THU AM News: GOP lawmakers circulating plan review backlog legislation; DNC bar hours bill touted in Assembly committee

— Republican lawmakers have begun circulating legislation aimed at reducing the plan review backlog at the Department of Safety and Professional Services. 

According to the memo, legislative offices have been fielding angry calls from contractors raising concerns about the delay in getting plans reviewed for commercial building projects. The legislation would exempt certain projects from review in hopes of clearing up the queue. 

DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim has set a goal of four weeks for the standard review timeline, but the lawmakers note some builders are waiting up to five months to get their plans reviewed. 

“Considering that Wisconsin’s building season is limited by weather and other factors, some construction projects are literally being delayed a year,” they wrote. “That year-long delay ultimately impedes economic development in communities across our state.” 

Lawmakers introducing the legislation include Sens. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, and Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, as well as Reps. Jesse Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek, and Barbara Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc. 

The agency has declined to support the legislation, with Crim saying it would “benefit from further input from building code councils.” 

See more: 

— Rep. Rob Swearingen said “the million-dollar question” is whether the Senate intends to take up legislation that would expand bar hours across the state during the Democratic National Convention, while imposing new licensing requirements on wedding barns.

The Rhinelander Republican said it’s unfortunate the bill hasn’t gained any Senate co-sponsors. But he said he intends to push forward before the session wraps up.

“It’s my goal to get it through the Assembly and to the Senate, and its fate rests there,” he said during an Assembly State Affairs Committee public hearing.

AB 869 would, among other things, allow municipalities to permit or deny a restaurant or bar’s request to stay open until 4 a.m. from July 13 to July 17. Current law requires Class “B,” “Class B” and “Class C” liquor license-holders to close by 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Restaurant owners, lobbying organizations and lawmakers from both parties in the hearing seemed largely on board with the bill’s provision to expand bar hours for the event. A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association estimated the DNC would have an economic impact on the state of $200 million.

“Money isn’t red or blue, it’s green,” Swearingen said on why Republican lawmakers support a proposal catered toward a Democratic event.

See more at 

— January home sales in the Milwaukee area were 8.3 percent higher than the previous January, according to a release from the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors. 

Across the four-county region, 1,092 homes were sold last month compared to 1,008 in January 2019. The largest growth by percentage was seen in Ozaukee County, with 56.6 percent more homes sold over the year. That represents an increase from 46 to 72 homes sold. 

By comparison, Milwaukee County had 630 homes sold in January for an increase of 1.3 percent from the 622 homes sold in the previous January. 

The release shows the metro area has “enjoyed a strong sales market” for homes since early 2015. Factors driving this trend include low interest rates, a strong regional job market, parents downsizing after their children leave home, and an influx of first-time buyers that made up around 40 percent of the market. 

Still, GMAR notes that a lack of housing inventory is restricting sales numbers while also driving up home prices. 

See the release:

— Exact Sciences is reporting $296 million in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2019, marking an increase of 60 percent from the same period in 2018. 

According to a release, that figure includes $229 million in screening revenue and $66 million in revenue from precision oncology. The Madison company’s latest financial report also shows it brought in more than $876 million in revenue for the entirety of last year. 

Kevin Conroy, chairman and CEO of Exact Sciences, says 2019 was a “transformative year” for the company. Exact merged last year with a smaller company called Genomic Health and now offers its Oncotype DX portfolio of cancer tests along with its Cologuard colon cancer test. 

“The strong foundation we’ve built for Cologuard and Oncotype DX and the capabilities of our combined team position us well to continue to grow our core business and deliver more innovative cancer tests to people in need,” Conroy said in a statement. 

The number of Cologuard tests performed in the fourth quarter was 477,000, for an increase of 63 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018. The average cost to the company per test decreased slightly over the year. 

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, Exact Sciences expects around $1.65 billion in revenue for 2020, with more than $1.1 billion of that expected to come from colon cancer screening. 

See the full financial report: 

— A Madison-based health software company called HealthMyne has added a cancer specialist from Harvard Medical School to its board of clinical advisors. 

Dr. Carey Thomson is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and also started and leads the Lung Cancer Screening and Thoracic Oncology Multidisciplinary Program at Mount Auburn Hospital in Massachusetts. 

“Dr. Thomson has demonstrated the need for integrated lung cancer screening software as a critical component for programs striving to improve access to screening and shift detection to earlier stages,” said Rose Higgins, HealthMyne CEO. “Her work in this area will be instrumental in guiding HealthMyne.”

See the release: 

See an earlier story on HealthMyne: 

— The new “Meeting in Middle America” video podcast is officially kicking off this week, with a launch party happening tonight at UW-Milwaukee’s Lubar Entrepreneurship Center. 

The podcast, hosted by Steven Olikara of the Millennial Action Project, will highlight discussions on politics, technology innovation and entrepreneurship through a Midwest lens. Tonight’s launch party starts at 5 p.m. and includes live music, appetizers and a sneak peek of the show’s first episode. 

See a recent story on the new show: 

See event details and register here: 


# ‘We are a people’: Local businesses reconsider the use of Native names

# Demand for broadband internet remains high in rural Wisconsin

# Molson Coors says core brands improve in U.S., maintains focus on seltzer, premium products

# Kohl’s laying off 250 employees amid restructuring



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– Workshop on tile drainage designs slated for late February

– Wisconsin lawmakers to consider $184M for juvenile prisons


– Paul Mitchell beauty school relocating near Mayfair Collection

– Marquette business dean Joe Daniels struck and killed by vehicle on campus


– John Ridley, Milwaukee artists hype city’s creative industry at Milwaukee 2020 summit: Slideshow


– More snow, bitter cold: Wisconsin gets a double dose of winter weather


– How fruit flies may be able to teach us about football injuries


– Hallmark Building Supplies sues supplier for breach of contract


– Molson Coors reports drop in sales, net income for fiscal 2019


– Apartment developer acquires Elite Sports Clubs facility, former hotel across from The Corners of Brookfield

– Zilber executive Tom Bernacchi dies


– Downtown residents argue against pool in Langdon Street apartments


– Visions for vacant Sherman Park neighborhood sites include food market, reopened theater: Slideshow


– Forbes: Milwaukee Bucks now worth $1.58 billion, move up the ranks


– Wisconsin cities still recovering from January cyberattacks


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

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