In this update:

  • Democratic Caucus Elects Leadership
  • Evers Administration Updates
  • Pre-Session Updates
  • Post-Election Updates
  • Fundraising Opportunities

Assembly & Senate Dem Caucuses Elect Leadership

Senate and Assembly Democrats caucused this week to vote on leadership as they head into the new legislative session. Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) was elected Senate Minority Leader while Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) was elected Assembly Minority Leader. According to WisPolitics.com, Agard told her caucus that although Democrats may be in the minority, their policies are favored among a majority of Wisconsin residents. Agard also said it was time for the Senate to get back to work by confirming dozens of Gov. Tony Evers’ nominees to various posts. “Let’s work together and let’s make this a priority and get this done,” Agard said. “It’s imperative that we in this room are unapologetic about what it is that we value and work for as progressives in Wisconsin, and we are going to hold those values and morals close to our hearts in the work that we are doing, not only in our districts but all across the state of Wisconsin and in this building.”

2022-2023 Senate Democratic Leadership

At their caucus today, Democrats elected the following to Senate Leadership for the 2023-2024 session:

Senate Minority Leader – Melissa Agard (D-Madison / 16th SD)

Melissa Agard (D-Madison) was first elected to represent the 48th Assembly District in 2012 and went on to serve four terms in that chamber. In 2020, Agard was elected to the State Senate. Before joining the Legislature, Sen. Agard served two terms on the Dane County Board of Supervisors in 2010 and 2012. In addition to public service, Sen. Agard is a small business owner. Her legislator page can be viewed here.

Assistant Minority Leader – Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick / 31st SD) 

Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) was first elected to the State Senate in 2018 and was re-elected in 2022. Prior to that, he served two terms in the the Assembly representing the 93rd AD from 2007-2011. Sen. Smith also served for 6 years on the Brunswick Town Board as Chair. Before joining the Legislature, Sen. Smith was the owner/operator of a window cleaning business for 30 years. His legislator page can be viewed here.

Caucus Chair – Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee / 7th SD)

Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2010. He served as Senate Democratic Leader during the 2013-2014 Legislative Session. In 2014, he was re-elected to the Senate for a second term, and again in 2018 for a third term. Prior to joining to joining the Legislature, Sen. Larson successfully ran for Milwaukee County Supervisor in 2008. Aside from serving as an elected official, Sen. Larson managed a sporting goods chain specializing in running. His legislator page can be viewed here.

Vice Chair – Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton / 27th SD)

Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2022. Prior to that, she served 6 terms in the State Assembly representing the 79th AD. She began her public service in 2005 when she was elected to the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District Board of Education. In 2008 she was elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors and served 3 terms. Sen.-elect Hesselbein was chosen to be the Assistant Minority Leader in the Assembly in 2017, 2019, and 2021 Her legislator page can be viewed here.

2022-2023 Assembly Democratic Leadership

At their caucus today, Democrats elected the following to Assembly Leadership for the 2023-2024 session:

Assembly Minority Leader – Greta Neubauer (D-Racine / 66th AD)

Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) was first elected to the Assembly in 2018 and was recently re-elected to a fourth term. She has served as Minority Leader in the Assembly since 2022. Before joining the Legislature, Rep. Neubauer served as former State Rep. Cory Mason’s Legislative Aide. Her legislator page can be viewed here.

Assistant Minority Leader – Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee / 16th AD)

Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee) was first elected to the Assembly in 2018 and was recently re-elected to a fourth term. He is the youngest African American to ever be elected to state office in Wisconsin history. He also currently serves as the youngest legislator in Wisconsin. Prior to being elected to office, Haywood served as President of the City of Milwaukee Youth Council where he represented the 6th aldermanic district. His legislator page can be viewed here.

Caucus Chair – Lisa Subeck (D-Madison / 78th AD)

Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) was first elected to the Assembly in 2014 and was recently re-elected to a fifth term. During the 2021-2022 Session, she served as the Democratic Ranking Member of the Committee on Local Government and of the Committee on Public Benefit Reform. Prior to her election to the State Assembly, Rep. Subeck served two terms on the City of Madison Common Council. Rep. Subeck began her career in early childhood education, working for several years with the Head Start and Early Head Start programs and also teaching technical college courses in early childhood education at Madison Area Technical College. Her legislator page can be viewed here.

Caucus Vice Chair – Jill Billings (D-La Crosse / 95th AD)

Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) was first elected to the Assembly in a 2011 special election and has been re-elected since. Before being elected to the State Assembly, Rep. Billings served on the La Crosse County Board for eight years. Aside from elected office, Rep. Billings worked at the Friendship Program for ten years teaching English as a Second Language and citizenship courses to Hmong adults. During the 2021-2022 Session, she served as ranking Democratic member on the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention and the Assembly Committee on Children and Families. Her legislator page can be viewed here.

