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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

 3:34 PM 

Kapenga plans to resign Assembly seat Aug. 5, take Senate oath next day

Sen.-elect Chris Kapenga plans to resign his Assembly seat Aug. 5 and take the Senate oath the next day.

Kapenga today sent a letter to the governor, Assembly leaders and the chief clerk informing them of his plans after his overwhelming win in the 33rd SD earlier this month.

The GAB plans to certify the results of the July 21 special election on Friday.

 12:43 PM 

Bucks deal passes

The Bucks financing deal has passed the Assembly on a 52-34 bipartisan vote.

Thirty-five Republicans and 17 Dems voted in favor, while 20 Republicans and 14 Dems voted against.

See the roll call.

 12:39 PM 

Bucks deal backers keep the floor

So far, no one has spoken in opposition to the public financing deal for the Bucks arena.

One after another, Dems and Republicans are standing in support, stressing it would cost the state much more if the team leaves and it would be a black eye for Milwaukee.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, spoke to those in the Assembly who might oppose the deal because they don't believe the public should subsidize a professional sports arena. He said as a CPA, the numbers just make sense.

"We've reached a point where if we do nothing," Kooyenga said, "we subsidize them to leave."

 12:16 PM 

Barca, other Dems voice support of deal

A steady stream of Dems are standing and speaking in support of the Bucks financing deal.

They also are repeatedly saying they had strong reservations about the original proposal but have since swing toward full support. Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, was one of them.

"I could not justify spending millions of dollars on a sports arena," she said, "when in reality, the last budget we passed was the worst budget in the history of the state of Wisconsin."

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said it has become clear during discussions about the deal that it's a "total plus across the spectrum."

"When you analyze it, if nothing happens other than this great arena getting built," he said, "the taxpayers still win."

 12:01 PM 

Vos kicks off Bucks deal debate

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has taken the floor to start debate on the Bucks financing deal, saying the current package is better than the original proposal.

He said the deal amounts to state taxpayers contributing $3.5 million annually, while the state takes in $6.5 million in revenue. On top of that, local governments will cover the majority of the cost, the Rochester Republican said.

"It is cheaper for us to pass this bill," Vos said, "than to defeat it and let the team leave."

Vos also recognized Dems for "putting aside politics" and doing what is right for the state.

"I cannot thank enough the minority leader and those from the other side," Vos said.

 11:49 AM 

Dem, Republican leaders predict bipartisan Bucks vote

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Minority Leader Peter Barca said before the floor session today they expect the public financing package for the Bucks arena to pass without amendments.

Vos, R-Rochester, said during a bipartisan news conference prior to the floor session that the proposal has changed for the benefit of taxpayers through negotiations. Still, he said he also supported the original deal proposed by Gov. Scott Walker in early June.

"Today is the day the state Assembly is going to pass the Milwaukee County arena," Vos said.

Barca, D-Kenosha, said the amended version of the financing package, which the Senate passed on a 21-10 bipartisan vote July 15, resolves concerns Dems had about the deal. He said taxpayers are protected and the deal is far better for the state than if the Bucks left.

The deal, Barca said, will have a transformative effect on the city of Milwaukee.

"I think there's going to be tremendous development around the area," Barca said.

 9:19 AM 

Dems, Republicans caucusing ahead of Bucks floor vote

Assembly Dems and Republicans are scheduled to caucus at 9:30 a.m. ahead of the floor vote on the public financing package for the Bucks arena.

Spokeswomen for Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said caucus should end in time for the scheduled 11 a.m. floor session start.

Both spokeswomen said there are no plans to return to caucus after convening the floor session.

Monday, July 20, 2015

 12:30 PM 

Steineke: Assembly to come in July 28 to take up Bucks bill

Majority Leader Jim Steineke said today the Assembly will be in July 28 to vote on a public financing plan for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

Still, he cautioned it will be "no easy task" to get to 50 votes to pass the bill, and Republicans will need the support of 15 to 20 Dems. Republicans have a 63-36 majority.

