Bewley said. "As soon as you set up legislative intent, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Sen. Dave Hanson, D-Green Bay, questioned who was pushing to delete the language,

"Did ALEC deleted those 30 lines, or did you?" he said.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, said she was most stunned by the bill removing language related to the "process of justice."

She quoted the section: "While limiting individual and group rights of aggression and defense, the state substitutes processes of justice for the more primitive methods of trial by combat."

"It is not in anyone's interest ... to eliminate the 'process of justice' and return to 'the more primitive methods of trial by combat,'" Vinehout said.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said she believed it was a "drafting error" to remove the provision about employees receiving a "regular and adequate income." She said that in right-to-work states that incomes are lower and the bill would lead to lower wages in Wisconsin.

 3:56 PM 

Dems offer amendment to restore declaration of policy

The Senate has moved on to an amendment from Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, that would restore the declaration of policy in the employment peace subchapter of the employment relations statutes.

She noted that Gov. Scott Walker has said his budget proposal that removed language related to the "Wisconsin Idea" for the  UW System was the result of a drafting error and that she was hoping this was a drafting error, too.

Sen. Fred Risser, said nothing in the section relates to right-to-work and that it is good public policy akin to the Wisconsin idea for labor relations.

Fitzgerald responded the language was not necessary and does not affect the other parts of the right-to-work bill.

Here is the language SB44 would remove:

111.01 Declaration of policy. The public policy of the state as to employment relations and collective bargaining, in the furtherance of which this subchapter is enacted, is declared to be as follows:

(1) It recognizes that there are 3 major interests involved, namely: the public, the employee and the employer. These 3 interests are to a considerable extent interrelated. It is the policy of the state to protect and promote each of these interests with due regard to the situation and to the rights of the others.

(2) Industrial peace, regular and adequate income for the employee, and uninterrupted production of goods and services are promotive of all of these interests. They are largely dependent upon the maintenance of fair, friendly, and mutually satisfactory employment relations and the availability of suitable machinery for the peaceful adjustment of whatever controversies may arise. It is recognized that certain employers, including farmers, farmer cooperatives, and unincorporated farmer cooperative associations, in addition to their general employer problems, face special problems arising from perishable commodities and seasonal production which require adequate consideration. It is also recognized that whatever may be the rights of disputants with respect to each other in any controversy regarding employment relations, they should not be permitted, in the conduct of their controversy, to intrude directly into the primary rights of 3rd parties to earn a livelihood, transact business, and engage in the ordinary affairs of life by any lawful means and free from molestation, interference, restraint, or coercion.

(3) Negotiations of terms and conditions of work should result from voluntary agreement between employer and employee. For the purpose of such negotiation an employee has the right, if the employee desires, to associate with others in organizing and bargaining collectively through representatives of the employee’s own choosing, without intimidation or coercion from any source.

(4) It is the policy of the state, in order to preserve and promote the interests of the public, the employee, and the employer alike, to establish standards of fair conduct in employment relations and to provide a convenient, expeditious and impartial tribunal by which these interests may have their respective rights and obligations adjudicated. While limiting individual and group rights of aggression and defense, the state substitutes processes of justice for the more primitive methods of trial by combat.

History: 1985 a. 30 s. 42; 1993 a. 492; 1997 a. 253; 2005 a. 253, 441; 2007 a. 96. A labor agreement offering special parking privileges to county employees in a county ramp did not violate this section. Dane Co. v. McManus, 55 Wis. 2d 413, 198 N.W.2d 667 (1972).

This section does not create substantive rights for employees. Ward v. Frito−Lay, Inc. 95 Wis. 2d 372, 290 N.W.2d 536 (Ct. App. 1980). The application of the open meetings law to the duties of WERC is discussed. 68 Atty. Gen. 171.

 3:40 PM 

GOP shoots down motion to refer to committee

The Senate voted 14-18 along party lines to reject a motion to send right-to-work back to committee.

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, made the motion, noting yesterday’s public hearing was cut off early by Chair Steve Nass, leaving hundreds who wanted to testify shut out.

“We didn’t have a chance to finish yesterday, madame president,” said Larson, a member of the Labor and Government Reform Committee.

Larson said more people needed to have their voices heard in the debate and said people "have been shut out of their democracy."

He pointed to several businesses owners and people who identified as Republicans who testified against the bill, saying they have been "shut out of their democracy" and deserve to be heard.

Nass said there was a credible threat of a disruption and that the tone of the crowd changed toward the end of the hearing.

Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, challenged that assessment and said the crowd was peaceful and kind and that there were no disruptions. Wirch sad there were ample police in the room to maintain order and safety.

But Sen. Van Wanggaard, noted the shouting at the end of the hearing and that police officers said they felt the situation was becoming threatening. As a former police officer, Wannggaard said if police had to use force, the dynamic could have changed.

Nass later said as he left the hearing "it was pretty testy" and said a police officer had to pin a person against the wall as Nass was being escorted out.

Two people interrupted him from the gallery as he spoke, and Nass said the outbursts were an example, though more subdued, of what occurred at the end of the hearing.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, scoffed that Republicans were worried about protests and essentially saying "democracy is a credible threat."