Caucus Secretary – Kristina Shelton (D-Green Bay / 90th AD)

Kristina Shelton (D-Green Bay) was first elected to the Assembly in 2020 and was recently re-elected to a second term. Prior to her time in the Assembly, Rep. Shelton served on the Green Bay Area Public School Board. Aside from serving as an elected official, Rep. Shelton taught health and physical education from kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as working in the non-profit space. Her legislator page can be viewed here.

Sergeant at Arms – Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton / 57th AD)

Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton) was first elected to the Assembly in 2020 and was recently re-elected to a second term. Aside from serving as an elected official, Rep. Snodgrass’ career spanned a variety of work including communications, marketing and public relations in the private sector, public sector, and non-profit sector. Most recently she was employed as the Director of Communications for the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes. Her legislator page can be viewed here.

Evers Administration Updates

Evers weighs in on income tax rates, K-12 funding

While touring Plumbers Union Local 75 Training Center in Madison, Governor Tony Evers (D-Plymouth) said he couldn’t envision signing a budget lowering the state’s top income tax rates as proposed by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg). He was also skeptical of a proposal from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) to boost K-12 funding in exchange for universal school choice. “I want to see the numbers. But I don’t know how you can expand choice and fully fund schools,” Evers said. Evers promised his upcoming budget will “be looking at the middle class.”

In addition to education, Evers indicated his budget would work to address failing infrastructure. “We can’t just say, well, the Biden money is going to come in and take care of that because that’s not the case,” Evers said. “We need to make sure our infrastructure is strong, fix our roads, all the things we did last time.”

Kaul announces settlement with Google

Attorney General Josh Kaul announced via press release that Wisconsin, along with 39 other states, has reached a $391.5 million settlement with Google over its location tracking practices relating to Google Account settings. According to the press release, it’s the largest multistate Attorney General privacy settlement in the history of the United States. Wisconsin will receive over $8.4 million from the settlement. “Big tech companies must respect people’s privacy and be transparent about their practices,” said Attorney General Kaul. “I’m proud to be part of this bipartisan group of AGs that’s standing up for consumer privacy.”

DPI report cards give schools lower marks

According to the public school report cards issued by the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI), about 84% of Wisconsin public schools met, exceeded or significantly exceeded expectations in the 2021-22 school year. That’s a drop from 87% the year prior. Milwaukee Public Schools was one of 84 school districts that received a lower rating than last year. The reports evaluate achievement, growth, target group outcomes, and factors that indicate if students are on track to graduated.

Compared to the 2020-21 report cards, of the 377 public school districts:

  • 269 districts saw no change in rating category
  • 24 districts improved by at least one category
  • 84 districts moved down at least one category

DPI also published report cards for private schools that receive state funding through private school choice programs. According to that report, 87% of private schools met, exceeded, or significantly exceeded expectations in the 2021-22 school year.

Of the 132 private schools that also received report cards for the 2020-21 school year:

  • 72 saw no change in rating category
  • 17 moved up at least one category
  • 43 moved down at least one category

See report card data

Pre-Session Updates

LeMahieu weighs in on upcoming legislative issues

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) sat down this week for an interview to discuss the results of the election, as well as the upcoming legislative session. On the issue of communication between Senate Republicans and the Evers’ administration, LeMahieu said there is nowhere to go, but up. “When people say, ‘Are you gonna work with the governor, are you gonna try to find compromise,’ how can you begin that process if you’re not sitting down with him, having weekly or monthly meetings trying to discuss the differences in our positions and our priorities,” LeMahieu said. The majority leader also indicated he would be willing to take the first step to initiate an in-person meeting with the governor.

Regarding the state’s projected $5 billion surplus, LeMahieu said he would be open to more K-12 funding in exchange for expanded school choice vouchers. On Evers’ proposed 10% tax cut for single filers making less than $100,000 per year and joint filers making less than $150,000, LeMahieu said the cuts “[need] to be across the board…It can’t just be the lower brackets. It needs to be moving toward a flat tax.”

On other topics such as abortion, election security, and legalized marijuana, LeMahieu indicated he was unsure of where his caucus stood on those issues. With five new members out of a 22-member caucus, the majority leader said he needed more time with his members to gauge their views.

Neubauer unsure if Caucus would work with GOP on issues

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) earlier this week signaled it was a possibility his caucus would bring forward legislation that would allow exceptions for rape and incest to be added to Wisconsin’s 1849 Abortion Law. However, Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) told UpFront, “It’s hard to say right now. We have not discussed this as a caucus, and we, of course, need to look at the landscape and see what is possible in Wisconsin, consider our options if that bill were to come forward.” Democrats are instead continuing to push to repeal the 1849 law and restore access to abortion in Wisconsin.

Neubauer also stated that it was unlikely Democrats would back Vos’s proposal to boost public school funding in exchange for universal school choice. Neubauer said, “We have serious concerns about more taxpayer money going to unaccountable private schools. Again, we are always open with talking with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle about potential solutions that benefit Wisconsinites, but what we believe is that the people of Wisconsin have made very clear that they want more funding for their local schools.”

