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Category: State news

Opinion: UW-Madison chancellor and state legislators use digital dodges to hide records from the public

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In March, The Washington Post reported that University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank sought to move a conversation around the COVID-19 pandemic and students returning to campus in the fall to a private portal used by presidents and chancellors of the 14 Big Ten universities.

The census is months behind schedule. What that means for the fight over Wisconsin’s election maps

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: The new maps are supposed to be in place for the 2022 elections. But the delays could be so severe that Wisconsin’s existing, Republican-friendly maps will have to be used for those elections, said Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It seems unlikely I think that the litigation would be resolved in time for elections to happen in new districts in 2022,” he said.

Keeping the old maps for another cycle “doesn’t feel right,” he said. “But I think courts often view it as the least bad option, as opposed to forcing candidates to make very quick decisions or changing the dates of primaries or something else.”

Wisconsin budget battle begins: GOP lawmakers plan to remove 280 items from Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: The two-year state budget plan also won’t allow the University of Wisconsin System to borrow for operational expenses, restore collective bargaining for public employees, make Juneteenth a state holiday, create a so-called red flag law for gun owners or adopt maps from the governor’s redistricting commission.

Republicans plan to remove hundreds of items from Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal

Wisconsin State Journal

Republicans are also stripping the budget of proposals to allow the University of Wisconsin System to borrow money for operational expenses. They also stripped a provision that would have expanded a tuition promise program to all of the state’s universities and their branch campuses, building off a UW-Madison tuition promise, which provides free tuition to students from families making up to $60,000.

A minor change could bring the state $1.6 billion in federal dollars. Republican legislators are uninterested.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Republicans in Wisconsin first took their stance when Scott Walker was governor, contending that the federal government eventually could stop paying as much as promised for the expansion.

“There might be a little bit of Scott Walker legacy in all of this,” said Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ron Johnson disputes scientific consensus on the effectiveness of masks in preventing spread of COVID-19

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “People who wear masks in close settings have a lower risk of being infected than people who don’t,” said Patrick Remington, former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program.

There’s a new agreement between Foxconn and Wisconsin. Here are some important unanswered questions.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: Foxconn has worked to try to create goodwill with other parts of the state by signing agreements with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and local governments in Racine, Eau Claire and Green Bay to establish “innovation centers.”

The company has signed a $100 million agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to create Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology within the College of Engineering.

New bill would force UW schools to allow parents to attend commencement ceremonies

NBC-15

UW-Madison Director of News and Media Relations Meredith McGlone told NBC15 the university had weighed a variety of scenarios for students and families to come together for a graduation ceremony but could not do so for safety and logistical reasons, specifically noting the number of people who are still not vaccinated and the presence of highly contagious coronavirus variants.

Gov. Tony Evers authorizes emergency work after concrete slabs fall at UW-Madison. Tommy Thompson says other campuses have similar problems.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Gov. Tony Evers authorized emergency work on the 19-floor Madison building that houses the University of Wisconsin System’s headquarters Thursday after two precast concrete railing slabs fell from the third floor.

The 10-by-6 foot slabs fell from Van Hise Hall on UW-Madison’s campus Sunday, landing directly in front of the building’s entrance. No one was injured.

Absentee voting declines from last year’s sky-high levels as more voters resume the habit of going to the polls.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “I think it’s safe to say Wisconsin elections are now going to be mixed-mode operations for the foreseeable future,” said political scientist Barry Burden of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“A good chunk will vote on election day, as they always have, but there will also be a good chunk voting earlier,” either in person or with a mail ballot, Burden said.

New COVID-19 cases continue to tick in the wrong direction

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: University of Wisconsin students who get their vaccines will be exempt from weekly testing requirements under new system guidance.

UW System interim President Tommy Thompson asked campus chancellors Wednesday to allow students who have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 to be exempt from the weekly COVID-19 testing regimen.

“One of the inducements, encouragements to not to have to go through testing is to get vaccinated,” Thompson said.

Evers directs millions for climate change initiatives in budget, putting focus on green energy in Wisconsin

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted:

Also included in the budget: $100 million in borrowing for clean energy conservation projects at state agencies and the University of Wisconsin System, helping to meet goals of energy reduction and reduced utility costs. The savings on utility prices would be used to pay off the bonds.

