Capitol Notes

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Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots for the August partisan primaries. In this special edition of Capitol Notes, we look at some of the more interesting races. One that’s received a lot of attention in the Milwaukee area is a two-way Republican primary for retiring GOP Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s seat. The district covers areas north and west of Milwaukee. Longtime state Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced a year ago that he was running for the seat, but he faces a challenge from Republican business owner Cliff DeTemple.

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Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask requirement took effect over the weekend as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Wisconsin — and Republicans who control the Legislature are threatening to block it. Evers declared a public health emergency in order to issue the mandate, which applies to anyone over 4 for all indoor spaces except a person’s home. It also applies to bars and restaurants with outdoor seating areas.

Maayan Silver

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has directed state agencies to slash $250 million from their budgets in the coming months to make up for revenue losses incurred by the coronavirus pandemic.  The cuts would serve as a blueprint for when Evers and the Legislature craft a new state budget early next year. The cuts are in addition to the $70 million the governor ordered a few months ago, which took effect July 1. 

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Vice President Mike Pence was in the battleground state of Wisconsin last week, campaigning for another four years of him and President Donald Trump. Pence made a couple of stops, including one in Ripon, the birthplace of the Republican Party. Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 and is trailing former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the polls.

Chuck Quirmbach

The Wisconsin Republican Party held its annual state convention over the weekend in Green Bay.  About 300 people attended the two-day in-person event in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  Masks were available, but few people wore them, and participants sat close to each other.  The GOP took the opposite approach of state Democrats, who held an all-virtual convention last month.

Maayan Silver

A federal appeals court panel has upheld some voting restrictions in Wisconsin just four months before the November presidential election. They include limits on in-person early voting hours to two weeks before an election -- and a return to requiring people to live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, JR Ross of WisPolitics.com discusses the winners and losers of the ruling with WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson. He also describes what the November presidential election might look like if the ruling stands.  

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President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence made separate stops in Wisconsin last week, while surrogates for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden held a virtual event here. Both sides took swipes at each other during their appearances.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson asked Jeff Mayers of wispolitics.com if all the attention signals Wisconsin’s importance in the November election.

Maayan Silver

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson is back in the public eye. The Board of Regents announced late last week that Thompson will be the interim UW System president while the search continues for a permanent replacement for Ray Cross, who is retiring. Thompson will assume the job on July 1, after the lone finalist for the position took himself out of the running.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asks JR Ross of wispolitics.com what he thinks an interim Thompson presidency will look like.  He says it won't be easy.

Katie Wheeler / flickr

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin held its annual state convention on Friday night, virtually instead of in-person because of the coronavirus. Elected officials gave speeches, and then it was time for the headliner – presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

He talked about the death of George Floyd while in police custody, and said the country needs to confront systemic racism. In a swipe at Republican President Donald Trump, Biden said he’ll restore “real leadership” to the White House.

Chuck Quirmbach

Protests continue across much of Wisconsin, after George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has asked the Republican-controlled Legislature to immediately pass a bill designed to reform use of force policies in Wisconsin

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com what the chances are of a bill being passed.

Katie Wheeler/flickr

Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman testified before a state Senate committee last week about why many Wisconsinites still haven’t received unemployment benefits. Of about 2.5 million claims filed, nearly 750,000 are unpaid.

Maayan Silver

A group of Wisconsin residents filed a federal lawsuit late last week challenging some local stay-at-home orders that were put in place after the state Supreme Court threw out Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide policy. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare the local orders unconstitutional.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com what he thinks will happen with this and another challenge that's before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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The conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order last week, effective immediately. Schools are still closed, but most nonessential businesses can resume operations — unless local governments have their own stay-at-home restrictions. At this time, there's no statewide plan for protecting public safety or reopening the economy.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order, which closed nonessential businesses and put other restrictions in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order is set to expire on May 26. Republicans who control the Legislature are challenging the order, largely citing its impact on the economy.

Chuck Quirmbach

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by Republicans in the state Legislature, challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order. Republicans cried foul when Evers extended the order to May 26, amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

They’re demanding that he lift the order and take steps to reopen the state’s economy. Interested parties filed briefs last week and the court, which holds a 5-2 conservative majority, will hear arguments on Tuesday. 

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