THU AM News: WMC’s Bauer offers mixed response to Evers’ COVID-19 legislation

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— Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce President & CEO Kurt Bauer says his group backs some aspects of Gov. Tony Evers proposed COVID-19 legislation but opposes other parts of the bill.

The bill released Tuesday included $466 million in spending the administration says would be needed to continue current pandemic response efforts in Wisconsin through April 1 without additional action from the federal government. The bill also included $75 million in grants to small businesses and some two dozen proposals, two of which Bauer said WMC was opposed to.

The first of those measures would make those who contract COVID-19 eligible for worker’s compensation.

“We oppose this for the same reason that we opposed the release of business names who have COVID-19 positive employees, namely that there is no way of knowing where the employee contracted the disease plus the costs to businesses would be substantial and debilitating,” he said during a WMC webinar yesterday.

Bauer also said WMC opposes a provision that would allow the Department of Workforce Development to scale back rules on work search requirements for those seeking unemployment insurance through the end of 2021

“Our economy has shown tremendous resiliency during COVID-19 to the point that many employers are again having difficulty finding workers,” he said. “We should not have a disincentive for people to work.”

Bauer said WMC backs Evers’ call to expand the Work-Share program, which uses unemployment insurance to subsidize the wages of workers who have their hours scaled back.

He also called for “immediate action” on legal liability protections, a provision Assembly Speaker Robin Vos indicated on Tuesday was a priority for the Assembly GOP caucus.

Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters his caucus doesn’t have legislation drafted, but hoped to sit down with Evers to talk about ideas for a compromise package.

— While devastating in many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has also forced businesses to adopt more environmentally friendly policies, a panel of Wisconsin business leaders say.

In a Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters business roundtable discussion on climate change, American Family Insurance Vice President Kari Grasee noted how nearly all company employees have switched to remote work for much of the year.

“For me, one of the lessons around the pandemic was just the forced innovation that happens when you can be in the face of crisis,” she said. “In the face of challenges and when there’s adversity, you find a way to do incredible things.”

Other panelists included: August Ball, CEO and founder of Cream City Conservation & Consulting LLC; Kathy Jankowski, president and CEO of Evergreen Credit Union; and Katie McGinty, VP and chief sustainability, government and regulatory affairs officer at Johnson Controls.

Ball added that her organization has expanded its reach after switching from taking regular flights around the Midwest to operating mostly online. She said since the pandemic her organization now partners with groups in Canada and South Africa working on climate change solutions.

The leaders said many companies in their respective industries have “bought into the realities” of climate change, and most now have programs looking to find economical and green methods to bring down their carbon footprint.

Extreme weather conditions, a more frequent byproduct of the warming climate, have a “direct impact” on the insurance industry, according to Grasee. She said American Family plans to be carbon neutral by 2030 to “do our part” in mitigating humanity’s impact on the planet.

McGinty, meanwhile, touted how Johnson Controls’ American factories are all 100 percent renewable, adding her company plans to do the same at all facilities around the globe. She said Johnson Controls has been recognized 13 times by sustainability organizations as the “most ethical company in the world.”

“But here’s what we know, it’s not good enough,” McGinty said. “We need to move much more aggressively. And we start right at home.”

She called it urgent for companies to make buildings more sustainable, such as switching from natural gas to an entirely electric grid. She said buildings right now account for about 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

McGinty said she’d love to see Wisconsin become one of the first states in the nation to pass a buildings performance standard, or a regulatory standard tied to building codes that forces more and more efficiencies every year.

Jankowski told viewers her credit union strives to become the “most environmentally responsible credit union” in the nation. She said the business plans to achieve this by offering members discounts if they own an electric vehicle, installing a solar panel roof on buildings and donating thousands of trees, among other things.

“Besides our focus on our members and helping them be the best they can be, our core other focus is our environmentally responsible mission,” she said.

— Physical therapy can make the difference for a quick post-surgery recovery.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is experiencing an extreme shortage of physical therapists that is only expected to get worse, according to a UW-Madison computer sciences professor and entrepreneur.

“The demand of physical therapy right now is incredible, yet, underappreciated unless you are in the field,” said Prof. Suman Banerjee.

Banerjee recognized this opportunity to tap into unmet needs with the technology he had been researching for the past four and a half years. He has since started OnTracMD, a company pioneering the patent-pending technology called SmarTrac to alleviate the burden from the scarcity of trained professionals.

SmarTrac, the wearable device, consists of a sensor, mobile app and a cloud-hosted web portal that accurately tracks the motion of an individual’s limbs. The precise and real-time measurements of the sensor not only allow physical therapists an ability to scale up their practices, but it creates a much more convenient consumer experience.

“People don’t realize how important physical therapy is,” Banerjee said. “This neglect often results in patients not completing their full physical therapy treatment.”

Read the full story at

— Gov. Tony Evers announced he will extend the state’s mask mandate until mid-January.

His announcement yesterday came as the state reported a record 7,989 new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rose to a record 2,277 patients.

The state also reported 52 new deaths, down 40 from Tuesday’s record of 92.

For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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Marcus Theatres get $4 million in pandemic relief

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– Food business incubator joins affordable apartments in North Avenue development plan

– Several area movie theaters awarded state funding from $10 million grant program

– Filmanowicz among leaders of new minority lending program at BMO Harris Bank

– Froedtert Health to delay non-urgent surgeries at its three hospitals

– Clinics open under new owners in wake of Advanced Pain Management receivership

– Developers acquire site of planned Greenfield physical therapy hospital

MEDIA ^top^
– Gannett refinances $500M in debt to lower costs

– ‘Monumental’ Capitol Square project gains City Council approval

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– Add Gurnee Mills to the growing list of financially troubled shopping malls in the greater Milwaukee area

– A 13% sales drop and $12 million loss ‘exceeded expectations’ for Kohl’s

– Southridge among malls from which owner Simon Property is moving on

– Troubled Southridge Mall will be given to its lender

– Roundy’s seeks hundreds of new employees as holidays approach

– Wisconsin to receive more than $3M in settlement with Apple over iPhone throttling


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– SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin: Healthcare workers respond to Vos, Evers COVID plans
– Wisconsin Medical Society: Statement on Gov. Evers’ public health emergency, masking orders
– Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin: Expands network in Grant County
– ABC for Health Inc.: Report: Nearly $90 million jump in 2019 uncompensated care in Wisconsin
– Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation: New members appointed to Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Agriculturist…
– UW-Stout: Instructional design certificate boosts recent graduate’s career
– Palm + Pine: Local business pioneers innovative digital presence and grows during pandemic challenges
– Fox Valley Surgical Associates: Celebrates 50th anniversary
– WisDOT: Wisconsin DMV launches program that helps companies manage their fleet
– DATCP: Scammers target unsuspecting pet seekers
– UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Madison Gas and Electric: Release institute’s analysis of MGE’s net-zero carbon goal
– La Crosse Distilling CO.: Releases new holiday spirit
– Marshfield Clinic Health System: Erickson named CAO for Marshfield Medical Center-Minocqua
– Northwestern Mutual: Dedicates $20 million to advance Black entrepreneurs through venture capital & a new startup accelerator
– Johnson Financial Group: To donate $300,000 to help feed Wisconsin families

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