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Wisconsin Lawmakers won’t upset Badger Nation

If Wisconsin Democrats really wanted to find a way to push through a high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee – or any other lofty initiative – they should have found a way to associate it with the University of Wisconsin-Madison athletics department.

Lawmakers this week proved they are unwilling to touch anything that might negatively affect the Badgers – and their intense fan base.

A $76.8 million facility renovation of Camp Randall Stadium and the McClain Center, called the Badger Performance Center, came before the state Building Commission on Wednesday. And, although lawmakers had some concerns about the project – especially the process by which it will be constructed – one sentiment kept the discussion moving along.

“I think it’s important, especially with Michigan and Ohio State in tatters, that we move forward and seize the day here,” state Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said.

Hintz was kinda, sorta – but not really – joking.

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, did not like that the Badger Performance Center would be built under the construction-manager-at-risk project delivery method, meaning the project won’t be competitively bid.

But, because the project will be on a tight deadline – and could render Camp Randall unplayable during an upcoming football season if something went wrong – Schultz decided the UW-Madison project didn’t represent a proper hill to die on.

“Sen. (Robert) Cowles pointed out to me,” Schultz said, “the fallout from being late for something that would harm our football team.”

So, for those scoring at home: The fallout from passing a bill stripping most collective bargaining rights from public workers, bringing tens of thousands of angry protesters to the Capitol, is acceptable.

Potentially ticking off tens of thousands of Wisconsin football fans? Not so much.

— James Briggs

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