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Walker open to limiting replacement's power

MADISON

Gov. Scott Walker promised Thursday he wouldn’t “retreat” after losing re-election and signaled potential support for a variety of Republican-backed efforts to limit the power of his Democratic successor, including moving the date of the 2020 presidential primary.

Walker, in his first comments to reporters since losing to Democrat Tony Evers, said he was open to a number of changes to gubernatorial power being discussed by Republicans who control the Legislature.

“We’re not going to retreat,” Walker told reporters from his Capitol office. “The state of Wisconsin is not going to go backwards.”

Walker, 51, also said he didn’t know what the future holds for him after he leaves public office for the first time since 1993 when he was 25 years old. Walker said he doesn’t “have much of an interest at this point” in going to Washington to serve in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Reflecting on his loss, Walker said that it was perhaps due to accomplishing so much over his eight years as governor. He was most widely known for the Act 10 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, but he also signed into law a long line of conservative priorities that he said voters might have wondered what was left to accomplish.

“I may have reformed myself out of a job,” he said.

But Walker isn’t going to leave quietly.

Republicans are planning to come back in a lame-duck session early next month to consider a variety of bills designed to protect laws enacted by Walker and make changes favoring Republicans before the new governor takes office.

Republicans have not said specifically what those will include, but they’re talking about changing gubernatorial appointees to the state economic development agency and state building commission; moving the 2020 presidential primary from April to March; limiting the governor’s authority over enacting state agency rules; enshrining rules related to the state’s voter photo ID law to make it more difficult to change; and making it more difficult for the governor to block a work requirement for Medicaid recipients.

Similar moves were made in North Carolina two years ago and are also being discussed in Michigan before a Democratic governor takes over there.

Walker downplayed the changes being contemplated in Wisconsin, saying it’s primarily making law “the practice we had in the past.”

“Those things seem pretty reasonable,” he said, without specifying which proposals he was referring to.

Wisconsin’s presidential primary in 2020 is currently on the same date as a spring election where a Walker-appointed Supreme Court justice is up for election. Democratic turnout is expected to be higher than Republican turnout in the presidential primary, so moving that election to March would increase the odds for Justice Dan Kelly to win in April.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told The Associated Press following a meeting earlier Thursday with Walker that he thought he was “generally supportive” of the GOP agenda for the lame-duck session.

Evers has accused Republicans of trying to cling to power, but Wednesday told reporters he didn’t have “a red line or a line in the sand” about what he would oppose. Evers’ spokeswoman Carrie Lynch had no immediate comment in reaction to Walker’s comments.

Walker also called on Republicans and Democrats to “come to their senses” and pass a stalled bill in the Senate extending tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to paper products giant Kimberly-Clark so it will keep open a plant that employs about 390 people.

Walker said if the bill isn’t passed by the end of November, those jobs will be lost.


Florida goes to hand recount in US Senate race

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.

Florida’s acrimonious battle for the U.S. Senate headed Thursday to a legally required hand recount after an initial review by ballot-counting machines showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson separated by less than 13,000 votes.

But the highly watched contest for governor between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum appeared to be over, with a machine recount showing DeSantis with a large enough advantage over Gillum to avoid a hand recount in that race.

Gillum, who conceded the contest on Election Night only to retract his concession later, said in a statement that “it is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”

The recount so far has been fraught with problems. One large Democratic stronghold in South Florida was unable to finish its machine recount by the Thursday deadline due to machines breaking down. A federal judge rejected a request to extend the recount deadline.

“We gave a heroic effort,” said Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. If the county had three or four more hours, it would have made the deadline to recount ballots in the Senate race, she said.

Meanwhile, election officials in another urban county in the Tampa Bay area decided against turning in the results of their machine recount, which came up with 846 fewer votes than originally counted. Media in South Florida reported that Broward County finished its machine recount but missed the deadline by a few minutes.

