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March 3, 2015

Naming rights for state parks?

Joint Finance Committee (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Joint Finance Committee (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The question of naming rights was brought up during budget briefings at the state Capitol.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp stressed to members of the Joint Finance Committee that her agency needs to find new ways to generate revenue for the state park system.

When pressed by Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) about whether the DNR would sell naming rights for state parks, Stepp said, “All ideas are on the table.” Erpenbach asked, “You’re looking for corporate sponsorship to sell naming rights?”

“Well,” Stepp responded, “we’re currently not looking to do that now, but these are all gonna be parts of the discussion that I look forward to getting legislative input on in the next two years.”

SteppP1420796The DNR won’t sell the parks, Stepp said, and there have not been any discussions or studies on naming rights. No corporations have approached her about naming rights, though Stepp said external partners could provide concessions or sponsorships.

“How much would you charge,” Erpenbach asked, “for example, to buy the naming rights to Devil’s Lake state park?”

“Senator,” Stepp replied, “it’s very premature to talk about that.”

Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal would cut tax dollars from state parks, and raise admission and camping fees.

The DNR could authorize sponsorships and naming rights without legislative approval.

Legislative committee to vote on 70 mph speed limit

01211570mphA bill to increase the speed limit is expected to advance through an Assembly committee Tuesday.

Under the proposal (AB-27), Department of Transportation traffic safety engineers would decide whether to increase speed limit on state highways to 70 miles an hour. The DOT would determine whether commercial vehicles should be restricted to lower limits.

Critics are concerned higher speeds could make highways less safe. Neighboring states have increased their maximum speeds to 70 mph, while Wisconsin’s top speed remains at 65. The Assembly Committee on Transportation held a public hearing on the bill last month.

After today’s vote, the measure would go to the full Assembly. A similar push in the last legislative session failed to get out of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Right-to-work hearing under way at Capitol

RTW_right-to-work_Jacque_CraigTalking to reporters in advance of the public hearing on right-to-work legislation, Assembly Republicans say there’s no reason to delay implementation of the controversial bill if it’s signed into law.

Representative Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) says it’s not a surprise, so there’s no need for a 90-day delay. He adds, it’s not a complex bill; it’s just a few pages. “That discussion has already happened. I have not seen any convincing evidence to show me why that should take place.”

De Pere Republican André Jacque chairs the Assembly Labor Committee. He says they’ll alternate testimony on the bill (AB-61) between members of the public and professional representatives.

Jacque has set a seven-minute time limit for testimony lasting until 8 pm, but will consider staying longer if necessary or shortening time limits on public comments. “That’s certainly something that I’m gonna be discussing with my fellow committee members. We don’t really know at this point how many people are looking to testify.”

Under the legislation, employers can’t require workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Opponents of the bill are concerned about wages and worker training.

The Senate quickly approved the bill (17-15) last Wednesday. The full Assembly will take up the bill later this week, likely Thursday.

*Update: At 11:40 committee chair has announced that he talked with Democrats on the panel and they all agreed to reduce the time limit for testimony to five minutes.

Assembly committee holds public hearing on right-to-work

Wisconsin State Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin State Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

De Pere Republican André Jacque chairs the Assembly Labor Committee, which is taking public comments on the controversial bill (AB-61) all day Monday. Many people weren’t able to testify at a Senate hearing last week when it abruptly ended after eight hours, causing outbursts in the statehouse. Jacque has some concerns about similar disruptions in his committee. “There’s no place for that in legislative debate. I think, unfortunately, it reflects poorly on the vast majority of people who come to the legislature to interact with their legislators.”

Jacque says he has had conversations with many constituents who had questions about what right-to-work does and doesn’t involve. “Any time you’re changing the status quo people have a fear of the unknown and they’re trying to find answers to those questions. I’ve done my best to respond to those questions and sometimes that has significantly removed people’s aprehension about the bill.”

Under the legislation, employers can’t require workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Jacque has set a seven-minute time limit for testimony lasting until 8pm, but he’ll give people “every opportunity,” he says, to present their point of view, saying he has “no problem with marathon hearings.” Opponents of the bill are concerned about wages and worker training.

The Senate approved the bill (17-15) last Wednesday. After the committee hearing, the full Assembly could take up the measure later this week. Minority leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) expects a fiery debate in his chamber.

The hearing on Monday starts at 10:00 AM in 417 North (GAR Hall). Supporters can register at: WisconsinWorkerFreedom.com

Lawmakers push to eliminate waiting period to buy handguns

Wisconsin State Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin State Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Eliminating the waiting period for new handgun purchases gets a public hearing at the Capitol Thursday.

Rice Lake Republican Romaine Quinn sponsored the Assembly bill (AB-49). He says it brings the gun background check system into the 21st century. “The background system has not kept pace with the rapid technology and the progress we’ve made. With the technology available today … the vast majority of background checks are completed approximately in an hour.”

Quinn notes there’s no waiting period to purchase shotguns and long guns.

Racine Republican Van Wanggaard is the sponsor of the Senate bill (SB-35). He says a host of other items can be used as a weapon with no waiting period, including a baseball bat, steak knife or shotgun.

Tony Gibart with Domestic Abuse Wisconsin takes issue with that claim, saying eliminating the 48-hour waiting period would put victims at risk. “If we had to choose whether we would want an attacker to attack us with a firearm or some other weapon, I think we would all choose some other weapon because we all know instinctively that a firearm is more lethal.”

Gibart says family and “intimate assaults” involving fire arms are 12 times more likely to result in death than assaults without guns. Having a gun in the house of an abused woman increases her chance by five of being killed in a domestic homicide.

Wanggaard says only eight states, including Wisconsin, require a waiting period at the point of sale prior to transfer of a handgun.