Holtz Radio Ad Appeals to Moms

By John Forester | March 29, 2017

From WisPolitics.com . . .

State schools superintendent challenger Lowell Holtz is going up on radio around the state with an appeal to Wisconsin moms.

The 60-second ad also features GOP Sens. Leah Vukmir and Alberta Darling, as well as Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek. They cite Holtz’s backing of school choice, his support of local control for schools and his “history of strong, positive leadership” as reasons to support him in Tuesday’s election.

When the ad opens, a narrator tells listeners that “Wisconsin moms will be voting for Dr. Lowell Holtz for Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction,” listing his experience as a teacher, former principal of the year and school superintendent.

The ad closes with an appeal from Holtz.

“I am asking for your vote because we owe to our kids and grandkids the best possible education. Together, we can put an end to failing Wisconsin schools,” he says.

Hear the ad here.

 

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JFC Members Question Self-Funded Insurance Plan; Senator Olsen Praises Walker’s K-12 Funding Increases

By John Forester | March 29, 2017

What follows comes from WisPolitics coverage of the Department of Administration’s agency briefing on the Governor’s budget bill before the Joint Finance Committee.  As you can see there was a lot of discussion of the proposed state switch to a self-funded health insurance model and earmarking the projected savings from such a move to K-12 funding.  Also check out Senator Luther Olsen’s comments in support of the Governor’s proposed increases in K-12 funding.

From WisPolitics.com …

DOA Secretary Scott Neitzel today defended the guv’s call to move state employees to a self-insurance model as Joint Finance Committee members raised concerns the projected savings will not materialize.

Neitzel, who was first to testify before the committee as three days of agency briefings kick off, acknowledged some state employees may have to switch providers if the self-insurance approach is approved.

Still, he said any disruptions would be minimal. Neitzel also defended the savings projections, saying they’re based on requests for proposal that had been sent out. Those, he said, are more reliable than past studies that had found the state could save money under self-insurance, but there also was a risk costs could go up.

The guv’s budget calls for taking the expected $60 million in savings and pouring it into K-12 funding, along with raises for state and UW employees.

Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, questioned if the approach was such a good approach, why it wasn’t allowed to “stand on its own merit” rather than tying up the savings.

“I feel like you’re backing us into a corner on self funding,” she said.

DOA Budget Director Waylon Hurlburt noted Gov. Scott Walker said well in advance of releasing his budget that he wanted to look at moving to a self-insurance model and that every dollar in savings on state spending that could be found should go into K-12 aid.

“That’s what he said, and that’s why it’s linked to K-12 education,” Hurlburt said.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, also pressed Neitzel on his pledge the anticipated savings would not come from a reduction in benefits, asking him to guarantee that would not happen in the next budget as well. But Neitzel said, “Every budget stands on its own.”

Today’s agency briefing provided a glimpse of the concerns JFC members have on the guv’s budget that could lead to changes as the committee begins to vote on the proposal, likely in May. Beyond self-insurance, GOP committee members raised concerns about Walker’s plan to consolidate services like human resources at DOA as well as the approach to transportation.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, praised the guv’s call to pump an additional $649 million into K-12 funding.

The lawmaker said he previously didn’t want a public hearing on the budget because he wasn’t thrilled with various pieces of it. This year, however, the committee will visit his district, and he thanked Neitzel for the boost to K-12 the guv is proposing.

Still, he questioned the decision to require districts to be Act 10 compliant in order to receive the funding. The guv’s office has said the intent is to make sure school employees are paying 12 percent of their health care costs to ensure they’re taking advantage of the tools provided under Act 10 before they get the additional money.

Olsen, though, pointed out some districts have taken a different approach to health insurance for their employees, including higher deductibles and co-pays, resulting in greater savings than if they simply took their existing plans and required employees to pick up 12 percent.

“Are we sort of getting our nose in their business on how they manage their staff when they have used the tools that we gave them?” Olsen asked.

Hurlburt said the guv wanted the requirement as part of an effort to ensure the additional aid ended up in the classroom, not overhead. He said the administration was open to tweaking the language to take into account things like co-pays and deductibles in making sure districts are Act 10 compliant.

“If you want to benefit from the reform divided, you need to have participated in reform,” Hurlburt said.

Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, pointed to a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau noting Act 10 related to those who covered employees through the Group Insurance Board. Only six districts currently do so.

