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Right-to-work: The controversial union legislation goes from the rumor mill to the state Legislature’s front burner within weeks of the midterm elections that saw Republican majorities grow in both the Assembly and Senate. Legislative leaders and the governor had downplayed the possibility of enacting right-to-work — which bans requiring employees to join a union — ahead of the election. But that quickly changes in subsequent weeks. First, Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, vows to introduce right-to-work legislation in his chamber, expressing confidence that the rest of the caucus will line up behind the measure. Then, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, says his chamber will take up right-to-work early in the upcoming session, asking: If not now, then when? The effort gets more support from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, with the head of the state’s business lobby arguing without it, businesses looking to expand or relocate will first look to states like Indiana, Iowa or Michigan. Gov. Scott Walker, for his part, says the bill would be a distraction. But he also hasn’t pledged to veto the bill, something Democrats — who say right-to-work would hammer the state’s middle-class — argue could easily prevent another bruising fight with organized labor.
Marinette Marine: The northeastern Wisconsin city’s ship manufacturer gets good news from Congress and some questionable news from the Obama administration in recent days. First, a compromise defense spending bill includes funding for the three vessels under the Navy’s littoral combat ship program — a massive defense contract that’s split between Marinette Marine and Alabama-based Austal USA — in the current fiscal year. Those who represent the city — including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble of Sherwood — hail the news for the company, which employs about 2,000 and includes dozens of Wisconsin companies in its supply chain for the LCS program. But the ships have come under fire from some in Washington who’ve questioned their performance in combat, and departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces plans to replace the LCS program with construction of small surface combatant ships based on upgraded LCS designs. Some are optimistic about how the changes will affect Marinette Marine. Baldwin stresses the company won’t see a break in production, while Ribble argues Marinette should be in a good position to vie for any new contract due to its current work on LCS vessels. Others, however, caution the new project could be awarded elsewhere, potentially putting hundreds of jobs in jeopardy.
Bradley Center: As lawmakers and other stakeholders continue to consider how to build a new downtown home for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, the latest financial report from BMO Harris Bradley Center officials underscores issues with the current facility. Officials report a net loss of $1.9 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, owing to depreciation of $3.3 million along with a relatively lackluster concert schedule, declining state grant dollars and a last-place finish by the Bucks last season. Operating revenue totaled $18 million, down from $20.7 million for the previous fiscal year, while the arena’s debt reached nearly $20 million — a figure that president and CEO Steve Costello called “significant but manageable.” Costello acknowledges the facility will need continued support over the next few years — noting a fund for capital improvements has dropped from $10 million to $2.2 million — but says a stronger roster of concerts and a rejuvenated Bucks franchise offers hope for the arena’s bottom line in fiscal year 2015.