JR Ross of Wispolitics.com talks about developments in Madison each Monday with WUWM's Marti Mikkelson.

This week, they discuss the recent flurry of activity in the Legislature.

One significant measure lawmakers approved was the passage of tighter restrictions on so-called "straw" gun sales. Those are sales to people buying guns for others, who are forbidden from owning the weapons.

Some Milwaukee leaders have fought for the restrictions for years. Marti asked JR what tipped the scales in Madison on this occasion.

Justin W Kern

Emotions ran high during a marathon session of the state Assembly on Thursday. In the end, lawmakers passed bills on some major hot-button issues.

One bill would give Foxconn-style tax breaks to prevent Kimberly-Clark from closing its two plants in the Fox Valley.

Another would give Wisconsin families 100 dollars for every child this fall. A third item would give everybody a sales tax holiday the first weekend in August. The discussion went until 1:00 Friday morning.


The company that cares for inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail is facing criminal charges. Employees allegedly lied about checking on a man who died of dehydration, after water to his cell was shut off.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office on Wednesday charged Armor Correctional Health Care Services with seven misdemeanor counts of intentionally falsifying health records.  

Eric Epstein


Late Tuesday, the state Senate's wetland bill vote was cast along party lines, 18 Republicans for and 14 Democrats against.  Next step, Gov. Scott Walker's desk. 

Original story, February 19, 2018:

Republican Rep. Jim Steineke of Kaukauna authored the bill making it easier for landowners to fill some wetlands – not high quality systems, he says, but low-grade isolated ones.  The bill passed in the Assembly last week.

It'll be Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock vs. Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet for Wisconsin Supreme Court in April.  Screnock placed first in Tuesday's primary with 46 percent of the vote while Dallet came in second with 36 percent.  Madison attorney Tim Burns was eliminated.  

The general election will be held April 3 to replace Justice Michael Gableman, who's retiring.  Screnock appeals to conservatives, while Dallet drew votes from Democrats.

Voters will go to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in a statewide primary for Wisconsin Supreme Court. It pits Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock against Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet and Madison Attorney Tim Burns.

Tuesday’s primaries mark two years since voter ID kicked in, in Wisconsin. Voter ID was established in Wisconsin for good, following a series of bitter court battles. Supporters argued the law prevents voter fraud, while critics feared it would disenfranchise the elderly and minorities, along with others most likely not to have an ID.

Tuesday, February 20, Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to narrow the list of three candidates vying to become the next Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice down to two. 

There’s an opening on the state’s highest court created by Justice Michael Gableman, who after only one 10 year term has decided not to seek reelection.

In recent years, Wisconsin Supreme Court races have been controversial due to the amount of outside money being spent to influence voters.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Mayor Tom Barrett gave Dr. Patricia McManus, head of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, the official green light Thursday, but the process was far from seamless.

Six weeks ago former commissioner Bevan Baker stepped down after evidence surfaced that the health department had botched protocols surrounding lead testing in children.

Mayor Barrett then announced his choice for interim commissioner - Paul Nannis.


Wisconsin is evolving in the way in which it treats its juvenile offenders in state run facilities. On Thursday, an assembly committee approved legislation that would close both Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in northern Wisconsin in favor of giving counties more control.

In recent years, the two facilities have been marred by lawsuits and a federal investigation into how kids there are treated. While some state lawmakers are singing the plans praises but counties have some concerns.


The Milwaukee County District Attorney is investigating the death of a 22-year-old West Milwaukee man who died after being tased by police.

Adam Trammell suffered from schizophrenia, so mental health advocates are watching the case develop.

Officers entered Trammell's home last May, after receiving calls from a neighbor that he was behaving erratically. He was tased repeatedly and died soon after he was taken to the hospital.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The topic of lead contamination continues to consume Milwaukee leaders. The Milwaukee Health Department is under scrutiny for mismanagement of its lead paint abatement program. And, at the same time, community pressure for a comprehensive plan seems to be mounting.

Wednesday morning at a meeting of the Public Works Committee, Alderman Tony Zielinski pushed for a companion strategy. “Key components of the legislation include inserts going out with the water bill quarterly as opposed to semiannually and that would provide educational material about lead," he said.

Prosecutors are reviewing possible criminal charges against three West Milwaukee police officers who allegedly used a stun gun on a man suffering from mental illness -- who later died. A medical examiner's report says the use of taser shocks led to the death of 22-year-old Adam Trammel in West Milwaukee last May. 


Native Americans in Wisconsin had the opportunity to share their concerns with state lawmakers Tuesday. The occasion was the annual State of the Tribes Address at the Capitol.

The speaker, former Menominee chairman Gary Besaw, focused on issues important to the different nations, such as preserving wetlands and limiting mining, but he also urged more communication between the state and the tribes.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

There’s a new proposal for where to house juvenile inmates after the troubled Lincoln Hills prison closes. Earlier this year, Gov. Scott Walker unveiled a plan to shutter Lincoln Hills in northern Wisconsin by 2020. But on Tuesday, a number of Walker’s fellow Republicans – and Democrats – shared their idea to have counties house the less serious offenders and help cover the costs. 

Legislative leaders touted the plan as a cheaper solution to what Walker had proposed.

Photo courtesy of WisconsinEye

At the first State of Black and Brown Wisconsin address in Madison Monday, members of the Black and Latino Caucus focused on the racial disparities that continue to challenge the advancement of people of color in the state.

The lawmakers highlighted disparities in housing, education, health and employment.

One of the participants was Milwaukee state Sen. LaTonya Johnson. She shared statistics that illustrate disparities in education between black and brown children, versus white children.