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Summerfield hears from locals

Farming, the workforce, education and the state budget were key points of interest to constituents who attended Rep. Rob Summerfield’s (R-Bloomer) listening session at the G.E. Bleskacek Family Memorial Bloomer Public Library Thursday afternoon.

The session was a rescheduled part of a series of three listening sessions by Summerfield in the area, including one at the Anson Town Hall later that day and another in Elk Mound on Monday, March 12.

The goal, Summerfield said, is for both him and those he represents to learn about what the other is doing and concerned about.

“(I) like to do listening sessions,” Summerfield said. “Get out, have people come to me with their concerns and ideas.”

As the assembly finished its session a few weeks ago in Madison, Summerfield updated the handful of people at the Bloomer listening session about what bills and work the assembly did, including a bill that if passed, could add another assistant district attorney position to Chippewa County and another two to Dunn County.

Summerfield saw this as a positive step toward working with high caseloads, which Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said can be attributed to a meth epidemic. Summerfield said he fears the epidemic could grow worse.

“It’s here, and we need to find out the ways to address it,” Summerfield said, later adding, “My biggest fear is that we’re going to deal with a heroin epidemic.”

Before opening up the floor to residents for their opinions, concerns and ideas, Summerfield also discussed the increased money in the budget for education and the need for schools and trade schools to work together to create what he called a “pipeline,” to get more students interested and trained in those trades and into the workforce.

The biggest concern among employers he talks to, Summerfield said at the session, is the lack of available workforce in Wisconsin.

Creating connections between higher education and K-12 schools was another highlight Summerfield said he saw beginning to happen at the state level.

The recent wetlands bill that would eliminate developers’ needs for permits to build on wetlands smaller than one acre – a bill that now sits on Gov. Scott Walker’s desk to be signed – was an environmental concern brought up first by a resident at the session, specifically regarding the significance even small wetlands can play in nature, according to the Wisconsin Wetlands Association.

Summerfield said the amended bill would only impact wetlands that are not “high quality” and is geared toward farmers or homeowners that cannot build barns or sheds due to current qualifications of wetlands.

Concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) farms – including a 5,000-cow farm in Dunn County – were a concern brought up by multiple constituents at the session. Suggestions for increasing family farming included limiting the size of farming operations allowed in Wisconsin and imposing more regulations on the larger farms.

Milk prices, currently at an all-time low, was another concern among local residents and farmers.

“I’ve seen the loss of the family farm,” Summerfield said, adding that while the milk price issue is a federal concern that he has no ability to change, continuing to work for what is best for state farmers is something he sees a need for.

Other issues brought up at the session included the Foxconn Wisconsin factory, tuition freezes while not funding higher education institutions and a depleting transportation budget at the state level.

AG Schimel avoids GOP mention in re-election announcement

MADISON — Attorney General Brad Schimel is running for re-election as a Republican, but you’d never know it from his campaign launch video or website.

Nowhere in the minute-long video, on his website or in his news release announcing his campaign does the longtime Republican and supporter of President Donald Trump identify himself as a member of the GOP. Instead, he repeatedly calls himself “independent.”

“Wisconsin has never seen an attorney general more wedded to the GOP’s extreme, anti-Wisconsin agenda,” Martha Laning, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement. “The idea that Schimel is independent would be funny if it weren’t so untrue.”

Schimel announced Thursday that he is seeking a second term in a year in which Democrats are banking that anger toward Trump will hurt Republican campaigns across the country. Josh Kaul, a former federal prosecutor, is the only Democrat to announce a run against Schimel so far.

The attorney general has supported Trump and repeatedly touted multiple lawsuits he’s filed against former President Barack Obama’s administration. Last week, he joined with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Schimel made no bones about his conservative pedigree during a speech last month before Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group and a staunch GOP campaign donor. He noted that he had recently met with Trump’s legal team and played up his lawsuits against the Obama administration. He added that Democrats planned to target his race and he’ll need the group’s help.

But he made no mention of his party affiliation in a news release Thursday announcing his campaign or in his campaign launch video, instead calling himself “tough, fair and independent.” His campaign website also doesn’t mention he’s a Republican. The home page, however, is emblazoned with the slogan “Tough. Fair. Independent.”

The Republican Attorneys General Association issued a news release Thursday supporting Schimel using the slogan as well.

Asked why the attorney general doesn’t mention he’s a Republican, Schimel campaign spokesman Matthew Dobler responded with an email that didn’t address the question. It only included links to news releases touting a DOJ elder abuse awareness program and a drug take-back day.

Kaul campaign aide Ashley Viste said in an email that Schimel is trying to distance himself from his blatantly partisan record.

State GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman fired back with a tweet saying “everything looks less partisan when you’re running against Hillary Clinton’s attorney.” Kaul served as an attorney for Clinton during Wisconsin’s presidential recount, which confirmed Trump won the state.

Gov. Scott Walker, a Trump ally running for a third term in November, also didn’t mention that he’s a Republican in his campaign launch video. The governor has clearly shifted his policies toward the center as the campaign season ramps up and this week came out against Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs.

