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Prevailing wages, right-to-work lead lobbying list

By: Dan Shaw, [email protected]//August 21, 2015//

Prevailing wages, right-to-work lead lobbying list

By: Dan Shaw, [email protected]//August 21, 2015//

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The debates leading earlier this year to the state’s right-to-work law and prevailing wage overhaul were the main drivers of government lobbying in the first six months of 2015.

The Government Accountability Board, which enforces state laws related to elections and campaign finance, reported Friday that lobbyists spent more time in the six months leading up to July on right to work and prevailing wages than any legislative matter other than the state budget. The most-lobbied piece of legislation outside the budget was Assembly Bill 32, which would have repealed the state’s prevailing wage laws.

Lobbyists reported spending 2,939 hours on AB 32, despite the legislation’s being ultimately dropped in favor of a less-far-reaching overhaul tucked into the state budget. Closely following AB 32 in the ranking of most-lobbied bills was Senate Bill 44, which made Wisconsin a right-to-work state when it was signed by Gov. Scott Walker in March. Lobbyists spent 1,536 hours on that legislation.

Rounding out the trio of most-lobbied bills was Senate Bill 49, which was the Senate’s companion to the proposal to eliminate prevailing wages. Lobbyists spent 1,100 hours on that bill, which also was eventually dropped.

The Milwaukee Bucks are at the top of the list for the most money spent lobbying. The sports organization spent $482,296 in the first six months of the year, presumably on trying to persuade lawmakers to vote in favor of a plan to finance a new arena for the team.

The report released Friday, though, stopped short of taking into account spending during a so-called special session that the state Legislature held in July. The Bucks financing bill was eventually passed during that session.

Various proponents and opponents of right-to-work and the overhaul of prevailing wages also appeared on the list of the heaviest spenders. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest pro-business group, came in at the No. 3 spot.

The organization was among the primary supporters of the state’s right-to-work law, which prevents employees from having to pay union dues as a condition of employment at certain companies. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce reported spending $348,733 in the first six months of the year.

Also figuring high on the list were Wisconsin Infrastructure Investment Now Inc. and Americans for Prosperity, groups that were on opposite sides of the prevailing wage debate. Wisconsin Infrastructure Investment, which lobbied against changes to the state’s prevailing wage laws, reported spending $329,180 in the first six months of the year.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group affiliated with the billionaire Koch brothers, reported spending $268,715, putting it sixth on the list of heaviest spenders.

In the end, lawmakers used the state budget to lift prevailing wage requirements from local governments, leaving them intact only for projects commissioned by the state. The budget also eliminated the state’s role in setting prevailing wages. Starting in 2017, when all the changes will take effect, the rates paid to workers on state-commission public projects will be those required by the federal Davis-Bacon Act.


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