THU AM News: State leaders urged to expand Renewable Portfolio Standard in new report; WMC survey results highlight efforts to keep workers

— The Environmental Law & Policy Center is urging state leaders to expand Wisconsin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard in hopes of driving further investment in clean energy. 

“One problem from a policy standpoint is that Wisconsin doesn’t have a modern clean energy goal to meet,” said Howard Learner, executive director for ELPC. “It’s important that Wisconsin catch up and move forward.” 

In a phone conference yesterday with reporters, Learner said other Midwest states have been increasing their requirements for renewable energy while Wisconsin’s has been unchanged for more than 20 years. 

The state created its RFS in 1999 with a goal of reaching 10 percent renewable energy by 2015. That goal was met in 2013, but ELPC says the requirement doesn’t go far enough. The group is calling on the state to increase its RFS to 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025. 

Illinois and Minnesota have set similar goals, while Michigan aims to reach 15 percent renewables by 2021. 

Andy Olsen, Wisconsin senior policy advocate for ELPC, says increasing renewable energy use can grow the economy while also improving the environment. The economics of solar power in particular has improved significantly in recent years, and Olsen said Wisconsin should modernize its laws to reflect the growing renewable energy sector. 

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— Recent survey results from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce highlights how employers are encouraging workers to stay amid an ongoing workforce shortage. 

During the past five years, every semi-annual WMC survey has found greater than 65 percent of respondents struggling to find employees. That’s according to WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer, who calls the workforce “the defining economic issue” in the state. 

When respondents were asked how they’re attracting and keeping talent, the top five answers were: flexible work schedules; flexible dress code; staff outings such as planned lunches and social events; physician wellness programs; and flexible time off. 

“I am not surprised to see companies adopting these types of tactics,” Bauer said in a release. “As an employer in a city with a very low unemployment rate, WMC has embraced many of the same things.”

WMC, based in Madison, is the state’s largest business association. More of its members report planning to raise wages by up to 3.5 percent. Forty-five percent plan to do so now, compared to 38 percent a year ago. 

Still, 77 percent of responding business leaders said they’re spending more on health care this year. To balance the rising cost, 66 percent said they’re asking workers to contribute more and 19 percent said they’ve reduced benefits. 

After the workforce, health care costs were ranked as the second-largest public policy issue. Taxes and regulation were the next highest ranked. 

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said the state’s economy is strong or very strong, while 65 percent said the same about the national economy. WMC says optimism “remained steady” from the last survey six months ago. And slightly more respondents expect to be profitable through the first half of the year. 

See the survey results: 

— A state Senate committee has signed off on legislation that would ban the use of PFAS in most cases as Dem members slammed the legislation for not going far enough.

Sens. Mark Miller, of Monona, and Dave Hansen, of Green Bay, sought to rewrite the bill before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy by swapping out the provisions with those in legislation they’d been working on. But that effort was shot down along party lines.

“We have a serious problem in Wisconsin, Mr. Chair, and I don’t think the bill before us even with the amendments you introduced comes anywhere near to being able to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” Miller told committee Chair Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay.

Hansen warned Gov. Tony Evers may veto the bill if it isn’t more aggressive.

But Cowles fired back it was “unfair” to oppose the legislation for taking some of the first steps to address the pollution problem, noting cleaning up PCBs, for example, took multiple legislative sessions. The legislation before the committee marked progress without “blowing industry apart,” Cowles said.

“To throw this bill away that does make progress is unfair,” Cowles told the committee.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances are found in products such as firefighting foam and nonstick cookware. They also have been found in the Marinette and Peshtigo area in soil, sediment, groundwater, surface water, private drinking water wells and biosolids, along with wells in Madison.

SB 310 seeks to prohibit the use or discharge of firefighting foam if PFAS was intentionally added. It includes exemptions for the use of the foam as part of an emergency and for testing if certain requirements were met.

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— Assembly lawmakers have unveiled a $10 million package aimed at improving the quality of the state’s groundwater.