Hurlburt again said the intent was to make sure school district employees are covering 12 percent of their health insurance costs, including out-of-pocket expenses.

Lawmakers on both sides said they have deep reservations on Walker’s self-insurance proposal, questioning Department of Employee Trust Funds officials on whether the agency’s savings estimates will pan out.

Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, noted a consultant had estimated that the state could lose $100 million in switching to self-insurance. Walker’s administration is projecting the state would save $60 million over the next biennium.

“I’m not a gambling gal, but those sound like pretty bad odds to me,” Vukmir said.

But ETF officials said that was an early high-level analysis on self-insurance — evaluating a much different program structure than what Walker’s proposing. That consultant also recommended ETF gather more data to get specific pricing information from health insurers, they noted.

Lisa Ellinger, ETF’s Office of Strategic Health Policy director, said she was a major skeptic of self-insurance early on. But now that the agency has gathered and analyzed the data, she said, she’s confident it’ll lead to significant savings in the next biennium and going forward.

“I’ve become a convert to thinking this is the right path for our program,” said

Still, lawmakers of both parties questioned whether lawmakers have enough information, whether the $60 million in savings is worth the risk, whether there will be major disruptions for employees and if there’s other ways for ETF to save money, among other things.

They also raised concerns on how the move would affect the state’s broader marketplace, including whether health insurers who’d lose customers under the proposal could cut jobs.

“You don’t have to consider the impact on the private market, but we do,” Hintz said.

Darling and Nygren, the JFC co-chairs, suggested the state can make a wide range of other improvements to find savings. Darling also said the state’s already doing a good job at limiting premium increases under its current program.

Felzkowski noted other states who self-insure their employees have had to backfill millions of dollars because their actuaries’ projections ended up being wrong.

“If this goes south, where is that money coming from?” she asked.

Olsen raised concerns that ETF is dramatically reducing the amount of vendors it works with and cutting out competitors from the current program.

“In Wisconsin, we’re saying fewer is better and cheaper,” he said. “I”m having trouble understanding.”

But Ellinger said the state is choosing to work with its highest quality insurers with the biggest discounts.

“I don’t think all choice is good choice,” she said.

As for other improvements the state can make, Ellinger said those are easier under a self-insured structure, which she said would boost the state’s data analytics and wellness programs.

“As we dug in and learned more about self-insurance we realized that many of the things we would like to do to improve health outcomes and drive quality and value through the program, were ideally suited to a self-insured environment,” ETF Secretary Robert Conlin said.

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Legislators Weigh In on Constitutional Carry

By John Forester | March 29, 2017

From WisPolitics.com . . .

The Legislature’s top two Republicans say they’ll talk over with their caucuses a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

The bill, circulated today by GOP Sen. Dave Craig and Rep. Mary Felzkowski, also would eliminate the state’s school gun free zone law, though schools could still post signs on their buildings and grounds banning weapons. There’s also a federal gun free zone law.

“Senator Fitzgerald has been a strong supporter of second amendment protections,” said Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for the Senate Majority Leader. “He is reviewing Senator Craig’s bill and plans to discuss it with the caucus to determine the level of support.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he hasn’t discussed the bill with his caucus.

“But as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I’m generally supportive of it and will monitor public support as we determine our next steps,” Vos said.

The bill would still retain the current concealed carry permit lawmakers approved in 2011, which ensures holders can carry in other states with reciprocity provisions in their laws. It also called for a new “basic” concealed carry permit that would not include a training requirement, though DOJ would have to perform a background check on applicants. The “basic” permit would meet the requirements to be exempt from the federal gun free school zone laws.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said the overwhelming majority of residents believe “responsible individuals” who want to carry a concealed weapon should go through a background check and get a permit.

“Allowing anyone to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public without any safety training or a simple background check is completely irresponsible,” said Shilling, whose parents and five employees were murdered at the family’s restaurant during a 1993 robbery.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said when concealed carry was passed six years ago, “there was a clear bipartisan emphasis on proper training to make sure those with a concealed carry permit to understand the gravity and responsibilities of carrying a gun, especially in high risk facilities.” He said the proposal would strip away those measures.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon and a member of the Finance Committee, said he took a concealed carry training class over the weekend because he knew the bill was coming. He asked a woman in the class about allowing the carrying of concealed weapons without a license, and she objected.