JFC approves settlements with five companies

On Wednesday, the Joint Finance Committee unanimously approved $2.1 million in settlements with five companies for violations of environmental and consumer laws. The co-chairs also added a provision which would require Attorney General Josh Kaul to deposit attorney’s fees from the settlements into the general fund if Republicans are successful in a lawsuit seeking to compel the AG to do so.

The settlements include:

  • $1.65 million as a part of a pre-suit settlement for violations of clean air and hazardous materials laws for Container Life Cycle Management LLC’s three Milwaukee area facilities;
  • $328,950 in penalties as a part of a pre-suit settlement for illegal mailers to consumers sent by American Tax Solutions.;
  • $200,000 in penalties for violations of telemarketing laws, including making calls to residents without being registered as a solicitor and calling numbers that are on the state’s do not call list by N.C.W.C.;
  • $75,000 as part of a pre-suit settlement for violations of state laws on direct mail marketing extended auto warranties by U.S. Auto Protection Services LLC.
  • And $25,000 in penalties as a part of a pre-suit settlement for violation of an air pollution control permit after Ahlstrom-Munksjo NA Specialty Solutions LLC exceeded particulate matter emissions limits.

Wednesday’s meeting is expected to be the last meeting of the Joint Finance Committee before the session ends.

Post-Election Updates

Walker and Ryan talk Trump

Former GOP Governor Scott Walker and former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan appeared separately on WISN’s “UpFront“ to discuss the 2022 midterm election and the impact former President Donald Trump had on the outcome.

Walker questioned Trump’s decision to provide minimal resources to help get GOP gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels elected after Trump endorsed Michels during the GOP primary. “I would have liked to have seen in Wisconsin and elsewhere across the country candidates he endorsed, it would have been great if the former president’s campaign team had actually invested,” Walker said. “It would have been great for all the money he’s raising if he spent some of it on Michels and some of the key races across the country. That didn’t happen, or largely didn’t happen, and I think that was a factor.”

Former-Speaker Paul Ryan was direct when asked why a “red wave” didn’t materialize during the 2022 midterm elections, saying he thought “Trump was kind of a drag on our ticket.” “I think Donald Trump gives us problems politically,” Ryan explained. “We lost the House, the Senate, and the White House in two years when Trump was on the ballot, or in office.” Ryan also said he was skeptical Trump would clinch the 2024 GOP nomination for president. “I honestly don’t think he’ll get the nomination at the end of the day,” the former Speaker said. ”The reason I think that is because we want to win. We want to win the White House and we know with Trump we’re so much more likely to lose.“

On Tuesday, November 15, Trump announced he would be running again for the presidency in 2024.

La Follette declares victory

Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette declared victory yesterday over his opponent state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), but the race still remains too close to call according to news outlets. Official canvasses from Milwaukee and Washington counties have not yet been turned in to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) as of Friday morning. Unofficial results currently show La Follette leading by 7,660 votes out of more than 2.5 million votes cast. “This is a victory for the people of Wisconsin, who chose to keep the supervision of elections out of the hands of corrupting partisan influences,” La Follette said. Loudenbeck issued a statement that read in part “It’s just another attempt by him to mischaracterize this race by framing my platform as his own while making a veiled and completely inappropriate accusation of corrupt influences. My team and I will continue to await the final results of the canvass.”

The deadline for the chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission to certify results is Dec. 1.

RPW Chair Paul Farrow to not seek full term

Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Paul Farrow told Wispolitics.com this week that he will not seek a full two-year term at the party’s Executive Committee meeting next month, and instead saying that he is focusing on his re-election bid as Waukesha County Executive. Farrow told the Executive Committee in August that he did not plan to seek a two-year term, and even after reconsidering said that he could not commit the time necessary for the role while running for re-election. “A lot of my energy and focus the next four months will focus on that, and it will hinder our preparation for the spring election cycle,” Farrow said.

Wirch plans to seek re-election in 2024

Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) who is the longest tenured member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, told WisPolitics.com this week that he plans to seek re-election in 2024. Sen. Wirch turns 79 this week and was elected to his Senate seat in 1996 after serving two terms in the state Assembly. Senator Wirch said “I have no plans to retire. I still love every day of being a public servant and being in this beautiful building.” Behind Wirch in longest tenure in the Democratic caucus is Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), who was elected to the Senate in 2002, but served in the Assembly previously since 1984.

Fair Courts America throws support behind Kelly

Fair Courts America, a PAC connected to Illinois billionaires Dick and Liz Uihlein, announced this week it is “committed to spending millions of dollars to help educate voters in support of Justice Dan Kelly.” Kelly is the only conservative to have entered the race for state Supreme Court so far. Recent reports have indicated conservative Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow may also be weighing a run for the state’s highest court. Aside from Kelly, liberal candidates Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz have also formally announced their candidacy for the court.

Fundraising Opportunities

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Wisconsin Campaign Fundraisers 

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