Newsmakers: Mr. Pocan Goes to Washington

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I know; it’s hard to believe. Mark Pocan wearing a tie! But the new 2nd District Congressman talked about his new wardrobe, the frustrations and failures of Congress, why he joined a new informal social group made up of both Republican and Democratic House members, and how he misses running the printing shop he began 25 years ago. Catch this candid Newsmakers interview with the former Assembly Democratic leader.


Newsmakers: Dept. of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall

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New Corrections Secretary Ed Wall said he emailed agency employees, warning them they could lose their jobs if they spread false rumors, because some were anonymously saying that Gov. Walker’s state budget would recommend privatizing the agency. State law says DOC must run prisons, Wall said in a Newsmakers interview. Walker will also not recommend building any new prisons, Wall added. Wall also said he won’t get involved in the fight between two unions to represent almost 6,000 prison guards — guards who are no longer union members.

Newsmakers: Sen. Jon Erpenbach and Rep. Jon Richards on Medicaid

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Two Democratic legislators, Sen. Jon Erpenbach and Rep. Jon Richards, said state government has a moral and financial obligation to expand Medicaid health-care coverage to up to 175,000 low-income residents, especially since the federal government is scheduled to pay 100% of expansion costs through 2016. Erpenbach and Richards discussed a new Fiscal Bureau memo that estimated, if 175,000 more residents enrolled in Medicare at federal expense, it would bring in $4.3 billion more in federal aid between 2014 and 2020 and only cost state government $66.7 million. Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have questioned whether Wisconsin should expand Medicaid, saying the federal government may not live up to its funding promises. About 1.1 million — or 1 out of 5 residents statewide — now rely on Medicaid for health care. Walker will present his 2013-15 budget Feb. 20.

Civil Dialogue with Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca (D)

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In the January edition of Civil Dialogue, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca talked about the mining bill developed by Republicans who control the Legislature and controversies over whether it will lower environmental protections and how soon it could create jobs. They also previewed the 2013-15 budget that Gov. Scott Walker will present on Feb. 20 and the lack of agreement over how to make up what Vos has estimated as a looming 10-year, $4 billion shortfall in paying for transportation programs. Both also said they do not expect any new gun-control bills to debated in the wake of the Dec. 14 killing of 20 children and six school professionals at Sandy Hook Elementary.

AFSCME’s Marty Beil Speaks on Behalf of Prison Guards at Assembly Committee on Corrections

Marty Beil, executive director of the AFSCME Council 24 union that represents about 2,000 prison and probation workers, told legislators that many guards are so overworked they ‘spend more time with inmates than with their families.’ That’s not a ‘healthy situation,’ Beil told an Assembly committee. The union leader said seniority no longer determines overtime, specific jobs and work schedules. Many prison guards now have ‘less due process than many of the inmates they supervise,’ Beil said. ‘In general, corrections workers feel devalued and at-risk.’ Beil is scheduled to be one of three leaders of public employee unions who are panelists in a Monday WisconsinEye Newsmakers show. And Ed Wall, who state senators unanimously confirmed Tuesday as secretary of the Department of Corrections, is scheduled to be the subject of another Newsmakers interview on Feb. 18.

Newsmakers: Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm

In a Newsmakers interview, Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm said wiser evaluations of criminal cases and charging decisions sent 3,000 fewer criminals from Milwaukee County to the state prison system in recent years. Since it costs about $32,000 a year to house an adult inmate in a prison, Chisholm estimated that his office has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $96 million. In return, Chisholm said he would like permission to fill 11 open jobs for assistant DAs and the right to pay those assistants more. Chishold said turnover caused by the practice of law firms hiring away assistants who he trained has forced him to hire 75 assistants in the last six years. The Milwaukee DA also estimated that tougher drunk driving laws being pushed by Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Jim Ott would add between 750 and 1,000 cases a year to his office workload.

Newsmakers: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Asked about the 2013-15 state budget that Gov. Scott Walker will submit on Feb. 20, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he has this simple request: “First, do no harm.” In a Newsmakers interview, Barrett said state revenue-sharing and transportation aids are critical to continuing vital services in Wisconsin’s largest city. Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports show that Milwaukee gets $227 million in revenue-sharing, utility and Expenditure Restraint aid and $22.29 million — a 12.4% drop in two years — in transportation aids. Barrett said the Milwaukee Police Department alone costs more to run than the $227 million in general state aids the city gets. Barrett, who ran against Walker in 2010 and the 2012 recall election, also said he is very confident his Democratic Party will field a strong candidate against the Republican governor in 2014. At the end of the interview, Barrett predicted that the Brewers will win 85 games this season – 2 more than last year.