“It’s important to know the concealed carry laws and what you can do and you can’t do with a gun,” Olsen said.

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, meanwhile, praised the bill with Wisconsin state liaison Scott Rausch saying, “This important piece of legislation means law-abiding gun owners will no longer have to jump through government hoops and pay fees to exercise a basic constitutional right in the way that works best for them.”

Here is the bill draft and the Legislative Council memo.

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More Start Date Resolutions

By John Forester | March 28, 2017

Check out the school board resolutions below in support of school start date repeal.

Please forward your letters and resolutions to the SAA.

Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau Resolution

Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce Letter

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Craig, Felzkowski Introduce Constitutional Carry

By John Forester | March 28, 2017

From The Wheeler Report . . .

Sen. Dave Craig and Rep. Mary Felzkowski are circulating a bill providing for constitutional carry in Wisconsin. In 2011, the Wisconsin Legislature passed, and Gov. Walker signed, a concealed carry bill (Act 35). The bill being circulated later today will eliminate the need for a concealed carry permit, in most cases. According to the cosponsorship memo, “The bill allows for the concealed carry of a firearm without a license anywhere in the state by a person who is legally allowed to carry a firearm and simplifies state law while reducing the cost to citizens who choose to protect themselves and their families.”

Craig said, “We are expanding the Second Amendment in Wisconsin for law abiding citizens. A lot of states have passed Constitutional Carry. Wisconsin law currently allows for open carry on your hip without a permit.  We are saying if you want to put a coat on you shouldn’t become a criminal by our state laws.”

The bill follows federal law by requiring a concealed permit for carrying on school grounds. Sen. Craig emphasized that the bill eliminates the state gun free school zones law and instead specifies that a person must have a permit to carry on school grounds.  However, that does not mean schools have to allow guns in buildings or on school grounds.  The school may choose to prohibit the possession of firearms in schools or on the grounds, but they must post signs of the prohibition. The bill creates a basic Wisconsin concealed carry permit that requires a background check to be conducted on an applicant, but does not require the applicant to complete a training course. These permits are for those seeking permission to conceal carry on school grounds which are not posted.

The bill does not change concealed carry provisions for campuses or university buildings, if the college or university is posted, a person cannot enter posted buildings carrying a firearm.  Current law does not allow colleges and universities to post their grounds, just their buildings. The same is true for other buildings.  The LRB analysis states, “The bill eliminates the general prohibition against carrying firearms in specified places, but retains the current law that allows certain persons to post buildings and grounds so that individuals who carry a firearm in violation of the posting commit trespassing.” Craig highlighted that it does not prevent local government entities or small business owners from posting against carrying concealed, says they must post it.

Additionally, the bill:

LRB-2039. Constitutional Carry

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School Referenda in the News

By John Forester | March 23, 2017

Check out this news story on school referenda from the Green Bay Press Gazette.  Great quotes from Superintendents Langenfeld and LaCroix.

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GOP Lawmakers Propose Pension Changes

By John Forester | March 23, 2017

Two Republican lawmakers are proposing to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60 for most new public workers and change the way pension payments are calculated to ensure the future solvency of the state’s pension system. Check out the news article by Molly Beck of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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Marquette Poll: Walker Numbers Up; 80% Support Increasing K-12 Funding

By John Forester | March 23, 2017

From WisPolitics . . .

Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rating climbed in the latest Marquette Law poll, though he also remained underwater.

Forty-five percent approved of the job Walker is doing, while 48 percent disapproved. In October, that split was 42-51.

Franklin noted since spring 2015, after Walker began moving toward a presidential run, the guv’s numbers have been upside down. Still, it’s the best mark he’s had since 49-47 with registered voters just weeks ahead of his 2014 re-election.

Forty-nine percent of registered voters said the state is on the right track, while 47 percent said it is not. That split was 45-51 in August.

On other issues of note:
*80 percent backed increasing K-12 funding, while 17 percent were opposed.

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More Start Date Resolutions

By John Forester | March 22, 2017

Check out the school board resolutions below in support of school start date repeal.

Please forward your letters and resolutions to the SAA.

Drummond Resolution

Shawano Resolution

Elk Mound Letter

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More Information on JFC Hearings

By John Forester | March 22, 2017

We now have more information on the places and times of the six Joint Finance Committee (JFC) hearings on the State Budget Bill.

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