Roughy a dozen people were escorted from the gallery during the debate and immediately after the vote, one of them after shouting, "I am the credible threat!"

Larson said there is nothing more frustrating than not having your vioce heard.

"That's the reason for these disruptions," Larson said.

Dems used Laron's motion to rail against right-to-work.

Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, read the testimony from a constituent she said was not allowed to testify at Tuesday’s hearing, while Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, challenged Republicans about the kind of legacy they want to leave after departing the Senate, arguing they were taking the state to the path of becoming the Mississippi of the north.

“The idea that right-to-work is going to help build Wisconsin’s economy is fantasy. It’s not based in reality,” she said.

Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, said unions are needed to help people who are marginalized in the workplace.

Carpenter said the bill was being advanced as a way to bolster Walker's record as he runs for president.

"It's damaging our state," Carpenter said. "Instead of becoming Bloody Kansas during the slavery debate, it' becoming Bloody Wisconsin."

 3:20 PM 

Protestors await Senate vote

Pauline Gilbertson was convinced long before an official vote that the Senate would pass so-called right-to-work legislation.

Still, the retired public school teacher stayed in the midst of the hundreds of right-to-work protestors who gathered today outside Senate chambers, just as she stuck it out four years ago during the Act 10 protests.

“I believe it was a done deal going into this,” Gilbertson said. “The bill is directly out of the [American Legislative Exchange Council] playbook.

“I truly believe Scott Walker is pandering to conservatives to raise more dollars for a presidential bid.”

Chants of “Whose house? Our house” only occasionally drowned out Gilbertson’s voice as general murmuring and milling about replaced the more outspoken Act 10 protests of four years ago.

And, again unlike four years ago, it was easy to find a relatively quiet spot. Jim Mathews, of Baraboo, stood alone between two pillars on the Capitol’s third floor, looking over the railing at the protest scene.

The member of Steamfitters Local 434 said he already had talked to his Senate and Assembly representatives about right-to-work.

“If the representatives do what people spoke out and told them to do,” Mathews said, “then they’ll vote it down.”

Jeff Mehrhoff, business representative and governmental affairs director for the Painters & Allied Trades District Council 7, did not share even that small dose of optimism. He said more Republicans would stand up to right-to-work legislation if redistricting had not made their districts so conservative.

“They’re worried,” he said, “about getting primaried.”

 2:11 PM 

Fitzgerald: Right-to-work the most important jobs bill Legislature will take up this session

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called right-to-work the most important jobs bill lawmakers will take up over the next two years, saying passage will send a message to employers nationally.

Fitzgerald opened the debate by largely recounting the testimony he gave yesterday during a public hearing before the Labor and Government Reform Committee. After he concluded, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, challenged Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, to identify a single job in Wisconsin that requires mandatory union membership after the majority leader said the bill is about worker freedom.

Fitzgerald declined to answer the question, drawing catcalls from the gallery. He said the question does not address why the Senate is on the floor today, arguing the debate should be around whether the legislation will have an impact on Wisconsin's economy, noting headlines about sluggish job growth in recent years.

"There’s a bill before us today that certainly sends a signal nationwide that Wisconsin now can be viewed in a different light than we were before," Fitzgerald said, singling out companies looking to locate or expand in Wisconsin.

Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, shot back the bill was a "Hail Mary to please outside special interest groups." She took a jab at Gov. Scott Walker for his national travels as he considers a bid for president while the state's economy is stagnant and wages are about to drop even further.

"This bill is going to drive down family wages, period," she said.

Shilling challenged Republicans not to turn their backs on the friends back home who will be hurt by the bill.

"Who will be the hero for the future of our state?" she asked.

 1:49 PM 

Unions rally against right-to-work

Chanting “What’s disgusting? Union-busting,” union members from across the state gathered outside the state Capitol today to protest so-called right-to-work legislation.

The state Department of Administration estimated between 1,800 and 2,000 people attended the rally, at which union leaders called on legislators to abandon right-to-work and focus on improving public schools, raising wages, rebuilding roads and making health care more affordable.

“This will end up being one of the darkest chapters in organized labor’s history if Wisconsin becomes the 25th state to succumb to a right-to-work law,” said Phil Gruber, of the machinists union.

Wisconsin’s adopting right-to-work, which would prohibit unions from requiring workers pay union dues or fees, would bring about unnecessary change that would hurt workers, said John Drew, international servicing representative for the United Auto Workers, adding that no one has been forced to join a union since 1947.

“Everything about right-to-work is a lie,” he said. “It’s a political attack on labor dressed up as worker freedom.”

And it is an attack that will succeed, said Tim Johnson, who traveled to the rally from Pewaukee and is a retired member of Laborers Local 113 in Milwaukee.

Johnson said he had more than one reason to attend the rally. He said he has two children in the University of Wisconsin System, which faces a $300 million cut through Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget, and his wife was in a union and hopes to retain her pension.

Still, Johnson said, right-to-work will pass in Wisconsin no matter what union members say.

