Capitol Notes

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

For this week's Capitol Notes, we examine the top political stories of the year.  It began with the inauguration of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.  He defeated Republican Scott Walker the previous fall. 

Evers' relationship with the GOP-controlled legislature was contentious from the start.  Republicans passed laws before Evers took office, limiting Evers' powers, as well as those of new Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul.  The move sparked protests at the State Capitol and a number of lawsuits.  

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Foxconn is back in the news, with questions about whether it will qualify for up to $3 billion in state tax credits in coming years.  The Taiwanese electronics giant signed a contract with the state when the company was planning to build large LCD screens at a huge plant in Racine County, creating up to 13,000 jobs.  But Foxconn has since reduced the size of its plant and has said it'll manufacture smaller LCD screens.  It's not clear how many jobs will be created.

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