Wisconsin Republicans seek to prohibit so-called ‘vaccine passports’

The Capital Times

Specifically, the language would prevent any mandates that individuals seeking state or governmental services, looking to gain access to a building, or aiming to participate in any government function show that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. It appears the language would apply to schools, the University of Wisconsin System and government-run nursing homes, to name a few.

Paul Fanlund: These UW-Madison students solve problems across the state

The Capital Times

An example is a $600,000 item buried in Gov. Tony Evers’ $91-billion proposed two-year state budget. The money would expand a six-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison program designed to tap the expertise and energy of students on the flagship Madison campus to solve problems and improve lives in communities throughout Wisconsin.

Here’s where Wisconsin’s neighboring states are on vaccine eligibility and how they compare to us

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Wisconsin’s slightly later move to Phase 1C doesn’t mean the state’s rollout is sluggish, though. It’s likely an indicator that demand has been high in Wisconsin among currently eligible groups, said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Some of the states have been opening up eligibility criteria earlier because I think in some ways they’ve hit a little bit of a wall,” Sethi said.

Republican lawmakers refuse to approve any building projects in Evers’ $2.4 billion plan

The Capital Times

Evers’ plan is funded by nearly $2 billion in new borrowing and includes $1 billion for the University of Wisconsin System. Among the projects Republicans rejected were a new state office building in Milwaukee, a host of projects at UW-Madison including the removal of two residence halls, an expansion of the Mendota Mental Health Institute’s Juvenile Treatment Center and more.

GOP-led finance committee to hold 3 in-person budget sessions and 1 online offering

Wisconsin State Journal

Public hearings are planned for April 9 at UW-Whitewater, April 21 at Rhinelander’s Hodag Dome and April 22 at UW-Stout in Menomonie. The budget committee also will host an online session on April 28. The in-person public hearings will take place from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. and will provide time for attendees to testify.

As Republicans welcome maskless crowd, Democrats say those following COVID-19 precautions are essentially shut out of government process

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “Indoor settings with prolonged exposure present the greatest risk for transmission, hence why universal masking is particularly important — even if the individuals are immunized,” said Jim Conway, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Global Health Institute.

Wisconsin Sea Grant Releases Biennial Report Addressing Progress On Organization’s 4 Pillars

Wisconsin Public Radio

The Wisconsin Sea Grant recently released it’s biennial report addressing the organization’s progress on its four pillars: healthy coastal ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; resilient communities and economies; and environmental literacy and workforce development.

Part of the national Sea Grant, the Wisconsin Sea Grant has studied the Great Lakes for more than 50 years.

Jim Hurley, director of the Wisconsin Sea Grant, said it makes sense for the Great Lakes to be part of the Sea Grant because many of the issues that occur in the oceans and coasts also occur in the Great Lakes.

“Issues like sea level rise,” he said. “We’ve seen tremendous fluctuations in Great Lakes water levels. Where they may be looking on the ocean coast at small increments of sea level rise, we’ve seen changes in Lake Michigan of 4 feet over the course of maybe five or six years.”

Tension is growing in the Wisconsin State Capitol as some Republican lawmakers refuse to wear face masks

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “Indoor settings with prolonged exposure present the greatest risk for transmission, hence why universal masking is particularly important – even if the individuals are immunized,” said Jim Conway, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Global Health Institute.

Patrick Remington, former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program, said if lawmakers who choose to go maskless are vaccinated against COVID-19, then the risk is lower.

“One obvious question for people not wearing masks is whether they have been vaccinated. If they have, then it seems to be a reasonable thing to do,” Remington said. “That is, the vaccine provides sufficient protection to significantly reduce the risk of becoming sick or getting others sick.”

‘It’s Voter Suppression:’ Lawmaker Floats Overhauls To Wisconsin’s Voting Rules

WORT FM

Quoted: David Canon is a political scientist at UW-Madison, and he echoes many of Gardner’s concerns.

“In my view, it’s clearly voter suppression…Our elections are very secure. The number of cases of voter fraud are so infinitesimally small that it’s just not something that changes the outcome of elections,” Canon says.