Counties were ordered this past weekend to do a machine recount of three statewide races because the margins were so tight. The next stage is a manual review of ballots that were not counted by machines to see if there is a way to figure out voter intent. Scott called on Nelson to end the recount battle.

It’s time for Nelson “to respect the will of the voters and graciously bring this process to an end rather than proceed with yet another count of the votes—which will yield the same result and bring more embarrassment to the state that we both love and have served,” the governor said in a statement.

The recount has triggered multiple lawsuits, many of them filed by Nelson and Democrats. The legal battles drew the ire of U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who slammed the state for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems. He also said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000.

“We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this,” Walker said.

Walker vented his anger at state lawmakers and Palm Beach County officials, saying they should have made sure they had enough equipment in place to handle this kind of a recount. But he said he could not extend the recount deadline because he did not know when Palm Beach County would finish its work.

“This court must be able to craft a remedy with knowledge that it will not prove futile,” Walker wrote in his ruling turning down the request from Democrats. “It cannot do so on this record. This court does not and will not fashion a remedy in the dark.”

The overarching problem was created by the Florida Legislature, which Walker said passed a recount law that appears to run afoul of the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, by locking in procedures that do not allow for potential problems.

A total of six election-related lawsuits are pending in federal court in Tallahassee as well at least one lawsuit filed in state court.

Walker also ordered that voters be given until 5 p.m. Saturday to show a valid identification and fix their ballots if they have not been counted due to mismatched signatures. Republicans appealed the ruling, but an appeals court turned down the request.

State officials testified that nearly 4,000 mailed-in ballots were set aside because local officials decided the signatures on the envelopes did not match the signatures on file. If those voters can prove their identity, their votes will now be counted and included in final official returns due from each county by noon Sunday.

Walker was asked by Democrats to require local officials to provide a list of people whose ballots were rejected. But the judge appointed by President Barack Obama refused the request, calling it “inappropriate.”

Under state law, a hand review is required with races that have a margin of 0.25 percentage points or less. A state website put the unofficial results showing Scott ahead of Nelson by 0.15 percentage points. The margin between DeSantis and Gillum was 0.41 percent.

The margin between Scott and Nelson had not changed much in the last few days, conceded Marc Elias, an attorney working for Nelson’s campaign. But he said that he expected the vote tally to shrink due to the hand recount and the ruling on signatures.

The developments fueled frustrations among Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats want state officials to do whatever it takes to make sure every eligible vote is counted. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have argued without evidence that voter fraud threatens to steal races from the GOP.


Government
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City stays dedicated to bike friendliness with new wayfinding project

JANESVILLE

Last spring, Janesville earned an honorable mention from the League of American Bicyclists as a bicycle-friendly community.

In June, the city hosted a leg of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, an 11-day southeastern Wisconsin bike-racing series that drew international competitors.

Now, Janesville is continuing its commitment to biking with a new wayfinding plan that will cover a swath of the city’s bike trails.

The city will install wayfinding signs along a roughly 12-mile stretch of the Peace Trail and Ice Age Trail. The segments getting signs include most parts of the city from the Tripp Road trailhead on the far southwest side to East Rotamer Road, but the portion of the Ice Age Trail that cuts through downtown and Riverside Park will not be marked.

Janesville held a public forum last week to gather more input on what destinations the signs should identify. They’ll point out places such as Rotary Gardens and Pine Tree Plaza, according to a map provided by the city.

For now, the city plans to highlight popular sites along the trails rather than other nearby places, such as the ARISE Town Square, senior engineer Ahna Bizjak said.

That’s because the wayfinding plan does not currently have the funding to expand beyond the trails. Directing someone downtown might have confused bikers if there were no additional signs beyond the path, she said.

The project is a joint collaboration between the city and the Janesville Velo Club. The club approached the city and will foot the undetermined bill for the signs.

The Janesville Metropolitan Planning Organization—a regional offshoot of the state Department of Transportation—hired a consultant for roughly $10,000 to develop a wayfinding plan.