He also held out the possibility changes will be made to the bill that cleared the Senate last week on a bipartisan vote.

WisPolitics Platinum subscribers will see more in today's PM Update.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

 8:38 AM 

Assembly leaders 'optimistic' Bucks arena vote 'will take place in the next few weeks'

After the Senate passed an amended Bucks arena bill, state Assembly leaders say they’re “optimistic that a vote on the measure will take place in the next few weeks.”

The statement came from: Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester; Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna; Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette; Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and Assistant Minority Leader Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point.

“We will take a close look at the new version of the bill that the Senate just approved to determine if any changes are needed," the statement said. "We would like to give our members and the public time to review the updated legislation and have a bipartisan discussion."

If the Assembly passes the bill without any changes, it would go to Gov. Scott Walker for signing. If there are changes, the Senate would have to agree to them.

 5:51 PM 

Bucks bill passes

The Senate has passed the amended public financing bill for the Bucks arena on a 21-10 bipartisan vote.

Six Dems and 15 Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

Shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, thanked his caucus members and Dems for pulling the plan together.

"I did not want to let the people of Wisconsin down," he said.

No one spoke in opposition to the bill.

The bill now goes to the Assembly.

"I'm hopeful they don't send it back," Fitzgerald said.

See the roll call vote here.

 5:40 PM 

Bucks bill backers take the floor

Supporters, both Dems and Republicans, of the amended Bucks bill are taking turns explaining why the deal is good for Milwaukee and the state.

Dem Sens. Chris Larson, Jon Erpenbach, Lena Taylor, Nikiya Harris Dodd and Jennifer Shilling so far have joined GOP Sen. Alberta Darling in speaking in favor of the bill.

"This project is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Wisconsin," Darling said.

Shilling said once is enough.

"I sure hope so," she said, "because I am exhausted."

 5:23 PM 

Taylor backs Bucks deal

Sen. Lena Taylor has kicked off debate over the Bucks arena proposal by saying "this deal means big bucks."

The new arena, the Milwaukee Dem said, means $339 million in total revenue the state otherwise would have lost. And the change to the deal, she said, make the deal better.

Through negotiations, the amended bill now calls for a board of directors that includes members of the minority party, Taylor said. It also rightfully removes the requirement the state take over Milwaukee County's debt collection to raise $4 million in annual contributions to pay for the project, she said.

"I know that some of you might say it's not enough," Taylor said. "But guess what? It's better than where we were."

 4:53 PM 

Recess continues over Bucks bill amendment

Senators still are in recess to discuss an amendment to legislation that would provide $250 million in public financing for a new $500 million Milwaukee Bucks arena.

The vote would come after a series of caucuses, meetings and bill changes to secure a bipartisan mix of 17 ayes in the Senate.

Among the changes are:

*Adding a ticket surcharge of $2. The amendment further says 25 percent of that surcharge would go to the state with the remaining 75 percent going to the Wisconsin Center District.

*Removing a provision that would have the state collect Milwaukee County’s debt. The county would instead directly contribute $4 million annually through shared-revenue reductions.

See the text of the amendment.

 3:49 PM 

Barrett, Abele speak out on changes to Bucks deal

Ticket surcharges and removal of the county debt collection element of the Bucks deal have stirred mixed feelings in Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Exec Chris Abele.

Both said during the floor session recess they appreciate the Senate's taking up the package. But Barrett said if there is going to be a ticket surcharge added to the Bucks deal, it all should go to the Wisconsin Center District, which is bonding for the project, rather than 75 percent to the district and 25 percent to the state.

He said the district is the weakest fiscal link in the package.

"My concern is it goes to the place where it's most needed," Barrett said.

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, has said his vote for the deal depends on the removal of Milwaukee County's financing element, in which the state would take over debt collection to produce the county's $4 million per year contribution. Larson has said he would not vote for the package with that financing because it forces the people who can least afford it to pay for the arena.

Larson said today he now supports the deal.

Abele, speaking during the floor recess, said if the county is forced to contribute money to the Bucks arena package, it would amount to a $4 million per year hole in the county budget's shared revenue for 20 years.