“Hopefully, we’ll open other eyes to what’s going on,” he said, “not necessarily here, but in the rest of the country.”

 1:43 PM 

Protester taken out

Randy Bryce, a union member who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate last year as a Dem, was removed from the chamber after he stood and interrupted Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's opening statement on the bill.

"This bill is turning Wisconsin into a banana republic," said Bryce, a Racine iron worker.

The crowd responded with applause as Bryce was escorted out. A second protester then stood up and interrupted after Fitzgerald started speaking again.

That prompted a warning from President Mary Lazich that the gallery would be cleared if there were more outbursts.

Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, asked Lazich not to clear the entire gallery just because a couple of people chose to interrupt the proceedings.

"Duly noted. We have two strikes here," Lazich, said noting another interruption would tempt her to clear the gallery.

 12:29 PM 

Initially tally on hearing: 25 for right-to-work, 1,751 opposed

Twenty-five people spoke in favor of right-to-work at yesterday's hearing or registered in favor of the bill, while 1,751 opposed it, according to an initial tally from Chair Steve Nass' office.

Nass' office also said five people spoke or registered for informational purposes only, according to the initial tally. Nass, R-Whitewater, hoped the official Record of Committee Proceedings would be available tomorrow.

 11:37 AM 

Senate Dems accuse Republicans of using right-to-work to cover up failures on economy

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling today accused Republicans of using right-to-work to cover up for their failures on the economy, saying the state faces a $2.2 billion deficit and has seen sluggish job growth because of GOP policies.

"This is not an American Revival. It is not even a Wisconsin rebound," Shilling said, referencing the group Gov. Scott Walker formed as he looks at running for president.

Senate Dems highlighted three amendments they plan to introduce today: to increase the minimum wage, to preserve job training programs for skilled labor and to increase state aid to high poverty schools.

Shilling said each would be needed to offset the impact of right-to-work, which she said would lead to lower wages for Wisconsin workers.

Republicans currently have an 18-15 majority in the Senate with one vacancy, and Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, has said he is unlikely to support the bill. Shilling, D-La Crosse, offered a warning to the other Senate Republicans as she pleaded with them to listen to those who showed up at the Capitol to testify against the bill.

"Mark my words. Every one of the Senate Republicans who votes for this will be the 17th vote that made this happen," she said.

 11:31 AM 

Barca, Shankland rip Walker over right-to-work

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, used phrases such as “Looney Tunes” and “weasel words” Wednesday when discussing what he called Gov. Scott Walker’s about-face on so-called right-to-work legislation.

“It is so clear at every step,” Barca said, “that the governor misleads people about what his goals are, what his intentions are.”

During a press conference Wednesday, Barca, who accused Walker of trying to build national support by backing right-to-work, and Assistant Minority Leader Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, presented a video of Walker taken during the debate of Act 10. Barca, prior to the press conference, referred to the video as a “Wisconsin version of Looney Tunes.”

In the video, Walker said Act 10 did not represent a battle with unions.

“If it was, we would have eliminated collective bargaining entirely,” Walker said in the video, “or we would have gone after the private-sector unions.”

In the video, Walker also referred to private-sector unions as "our partners in economic development."

Walker recently has said he would sign right-to-work legislation, which prohibits unions from requiring workers pay union dues or fees.

The timing of right-to-work legislation and Walker’s acknowledgement that he would sign it is not a coincidence, Barca and Shankland said. Rather, they said, it is meant to distract people from Walker’s budget proposal, which, among other things, cuts $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System.

“The governor is not just a flip-flopper,” Shankland said, “he is a master manipulator.”

See the video.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

 8:36 PM 

Last protester escorted from Capitol in cuffs

Capitol police handcuffed and led the final protester out of the Capitol shortly before 8:30 p.m.

The man, a frequent protester at the Capitol, was singing protest songs on the ground floor in the rotunda and calling for large crowds to come protest.

He held signs that read "Now or Never, General Strike," and "Walker is a Power Drunk Punk."

As other protesters filed out, he declined calls from some of them to leave.

"I'm not leaving on my own volition," he said.

Police approached him several times before finally cuffing him and leading him out of the building.

 8:11 PM 

Nass: Reaction from protesters reminiscent of Act 10

Labor Chair Steve Nass said the reaction from protesters following the committee vote on right-to-work reminded him of the fight over Act 10.

Nass, R-Whitewater, recounted being escorted down a stairwell by police as protesters followed, yelling at him.

“It was like Act 10 all over as far as the screaming and yelling and vulgarities, the slang,” Nass said.

Nass said after he saw a newspaper article this afternoon about a planned disruption when the public hearing drew to a close, he consulted with Capitol Police. He also noted Dems said back in December the debate over right-to-work would be as volatile as Act 10 four years ago.

“I had to take them at their word,” he said.

The combination prompted him to call the hearing early.

He also believed Dems and those upset over the close of the hearing were simply hoping to bog down the process.

“I truly believe their whole objective was to continue and keep the hearing going to delay, delay, delay so we could not get to the floor tomorrow afternoon,” Nass said.

