THU AM News: Wisconsin Dental Association contests need for dental therapy bill in Assembly hearing; Focus on Energy program had five-to-one return on investment in 2018

— The state’s largest dentistry association is disputing the concept of a dental care provider shortage in Wisconsin, instead pointing to low Medicaid reimbursement rates. 

During an Assembly hearing yesterday on a bill that would allow dental therapists to practice in the state, Wisconsin Dental Association Director of Government Affairs Matt Rossetto challenged several claims made by proponents of the legislation. 

Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, says the state would need 211 more dentists to fill existing gaps in dental care access, and dental therapists could help fix that issue. But Rossetto says “we do not have a shortage of bodies in Wisconsin in terms of actual licensed dentists.” 

“The dentist-to-population ratio is fine,” he said. “What we do have is an issue where most providers are clustered in urban and suburban areas where the vast majority of patients either have a dental benefit or have the ability to pay cash.” 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have signed onto the legislation, which is being spearheaded by Felzkowski. The only groups opposed are WDA and Marquette University, which houses the state’s only dentistry school. 

Sen. David Craig, R-Big Bend, spoke in support of the bill. He said allowing dental therapists to join dental practice teams “will allow for increased access, lower patient cost, and savings for the state, all without compromising the quality of care.” 

Rossetto acknowledged the state’s rural residents don’t have access to enough dentists, but he said the bill wouldn’t require dental therapists to practice in those areas. He said the reason for those gaps in dental care access is the same reason rural areas have fewer physicians, attorneys and other professions — “It is simply more difficult for those professions to make a go of it.” 

“This is one of the reasons why we believe that without addressing the underlying issues — addressing the necessary increase in reimbursement rates — you’re simply not going to solve the problem,” he said. “You’re going to continue to nibble around the edges.” 

See more: 

— Projects in the state’s Focus on Energy program had a five-to-one return on investment between 2015 and 2018, according to a recent report from the Public Service Commission. 

During that four-year period, the PSC found that every dollar invested in energy efficiency projects resulted in $5.16 in economic impacts and other benefits. 

Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program provides financial incentives to businesses and state residents for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. It’s funded by the state’s investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal utilities and electric cooperatives. 

The number of small businesses in the program grew 46 percent from 2015 to 2018 and the number of residential participants increased 29 percent over the same timeframe. 

Meanwhile, the energy savings achieved through funded programs accounted for 28 million tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions over the four-year period — equivalent to taking six million cars off the road for a year, the report shows. 

The program had 128,000 residential participants, 6,135 non-residential participants and 55,698 rural participants last year. Program organizers say participation has increased in 13 of the program’s 16 core programs. 

See the PSC report: 

See an earlier story on the program: 

— Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is calling on businesses and state and local leaders in the state to address climate change “with ambition and urgency” after returning from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid. 

“We have a lot to lose in Wisconsin, and we’re missing out on economic opportunity if we don’t begin transitioning to a cleaner economy,” Barnes said in a release. 

At the conference, the U.S. Climate Alliance published its annual report showing participating states are “within reach of the Paris goals” and on track to reduce emissions up to 27 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. 

Gov. Tony Evers joined the bipartisan group of governors shortly after taking office. The group aims to reduce emissions such as carbon dioxide in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, which the United States withdrew from under the Trump administration. 

The U.S. Climate Alliance’s 2019 report highlighted Evers’ executive order creating the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, which aims to get the state to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050. And the guv has created a climate change task force chaired by Barnes. 

See the release: 

See the report: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has notified the federal government Wisconsin will accept refugees who are looking to be resettled after President Trump gave states the option to reject them.

Evers also took a dig at the Trump administration in his letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, charging it has created “an overly cumbersome and inappropriate process for those involved in refugee resettlement.”

Considering refugees and immigrants are essential in areas such as manufacturing and healthcare, the “administration’s general disposition and policies toward refugee and immigrant populations” have damaged Wisconsin’s economy, the guv added.

“Our state has a rich history of opening its doors to people of all backgrounds, experiences, and walks of life,” Evers wrote. “Through the years, while the people seeking resettlement opportunity in Wisconsin have changed, their circumstances have not: they are people seeking a new life, they embrace American ideals, and they bring with them valuable skills and experience which benefit all of us.”

The president signed off on a plan limiting the U.S. to no more than 18,000 refugees in 2020.

In late 2015, then-Gov. Scott Walker declared Wisconsin wouldn’t accept Syrian refugees after the Obama administration announced plans to accept 10,000 over the following year. At the time, some questioned whether the guv truly had the power to stop refugees from settling in their states.

Read Evers’ letter:

— Foxconn has announced $20 million in new contracts for its Mount Pleasant manufacturing facility, with contracts going to 17 different subcontractors. 

All but one of the awardees are based in Wisconsin, with Illinois-based Harris Rebar Rockford handling concrete reinforcement materials. Other projects cover work on site utilities, roofing, doors, elevators, masonry and more. 

See more in Foxconn Reports below. 

— Developer Preston Austin will take over as CEO of Rabble early next year, the Madison-based company announced recently.

The company’s development team creates software applications for libraries. The MUSICat is used by libraries in a dozen cities, according to Rabble. 

Austin co-founded Rabble in 2014 with Glenn Loos-Austin and current CEO Kelly Hiser, who will transition to chair of the board of directors. Both Austin and Loos-Austin also sit on the board and will work full-time for the company. 

“That’s a major milestone for us as Rabble’s founders and a necessary component in our sustainability plans,” the founders wrote in a blog post.

In addition, Rabble announced a newly created advisory board, made up of leaders in the library community, Rabble’s partners and creative artists. The advisory board currently has four members, including Salt Lake City Public Library Director Peter Bromberg.

See more at Madison Startups: 


# 20 Wisconsin Startups to Watch in 2020

# Prevented care: The Catholic Church runs one-third of Wisconsin hospitals, putting many reproductive procedures off-limits

# Milwaukee Tool to receive $1 land, tax rebates for 770-job Menomonee Falls campus

# Committee approves 2% pay raises for UW, state employees



– Langworthy chosen as new MOSES director


– Milwaukee Tool plans $100M campus in Menomonee Falls

– Building blocks: Orthopedic, Spine and Pain Center at the ThedaCare Health Campus – Encircle


– Wisconsin’s Gov. Evers says state is open to refugees

– New North Shore business chamber launching


– Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer finalists named

– Wisconsin, UW employee pay raises to be approved


– It’s official: 2019 was wettest year on record in Wisconsin


– Vrakas names new president and managing shareholder


– Foxconn announces contracts for smart manufacturing center

– Foxconn awards $20M in work to 17 firms for Fii manufacturing plant


– See construction progress on ProHealth Care’s $55 million Mukwonago hospital project

– Lawmakers push bill to certify dental therapists


– Marcus Corp. names new president of Hotels & Resorts division


– Twisted Path Distillery announces new private whiskey barrel program


– First MSO subscription performance in new concert hall to be broadcast live on PBS


– Spending bill would boost funding for Great Lakes cleanup


– Developers on MLK Library project seeking $1.5 million MEDC loan


– Deluxe Corp. acquires Fiserv’s remittance solutions business

– Microsoft president Brad Smith on DNC, protecting elections at gener8tor’s Premier Night: Slideshow


– Marcus Hotels appoints former MGM Resorts executive as president


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Gov. Tony Evers: Milwaukee Tool expanding Wisconsin footprint 

Office of the Commissioner of Insurance: Open enrollment on extended