Democrat Patty Schachtner upset Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow by 11 points in a race for a traditionally red open state Senate seat in northwestern Wisconsin last month, setting off alarm bells for the state GOP. Walker called Jarchow’s loss a “wake-up call for Republicans.”

Marc Wehrs / MICHAEL P. KING Associated Press 

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel speaks to reporters in Madison, Wis. Schimel is running for re-election as a Republican, but nowhere in the minute-long video, on his website or in his news release does Schimel, a longtime Republican and supporter of President Donald Trump, identify himself as a member of the GOP.  

Trump announces stiff trade tariffs, unswayed by warnings

WASHINGTON — Unswayed by Republican warnings of a trade war, President Donald Trump ordered steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. on Thursday, vowing to fight back against an “assault on our country” by foreign competitors. The president said he would exempt Canada and Mexico while negotiating for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The new tariffs will take effect in 15 days, with Canada and Mexico indefinitely exempted “to see if we can make the deal,” Trump said. NAFTA talks are expected to resume early next month.

“The American aluminum and steel industry has been ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices. It’s really an assault on our country. It’s been an assault,” Trump said at the White House. He was joined by steel and aluminum workers holding white hard hats.

Wisconsin’s three highest-ranking Republicans — House Speaker Paul Ryan, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker — all decried the move by Trump to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, saying it could spark a trade war and hurt Wisconsin’s manufacturing and agricultural industries.

As he has indicated previously, Trump said he would levy tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. But he said during a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day that the penalties would “have a right to go up or down depending on the country and I’ll have a right to drop out countries or add countries. I just want fairness.”

The state’s most prominent Democrat, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, had a more measured response. Without coming out in favor or against the tariffs, Baldwin said the move “sends a strong message to bad actors like China” but also called for Trump to exempt European trading partners and do more to “target China’s cheating.”

Baldwin, who like Walker is up for re-election in November, said the best way to support Wisconsin workers is to enact strong buy-American standards like she’s supported and renegotiate a better deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Walker on Thursday repeated his call for Trump to reconsider, saying “these tariffs will negatively impact key industries and employers in Wisconsin.” Johnson called the move a “very risky action” that could spark a trade war and have “very serious unintended consequences.”

“I’m not sure there are any winners in trade wars,” said Johnson, who ran a plastics manufacturing business in Wisconsin before being elected to the Senate. “There may be people who lose less.”

Ryan, appearing at a session with Home Depot employees in Atlanta, said ahead of Trump’s announcement, “I’m just not a fan of broad-based, across-the-board tariffs.” He pointed to the store’s many products that rely on steel and aluminum.

Ryan said he would continue to urge the president to focus the tariffs only on countries that violate trade law, like China.

“Our economy and our national security are strengthened by fostering free trade with our allies and promoting the rule of law,” he said.

Johnson said he expected Trump’s action to be challenged in court and he would support Congress passing laws to curtail the executive power of the president.

Wisconsin cranberries and Harley-Davidson motorcycles are on the European Union’s list of products that could face tariffs in response to Trump’s action. Wisconsin is the world’s top producer of cranberries.

Walker, during a pair of stops Wednesday at Wisconsin businesses that use imported steel, argued that the tariffs could force them to move production out of the U.S. to avoid the tariffs.

American steel and aluminum workers have long been betrayed, but “that betrayal is now over,” Trump said. The former real estate developer said politicians had for years lamented the decline in the industries, but nobody was willing to take action.

Business leaders, meanwhile, have continued to sound the alarm about the potential economic fallout from tariffs, with the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raising the specter of a global trade war. That scenario, Tom Donohue said, would endanger the economic momentum from the GOP tax cuts and Trump’s rollback of regulations.

“We urge the administration to take this risk seriously,” Donohue said.

The president suggested in the meeting with his Cabinet that Australia and “other countries” might also be spared, a shift that could soften the international blow amid threats of retaliation by trading partners.

“We’re going to be very fair, we’re going to be very flexible but we’re going to protect the American worker as I said I would do in my campaign,” Trump said.

People briefed on the plans ahead of the announcement said all countries affected by the tariffs would be invited to negotiate with the administration to be exempted from the tariffs if they can address the threat their exports pose to U.S. manufacturers. The exemptions for Canada and Mexico could be ended if talks to renegotiate NAFTA stall.

The process of announcing the penalties has been the subject of an intense debate and chaotic exchanges within the White House, pitting hard-liners against free trade advocates such as outgoing economic adviser Gary Cohn.

The fight over tariffs comes amid intense turmoil in the West Wing, which has seen waves of departures and negative news stories that have left Trump increasingly isolated in the Oval Office, according to two senior officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

Congressional Republicans and business groups are bracing for the impact of the tariffs and the departure of Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive who has opposed them.

More than 100 House Republicans wrote Trump on Wednesday, asking him to reconsider “the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences” to the U.S. economy and workers.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican, said he plans to introduce legislation next week to nullify the tariffs though he has acknowledged that finding the votes to stop the president’s actions could be difficult.

The president has said the tariffs are needed to reinforce lagging American steel and aluminum industries and protect national security.

Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Darlene Superville, Zeke Miller, Matthew Daly and Alan Fram in Washington and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.