 8:00 PM 

Capitol closed, protesters start chanting

The announcement just came down the Capitol is now closed, prompting chants and jeers from the protesters still in the building.

Still, the crowd of several dozen who had been chanting outside the Senate chamber headed downstairs after the announcement was made.

 7:33 PM 

Senate Org votes 3-2 to put right-to-work on tomorrow's calendar

Senate Org voted 3-2 along party lines tonight to place right-to-work on tomorrow's calendar, clearing the way for the floor debate.

The Senate plans to hit the floor at 1:30 p.m. to begin debate and will dip the bill in Joint Finance. That's because those who violate the prohibition on requiring someone to join a union or pay dues would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor, which carries a $10,000 fine.

 7:22 PM 

Dem committee members slam claims of security threat

Dem members of the Labor Committee slammed Chair Steve Nass’ claims of a safety threat that prompted him to shut down a public hearing on right-to-work, accusing the Republican of manufacturing a crisis.

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said Republicans have been looking for a way to shut down the hearing early and used a newspaper report of a planned protest as an excuse.

Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, noted the heavy police presence in the hearing room throughout the day.

“I never felt as safe as I was up there. It was a con job,” Wirch said. “They delivered for the Koch brothers.”

Wirch said he voted no as the chaotic roll was taken, while Larson said he was still trying to figure out what was going on as his name was called and did not vote.

Larson predicted Republicans would try to ram the bill through during Wednesday’s floor debate as well.

“If it goes like this, it’s going to be one-sided,” Larson predicted as he did a media availability outside the Senate chamber with protesters around him chanting.

 6:47 PM 

Committee breaks up

After initially trying to keep the committee hearing going, Dem committee members have stopped taking testimony and things are breaking up.

 6:41 PM 

Protesters erupted inside and outside committee room as public hearing shut down

As Chair Steve Nass wrapped up the public hearing over protests from those inside the room, those waiting outside erupted.

With two Senate pages trying to keep the doors closed, protesters could be heard outside one hallway to the hearing room chanting, "What's disgusting? Union busting" and "What's outrageous? Poverty wages."

One State Patrol officer could be heard on the phone asking for additional help to keep the doors closed. With protesters sometimes knocking on the door and the glass, several officers lined up at the door and then pushed their way outside to lock the doors.

Protesters chanted "scabs" at the officers.

 6:33 PM 

Right-to-work bill passes committee

The vote on the right-to-work bill was approved after Nass abruptly shut down the public hearing and moved into executive session.

While protesters shouted, Nass called the roll and declared the motion passed.

Police escorted the three Republican senators from the meeting room, while several in the crowd yelled "cowards" and "cowards behind closed doors."

 6:26 PM 

Nass cuts off debate, moves to executive session

Nass said that due to a credible threat in a newspaper report that SEIU and Voces de la Frontera would disrupt the meeting, he is closing the meeting and moving into executive session.

Larson asked Nass why he is "wimping out."

Several people in the crowd complained they were waiting patiently, while one person yelled "union strong" and another yelled it is "unethical."

A man stood saying he was in from SEIU and there is not a threat.

Nass said he talked with Capitol Police and decided to move things up because the threat was credible.

As Nass called the roll, the group started shouting "shame on you."

Larson complained that there had not been discussion in the executive session and did not vote.

 6:10 PM 

Road construction exec.: Right to work 'unsettling' for construction industry

Bill Kennedy, president of Rock Road Company, said his company relies on local unions to provide well-trained workers who have been drug tested and have current certifications.

He said his company has worked in partnership with the local unions.

He noted that if the training facility funded by his company and the union were to shut down, technical colleges would have to handle training at taxpayer expense.

The legislation has created uncertainty for his company, he said, and described his business as being in a “holding pattern.”

“It’s very unsettling for the entire construction industry,” Kennedy said.

 3:41 PM 

Union worker: Right to work "puts a hole in our whole"

Tom O’Grady of Sheet Metal Workers Local 565 said the union has helped make sure his workplace is safe.

“We collectively bargain as a whole,” he said. “This is putting a hole in our whole.”

He said it is it is flattering to think of ourselves as independent, but that fact is that people are interdependent.

He told the committee that he felt disrespected by the bill being hurried through and said the legislation is designed to weaken unions for political purposes.

 3:30 PM 

Former teacher: I know my own worth

Former Kenosha teacher Kristi LaCroix said she supports right-to-work, and noted that when she tried to become a fair share member of the teacher’s union there was still being money spent on political purposes. She said it took years to get the budgets to find out other spending on political purposes, which was refunded.

She said as an employee that she was being paid the same as other union members and could not negotiate her own wage.

“I know my own worth,” LaCroix said. “I want to be able to negotiate for my own wages.”

Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, challenged LaCroix, saying she benefited from good wages and perks as a teacher in Kenosha.

“I was tired of my money being spent to support you,” she retorted.

 2:53 PM 

WMC’S Manley: Union jobs growing in right-to-work states

WMC Vice President of Government Relations Scott Manley said right to work state have seen greater job and wage growth and larger increases in Manufacturing GDP than non-right-to-work states.

