THU AM News: Franchise businesses in Wisconsin added over 10,000 jobs last year, report shows; Zimmerman introduces bill on data control

— A new report shows franchise businesses in Wisconsin added over 10,000 new jobs in 2021, boosting franchise employment in the state to an estimated 148,287 jobs. 

While the outlook for this year isn’t as strong, the International Franchise Association’s latest Franchising Economic Outlook report predicts 2022 will be “a year of continued growth and normalization.” 

The state added 209 new franchise businesses last year, the report shows, bringing the total number to 14,095. That number is predicted to grow by 177 this year, rising to an estimated 14,272 establishments. 

Meanwhile, economic output of franchises in Wisconsin increased by 14.9 percent last year to a total value of about $12.8 billion, according to the report. That number is expected to rise by another 4 percent this year. And these businesses are expected to create more than 3,000 more jobs in 2022.

IFA President and CEO Matt Haller says these numbers show franchising “creates unparalleled opportunities for growth and jobs.” In a release highlighting the new report, he urges lawmakers to “avoid policies that will impede the growth we have seen over the past year.” 

The full report includes data for all 50 states and Washington, D.C. 

See the report here: 

— Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, has introduced a bill to give consumers more control over their personal data and hold data collectors accountable.

AB 957 establishes requirements for data “controllers,” defined under the bill as a person that “alone or jointly with others, determines the purpose and means of processing personal data.”

Under the bill, consumers could ask whether controllers are processing their personal data. They could gain access to that information, which they could then ask data collectors to delete and stop processing to sell and use for targeted advertising. If a controller failed to adhere to the bill’s provisions, they would be liable for up to $7,500 per violation.

“When it’s personal to you, I believe that it is reasonable for Wisconsin residents to have the expectation that that data is private, that it cannot and should not just be randomly shared or sold to the highest bidder,” Zimmerman said.

Cities, villages, towns and counties would be prohibited from enacting or enforcing ordinances that regulate the collection, processing or sale of personal data.

Zimmerman said that technological leaps like artificial intelligence come with potential challenges because companies can collect information in places like people’s homes. He explained that smartphones and other smart devices like Amazon Alexa can pose a privacy risk.

“All of these devices have the ability to listen, to collect information and to transmit. Again, when used properly, it’s a great thing. When not used properly, it can be detrimental,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said that some have opposed the bill because they believe that the issue should be addressed on a federal level.

“I don’t disagree with that, but it’s not getting done. And so I’m going to act on behalf of my colleagues and act on behalf of all Wisconsin families and neighbors and put their protection first,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman added that some have called the bill “over-burdensome.” He said that it wouldn’t be difficult for information to be compiled, as it is already being collected.

“I feel that the benefits of protecting your private information dramatically and vastly outweigh a small bit of arbitrary administration to execute some searches,” Zimmerman said.

— Supporters of a bill to stop “white bagging’’ in Wisconsin argued in a public hearing that ending the practice would help protect patients with serious conditions from treatment delays. 

But employer groups and other opponents of the bill said white bagging helps reduce health care costs by getting less expensive medications from outside sources, rather than the local hospital pharmacy. 

White bagging refers to insurance providers requiring certain medications for complex or rare conditions to be obtained from specialty pharmacies. AB 718 would prohibit the practice of white bagging by insurance companies when patients are in-network and are prescribed a clinically administered drug, bill author Rep. Tony Kurtz explained yesterday during an Assembly Committee on Health public hearing. 

He noted the practice impacts patients with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, hemophilia and various forms of cancer. Kurtz said he’s spoken with hospital staff who have struggled to get medications for these patients due to white bagging, with drug shipments failing to arrive in time. 

“We can’t let this become the norm for patients in Wisconsin,” said Kurtz, R-Wonewoc. “We must allow patients and their health care team to be in charge of their health care journey.” 

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce said the group “finds it quite shocking that the Legislature would consider giving hospitals a monopoly on these drugs and push other competition out of the market.” 

Rachel Ver Velde, the organization’s director of workforce, education and employment policy, said WMC is strongly opposed to the bill. Pointing to a Wallethub study from 2021, she said Wisconsin has the ninth-highest health care costs among U.S. states. 

“Wisconsin needs to keep its employer-based health insurance system and promote consumer-driven health care if we want to compete with low-cost states,” she said. “The state Legislature creating additional hurdles, as is done in AB 718, eliminates employers’ ability to innovate and provide quality, low-cost health care to their employees and their families.” 

Meanwhile, committee member Rep. Chuck Wichgers, R-Muskego, raised the issue of a local hospital’s only option being a much more expensive version of the medication. Although he said he likes “most of the bill,” he expressed concern that a patient could be stuck paying for medications with a “severely inflated cost.” 

But bill proponents argued the question of patient safety is of greater concern. 

