Capitol Notes

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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The Wisconsin National Guard's top commander recently agreed to resign after a scathing federal report found he violated laws in investigating sexual assault complaints. Gov. Tony Evers asked Major General Donald Dunbar to step down. In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com if there could be more political fallout from the incident.

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Concerns about school safety rocked Wisconsin last week. In both Waukesha and Oshkosh, authorities shot and wounded a student who brought a weapon to school. Threats were made in a number of other school districts. The events prompted Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to call for more mental health services and more police officers in the schools. Republican leaders welcomed Evers' proposals — after rejecting his call last month for a special session to take up gun control measures.  

Results of the latest Marquette poll raised some eyebrows last week. It shows support for impeaching President Trump — and removing him from office — is slipping in Wisconsin. It also indicates that Trump holds a slight lead over the Democratic front-runners in the 2020 presidential race. Up until now, some national polls were showing at least three challengers beating Trump if the election were held today.

In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com what he makes of the results.  

Althouse

Last week saw a war of words at the State Capitol, at least on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' part. Evers apparently was still reeling from the Republican-led Senate's failure to confirm Brad Pfaff as state Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary. Evers reportedly told state workers that Republicans are "amoral and stupid" for essentially firing Pfaff.

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The Republican-controlled state Legislature last week essentially ignored Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' call for a special session to take up gun control measures, such as universal background checks and passage of a "red flag" law. 

In each house, only one or two GOP members came to the floor, called the session to order and then immediately adjourned it. Republican leaders say neither house had the votes to pass, but Evers says they did this at their own peril because now they have to explain their actions to voters.  

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Democrats at the State Capitol introduced yet another marijuana bill last week. This one would decriminalize possession of smaller amounts of the drug — 28 grams or less. Democrats say decriminalization would decrease racial disparities in the criminal justice system. 

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State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald joined the chorus of rebukes last week of President Trump's likening the impeachment probe to a lynching. Fitzgerald called lynching a "terrible word" and instead called the impeachment probe a "political witch hunt." 

Fitzgerald is running to replace Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who is retiring in 2020.  He's rarely criticized Trump.

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The unprecedented powers of the Wisconsin governor went under a microscope last week. The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear a case seeking to dramatically scale back the ability of governors to use partial budget vetoes to change the intent of the Legislature. 

The Republican-controlled state Legislature got back into full swing last week, with lawmakers passing dozens of bills to kick off the fall session. One measure that drew a lot of attention: the state Assembly voted to make accommodations for Democratic Rep. Jimmy Anderson, who uses a wheelchair. Anderson would be able to phone in to meetings, instead of always having to appear in person. Anderson threatened to sue if the Assembly didn't help him.

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Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is supporting President Trump in light of an impeachment inquiry from House Democrats. Johnson says he sees nothing wrong with Trump asking Ukraine and China to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and his son. And Johnson says it's "perfectly appropriate" for American law enforcement agencies to enlist the help of other countries.  

In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com what he makes of Johnson's steadfast support of the president.

Althouse

House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry into Republican President Donald Trump — after a whistleblower claimed that Trump asked the new Ukrainian leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Two of Wisconsin's Democratic members of Congress, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan, fully support impeachment. But a third member, Ron Kind of La Crosse, stopped short of saying Trump should be impeached.

In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com why Kind is taking a cautious approach.  

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Lawmakers at the State Capitol introduced a bill last week that would legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin.  Two of the authors are Democrats but one is a Republican — state Sen. Patrick Testin of Stevens Point. 

GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he's open to legalizing medical marijuana.  But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said "no" for years and rejected the idea again last week.  

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A standoff persists between Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and Republican members of the Joint Finance committee. Kaul said last week he would not join a multi-state settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for its role in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic. He says he'll continue to pursue Wisconsin's case against the company, which is now filing for bankruptcy.

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Longtime Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner says he won't seek reelection in 2020.  He's been serving in the U.S. House of Representatives for about 40 years and says it's time to pass the torch to somebody else.  

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Republican Congressman Sean Duffy announced last week that he is stepping down from the job. Duffy represents northern Wisconsin and says his last day will be Sept. 23. He says he wants to spend more time with his family, especially since discovering his baby will be born next month with a heart condition.

