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Regulatory changes: Gov.-elect Scott Walker rolls out another piece of his agenda for next month’s special session on job creation: a wide-ranging overhaul of the state’s administrative rules process. The plan requires the governor to approve rules from state agencies and ban agencies from creating rules that are more restrictive than regulatory standards set by the Legislature. It also would allow rules to be challenged in the county where a complainant resides, rather than in Dane County circuit court. Walker says rule changes would be subject to the same checks and balances as bills, and says his plan mirrors the concerns he heard from small businesses on the campaign trail this fall. A number of state business groups back the plan, with the Wisconsin Realtors Association calling it “an early Christmas present” and the Wisconsin Builders Association saying it signals Wisconsin is set to tame “the red-tape monster.” Democrats balk at what they call Walker’s “power grab,” however, with one leader saying special interests could hold up enacted bills by going to court to block the rules needed to enforce them.
Marshfield dental school: The State Building Commission approves $10 million toward the construction of a rural dental education outreach facility at the Marshfield Clinic. The $24 million facility will house a residency program, and a pediatric dentistry program and a post-baccalaureate program, according to Marshfield Clinic officials. But a representative of Marquette University — which houses the state’s only dental school — tells commission members that the project has morphed from programs that complement Marquette’s into the possibility of a new dental school. Marquette says the discussion of a second dental school in the state hasn’t properly taken place among policymakers, and that it can’t support state funding for Marshfield when its own program is running a shortfall. Marshfield officials say that a second school is a possibility but not an immediate priority, while supporters on the building commission say the funding is meant to address the established shortage of dental care in 64 of the state’s 72 counties. But the state’s dental association rips the move as well, saying more funding for brick-and-mortar projects won’t address the barriers to dental health care among thousands of Wisconsinites.
Banks: Wisconsin’s largest bank becomes the latest to fall victim to the economic downturn as Milwaukee-based M&I Bank announces it’s being purchased by the Bank of Montreal, Canada’s fourth-largest bank. Observers cite both favorable conditions in Canada — where banks are rated as the soundest in the world and have increasingly looked to the United States to expand — and a rash of poor decisions by M&I, highlighted by an expansion into Arizona as the housing market collapsed. Still, M&I execs call the takeover “a good fit,” while Bank of Montreal officials say the deal — tagged at $4.1 billion in stock — “represents a very good value.” Bank of Montreal also says it will buy M&I’s $1.7 preferred shares under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Five other state banks make news as part of a group of lenders nationwide that are not making dividend payments under TARP. Among the 123 banks to forgo the 5 percent dividend due in November were Anchor BanCorp of Madison, Capital Commerce Bancorp, which owns Milwaukee’s Securant, Legacy Bancorp of Milwaukee, Ridgestone Financial Services of Brookfield and Boscobel Bancorp.