He also said population has grown faster and people in right-to-work state have about $2,000 more in disposable income than those in non-right-to-work states.

He also said right-to-work state have actually added more union jobs than non-right-to-work states since the recession. He pointed to Indiana, which passed right-to-work in 2012, said the state added 50,000 union jobs.

“To the extent than some have suggested right to work leads to a bad outcome for unions, that has not been the case,” Manley said.

Manley said right-to-work would make Wisconsin more competitive.

“There are a lot of employers that wouldn’t even consider a non-right-to-work state,” Manley said.

WMC Director of Health & Human Resources Policy Chris Reader said it is companies, not unions, that pay for worker training. He said companies would continue to provide that training under right to work.

 2:38 PM 

Union leaders call for unity in fighting right-to-work

Union leaders today called for unity in fighting proposed right-to-work legislation.

Gathered on the Capitol steps facing State Street, protesters sang union tuns before a series of speeches.
John Havlicek, an elementary teacher from La Crosse, urged the crowd to have the patience and strength for what he said would be the most difficult battle of their lives -- finding common ground.

"This is not a battle of striking back at those that have struck at us, but a battle of reaching out and empowering them to have the courage to stand with us," he said. "We must welcome everyone to join us, even as they rage against us. If we do, if we stand together, we will not fail."

The Department of Administration estimated 1,800 to 2,000 were gathered at the Capitol, both inside and outside, during the protest. After a series of speeches, some filed into the rotunda, where they took up a number of chants.

A second rally was planned for noon tomorrow on the Capitol steps as well.

 2:16 PM 

H&H Industries CEO: Right to work takes away choice to have union shop

Paul Christensen, owner and chief executive of H&H Industries, said his company works well with its union.

He said he had a choice when he bought the company whether he wanted to buy a union shop or start another one.

He said the bill would take away that choice from him.

Christensen said he voted Republican because the party believes in staying out of private sector business, but it was going back on its principles in this case.

He spoke out against the pace of the legislation, saying the Legislature needs to take time to listen to people on the issue.

“It’s irresponsible and disrespectful to us hard workers here in Wisconsin to push something through fast track,” Christensen said.

Christensen argued earlier that training is provided as part of the total compensation package and money not spent on training would go to employees’ paychecks.

 2:10 PM 

National Right to Work Committee's Mourad: "An outrage" to force workers to join unions

Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee, said unions are spreading a myth regarding freeriders, saying they have the option under federal law to represent only union workers but do not choose to do so.

He spoke out about union practices like seniority and said unions hold back the most productive workers.

He used an analogy comparing forced unionization to kidnapping and extortion and said it is “an outrage” to force people to pay for representation they do not want.

He said that no state that has a functional right-to-work law has repealed it.

Sen. Chris Larson asked about the group’s funding and ties to the Koch brothers.

Mourad said he does not disclose donors’ names because of threats.

“Our members depend on confidentiality from us because they do not want to subject themselves to that abuse,” Mourad said. 

 1:54 PM 

Trade union leaders say wages, training would suffer under right-to-work

Terry McGowan, president and Business Manager for Operating Engineers Local 139, noted that the union puts $4 million annually into training without taxpayer money.

He said should wages stagnate or drop under right-to-work, union members may decide to stop funding those programs.

Mark Reihl of the Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters said that wage for carpenters are lower in right-to-work states.

He pointed out that hourly rates for carpenters are $10.48 lower per hour in Fargo, N.D. than in Madison.

He equated union membership as a condition of employment similar to mandatory overtime that potential employees consider when choosing where to work.

“Paying for the representation is just one of those decisions,” Reihl said.

He also said it is hard to attract people to the trades and good wages and benefits are part of what brings people in.

McGowan noted that there is a shortage of trades people in Iowa, which has right to work, because wages are too low to make a living. He said that Wisconsin contractors have to bring in Wisconsin workers when they win contracts due to lack of a local labor pool in the trades.

 1:09 PM 

DOA update: 1,800 to 2,000 inside and outside the Capitol

Capitol Police estimate between 1,800 and 2,000 people inside and outside the building.

The agency also issued a reminder the building will close when "official business is completed." DOA also noted visitors will not be allowed to stay in the building after it has closed, but will be welcome back at 8 a.m.

 12:31 PM 

DOA says Capitol will operate normally for hearing that goes past 6 p.m.

With the Labor Committee scheduled to take public testimony until 7 p.m., the Department of Administration has issued a statement promising the building will remain "open and accessible" for the duration of the hearing.

Here's the statement from DOA spokesman Cullen Werwie:

"Today the building will operate just as it would on a normal day when a hearing goes past 6 p.m. on a weekday (which is when it regularly closes).

"The building will remain open and accessible to the public throughout the duration of the hearing. After 6 p.m. the public can access the Capitol through the Martin Luther King Jr. entrance."

 12:12 PM 

First union members testify

Anthony Anastasi, president and business agent for Iron Workers 333, urged lawmakers to stop the downward spiral of “this once great state of Wisconsin” and oppose right-to-work.

Anastasi said union members in the building trades have a good relationship with management and have negotiated good, family supporting wages and benefits that were negotiated privately with contractors.

