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Legislative Update - January 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019  
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Governor, Legislature Begin New Era in State Government

On Monday, January 7, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and members of the Wisconsin State Legislature were inaugurated into their state government positions. The date signaled a significant shift in Wisconsin’s political climate. From 2011 through 2018, state government was under the complete Republican control. Wisconsinites now have a Democrat in the governor’s office and a divided government.

In November, Evers defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker; a victory that surprised many political spectators. His campaign primarily centered on funding for public education and the rising costs of healthcare.

In his inaugural speech, Evers remained focused on those issues, stating, “[On the campaign] We talked about how what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state. And that means we need to fully fund our public schools at every level, so that every kid in our state has access to a quality education… We talked about making sure that healthcare is affordable and accessible and protects people who have pre-existing conditions.”

Evers is sure to make both issues primary tenants of his budget bill, which will be introduced early this year. While his speech mentioned education, healthcare, and transportation, the address largely spoke to his desire to bring unity to Wisconsin politics and political discourse.

“Finally, [hard work] begins in these marble halls where, as elected officials, we are reminded that our obligation and our allegiance are to the people of this state, not any political leader or party. That is the promise and the spirit of our service. May we dare to transcend divisiveness and party line,” Evers told the inauguration attendees.

Evers inauguration ushers in a new era, but significant aspects of the Walker years remain in place. Specifically, the legislature is still controlled by Republicans, and its longtime leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, are still the heads of their chambers.

In their addresses, both Vos and Fitzgerald stated their desire for unity and bipartisanship during the two-year legislative session. “Let us be united by our shared vision to make Wisconsin a better place to live, work, and raise a family,” Fitzgerald said.

However, Vos stated his intent to ensure the legislature is on equal footing with the new governor. “There are some who will want us to take a backseat and allow the new governor to drive the car alone but that isn't going to happen," Vos told the Assembly.

Evers, Vos, and Fitzgerald are making good faith attempts to make good on their hopes for unity. On Tuesday, January 15, Evers will attend with a rare joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate Republican Caucuses to discuss areas of agreement with every Republican member of the legislature.

 The next two years are sure to be interesting and unpredictable as Wisconsin’s government and citizens attempt to navigate divided government.

Evers Appoints DHS Secretary, Cabinet Secretaries and Senior Staff

Since Governor Tony Evers won election in November 2018, his transition team worked diligently to appoint individuals to serve as cabinet secretaries in the Evers administration. The appointments were announced slowly over the course of December and early January. Cabinet secretaries serve as administrators of the various state agencies on behalf of the governor.

On January 3, the transition team announced its final group of appointments, including Evers’ choice of Andrea Palm to serve as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). DHS is a particularly integral stage agency and administers several the state’s largest programs, including Medicaid.

Andrea Palm previously served as senior counselor at the federal Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama Administration. She also served as a senior adviser for the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration’s enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Ms. Palm also worked as health policy adviser to then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Palm was the only secretary appointment from outside Wisconsin. Political spectators have contemplated why exactly she decided to come to the state. While that question remains to be answered, health care groups and advocacy groups seem enthused by the selection.

The Evers team also announced the following appointments:

·  Department of Revenue - Peter Barca. Mr. Barca previously served in the State Assembly, including a few sessions as Minority Leader. He also served as Midwest regional administrator of the Small Business Administration during the Clinton administration.

·  Department of Workforce Development - Caleb Frostman. Mr. Frostman served a very short stint in the State Senate when he won a special election in the 1st Senate District in May. He lost the seat in November. Prior to his service in the Senate, he was executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corp.

·  Department of Children and Families - Emile Amundson. Ms. Amundson served then-State Superintendent Evers as his chief of staff at the Department of Public Instruction.

·  Department of Safety and Professional Services - Dawn Crim. Ms. Crim was previously the assistant state superintendent for the Division of Student and School Success at the Department of Public Instruction.

·  Department of Administration - Joel Brennan. Mr. Brennan was the chief executive officer for Discovery World Museum in Milwaukee. He previously served as campaign manager for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's 2004 mayoral campaign and led the Milwaukee Redevlopment Authority

·  Department of Natural Resources - Preston Cole. Mr. Cole has served on the State Natural Resources Board since 2007. He was also Milwaukee Commissioner of Neighborhood Services. 

·  Department of Corrections - Kevin Carr. Mr. Carr was the U.S. Marshal for Wisconsin's eastern federal district. He previously spent 30 years in the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office.

·  Department of Tourism - Sara Meaney. Ms. Meaney was the chief marketing and development officer at Milwaukee Film. She has an extensive background in advertising and marketing. 

·  Department of Transportation - Craig Thompson. Mr. Thompson served as executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association, which advocates for "development and maintenance of a strong, interconnected transportation network."

·  Public Service Commission - Rebecca Cameron Valcq. Ms. Cameron Valcq was an attorney with Quarles & Brady law firm, who worked in the Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Practice Group. She previously served as in-house regulatory counsel for WE Energies. 

·  Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection - Brad Pfaff. Mr. Pfaff served as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wisconsin Farm Service Agency executive director under the Obama administration. 

·  Office of Commissioner of Insurance - Marke Afable. Mr. Afable was the chief legal officer for American Family Insurance. 

·  Department of Veterans Affairs - Mary Kolar. Ms. Kolar served as the District I Supervisor for the Dane County Board of Supervisors. She spent twenty-eight active duty service in the U.S. Navy.

·  Department of Financial Institutions - Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld. Ms. Blumenfeld served as the executive vice president of special operations for Total Administrative Services Corporation. 

·  Department of Administration, State Budget Office - Brian Pahnke. Mr. Pahnke served as the assistant state superintendent for finance and management at the Dept. of Public Instruction.

·  Department of Public Instruction - Carolyn Stanford Taylor. Ms. Stanford Taylor served as the Assistant State Superintendent.  

Each appointee must be confirmed by the State Senate. They will likely be confirmed in the coming weeks.

In addition to cabinet secretary selections, the Evers also announced senior staff positions in the Governor’s Office, which are as follows:

·  Chief of Staff: Maggie Gau

·  Deputy Chief of Staff: Melissa Moore Baldauff

·  Deputy Chief of Staff: Kara Pennoyer

·  Deputy Chief of Staff: Barbara Worester

·  Chief Legal Counsel: Ryan Nilsestuen

·  Policy Director: Jenni Dye

·  Director of Constituent Services: Margie Berkowitz

·  Legislative Director: Stephanie Hilton

·  Deputy Communications Director: Britt Cudaback

·  Operations Director: Royce Kim

·  Director of Appointment for Board and Commissions: Cassi Fenili

·  Scheduling Director: Elsie Raymer

·  Outreach Director: Jamie Kuhn


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