March 4, 2015

Bucks owners asked to pay more for arena

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch

Maintaining the NBA’s presence in Wisconsin will remain a budget priority – and maybe a tough sell.

Joint Finance Committee co-chair, Representative John Nygren (R-Nygren), said Monday that the Bucks owners should contribute more toward construction of a new arena. Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan have pledged at least $150 million.

A Forbes magazine list released Monday identified Dinan and Lasry as two of the 400 richest Americans.

Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-2017 state budget includes $220 million in state bonding toward construction of a new NBA arena in downtown Milwaukee.

“What the governor recognized is, first and foremost, a significant decrease to the state budget of the Milwaukee Bucks leave,” outgoing state Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch told finance committee on Monday.

Nygren told a press briefing prior to Monday’s committee meeting that he’d like to see Lasry and Dinan contribute more towards the arena’s cost.

The NBA has said that if a new arena is not built by fall 2017, the league can buy back the team for $575 million.

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.

DOA quizzed on Walker security detail

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

Questions were raised Monday about Governor Scott Walker’s security detail, during the first day of agency briefings on the proposed 2015-2017 state budget. “I’d like talk for a minute about the governor’s security detail,” state Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) told outgoing Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebcsh. “How big is it?”

Huebsch, who’s being succeeded at the head of DOA by Scott Neitzel, didn’t know the answer to that, although he was able to explain that security detail costs are closely scrutinized by the state Government Accountability Board. “I understand that the governor has to have security wherever the governor goes, but the governor doesn’t have to do every single political thing under the sun, which it seems like he’s doing right now,” Erpenbach said. “So are the taxpayers paying for all of that?”

“We understand the scrutiny level that is coming on there, and making sure that it is going to be something is assigned to the campaign as it should be, or provided by the taxpayers as it should be,” depending on the nature of Walker’s travel, Huebsch explained.

Erpenbach, a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, which began agency briefings on Monday, also wanted to know about a $4.00 an hour increase for members of the Wisconsin State Patrol’s Dignitary Protection Unit. Huebsch said that increase for the 10 member unit also included elimination of overtime pay, and thus represents an actual savings on the governor’s security costs.

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: