Capitol Notes

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. 

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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.  

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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.

Andy Manis / Getty Images

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. 

Maayan Silver / WUWM

Police estimate that 1,500 people rallied at the State Capitol on Friday, demanding that Gov. Tony Evers lift his safer-at-home order, so non-essential businesses can reopen. Evers recently extended the order about a month to May 26 because of the continued spread of the coronavirus.

Many people at the event carried signs — some of them read "End The Tyranny" and "All Jobs Are Essential." Most of the protesters stood next to each other, not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

althouse

Gov. Tony Evers has extended his safer-at-home order to May 26 due to fears over the coronavirus. He also announced that schools will be closed through the academic year. Republicans who control the Legislature are opposed to the extension, saying they want the economy to reopen, and have threatened to file a lawsuit with the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, JR Ross of wispolitics.com tells WUWM's Marti Mikkelson that there's growing frustration with the governor’s order among the GOP.

The results of Wisconsin’s presidential primary, state Supreme Court race, and spring local elections will be released Monday, under unprecedented circumstances related to the coronavirus.

It won’t be your typical election night, with victory gatherings and supporters watching returns come in over the course of a few hours.

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson spoke with JR Ross of wispolitics.com, about what this unusual “election night” might look like.

althouse

Wisconsin appears to be moving ahead with Election Day on Tuesday, April 7, despite multiple lawsuits to move the date because of the coronavirus – and an 11th-hour plea from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. He called the Republican-controlled Legislature into a special session to push the date to late May and conduct an all-mail election. The GOP went into special session Saturday as required, and then immediately adjourned without taking up Evers’ proposal.

Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-controlled Legislature are still working on an agreement that would provide state assistance to those affected by COVID-19. Evers asked lawmakers Saturday to approve more than $800 million, according to wispolitics.com. The sweeping bill would halt enforcement of Voter ID, ban evictions, and prevent layoffs of school employees during a public health emergency.

althouse

It was another week of major changes in lifestyle and in the workplace because of the coronavirus. Gov. Tony Evers ordered bars and restaurants in Wisconsin to close, except for pickups and deliveries. He also directed salons, barbershops, spas and tattoo shops to shut their doors. Now, the Democratic governor and Republican leaders say they're working together on a legislative aid package to help small businesses and employees who are out of work.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has taken some dramatic steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  Chair Ben Wikler says the party is following guidance from health officials to practice social distancing, so it's replacing its traditional door-to-door canvassing operation with a digital model ahead of the April 7 spring election and presidential primary.  

Wisconsin's presidential primary will be held next month. When voters go to the polls, they'll notice the landscape has changed dramatically. In a matter of days over the past week, the field of Democrats running for their party's nomination narrowed to only two major contenders: former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. It happened after poor showings for the other top-tier candidates in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday.  

It appears the Republican-controlled state Legislature is unwilling to enact tougher gun laws this year — even in light of a mass shooting that left six employees dead at Molson Coors Brewery in Milwaukee. Just hours before the shootings, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers re-stated his commitment to adopting stricter legislation. At the same time, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald voiced his opposition.

The Republican-controlled state Legislature has passed a $250 million income tax cut and has sent the bill to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Republicans want to pay for the tax cut via a projected $600 million budget surplus. 

But, Evers wants to pour some of the money into public schools and lowering property taxes. He's also left the door open for a compromise with the GOP, meaning some money would go toward an income tax cut and some would go to the public schools. Or, he could veto the income tax cut outright.

The Republican-controlled state Assembly has passed a slew of tough-on-crime bills. One would allow extended supervision to be revoked, for someone who commits a felony while on release. Another would expand the list of crimes that could land a child in a youth prison.  

Republicans say the bills are necessary in order to keep communities safe. But Democrats have blasted the plan, arguing that many states instead have taken steps to reduce the prison population.  And, it's likely that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will veto the measures.  

Gov. Tony Evers wants the Republican-controlled Legislature to spend a chunk of a state budget surplus on the public schools. He's calling for a special session on the topic to begin this week. Republican leaders immediately dismissed the idea, saying they want to put surplus money toward a tax cut instead. Evers says the GOP could do both — cut taxes and spend more on schools.

In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, JR Ross of wispolitics.com tells WUWM's Marti Mikkelson that it's hard to say how this will play out.   

Republican Vice President Mike Pence apparently went where no other sitting Vice President has gone — he held a rally inside the Wisconsin State Capitol last week. He touted private school voucher programs as an alternative to public education at the rally. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared with him.  

President Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016. In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, JR Ross of wispolitics.com tells WUWM's Marti Mikkelson there are several reasons why Pence chose the liberal stronghold of Madison to bring his message.

Althouse

Gov. Tony Evers is calling lawmakers into special session to pass a package of bills designed to help struggling farmers and rural communities. The idea drew mixed reviews from Republican leaders after the Democratic governor announced it in his State of the State address. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he's "all ears" on the plan and seems open to a special session. But, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos appears wary, saying Evers has ignored rural Wisconsin until now. 

pinchof

The voter purge case took some more turns last week. An Ozaukee County judge again ordered the Wisconsin Elections Commission to immediately drop more than 200,000 names from the voter rolls. It's suspected that those voters may have moved and haven't re-registered. Then, an appeals court sided with the commission and again put the purge on hold while lawsuits continue. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided not to take the case for the time being.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Republican and Democratic leaders met at the State Capitol last week to place names on the state presidential primary ballot. Democrats approved 14 names for the April 7 election. They include Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. But GOP officials submitted and approved only one name — that of President Donald Trump, even though other Republicans have thrown their hats into the ring.  

WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com about the decision in this week's Capitol Notes conversation.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

For this week's Capitol Notes, we look ahead to the political stories that'll likely make headlines in Wisconsin in 2020. Probably the biggest is Wisconsin's role in the presidential race. President Trump narrowly won the state in 2016, which means the spotlight is on Wisconsin this year, along with a few other swing states. 

WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com what he thinks the presidential race will look like in Wisconsin.

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