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A new Superintendent of Public Instruction will be taking the reins to oversee K-12 education in Wisconsin, and both chambers at the Capitol will be back to full strength with one new member in each house. The 2021 Spring Election took place yesterday to decide who would replace Carolyn Stanford Taylor as State Superintendent after she opted not to seek reelection after being appointed to the role by Gov. Tony Evers in 2019.

In the only statewide election on the ballot, Pecatonica Area School District Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly defeated former School District of Brown Deer Superintendent Dr. Deborah Kerr. The margin was 57%-43%.

Residents of Wisconsin’s 13th Senate District elected current Republican Rep. John Jagler (37th Assembly District) to the seat vacated by Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who was elected to Congress last year. Jagler defeated Democrat Melissa Winker by a margin of 51%-44%. The Senate will once again have 33 members, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 21-12.

Likewise, voters in the 89th Assembly District gave the nod to Oconto businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican, to succeed former Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) in this Northeast Wisconsin seat. Behnke defeated Democrat Karl Jaeger by a margin of 63%-37%. Republicans now hold a 61-38 majority in the Assembly.

In one other notable race, Judge Shelley Grogan unseated incumbent Judge Jeffrey Davis in District II of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The final tally was 53%-43%. District II handles appeals from trial courts in 12 counties in Southeastern Wisconsin, excluding Milwaukee County.

There were several other local races on Tuesday’s ballot. A list of those results from the Southern part of the state may be viewed here. Several out-state county-by-county results are linked here.

By, Alex Paniagua

WBA has reported on Biden’s political appointees as they’ve been announced. From Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen to recently appointed Director of the CFPB Rohit Chopra, we’ve put together a list indicating which ones will be most notable for Wisconsin bankers.

Secretary of the Treasury – Janet Yellen

  • Economist, former Vice-chair (2010-2014) and Chair (2014-2018) of the Federal Reserve
  • Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors in the latter portion of President Clinton’s second term

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury – Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo

  • Economic and political advisor
  • Held roles at the Department of the Treasury, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, National Economic Council, and was the first president of the Obama Foundation

Secretary of Commerce – Gina Raimondo

  • Elected Governor of Rhode Island in 2014, re-elected in 2018
  • Former General Treasurer of Rhode Island and former Chair of Democratic Governor’s Association

Deputy Secretary of Commerce – Don Graves

  • Banker and government official advising the Department of the Treasury in the late-1990’s.
  • Served in the Obama administration and counseled then-Vice President Joe Biden

Administrator – Small Business Administration – Isabel Guzman

  • Currently serves as director of the Office of the Small Business Advocate within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in California
  • Former deputy chief of staff to the SBA Administrator under the Obama administration

Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission – Gary Gensler

  • Former government official and investment banker.
  • Held leadership roles at the Department of the Treasury in the ’90s and ’00s, and chaired the Commodity Futures Trading Commission under President Obama

Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Rohit Chopra

  • Current Commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission
  • Former assistant director at the CFPB, and Student Loan Ombudsman at the Department of the Treasury.

By, Alex Paniagua

Split Government in Wisconsin Continues 

Rep. Kind Wins and the Wisconsin Legislature Stays in GOP Hands

The state of Wisconsin took center stage in a showdown that places election margins for president and several other local contests on a razor’s edge. Wisconsin Democrats had a major funding and polling advantage that yielded little change in six months on both a state-wide and local scale with Democrats spending 4-1 in some parts of the state.   

Voter turnout appears to have exceeded the 2012 high of 3.1 million people and late absentee ballots in urban areas propelled Joe Biden ahead of President Donald Trump in a harrowing media-fueled clash where many expected different results. As of 8 a.m. this morning, Biden maintained a lead of approximately 20,750 votes or 0.63 percentage points. A recount is not automatic in Wisconsin, but the second-place candidate can request one. The campaign doesn’t have to pay for the cost of the count if the margin is within .25 percentage points.  

Congressman Ron Kind held on in a close race, beating Derrick Van Orden in the 3rd Congressional District (La Crosse/Western Wisconsin) by 11,000 votes. Kind released a statement trumpeting his future work: “I am committed to fighting for the farmers, veterans, families, businesses, and workers who move our state forward.” The banking industry is counting on Kind, who supported a tax fairness measure (ECORA) to continue his work next Congress.  

The other Wisconsin Congressional races mainly hit the mark of predictability and current Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald easily won his race and will replace Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

Wisconsin continues to hold on to its purple battleground reputation nationally but voted locally to hold on to incumbents giving Republicans a continued strong hold on the legislature. There were no major upsets, simply many close races that will set the stage for future elections to promote early/absentee voting. 

The Wisconsin state Senate Republicans increased their majority by winning seats in the Northwestern part of the state (Rob Stafsholt) and in Brown County (Eric Wimberger) and held on to a key seat in the Milwaukee area held by Sen. Alberta Darling.  

Republicans in the Assembly maintained a commanding majority of 61 seats (before recounts and the final canvas), but Assembly Democrats look to pick up two seats in suburban Milwaukee. As of this morning, Democrat challenger Sara Rodriguez was at 51 percent and sitting Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, was at 49 percent. While Democrat Candidate Deb Andraca was leading Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) 2 percent.  

In what looked to be a potential recount, Rep. Nick Milroy (D-South Range) was leading challenger Republican Keith Kern, by only 139 votes.  

The WBA Advocacy Team is preparing a video and preliminary analysis about how the elections are likely to impact the banking industry on local, state, and federal levels. It will be sent around once it’s available.

By, Alex Paniagua

The Joint Committee on Finance continues to make its way through the budget process. This week, JFC is meeting twice to approve various sections of the 2019-2021 State Budget.

On Tuesday, the big discussion was over the Department of Health Services – specifically Medicaid funding. Republicans on the committee approved a plan to spend an additional $588.2 million in general purpose revenue into the Medicaid program, pushing up reimbursement rates for hospitals, nursing homes, and personal care workers.

The investment of state tax dollars would mean an additional $858.4 million in federal funds that would help cover costs of the joint state-federal Medicaid program.

But Dems slammed the GOP proposal as inadequate because it didn't embrace Governor Tony Ever's call to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. They pointed out that approach would have saved the state $324 million in GPR while resulting in an additional $1.6 billion investment in health programs.

On Thursday, the committee will consider transportation funding. A group of Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced plans to increase local road funding by more than $130 million. The 10 Senate Republicans at the news conference included all six caucus members on the Joint Finance Committee. The plan includes giving each county $1 million and providing towns with $1,000 per mile of road in their jurisdictions.

The package would also be one-time money, taking advantage of new revenue projections the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released last month. The agency now projects an additional $753 million in revenue through mid-2021 compared to previous estimates. Still, it noted much of that was one-time money as taxpayers take advantage of the 2017 rewrite of the federal tax code.

In non-budget news, the Wisconsin State Senate was on the floor on Wednesday debating a series of bills, most notably four bills that dealt with abortion. Those included the banning of abortion based on the sex of the baby, requiring doctors to care for children born alive following abortion, and certain certifications of abortion providers. Evers has already announced he will veto all those bills. 

Next week's schedule has not been announced, but we expect the Joint Finance Committee to meet both Tuesday and Thursday again.

By, Jon Turke