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House speaker bids adieu
In farewell speech, Speaker Ryan reflects on last 20 years

WASHINGTON — For nearly 20 years, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has given speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives and on Thursday he gave his final speech from the podium.

Ryan was elected to Congress in 1998 to represent Wisconsin’s 1st District, which includes Racine County, and he reflected on that time as a freshman 28-year-old congressman.

“I remember being awestruck walking down that center aisle, that feeling just never goes away,” Ryan said, gesturing where he walked in to the House chambers. “I still feel it when I walk onto the floor each and every time. I’m immensely grateful to the people of southern Wisconsin for their trust and their confidence.”

During his time in office, Ryan said he preferred not to call the people he represents his constituents but rather “my employers.”

“It’s the way I’ve always thought of this and I think it’s important that we as members understand that we work for the people, not the other way around,” Ryan said. “That we are in this to make a difference for them. We work every day to keep that obligation.”

Ryan thanked his staff and credits them for “any success that we have had is really, in my case, due to our humble and our hard working staff.”

“I was a staffer here before I got elected as a member. I started as an intern in the mail room,” Ryan said and listed the numerous jobs he had before being elected. “I figured I knew everything about these jobs, all the long hours and all of the sacrifices but nothing can truly prepare you for having people willing to help you in such a big undertaking on the front line.”

National profile raised

During the 2012 presidential election, Ryan ran as the Republican vice presidential candidate with Mitt Romney, but the duo ended up losing to incumbent President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

However, in that loss, Ryan became more of a national figure in the Republican Party and became Speaker of the House after John Boehner stepped down in 2015.

Ryan: Congress must fix DACA

RACINE — With the future in limbo for undocumented immigrants who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, House Speaker Paul Ryan believes Congress needs to find a “humane solution so that these kids don’t have this turmoil hanging over their heads.”

Ryan is arguably the most successful politician in Wisconsin history and he recognized the sacrifices his constituents made when he was elevated to the position.

“Since becoming Speaker of the House, which is not something we’re used to in Wisconsin (I’m the only one who has done that), I appreciate the indulgence of the people who I work for,” Ryan said. “Who indulged the fact that I had other responsibilities. When I took on these additional responsibility, the people of our staff really stepped up and really helped serve our constituents so they could continue to enjoy those flawless constituent services.”

Ryan closed the speech, which lasted about five minutes, thanking the people in the district.

“I am absolutely grateful to the people of southern Wisconsin for entrusting me as their representative,” Ryan said. “Thank you and I yield.”

And with that, he stepped away from the podium and the few people still left on the floor stood and applauded.

Ryan promotes tax reform, talks Foxconn

BURLINGTON — To get a better understanding of what local businesses are facing in the current economy, House Speaker Paul Ryan stopped in Burlington to listen to executives and workers and to preview a major push for tax reform.

“I am absolutely grateful to the people of southern Wisconsin for entrusting me as their representative,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin

State Politics
Lame-duck session on fast track, could happen Tuesday


MADISON — The Republican leader of the state Senate has signaled GOP lawmakers are pursuing a fast track for a lame-duck legislative session before Gov.-elect Tony Evers takes office, saying it could happen as soon as Tuesday.

Text of the bills to be considered could be released Friday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told the Wisconsin State Journal in a brief, exclusive interview.

Fitzgerald, R-Clyman, said lawmakers could hold public hearings on the bills Monday. It was not immediately clear which committees would convene.

GOP lawmakers are expected to take up bills in the lame-duck session that could include scaling back certain powers of the governor’s office or moving the date of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary.

Also in the mix is a subsidy package to help paper giant Kimberly-Clark retain hundreds of jobs in the Fox Cities, though Fitzgerald said Tuesday that bill may lack support to pass the Senate.

Fitzgerald said Assembly Republicans are working on a large omnibus bill, meaning one that could address a range of subjects. But he said Senate Republicans may proceed differently.

“I don’t think we’re going in that direction — maybe breaking it up,” Fitzgerald said.

Dates discussed

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said several dates have been discussed for the session. Speaking Thursday morning, Steineke said Assembly Republicans hoped to release information about the extraordinary session Thursday afternoon after meeting with their Senate counterparts, but no details were released as of 6 p.m.

“It’d be good if we’re all on the same page” heading into the session, he said.

Steineke said there’s at least one topic Assembly Republicans will not consider in the session: any changes to the decennial redistricting process of redrawing legislative and congressional districts.

Steineke said there’s “no possibility” redistricting changes will come up and they’ve never been discussed.

Some Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, speculated redistricting might come up in the the lame-duck session, which would be the last chance for GOP lawmakers to send bills to a supportive Gov. Scott Walker before he leaves office. Evers is set to be sworn in Jan. 7.

