WED AM News: Four of state’s congressional delegation request earmarks totaling nearly $150M; WMC asks lawmakers to end $300 unemployment bonus

— Four members of Wisconsin’s House delegation are requesting nearly $150 million in earmarks for ag research, broadband and health care projects. 

Both national party caucuses agreed to bring back community project funding. Republicans banned earmarks a decade ago after retaking control of the House with some criticizing the process as wasteful and ripe for corruption. After announcing they would bring back the process, Dems also added several rules to increase transparency. 

That includes a cap on how many earmarks each representative can attach to bills and to require lawmakers to make them publicly available. Earmarks are also limited to local governments or nonprofits.

Here is a summary of the amount each member requested, for a total of approximately $148.5 million:

* U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan: $76.0 million

* U.S. Rep. Ron Kind: $47.5 million

* U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore: $24.1 million

* U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald: $930,000

Read the full story at 

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— A design studio that serves customers wine while they paint is celebrating its grand opening in Madison after waiting nearly a year due to the pandemic.

Wine & Design owner and U.S. Navy veteran Heather Reed said she and her husband have been holding off their grand opening events since last June when the studio opened.

“My husband, Andy, and I had been preparing for the opening of our studio for months before

the start of the pandemic,” she said. “While we have been more than a little anxious and

concerned about the timing of our opening, we can’t thank our customers more for the

wonderful welcome that they have extended to us during this most challenging business

environment. I just want the Madison community to know that we love them and

we need them!”

The “paint and sip” studio is located at 167 S. Fair Oaks Avenue on the first floor of the new Garver Point luxury apartment complex. Its grand opening will take place June 3-6 with a series of themed project nights. 

Wine & Design offers two-hour painting sessions for groups of adults and children that are led by local artists who provide step-by-step instructions. The studio also offers a menu of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. At the end of the session, participants walk away with a completed art project.

— Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers this week urging him to end the federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit. 

WMC says the extra $300 in federal money on top of the state’s Unemployment Insurance benefits is contributing to the state’s “crisis level” workforce shortage.

Through September, an individual can get $670 per week in Wisconsin on unemployment because of a $300 federal enhancement. That is the equivalent of $16.75 per hour. According to WMC, employers are saying the expanded UI benefit is creating a strong disincentive to work and making it harder to hire.

“Manufacturers, construction firms, the hospitality sector and businesses from countless other industries are not only facing competition from other employers, now they must compete with state and federal unemployment benefits,” WMC wrote in its letter. “We cannot afford to allow able-bodied workers to remain on the sidelines while thousands of jobs are available today.”

The letter was also sent to members of the state Legislature and Wisconsin’s congressional delegation encouraging policy changes to get Wisconsinites back to work. The letter also asked Evers to follow the lead of other states using federal relief money to incentivize people to return to work through sign-on bonuses.

Read the full letter: 

— The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce is launching a talent solutions directory to help area businesses fill vacant positions.

Whether employers are looking to develop emerging talent through internships and career exposure, to upskill their current workforce, or recruit for highly specialized positions, this tool provides a curated database of service providers.

See more: 

— Wisconsin reported 517 new COVID-19 cases coming into today and 13 deaths from the virus.

Milwaukee and Waukesha counties each reported three new deaths, bringing their totals to 1,307 and 529, respectively. Rock County added two new deaths bringing its COVID-19 death toll to 172. Counties reporting one new death with their totals in parentheses are Dane (305), Manitowoc (70), Polk (49), Washburn (20) and Washington (154).

The state’s death toll is 6,917. The seven-day average for daily COVID-19 deaths is 10 deaths per day, up from nine on Monday.

Meanwhile, the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases fell to 503 from 532 on Monday, the lowest since early April. The average percentage of positive tests per total tests is 3.1 percent. The positive test average has remained below the desired threshold of 5 percent since Feb. 1.

The state reports 7,756 “active” cases, meaning the people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 30 days, have not died and are not recovered. Wisconsin has had 603,820 cases since the start of the pandemic.

See the Wisconsin COVID-19 Timeline: 

— The 5-year-old Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance this week transformed into Farmers for Sustainable Food, a nonprofit organization to support sustainable farming practices.

