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WI Watchlist: Lame-Duck Bills, Johnson Controls, EmOpti & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

With the holidays approaching, it’s time to catch up on some recent headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community:

—Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed controversial lame-duck legislation that, among other things, limits the power of his Democratic successor, Tony Evers, who will take office in January. The legislation includes a measure that initially gives the state legislature more control over the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC)—the quasi-public economic development group that oversees programs including funding for startups and tax incentives for private venture investments—and temporarily removes the governor’s ability to appoint the head of the WEDC, giving that authority to the WEDC board. After Sept. 1, 2019, the governor will regain that authority.

Evers said during the campaign that he intended to replace the WEDC with a more traditional state-run jobs agency, and Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said legislators want more time to demonstrate to Evers the current setup works so he’ll change his mind, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Current WEDC CEO Mark Hogan said his organization didn’t seek the legislative changes, the Journal Sentinel reported.

—A couple weeks after Semba Biosciences announced it raised an unspecified amount of venture funding from Tosoh Bioscience, Madison-based Semba disclosed in a regulatory filing that it pulled in $3 million in equity financing from a single investor. With the investment, Semba said that Tosoh intends to eventually acquire full ownership of the life sciences company. The Wisconsin State Journal has more details on the deal.

—EmOpti, a Brookfield-based telehealth startup, snagged $1.35 million in a funding round led by Kevin O’Brien, a managing director at New York-based CCMP Capital Advisors, which is not involved in the investment, according to a report by BizTimes Media. Read more about EmOpti in this Xconomy profile from 2017.

—Milwaukee-area startup Alinea Engage, which makes physical therapy software, scooped up $860,000 in funding from a group of investors that includes Golden Angels Investors and BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, BizTimes reported.

—Johnson Controls International (NYSE: JCI) is experimenting with blockchain-enabled identity verification technology developed by San Francisco-based Civic Technologies. Through a recently announced partnership, Civic’s tech will be integrated with Johnson Controls’ building security systems, initially at three New York buildings. A visitor will be able to check in using Civic’s app, which stores user information on the person’s mobile device and verifies his or her identity using blockchain tools, according to a press release.

Johnson Controls, a global manufacturer that is headquartered in Ireland but has significant operations in the Milwaukee area, is in the midst of a shift toward its building technology products and away from its automotive businesses. It recently reached an agreement to sell its vehicle battery business for $13.2 billion to a group of buyers.