He grew emotional talking about his kids playing sports like hockey and basketball, but refused to apologize for it, saying the union has helped provide opportunities for his children.

“We can afford to put the money that w’e earned with our wages and benefits back in the community that we live in,” he said.

 11:37 AM 

Dueling studies, figures

The trading of numbers and studies is on.

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Mike Nichols touted polling done for his group that shows broad public support of right-to-work and a new study out today from the group that found states with right-to-work over the past 30 years has experienced greater per capita personal income growth than other states.

Nichols noted Wisconsin’s per capita personal income of $43,244 in 2013 was $1,521 less than the national average. If Wisconsin had adopted right-to-work in 1983, the study found, per capita income would have been $1,683 higher in 2013.

"Folks elsewhere might think we’re doing OK, but we know in Wisconsin we’ve fallen behind in recent decades," Nichols said, arguing right-to-work could slow or reverse the trend.

Nichols and Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, jousted about WPRI’s funding and whether its polling is biased.

Nichols was followed by Marquette University Prof. Abdur Chowdhury, who testified Bureau of Labor statistics show wages in right-to-work states are about $4 an hour less than those without.

He said a drop of that magnitude in Wisconsin would mean annual incomes would drop $2.97 billion, creating a ripple effect. He said that drop in income will mean less money spent in grocery stores and transportation meaning an overall loss of $4.5 billion. That would then mean an annual drop in state revenues of about $239 million a year.

“If we have a right-to-work law in Wisconsin, this will lead to loss of income, this will lead to loss of revenue to the state government overall,” he said. “We do not see any economic advantage of having a right-to-work law, while there will be significant social cost.”

Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, asked Chowdhury who commissioned his study. The professor said it was paid for by a coalition of contractors, which opposes the law.

 11:03 AM 

Oregon prof dismisses pro-right-to-work studies as 'propaganda with footnotes'

Oregon economics Associate Professor Gordon Lafer dismissed studies from conservative groups backing right-to-work as “propaganda with footnotes,” arguing the change will not produce the economic benefit backers claim.

Lafer singled out studies like one from the Mackinac Center that suggested unemployment in right to work states is lower than in other states. He put up a slide with federal labor statistics that showed seven of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates have right-to-work, as do four of the five lowest.

He said it underscores that there are other factors driving the economic performance of those states and many of the studies from those backing right-to-work fail to account for them before spitting out studies that purport to show the benefits.

“There is no question that all of those pro-right-to-work studies would be thrown out by any court in the country as junk science,” said Lafer, an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center.

 10:36 AM 

Fitzgerald pitches right-to-work as way to get economy moving

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald today pitched his right-to-work legislation as a vehicle to get Wisconsin’s economy moving, saying the state can no longer operate under an antiquated system.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the status quo is no longer working because the state is competing not just with others around the country but a global economy. Without something significant, the state will not see its economy expand dramatically.

“I don’t think there’s any other piece of legislation that sends a strong message to those who might think about expanding here or locating here than this bill,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think there’s anything else you could possibly do that could be a game changer like this.”

Fitzgerald also pitched the legislation as a simple bill that was about worker freedom and would not impact current union contracts. He stressed workers will still have the choice to join a union, and the right to collectively bargain would still be protected.

Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, accused Fitzgerald of operating under a double standard. He said Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and local chambers of commerce insist on membership fees to gets the rights and services the organizations offer.

“Yet you and the business community want to impose a system where freeloaders can take services for unions while those two business associations wouldn’t tolerate that,” Wirch said.

Fitzgerald said he gets the analogy, but didn’t have any further comment.

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, pressed Fitzgerald for why there was such a rush to push through the bill, which was unveiled Friday. Fitzgerald argued the idea has been around for a long time.

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, chimed in Dems had warned late last year right-to-work would be like Act 10 all over again and "We don't want to go through the ugliness of Act 10." He said it was prudent to act quickly.

"The majority party makes direct attacks on labor people and then they're surprised when they get angry," Wirch countered.

"That doesn’t justify death threats," Nass said.

 10:01 AM 

Committee called to order, roll called

The committee has been called to order, and roll has been called. All five members are present.

Chair Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said experts will lead off the testimony, expecting that to take two to three hours. The public will then follow.

First up is Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. After he was introduced, someone in the audience booed. Nass reminded the crowd such displays will not be tolerated.

 9:54 AM 

Right-to-work hearing cued up

We've got a full house for today's Senate Labor Committee hearing on right-to-work.

Those venturing into the Capitol today were greeted by friendly reminders such as these on what is and is not allowed inside the building. Yes, you read that correctly. Leave your snakes at home.

Construction workers have also begun making their way into the building and filling the hearing room. Here are some in the rotunda just a little while ago.

Senate Labor is scheduled to take public testimony until 7 p.m., when it will move to an executive session on the bill.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO also has a noon rally on the State Street steps. The permit the union filed with the state expected 800 people would attend.