The Dairy Business Association and The Nature Conservancy originally organized the alliance in Wisconsin around the goal of helping dairy farmers make tangible improvements to the environment and other aspects of their farms. Since then, it’s grown beyond dairy, adding on partners representing various parts of the food supply chain and across the upper Midwest.

“Our vision is a sustainable food system in which farmers, their communities and the environment thrive,” said Todd Doornink, president of Farmers for Sustainable Food and a dairy farmer in northwestern Wisconsin. “Our focus is on uniting stakeholders to collaborate across organizational lines, inspiring farmers to be leaders of change and empowering our partners to meet their goals.”

Farmers for Sustainable Food closely supports six farmer-led watershed conservation groups encompassing 211 farms, nearly 300,000 acres and 212,000 cows, hogs and other livestock. That support ranges from administration and communication to strategic services and grant applications, said Lauren Brey, who serves as coordinator for Farmers for Sustainable Food. 

See the release: 

— Rural public transit systems in Wisconsin will see roughly $1.8 million this year, according to the Department of Transportation.

The DOT will distribute the money. Communities with 50,000 people or less qualify as rural. 

The $1.8 million is out of $157.7 million Wisconsin gets from the federal COVID-19 relief package for transit. The dollars are intended for transit systems to prevent, prepare for and respond to the pandemic and are available until fully expended. Operating expenses are prioritized, but capital projects are also eligible. 

The DOT anticipates allocating the money this year.

— Harley-Davidson is creating a new, independent electric motorcycle brand called LiveWire to take advantage of the growing green market segment for two-wheeled vehicles. 

LiveWire will launch in July this year, separate from Harley-Davidson. But LiveWire engineers will work closely with Harley-Davidson engineers to continue developing electric motorcycle technology. 

Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz says the company aims to make LiveWire the most desirable electric motorcycle brand in the world, pioneering the future of motorcycling. 

“LiveWire also plans to innovate and develop technology that will be applicable to Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles in the future,” Jochen said. 

— Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Rob Summerfield, R-Bloomer, are circulating legislation that would overhaul the state’s rural broadband grant program.

As co-chair of the Finance Committee, Marklein has the opportunity to add the changes to the state budget. But he said he’s running the changes as separate legislation because keeping the funding component out of the bill means Gov. Tony Evers can’t rework the legislation with his partial veto authority.

Marklein said he hopes to pass the bill before the budget is finalized.

“The bill has to do with the framework that will drive the allocation of funds. That’s a separate conversation,” Marklein said.

The committee last week amended the guv’s budget to go back to base level funding and removed more than 380 items that Evers had included in his version.

Marklein said the committee is still discussing how much it might put into broadband expansion, one of Evers’ priorities in the budget.

The new bill is another example of an area where GOP lawmakers and the guv shared a common interest, but Republicans are opting to run the effort outside the budget. For example, the items removed included a proposal to move 17-year-olds to the juvenile justice system. Joint Finance Co-chair Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said he plans to co-sponsor separate legislation including a similar provision.

See the release:


# Wisconsin to receive $700 million less in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds than projected

# DHS Reports 70 New Hospitalizations As Wisconsin COVID-19 Cases Continue Declining

# Brewers, Bucks get approval to increase fan capacity to 50% 



– Wisconsin Farmers See Favorable Planting Conditions, Prices This Spring 


– Through The Roof: Lumber Prices And Demand Grows 


– Wisconsin Assembly approves raising voucher school income


– SBA awards billions in Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants. But the money is likely to dry up quickly. 


– Baldwin Praises Progress Tracking COVID-19 Variants


– Employers can require office staffs to return this summer but that carries risks: MMAC panel 


– Generac sponsors terrace at Milwaukee County Zoo 

– Papermaker Domtar, which has Wisconsin mills, to be bought by Canadian firm in $3 billion deal 


– Wisconsin to vote on requiring national anthem

– Republicans delay veto overrides on COVID-19 bills


– Construction work is underway at The Couture site in downtown Milwaukee 


– Biking boom: Industry experiences sales surge during pandemic 


– Harley-Davidson Museum planning new event venue 


– Behind the scenes of Milwaukee’s efforts to offer free Wi-Fi in 10 new city parks 


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– Common Cause: Redistricting Reform and Fair Voting Maps Kicking into High Gear

– ARC: Training the Next Generation of Building Safety Professionals

– Starion Bank: Hires Murawski