He said he does not understand the idea of protecting those who do not pay their taxes and fees at the expense of those who do.

"There's days that are frustrating," he said. "This is one of them."

 3:08 PM 

Senators trickling in for floor session

Senators still are slowly entering the chamber for the start of a floor session that is expected to include a vote on a public financing for a Bucks arena.

The Senate is expected to first take up a joint resolution proclaiming Aug. 6-9 Mile of Music Week and then go into caucus to discuss the Bucks deal.

 2:49 PM 

Senate headed to floor to take up Bucks arena package

The Senate is headed to the floor to take up the Bucks arena funding package, according to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's office.

Following the Senate Dem caucus today, Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, told reporters he would be voting for the package and said he was confident there is enough Democratic support to pass the bill.

“I can tell you, look, we’re going to go to the floor and I think we have enough votes to pass it and keep the Bucks here from leaving our state,” Larson said.

He added that he and other Dems backing the bill have seen enough businesses and jobs leave the state and that “we’re eager to do what we can.”

 11:54 AM 

Taylor: Senate to take up Bucks arena deal today

Sen. Lena Taylor told WisPolitics during a break from the Dem caucus the Senate would head to the floor today to take up the Bucks arena deal.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's office, however, would not confirm there would be a floor session today. Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said there is still hope for a floor vote today, but no guarantees.

 2:08 PM 

Kapenga bids Assembly farewell

GOP Rep. Chris Kapenga, who is heavily favored to win a seat in the state Senate later this month, bid the chamber farewell this afternoon.

Kapenga, who's running for the Senate seat that Paul Farrow is leaving next week to focus on his job at Waukesha County exec, noted the "crazy" things the Assembly has seen since he joined the body in 2011.

"I just wanted to say thank you for the joy and the memories that I've been able to build over the last 4.5 years," he said.

 1:05 PM 

Sanfelippo: Bill not about abortion, but preventing unborn children feeling pain

GOP Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, one of the bill's co-sponsors, argued the legislation is not about abortion, but keeping an unborn child from going through an excruciatingly painful experience.

Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, recounted graphically one method for abortions at around 20 weeks of pregnancy and argued no one would allow a child from being tortured, but that's what happens when abortions take place after that point of a pregnancy.

"This bill is about protecting children from feeling pain," Sanfelippo said.

 12:39 PM 

Berceau takes shot at Walker, says any woman who votes for bill 'traitor' to their gender

Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, charged Republicans were taking up the abortion bill to improve the presidential prospects of Gov. Scott Walker, who she called a "crazy opportunist."

She also charged any woman who vote for the bill is a "traitor" to her gender.

In last fall's campaign, Walker ran a TV ad in which he looked into the camera and said he is pro-life, but the decision to end a pregnancy is "an agonizing one" and the legislation he signed requiring an ultrasound before an abortion "leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor."

Some anti-abortion activists raised concerns about the ad, and Walker came under fire in March after an interview on "Fox News Sunday." Not long after the interview, he wrote a letter pledging to sign a ban on abortion after 20 weeks "when it gets to my desk."

Berceau said the bill is simply a move to help Walker get more votes for his presidential bid, which he plans to announce Monday.

"You Republicans know as well as I do that’s exactly what he’s done on this issue," she said. "I find it offensive that we play with women's health, with women's uteruses, for political reasons, and our governor is the worst offender."

 12:27 PM 

Assembly moves onto abortion bill

The Assembly has now moved onto debate over the bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks.

For Dems, Rep. Melissa Sargent of Madison was the first to speak, saying the Assembly was hurting women and restricting their freedom.

“We need to stop pretending that we know more and that we know better than women and their families and medical experts," she said.

On the GOP side, Rep. Joan Ballweg of Markesan recounted for the body her personal experience. She has three children, but was actually expecting seven times. 

Markesan said she had two children and was about 24 weeks along when she went into labor and had her daughter Jackie early. She was 12 inches long and weighed 1.5 pounds, but only lived for about 12 hours. Markesan recalled seeing her five fingers, five toes, fingernails, long eyelashes and curly black hair.