Monday, February 23, 2015

 9:42 AM 

Senate Org approves extraordinary session, Labor Committee notice posted

Senate Org voted 3-2 along party lines today to proceed with the extraordinary session on right-to-work, while the Labor Committee has posted the notice for tomorrow's hearing on the bill.

The notice includes a line that time limits may be utilized depending on the number of speakers and may be adjusted during the course of the day in order to accommodate those who register. Public testimony will conclude no later than 7 p.m., according to the notice, with an executive session to follow the public hearing.

The Senate plans to hit the floor to take up the bill 18 hours after the Labor and Government Reform Committee concludes.

Friday, February 20, 2015

 4:14 PM 

Right-to-work bill would make requiring someone to join union, pay dues as part of employment class A misdemeanor

Requiring anyone to join a union or pay dues to one as a condition of employment would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor under the right-to-work bill draft released this afternoon by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's office.

Here is the Legislative Reference Bureau's summary of the bill:

"This bill creates a state right to work law. This bill generally prohibits a person from requiring, as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment, an individual to refrain or resign from membership in a labor organization, to become or remain a member of a labor organization, to pay dues or other charges to a labor organization, or to pay any other person an amount that is in place of dues or charges required of members of a labor organization. Any person who violates this prohibition is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor."

 12:34 PM 

Fitzgerald: Police, fire won't be part of right-to-work bill

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said police and firefighters won't be included in the right-to-work legislation his chamber plans to take up next week.

Police and fire were not impacted by the guv's collective bargaining changes four years ago, but Fitzgerald said some of his members felt there was already a natural migration toward concessions mandated for other public employees under Act 10. Thus, members didn't feel it necessary to include them in the legislation, which will not include carve outs for other unions.

Fitzgerald said he hoped the legislation would be out today, but said it could be as late as Monday before it's released. A ballot will be circulated Monday morning for members of Senate Org to vote on taking up the legislation.

Fitzgerald said he spoke with Gov. Scott Walker earlier this week about the bill, and the guv was supportive. He also said the chamber is moving on right-to-work now because he just this week got confirmation he had 17 votes and "when you have the votes, you go to the floor. You don't wait around."

Fitzgerald also said he'd heard rumblings his members may be targeted by TV ads trying to persuade them to oppose the bill and acknowledged fears some may change their minds about the legislation.

"I lay awake at night losing sleep over that all the time," Fitzgerald said.

 11:47 AM 

AFL-CIO calls right-to-work part of 'anti-worker agenda'

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO is denouncing the planned extraordinary session on right-to-work.

President Phil Neuenfeldt called it "a slap in the face to our democracy," while Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale said Republicans are putting "ideology over the needs of Wisconsin families.

"Right to Work legislation is part of a national anti-worker agenda that won’t bring one job to our state or help a single family put food on the table," she said. "Instead, it’s an attempt to end unions as we know them."

 11:38 AM 

Vos: Kapenga, Knodl, Craig will take lead on right-to-work in Assembly

Speaker Robin Vos said Reps. Chris Kapenga, Dan Knodl and Dave Craig will take the lead on right-to-work when the legislation hits the Assembly and welcomed the chance to take it up.

“Wisconsin should be a right-to-work state," Vos said. "The public widely supports worker freedom and the potential positive impact to the state’s economy can no longer be ignored. I drafted right-to-work legislation as a freshman lawmaker and I look forward to passing the bill once it’s approved in the Senate.”

 10:52 AM 

Spokeswoman: Walker would sign right-to-work

Gov. Scott Walker will sign right-to-work legislation if it reaches his desk, a spokeswoman said today.

Walker had consistently discouraged lawmakers from taking up the bill, calling it a distraction. But he has softened his language in recent weeks.

"Governor Walker continues to focus on budget priorities to grow our economy and to streamline state government," Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick wrote in an email. "With that said,  Governor Walker co-sponsored right-to-work legislation as a lawmaker and supports the policy. If this bill makes it to his desk, Governor Walker will sign it into law."

 10:19 AM 

Fitz says right-to-work bill will be 'clean'

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the right-to-work bill lawmakers will consider next week in an extraordinary session will be clean with no carve outs.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, also said he has 17 "rock solid" votes and hopes to persuade Sen. Jerry Petrowski, who has said he was unlikely to support right-to-work, to get on board.

Fitzgerald and his office have not returned calls so far this morning. But he said on 1130 AM the bill will be released this afternoon with plans to vote on it Wednesday.

Some had expected the Senate to wait for the open 20th Senate District to be filled before moving ahead on the bill with Republican Duey Stroebel, who backs the legislation, all but assured of winning the seat in April.

But Fitzgerald said he didn't want to wait.

"Most people understand when you've got the votes, you go," Fitzgerald said.

 9:33 AM 

Shilling calls extraordinary session on right-to-work 'absurd'

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said today it is "absurd that Republicans would fast-track" right-to-work legislation at a time when the state is facing a $2.2 billion budget deficit.

“Objective polling clearly shows that the vast majority of Wisconsin residents view this issue as a distraction," Shilling said. "Rather than creating economic uncertainty for Wisconsin families and small businesses, Republicans should focus their attention on boosting family wages, closing the skills gap and fixing the $2.2 billion budget crisis they created.”