The 13-bill package stems from an Assembly task force commissioned last January to address contaminated drinking water.

The package was released yesterday less than an hour after Gov. Tony Evers released a separate water quality report focusing on steps taken by government agencies in 2019 — which the guv dubbed the “Year of Clean Drinking Water” — to address groundwater contamination.

Evers’ report highlighted nitrates and PFAS contamination of groundwater and lead service lines as areas of concern moving forward.

But an Evers administration official stressed the two reports were not conflicting. A separate Evers spokeswoman said in an email the administration is “happy to see the Legislature following the governor’s lead on addressing water quality” and praised Reps. Todd Novak and Katrina Shankland, who served the panel’s as chair and vice-chair respectively.

“The governor appreciates Rep. Shankland and Rep. Novak’s leadership on the Task Force and was pleased to see some of the administration’s recommendations reflected in the Task Force’s proposal,” said spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff.

Novak, R-Dodgeville, touted the task force’s bipartisan cooperation and labeled its recommendations “a step in the right direction.”

Still, in a Capitol news conference yesterday, he warned Wisconsin’s water quality is “a problem that has been decades in the making and will not be fixed overnight because of the complexity of the issue.”

See more at 

— A bipartisan group of lawmakers is seeking co-sponsorship for a bill that would exempt menstrual products and diapers from sales taxes. 

According to the bill’s authors, many personal hygiene products are taxed as “luxury goods” under state law, and their bill would “recognize certain products as the necessities that they are.” The sales and use tax exemption would apply to diapers and other undergarments for incontinence, tampons and sanitary napkins. 

The bill is being touted by Reps. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, and Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa; and Sens. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, and LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee. They say their bill would advance socioeconomic equity and improve public health in Wisconsin. 

Johnson notes the state already exempts “basic necessities” such as groceries from sales taxes. She says parents with infants, people with disabilities, older adults and people who menstruate similarly need these products. 

“These products aren’t luxury goods, they are necessities for health and personal care, and it’s time for our tax code to treat them that way,” Jacque said in the memo. 

See the release: 

— Novel Coworking has launched a new space in Milwaukee after first acquiring the building in May. 

The company has more than 3 million square feet of workspace at 35 locations in dozens of metro areas across the country. 

“We have seen huge demand for flexible, customizable workspace from small to mid-sized businesses, as well as enterprise companies,” said Bill Bennett, founder of Novel Coworking. 

The new Cathedral Square location features six floors of co-working space for use by one- to 200-person companies. A grand opening party for the new space is being held on the evening of Jan. 16. 

See event details: 


# Lawmaker task force urges $10M for clean water initiatives

# Wisconsin exports nearly flat in November, down 4.15% for year

# Labor group takes Fiserv Forum contract issue to media at DNC event

# Company proposes tearing down Westgate Mall, building $100 million redevelopment



– Neenah’s Jewelers Mutual talks jewelry obsession in new brand campaign


– Wisconsin cover crop conference slated for February 20


– Building blocks: Bellin Cancer Center addition


– Income growth puts Wisconsin tax burden at lowest level since at least 1970


– WBC offering ‘Beef in the Classroom’ meat education grants


– Lawmakers unveil $10M plan to clean up water in Wisconsin

– More than 100 cases of chronic wasting disease reported at state deer farms since 2018

– Former Wisconsin official to lead EPA’s Chicago office


– Wahlburgers announces opening date for Third Ward location


– Milwaukee startup to participate in Global Insurance Accelerator, receive $75,000 equity investment


– American Airlines confident about Lands’ End uniforms after Delta employees file suit


– Bill undoing 1,000-year ban on green-energy projects in schools advances


– CentroMotion will move HQ to Pewaukee

– Former Advocate Aurora CEO buys Chenequa home for $4.23 million


– Senate committee advances bill to ban PFAS in firefighting foam


– Starbucks doubling down on non-dairy drink options in the Midwest


– Rockwell Automation to acquire Israeli company, plans to expand cybersecurity services


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