"She looked just like my other daughter," Markesan said, calling Jackie "our little angel."

 11:47 AM 

Nygren defends some pieces of open records changes

Much of the debate on the open records changes has involved Dems slamming them.

But JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, defended at least one piece of the package.

Nygren noted last session he became the point person on legislation to combat heroin addiction. The issue is personal for him because his daughter has battled addiction, and Nygren noted he regular received contacts from people telling their own experiences and said he's wiling to defend their privacy.

"I don't believe it's right to have people's personal stories and tragedies end up in the media," he said.

 11:44 AM 

Vos proposes amendment to Dem open records resolution, setting off scramble

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, proposed taking up the Dem open records resolution and offered an amendment that seemed to catch the other side of the aisle by surprise.

The amendment would strike the following from the resolution that, "immediately upon adjournment of the floor session held on July 9, 2015, the committee on assembly organization shall meet and consider a resolution affirming that the Wisconsin State Assembly remains committed to our state’s open record and open government laws and policies, and will take all necessary steps to ensure that these laws and policies are preserved without modification or degradation."

Instead the resolution would only read, "The State of Wisconsin has a proud tradition of protecting the public’s right to access to its government. Today, we reaffirm our state’s long−standing tradition of open and transparent government and will continue to work to uphold these principles and protections."

UPDATE: The Assembly has signed off on the modified version of the resolution.

 10:47 AM 

Dems push open records resolution

Dems have introduced a resolution they say would reaffirm the Assembly's commitment to open records following an outcry over an overhaul of the statutes that Joint Finance put into the budget, but was pulled out.

The resolution would require Assembly Org to meet following adjournment today to consider a resolution affirming the chamber's commitment to open record and government laws.

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the resolution was just politics and typical of Dems, saying it amounts to asking Assembly Org to meet to talk about something without requiring any real action. Instead, he suggested both sides to join together in expressing their commitment to open records.

But Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton if affirming a commitment to open government is playing politics, then "guilty as charged." He said the package raises questions if Republicans are trying to hide something unethical or illegal.

 10:35 AM 

Barca chides Gannon for bringing 'dishonor' to Assembly

Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, opened today's session by chiding freshman GOP Rep. Bob Gannon for bringing "dishonor" on the Assembly for vowing he would not vote for the budget unless it includes "real" prevailing wage changes.

Barca said the comments constituted logrolling, which is prohibited by statutes, but he was not going to file a complaint against Gannon because he was just in his first term.

In a statement earlier this week, Gannon declared "Throw me in jail!"

Looking directly at Gannon, R-Slinger, Barca accused the Republican of "ridiculous and reckless talk."

"You might smile," Barca said. "You might think this is funny, but you bring dishonor to this body when you think you’re above the law."

Gannon insisted he broke no law and was "bringing sarcasm" to the issue as he stood up for taxpayers.

"There is no law against me saying I'm going to stand up for the taxpayers of this great state when they're being abused by state statute and paying hundreds of millions of dollars for construction projects in this state," Gannon said.

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, tried to defuse the situation saying, "Obviously, people did not get enough sleep last night."

He said the appropriate thing to do when someone in the chamber makes a mistake is to apologize and "say you're sorry to the institution," to the state, taxpayers and others.

"So on behalf of the citizens of Wisconsin, I think it's important to remember why we're here, not to play politics, not be the victim and just say once in a while you say something stupid and it's OK to admit that," Vos said.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

 5:33 PM 

Majority leader notices members Assembly will be in Wednesday and Thursday

The office of Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke has notified members they will be in Wednesday and Thursday.

Here's the text of the email:

The Assembly will be in session on Wednesday, July 8th and Thursday, July 9th.

A calendar will be distributed on Tuesday, July 7th.

It is our intention to convene earlier than the normal 1:00 start time on both days.
We will notify you of the actual start times as soon as possible.

Please keep Friday, July 10th open in the event it is needed to finish our work.

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