 8:56 AM 

GOP leaders planning extraordinary session on right-to-work

GOP legislative leaders are preparing to call an extraordinary session next week to take up right-to-work, sources confirm.

Two sources said the Senate will take up the bill first through the Labor and Government Reform Committee, possibly Tuesday. The committee is chaired by Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.

The Senate would then likely vote the next day, the sources said, clearing the way for the Assembly to take it up.

 2:15 PM 

Assembly passes bills on harassment, GPS devices, raffles

The Assembly today signed off on legislation ensuring state courts can issue restraining orders on those outside of Wisconsin in cases of domestic abuse or harassment, along with bills that would make it a misdemeanor to secretly put a GPS device on someone’s car and change state law on raffles.

AB 10, which passed via voice vote, would give the courts new powers in harassment cases where the abuse happens outside Wisconsin. The proposal would kick in under certain conditions, including when an act or threat that occurred outside the state is part of an ongoing pattern.

The other bills approved today include:

*AB 11, which would eliminate the newspaper recycling fee and minimum percentage of recycled content in newsprint. Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, feared it was a step away from Wisconsin’s recycling efforts. But Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, said it was only about taking an ineffective requirement off the books. Bill supporters say the fee only applies to Wisconsin-based publishers, meaning companies like Gannett don't pay it, and has not been enforced for some time by the DNR because of difficulties in getting recycled newsprint. It passed via voice vote.

*AB 14, which would tweak state law on raffles. It passed via voice vote. See an outline of the changes from the office of state Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, the bill’s main sponsor.

*AB 16, which would require DOJ to design a poster displaying information regarding the national human trafficking resource center hotline. It passed on a voice vote.

*AB 17, which would tweak the requirements to renew a valid certificate of food protection practices, which is required to run a restaurant, for those employing five or fewer food handlers. It passed on a voice vote.

*AB 19, which would create a misdemeanor for secretly placing a GPS device on another person's vehicle. It passed via voice vote.

 1:48 PM 

Assembly approves allowing access to GAB investigation records

The Assembly quickly signed off on a Senate bill that would give the Audit Bureau access to more GAB records. 

Lawmakers have pushed the bill after the LAB was unable to access some investigation records then-AG J.B. Van Hollen opined could not be turned over under state law. 

The Senate has already approved the bill, clearing the way for it to head to Gov. Scott Walker's desk. 

Lawmakers have indicated plans to request another review of the GAB if the legislation becomes law.

 1:44 PM 

Assembly approves allowing free samples of liquor

The Assembly approved via voice vote legislation that would allow retailers to provide free samples of liquor.

Those with a class A liquor license would be able to provide those 21 and older a free sample of half a fluid ounce. Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, argued the legislation would level the playing field with wineries and breweries, which are already allowed to provide free samples. She stressed only one sample would be allowed.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

 3:09 PM 

Senate in recess

The Senate has moved into recess and will adjourn following the governor's budget address.

 3:01 PM 

Senate approves bill to give state auditors more access to GAB documents

Senators approved a bill on a voice vote that will allow the Legislative Audit Bureau greater access to documents held by the Government Accountability Board.

Those speaking in favor of SB 6 noted the LAB was blocked from accessing numerous documents relating to GAB investigations during a recent audit. The records were withheld following an opinion from former Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen that the GAB was not allowed by state law to provide the LAB the documents.

 2:37 PM 

Senate approves appointments, Scocos, Stepp face some opposition

The Senate unanimously confirmed all but two of Walker's appointments en masse, pulling out the confirmation of DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp and Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos for separate consideration.

The appointment of Scocos was approved 29-1, with Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, voting against.

Stepp's appointment was approved 17-13.

Sens. Mark Miller, D-Monona, and Robert Wirch, D-Kenosha, spoke against the appointment.

Miller said Stepp has "a lack of intellectual curiosity" about science he said is needed to advise the governor about matters relying on science under the DNR's purview.

Among the reasons Wirch said he was voting against Stepp was because she refused to hold a public hearing and conduct an environmental impact assessment he requested on the Enbridge pipeline capacity expansion.

He said Stepp was "tilting more toward business" than protecting natural resources.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, was the only Democrat present to vote in favor of Stepp; while Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, was the sole Republican present to vote against her appointment.

Sens. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills; and Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, were not in attendance.

 2:16 PM 

Senate called to order, cabinet appointments, GAB document access on agenda

The Senate has been called to order.

The Senate is to take up a raft of Walker's appointments, including a dozen cabinet secretaries. The Senate is also taking up the reappointment of WEDC CEO Reed Hall.

Cabinet appointments to be voted on today include:

  • Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson,
  • Financial Institutions Secretary Peter Bildsten,
  • DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel,
  • Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler, 
  • Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb,
  • Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch,
  • Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett,
  • Workforce Development Secretary Regie Newson,
  • Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades,
  • Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dave Ross,
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos, and
  • Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp.

Also on the agenda is a bill that would allow the Legislative Audit Bureau greater access to Government Accountability Board documents.

See the calendar: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/150131SenateCalendar.pdf

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