Health coverage

The office of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, did not respond to a request for comment on Fitzgerald’s remarks.

Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer did note that Vos has said he wants a lame-duck session to include passage of a bill addressing health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Such a measure would only have an impact if provisions of the Affordable Care Act are repealed or struck down in court, because it already assures people with pre-existing conditions can get coverage and won’t be charged more for it. The prospects of repeal have diminished with Democrats taking back control of the House in January.

Some lawmakers believe changing the next presidential primary date, now set for the first Tuesday in April, could give a better chance in the 2020 election to Walker’s state Supreme Court appointee, conservative-backed Justice Daniel Kelly. That’s because Kelly currently would stand for election on the same date as the presidential primary, and the latter contest is likely to spur higher voter turnout among Democrats because of what’s expected to be a more competitive fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But many of the local clerks who run Wisconsin’s elections have concluded it would be impossible to hold the presidential primary in March, as reportedly has been discussed, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said Thursday. McDonell said in a release that if a recount were needed for the February or March election, it would “categorically squash any possibility of this triple election cycle being feasible.”

Fitzgerald suggested earlier this week that lawmakers also could push the presidential primary date later than April, perhaps as late as June.

GOP legislative leaders also have said bills that could come up in the lame-duck session include changing the state agency rule-making process and adding to state law Walker’s newly approved work requirements for certain childless adults on the state’s Medicaid-funded health coverage program for the poor or disabled.

Other changes

Other changes Republicans lawmakers have said they’re considering include writing into state law existing rules on the requirement to show a photo ID to vote, and rolling back some powers of the governor’s office, including by giving lawmakers more say over the makeup of the board for the state’s job-creation agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Fitzgerald said Tuesday that GOP lawmakers are looking at changes — though it isn’t yet clear what — to the state solicitor general’s office, which represents the state Department of Justice in high-profile appellate cases.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said in a statement the extraordinary session is a bid by Republicans “to undermine Governor-elect Evers before he takes the oath of office.”

“This special session has been a bait and switch to rush through more partisan bills, rig elections, and consolidate more power in the hands of Republican politicians,” Shilling said.


Advocate Aurora Health to build to $15/hour minimum wage

RACINE COUNTY — Advocate Aurora Health Thursday announced plans to raise its minimum wage, in three stages, to $15 per hour by early 2021.

The organization shared a letter from Kevin Brady, Advocate Aurora’s chief human resources officer, to employees. “Our purpose is to help people live well and that begins with our own team members,” he wrote.

“To that end, I’m pleased to share the news that Advocate Aurora Health is increasing our minimum wage to $15 per hour by early 2021, with plans calling for $13 per hour in mid-2019 and $14 per hour in early 2020.”

The current minimum wage is not uniform across all of Advocate Aurora and ranges from $11 to $13 per hour.

Advocate Aurora, whose health system stretches from northeastern Wisconsin to central Illinois, indicated the wage hikes will affect approximately 10,000 to 15,000 employees, or up to 21 percent of the workforce. That includes employees such as medical assistants, phlebotomists, certain technicians, who already earn slightly higher pay and would be expected to also get pay increases.

Food service and custodial workers are most likely to be directly affected by the minimum-wage increases, the organization indicated.

‘An industry leader’

“As one of the largest not-for-profit employers in Illinois and Wisconsin, this decision aligns with our longstanding commitment to be market-competitive and remain a place that attracts and retains top talent,” Brady wrote. “Our goal is to be a destination employer where our team members feel valued, have opportunities for growth and connect with our values and purpose-driven culture.”

“We know that if our team members feel this is the best place to work, our patients will feel this is the best place to entrust their health and wellness,” Brady wrote.

“We are proud to be an industry leader in advancing minimum wage.”

Advocate Aurora Health was created by the merger, earlier this year, of Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care to become the 10th-largest nonprofit, integrated health system in the United States, with more than 70,000 employees. The system serves nearly 3 million patients annually in Illinois and Wisconsin across more than 500 sites of care.

In Racine County, Advocate Aurora’s medical facilities include Aurora Medical Center Burlington and a new, $83 million outpatient surgery center, also in the City of Burlington; and a large clinic at 8400 Washington Ave. in Mount Pleasant.

In May, the organization announced a $250 million plan to build a hospital with a full spectrum of emergency and inpatient services, two clinics and a medical office building on 96 acres off of Interstate 94, along Highway 20 in Mount Pleasant. Construction was slated to begin late this year with an expected opening in 2021.

“Our goal is to be a destination employer where our team members feel valued, have opportunities for growth and connect with our values and purpose-driven culture.” Kevin Brady, Advocate Aurora’s chief human resources officer