Dear Clients & Friends- 

We are pleased to share the February 25th edition of Capitol Insights by Michael Best Strategies, where we go over all things government and politics in Wisconsin. 

In this update:
• End of Session Updates
• Election 2022
• Announcements

End of Session Updates

GOP-backed election bills pass Senate and Assembly

The Republican-controlled State Senate and State Assembly took action on several election reform bills this past week. This includes a constitutional amendment that would bar donations from non-government groups to help run elections, which is not subject to a veto from Evers.

Other proposals include:

  • Giving the legislature more control over guidance delivered to local election clerks by the WEC;
  • Giving the legislature the final say over how the WEC spends any federal funding that is allocated to it;
  • Prohibiting anyone other than the voter, their immediate family member, or a legal guardian from returning an absentee ballot;
  • Prohibiting election clerks from filling in any missing information on a voter’s absentee ballot envelope; and
  • Altering absentee ballot access by restricting who can claim to be indefinitely confined due to age, illness, or disability.

Gov. Tony Evers signaled on Monday that he will almost certainly veto the bills. In an interview with WISN’s “UpFront,” Evers called the bills “a fundamental democratic issue,” saying “… it’s our democracy on the line. And if we make it harder for eligible people to vote, then that’s going to be a problem for me.”

Senate passes constitutional amendment on bail reform

The Wisconsin Senate approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that would make it more difficult for certain criminal defendants to post bail.

Assembly Joint Resolution 107 was approved on a 23-10 vote, with Senators Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) and Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) joining all 21 Republicans in favor. The bill was approved by the Assembly last week.

The amendment provides that the accused is eligible for release before conviction under reasonable conditions designed to protect members of the community from serious harm, not just serious bodily harm under current law. The constitutional amendment also authorizes the imposition of bail as a condition of release for persons accused of violent crimes only upon a finding that there is a reasonable basis to believe that it is necessary based on the totality of the circumstances.

For the constitutional amendment to become law, it will need to be approved by both chambers again in the next legislative session. Should that happen, voters will need to approve the amendment in a statewide referendum.

Assembly passes K-12 education reform package


Mark Born

The Wisconsin Assembly passed several bills this week that would overhaul K-12 education throughout the state.

Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, released the following statement following passage of the package of bills;

 “Parents – not government bureaucrats and educational institutions – should be empowered to make decisions for their children’s education. Legislation that we passed today reinforces these fundamental parental rights, while giving parents more alternatives to pick the best setting for kids’ schooling.” 

On Tuesday, the Assembly approved Assembly Bill 966, which would dissolve the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) in July 2024 and create between four and eight Milwaukee public school districts. Last week, it was approved by a 7-6 vote by the Assembly Committee on Education, with Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) joining the five Democrats on the committee in voting against the bill’s advancement.

The Assembly also passed Assembly Bill 970, which would eliminate income limits in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP), Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, and the Racine Parental Choice Program. It would also eliminate pupil participation limits in the WPCP, increase the family income threshold amount that determines whether additional tuition can be charged under a parental choice program, and create a temporary education expense reimbursement for public school pupils. Kitchens again joined Democrats in voting against the bill, which passed on a 59-34 vote.

Assembly Bill 963 was approved on a party-line vote. The bill grants fourteen total rights to the parent or guardian of a child that are protected from state interference, including the right to determine the child’s name and pronouns that are used while at school and the right to opt of a class or instructional materials based on religion and/or personal conviction.

Assembly Bill 969 requires each public school and charter school to report any incident that occurs in a school building or on school grounds to local law enforcement. If at least 100 incidents occur during a school semester and at least 25 of those incidents result in an arrest, the school would be required to employ a law enforcement officer as an armed school resource officer (SRO). Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) joined 60 Republican legislators in the Assembly to pass the bill.

LeMahieu announces nearly $22 billion in state tax reductions since 2011

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) released a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) on Wednesday which found that tax law changes since January 2011 have reduced state tax liabilities by about $21,927,000,000.

LeMahieu championed the decrease in a press release, claiming that Wisconsin had the fifth highest tax burden in the nation in 2010, coupled with a $3.6 billion structural deficit and a lack of a “Rainy Day Fund.” He attributed the news to Republican-led efforts since then.

“In 2011, Republicans were elected to turn our state around. We promised to dig out of debt, save for the future, fix problems, and cut taxes to keep more money in family budgets. Now, after twelve years of consistent tax cuts, fundamental reforms of government, and responsible budgeting, we’ve reduced the tax burden on Wisconsinites by $22 billion. As a result, our economy is more competitive and our state is attracting more people.”

LeMahieu pledged to continue to reduce the state’s tax burden and government regulations “…so the people of Wisconsin can keep moving our state forward.”

Election 2022

Control of the Legislature

Retiring State Senators and Representatives

As the end of the 2021-2022 Legislative Session approaches, the number of lawmakers who have announced they will not be seeking re-election to the legislature or their current seat has increased. There will be at least 11 new members of the State Assembly next session and 4 new members of the State Senate. That number is still likely to further increase before the March 10th end-of-session date.

Here are some key dates for lawmakers to make their re-election decisions:

  • April 15th is when candidates can begin to circulate nomination papers to be on the ballot. Those nomination papers due June 1st.
  • For incumbent members of the State Assembly and the State Senate in odd-numbered seats, they have until 5:00 PM on May 20th, 2022, to file their declaration of non-candidacy if they are choosing to not seek re-election.
  • Non-incumbent candidates for state elected offices have until 5:00 PM on Wedneday June 1st, 2022 to submit their nomination signatures to be a candidate for the November 2022 elections.