No city funds are being used. The plan will be completed by the end of the year, and signs should be installed in spring, Bizjak said.

Janesville Velo Club President Paul Murphy said the city has done a good job in recent years of improving its biking infrastructure, including dedicated bike lanes and shared lanes for drivers and cyclists.

He credited the city with trying to add as many bike lanes as possible when streets get resurfaced.

“Roads are made for motorized vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians,” Murphy said. “You always got to keep that in mind when you’re designing or engineering streets. Janesville is looking at that and taking it into consideration.”

Murphy doesn’t have an elaborate vision for how the city should handle biking in the future. Improvements will happen when money is available, either through fundraising, grants or other means, he said.

It takes time to extend the bike path network. Economic development can lead to new offshoots or trail spurs, such as the loop that now encircles the youth sports complex, Murphy said.

This signage project, the honorable mention bike-friendly label and the Town Square Gran Prix all are signs Janesville is ready to further embrace its two-wheeled identity, he said.

That could have an effect far beyond the city’s existing trail infrastructure.

“As the downtown develops, businesses downtown will start to encourage bicycling as a means of transportation,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of good programs … where businesses get involved and give a little incentive (to cyclists). Maybe it’s 5 percent off their meal ticket or cup of coffee.”


Ahna Bizjak


Obituaries and death notices for Nov. 16, 2018

Bonnie J. Brown

Nancy K. Dammen

Christopher Dean Gullickson

Amber M. Klein

James F. Lundgren

Betty J. Saunders

David J. Thiele


Government
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Rock County establishes new committee for Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport

JANESVILLE

A newly formed Rock County committee will give a group of community members some influence over policy at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport as the county board tries to spur airport development.

The standalone committee will be comprised of six residents who could have “aviation-related” and/or economic development experience and three Rock County Board members. The board voted 21-3 to establish the committee Thursday night.

Wes Davis, Phil Owens and Kathy Schulz voted in opposition.

Called the Airport Board, the committee’s makeup is a major shift for the county, which has typically required a majority of a committee’s members be on the county board. Thursday’s resolution amends those rules and exempts the new committee from the ordinance.

An ad hoc committee studying the county-owned airport’s long-term viability recommended forming the committee in August. Brent Fox, who chaired that committee, said Thursday the new panel could serve as a springboard for future activity and growth because a majority of its members will have “more expertise” than county board members.

“There’s a lot of private activity taking place on a lot of the surrounding airports,” Fox said. “We’re just sitting here kind of stuck in quicksand. Why? Why can’t we be moving forward? You look over at East Troy—lots of new hangars being built. … There’s a hangar shortage in Madison. And we’ve got empty hangars.”

A joint parks and airport subcommittee currently exists under the county board’s Public Works Committee. The Airport Board will dissolve that committee and stand alone as the airport’s governing body. The resolution also establishes the airport as its own department.

An airport director, currently titled the airport manager, will be responsible for providing departmental leadership functions and report directly to the county administrator. While the county board has final say, the new committee may spend up to $25,000 without the full board’s approval.

Questions on the new board’s structure were raised during Thursday’s county board meeting. Owens said he had difficulty understanding why the committee will be comprised mostly of people not on the county board. He proposed an amendment to change the makeup to five county board members and four community members.

The amendment failed 14-11.

Fox said having experienced and knowledgeable members of the public at the helm will lead to better development and aviation-based decision-making and will “add some value and bring some greater input to the board.”

Other changes to the airport recommended by the ad hoc committee were exploring privatized hangars, increasing marketing efforts, and investigating seasonal or single-use events on site, such as air shows and music festivals.

According to the ad hoc committee’s study, the airport supports 237 jobs, generates $65.2 million worth of total economic activity and accounts for more than $1.06 million in visitor spending.

The airport board will officially form in January. County Board Chairman Russ Podzilni will appoint community members with input from Fox and the county administrator’s office. The full county board must approve all nominated community members.