“While we may be talking about cost as the root issue of the disagreement here today, there are true safety implications,” said Dr. Chris Spahr, the chief quality and safety officer for Children’s Wisconsin. “And what we’ve done is we’ve introduced harm, risk of harm, into our safety systems for something that might be a cost issue.” 

He noted patients not getting needed medications on time is linked to higher health care costs as well. 

“Let’s also think about cost in the broadest sense,” he said. “The reality is, for Landon, who’s cared for in our system, when he has delays in care — it’s much-needed care for him — he has pretty intense pain. And that may lead to emergency department incumbency … so yes, while I am most concerned about the harm, there’s also cost implications.” 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association and a number of hospitals and health systems in the state support banning white bagging, while WMC, the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans, other insurers and several industry groups are opposed to the bill. 

See lobbying details on the bill: 

See a previous story on white bagging: 

— UW Health says 20 percent of its workforce will be affected when it bumps its minimum wage up to $17 per hour in May. 

The health system had previously increased its lowest pay rate to $15 per hour five years ago. Wisconsin’s workforce challenges have only worsened since then, and UW Health says further increasing its minimum wage will support its existing employees and help attract workers. 

The change will impact 200 positions within the health system, including culinary staff, environmental services staff, pharmacy technicians, data specialists, medical transcription staff, health unit coordinators, opticians, patient safety observers, nutrition technicians and more. UW Health employs about 16,000 people overall. 

“We are raising the bar again to support the dedicated and talented staff here at UW Health and ensure we can bring in the new, highly skilled and driven staff we need to support our health system and care for our community,” said Betsy Clough, chief human resources officer for UW Health.

See the release: 

— The UW System and UW-Madison will be ending their mask mandates in March as COVID-19 case numbers in the state continue to fall. 

System President Tommy Thompson noted in a release that Wisconsin has “one of the fastest rates of coronavirus decline” in the nation, and pointed to widespread vaccination at campuses statewide. Campus mask requirements across the system will end “as soon as March 1 and no later than spring break,” the release shows. 

“While we will continue to take prudent prevention measures when warranted, restrictions can be lifted as case counts drop,” he said. 

Meanwhile, UW-Madison also announced its own mask mandate will end March 12. The announcement comes on the heels of Dane County’s health department announcing its mask order will be allowed to expire March 1. Milwaukee’s mask mandate is set to end the same day. 

See the UW System release: 

See the UW-Madison release: 

— The state Public Service Commission has gotten 15 applications requesting more than $1.1 million through the Medical Telecommunications Equipment Program. 

The commission says it will award up to $1 million in funding in the spring. The program supports purchases of telemedicine equipment with a goal of boosting access to care in rural or underserved areas or for people with disabilities, while promoting “technologically advanced” care services. 

Applicants include certain nonprofit medical clinics or hospitals as well as public health agencies. 

“Families seeking medical care should not have to travel long distances to find quality and affordable healthcare services; this program allows people to receive treatment remotely,” PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq said in a release.  

During the previous round of grants in 2020, the PSC received 19 applications requesting more than $1.2 million, and awarded 16 grants for a total of $1 million in funding. 

See more details: 

See the release: 


# UW System to end mask mandate by spring break

# Republican convention site selection committee visiting Milwaukee this week

# Drug coupons pit insurers against patients needing high cost medication



– Bahgat-Eggert & Roecker appointed to National Dairy Board

– Specialty crop block grants available through DATCP


– Pounding through the second phase of $420M Wisconsin Center project

– Hines’ Third Ward apartment tower with one less floor, more units aims for August start


– UW-Milwaukee professor to study Islands of Brilliance workshop for students with autism

– UW System to end mask mandate by spring break

– UW System set to remove campus mask mandates in March

– UW-EC, Stout to lift mask requirements in shift to ‘endemic operations’


– Pressure easing on Fox Valley hospitals as COVID-19 cases decline


– Milwaukee development firm targeting $10 million in its first blockchain-based capital raise


– Kellogg PEAK Initiative names new executive director


– Generac revenue climbs 40% despite supply-chain challenges

– Generac finished 2021 with sales, profit up more than 50% for the year


– Evers: Pandemic aid bolstered farmers, businesses

– Evers calls on Legislature to approve $150 taxpayer refund

– Gov. Tony Evers calls for Legislative action on budget surplus proposals in State of the State speech

– 2024 RNC site selection committee is visiting Milwaukee


– Alliance seeks $7 million for fund to keep hundreds of Milwaukee homes out of investors’ hands

– The Avenue secures another office tenant, prepares to open renovated apartments


– Milwaukee Night Market returns for full 2022 season


– COVID-19 app popular, but close contact use unclear

– Milwaukee-area builder first to roll out tool that lets buyers design and buy homes online


– Editorial: Wisconsin lawmakers should stop fooling around and legalize marijuana


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

UScellular: Announces $407 million network investment in Wisconsin in 2021

International Franchise Association: New 2022 economic forecast report shows impact of franchising on Wisconsin economy