State Senators

  • Roger Roth (R-Appleton), 9th SD; Senator Roth is running for Lt. Governor and not seeking re-election to the State Senate.
  • Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), 23rd SD; Senator Bernier is retiring and not seeking another elected office.
  • Janet Bewley (D-Mason), 25th SD; Senate Minority Leader Bewley is retiring and not seeking re-election.
  • Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point), 27th SD, is retiring and not seeking re-election

State Representatives

  • David Bowen (D-Milwaukee), 10th AD; running for Lt. Governor
  • Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), 79th AD; running for 27th SD
  • Jesse James (R-Altoona), 68th AD; running for 23rd SD
  • Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), 84th AD; retiring
  • Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), 31st AD; running for Secretary of State
  • Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield), 74th AD; retiring
  • Tim Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), 59th AD; running for Governor
  • Sara Rodriguez (D-Brookfield), 13th AD; running for Lt. Governor
  • Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), 5th AD; retiring
  • Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel), 6th AD; retiring
  • Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), 52nd AD; retiring

Have to give up seats if successful in other campaigns
Three incumbent lawmakers would have to give up their current legislative seats only if successful in their campaigns for other office.

  • Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem), 61st AD; running for Kenosha County Executive. Election is April 5th, 2022.
  • Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska), 32nd SD; running in Democratic Primary for 3rd Congressional District.
  • Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), 10th SD; running in Republican Primary for Lieutenant Governor.

Race for Governor

Walker endorses Kleefisch for Governor

Former Governor Scott Walker (R) endorsed his former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R) for Governor at a campaign rally last Thursday.

In a video message to supporters (below), he praised his work with Kleefisch “…as we took on the big government special interests and pushed forward the most conservative agenda in the entire nation.”

“Now, Rebecca is ready to move forward and take back Wisconsin. in particular, she’s ready to take back our schools, clean up our streets, and get Wisconsin working again,” he said.

New Campaign Ads Released

New ads were released this week in support and opposition to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ re-election campaign.

The Wisconsin Initiative released an ad thanking Governor Evers for bringing Republicans and Democrats together to support tax reform. According to media reports it is a six-figure ad buy in the Milwaukee media market.

​The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Issues Mobilization Council has released a response ad criticizing the Governor’s record on taxes.

Race for US Senate

Ron Johnson roles out re-election campaign team

Ron Johnson

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has begun to publicly announce his campaign team for his re-election bid in November. These include:

  • Campaign Manager: Dylan Lefler, the former Convention Director for Glenn Youngkin’s (R) Governor of Virginia campaign in 2021 and former Campaign Manager for U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) in 2019-20.
  • Communications Director: Jake Wilkins, who worked in a similar role for U.S. Senator Kevin Kramer (R-ND) in his Washington, D.C. office.
  • Political Director: Nathan Trueblood, the former Campaign Manager for Ryan Owen’s (R) campaign for Wisconsin Attorney General and former Deputy State Director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW).

Cavalier Johnson endorsed by Democratic Party of Wisconsin

Cavalier Johnson

Acting Mayor of Milwaukee Cavalier Johnson has been endorsed by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) in his mayoral campaign.

Ben Wikler, the DPW Chair, announced the endorsement, saying that Johnson “represents a new generation of leadership, and brings the vision and solutions necessary to build a more prosperous, more just Milwaukee.” He complimented Johnson’s focus on “priorities that matter to Milwaukeeans: safe streets, good jobs, and a strong middle class.”

According to his campaign website, Johnson has also been endorsed by Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, State Senator LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee), State Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), and former Governor Marty Schreiber, among others.

The general election for mayor will be held on April 5th, where Johnson will face former Milwaukee alderman Bob Donovan.

Fundraisers and Events

Marquette Law Poll to be released next week

Be on the lookout next week for a MBS news alert concerning the release of the Marquette Law Poll, a survey of the political attitudes of Wisconsinites.

Upcoming Fundraisers

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee (RACC) Wine & Cheese Tasting

  • When: Tuesday, March 1st, 2022
  • Where: Edgewater Hotel, 1001 Wisconsin Place, Madison, WI 53703
  • Itinerary: Tasting from 4:30-6:30 in the Grand Ballroom
  • Sponsorship Levels:
    • Gold – $12,000
    • Silver – $6,000
    • Bronze – $3,000

Fundraiser for Rep. Ton Ohnstad (D-Kenosha)

  • When: Thursday, March 3rd, 2022
  • Where: Essen Haus, 514 E. Wilson Street, Madison, WI 53703
  • Itinerary: Food and drinks from 5:00-7:00 PM
  • With Special Guests: Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) and former Democratic Leader Peter Barca

Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee (ADCC) Meet and Greet

  • When: Tuesday, March 15th, 2022
  • Where: The Coopers Tavern, 20 W. Mifflin Street, Madison, WI 53703
  • Itinerary: General meet and greet from 5:30-7:00 PM
  • Contribution Levels
    • Champion – $5,000
    • Partner – $2,500
    • Sponsor – $1,000
    • Supporter – $500

Upcoming Events

Wisconsin Senate Forum, presented by Our Wisconsin Revolution

  • When: Friday, February 25th, 2022 @ 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Online, register here
    • Itinerary: Forum of Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, including:
    • Governor Mandela Barnes
    • State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski
    • Tom Nelson, Outagamie County Executive
    • Steven Olikara, CEO of the Millennial Action Project
    • Peter Peckarsky, Attorney


If you would like any additional information about the above topic, or if you would like to find time to discuss the above matter in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact your Michael Best Strategies contact.

Have a great day,
Wisconsin GR Team

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