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Democratic Gov. Tony Evers doubled down on talk of gun control last week. He called Republican concerns over bills that he is pushing "BS," and said he may call the Legislature into special session to take up the measures.

One measure Evers is thinking about proposing would require universal background checks on gun purchases in Wisconsin, and the other would establish a so-called red flag law.  

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Mass shootings in Texas and Ohio drew a response again last week at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill requiring universal background checks for most gun purchases. 

Republicans who control the Legislature have repeatedly opposed such calls. Could this case be any different? WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross in this week's Capitol Notes conversation.

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Talk of gun control surfaced in the State Capitol last week after mass shootings occurred in Texas and Ohio. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called on the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a bill that would require universal background checks for gun purchases. He also called for a "red flag" law to make it easier to remove guns from people believed to be a danger to themselves or others.  

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Some Republican state lawmakers are suing Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, saying he's not complying with laws passed during a lame-duck session late last year. The laws were designed to limit Kaul's powers, along with those of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. The GOP has asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, bypassing the lower courts.  

In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, JR Ross of wispolitics.com tells WUWM's Marti Mikkelson that both sides are commenting on the case.

ALTHOUSE

A couple of Wisconsin politicians weighed in on President Donald Trump’s administration last week, taking starkly different stances on the Republican president’s performance.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers blasted Trump over immigration policy, while GOP Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner defended Trump on the Mueller investigation.

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Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker has accepted a full time job, running a national conservative youth organization. He begins the job in 2021, and says he won't run for office in 2022. He had been considering a run for governor or U.S. Senate.  

So, which prominent Republicans might be interested in challenging Democrat Tony Evers?  WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com in this week's Capitol Notes conversation.

Maayan Silver

Wisconsin saw a whirlwind of political activity last week, and it was all focused on Milwaukee. President Trump visited Derco Aerospace on the city's northwest side, and urged support of his U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. He also attended a fundraiser.

At the same time, the Latino civil rights group LULAC sponsored a town hall in downtown Milwaukee that featured several Democratic presidential candidates. Members of LULAC marched through the streets of downtown Milwaukee during the president's visit.  

ALTHOUSE

After a months-long, bruising fight over the state budget, Gov. Tony Evers signed the document last week.

Republicans who control the Legislature are declaring victory because of the mark they put on the Democratic governor’s spending plan. They stripped his major policy proposals and made other big changes.

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that it's not the place of the federal courts to decide whether states use gerrymandering practices to redraw political district boundaries every 10 years. Because of the ruling, involving two other states, it looks like Wisconsin's redistricting trial this month will be canceled. A handful of Democratic voters sued in 2015, alleging the boundaries that Republicans drew in 2011 unfairly diluted their vote.  

In this week's Capitol Notes, WUWM's Marti MIkkelson asked JR Ross, of wispolitics.com, what happens next.

The Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee's version of the state budget is scheduled to go to the Republican-controlled Legislature this week. The plan would cut taxes by more than $300 million over two years, while raising title and vehicle registration fees to help pay for roads.  

The state Assembly is expected to approve the budget on Tuesday. But it could run into trouble in the Senate, which Republicans control by five seats. Two GOP senators say they'll vote against it and if a third flips, the budget could die in the Senate.  

The Joint Finance committee wrapped up its work on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' proposed budget last week. The panel finished by approving $500 million in tax cuts. It's expected to go to the floor of the Legislature next week. 

In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com whether the document will sail through both Republican-controlled houses.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance committee last week approved a funding plan to fix the roads in Wisconsin. Lawmakers removed Gov. Evers' proposal for a hike in the gas tax, and instead voted for increases in title and registration fees.

In this week's Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross of wispolitics.com why the GOP decided to go that route.

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Thousands of Democrats descended on Milwaukee over the weekend for the party's annual state convention. Many top Democrats spoke, including Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. The recurring theme for the weekend was the party's desire to defeat Republican President Donald Trump in 2020.

So, how confident are delegates that this will be achieved? WUWM's Marti Mikkelson asked JR Ross that question for this week's Capitol Notes conversation.

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