Friends and Neighbors,
As we close out the legislative session, I want to thank you for the privilege of representing you in the Wisconsin State Assembly. I love Central Wisconsin, and every decision I make is with you in mind. People before politics.
This will be my final e-update this session, as Wisconsin law requires that no more than 49 of one message be distributed after April 15. Thank you so much for following along!
Though my monthly newsletter will be on hiatus, please feel free to contact me at any time to schedule a tour of your nonprofit, business or school; request a meeting; call or e-mail me with questions or ideas; and share your thoughts with me at any time. Your voice is very important to me and I will continue to work hard for you and our community!
As we finally get into spring, I've enjoyed March Madness, especially since we were also able to celebrate the accomplishments of our stellar local sports teams like the Amherst Falcons, the SPASH Panthers, and the UWSP Pointers -- along with the Wisconsin Badgers!
I am so thankful to represent amazing people in the communities we all love. Thank you for following along, and please let me know how I can best serve you. Your voice is very important to me!
End of Session Wrap-up: What's Left Undone
The Wisconsin State Legislature has adjourned for the legislative session as determined by majority Republicans. Governor Walker has started making final decisions on bills that were passed by the legislature and is signing many into law.
At at time when there are so many pressing issues facing Wisconsin, I'm disappointed that we're adjourning so soon. Here's my to-do list of bills I'd like to see us work together on:
We also should have tackled the issues in the legislature most in need of reform:
- Making higher education more affordable by allowing for student loan refinancing and investing in financial aid.
- Strengthening retirement security for all workers.
- Increasing childcare affordability by providing tax relief for middle class families.
- Helping hard workers get ahead through earned sick days, paid family leave, and raising wages.
I've introduced legislation to create a waste, fraud, and abuse hotline for WEDC and make it a felony for anyone who fraudulently seeks assistance from WEDC. Additionally, I authored legislation to fully fund need-based financial aid for the 33,000 qualifying technical college students and 1,600 UW students who didn't receive any aid due to the legislature's inaction. I've sponsored bills to tackle the issues that keep working families up at night, from student loan debt to childcare, and with so much work that still needs to be done, I'll continue to call for action. I know that every day you wake up ready to do your job, and the legislature should be doing the same -- today and every day.
- Holding the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) accountable and reforming it to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.
- Bringing together stakeholders to study and discuss CWD and the fact that 10% of deer tested for Chronic Wasting Disease tested positive.
- Passing a sustainable funding solution so we can be fiscally responsible and invest in our roads and infrastructure instead of putting it on the credit card.
- Fully auditing the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and taking a hard look at agency mismanagement.
Key Legislative Updates
Plastic Bag Ban Prohibition: Veto Request
After Assembly Bill 730 passed the legislature, I sent a letter to Governor Walker asking that he veto the bill. AB 730 would take away the power of local elected officials by prohibiting them from implementing bans on plastic bags, paper containers, glass containers, and other containers. Local elected officials should be allowed to determine solutions that make sense for their respective communities. This is a perfect example of an issue that the state legislature should leave up to local communities - but instead the Republican majority chose to once again eliminate local control. Unfortunately, the governor signed AB 730 into law.
An Update on Higher Education Legislation
After cutting funding for the UW System by $500 million in five years and failing to invest in need-based financial aid by keeping it frozen at 2011 levels for years, Governor Walker kicked off 2016 by putting forward a few small proposals related to higher education. Not all of them passed, and none of them will help a single graduate lower their monthly loan payments, nor will it allow them to claim a larger annual state tax deduction while repaying their loans in the years after graduating.
Assembly Democrats have pushed for meaningful reform for student borrowers for years, and we'll continue to fight for student loan refinancing and tax relief for borrowers until it becomes law. Additionally, now is the time to invest in our UW and technical colleges and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
Investing in Care, Treatment, and Research for Alzheimer's and Dementia
I was proud to cosponsor and vote for 10 bills that aim to fight and treat Alzheimer's and dementia by investing in research, support, and care.
Unfortunately, the State Senate only took up three of these bills passed by the State Assembly:
As someone with a loved one with Alzheimer's, I understand the tremendous amount of challenges families can face, and I am so proud that we have such outstanding community resources and dedicated individuals to connect people with resources.
- AB 786, which directs the Department of Health Services (DHS) to propose a county-level pilot program for dementia crisis units.
- AB 787, which provides $1 million for respite care under the Alzheimer's Family and Caregiver Support Program.
- AB 790, which requires that DHS award $250,000 in 2016 to train mobile crisis teams who serve people with dementia.
If you are in need of resources regarding caregiving or any other services, check out the 2016 Community Resources Directory here.
One of our greatest treasures here in Wisconsin has always been our pristine natural resources, particularly our waterways. We deserve to have clean water, and we deserve to have enough water.
As several bills recently moved through the legislature quickly regarding groundwater management, we are now having a more serious conversation regarding quantity issues in the Central Sands. Last night, Sen. Lassa and I, along with other legislators, hosted a public presentation on the completion of the Little Plover River Study and Optimization Model.
The DNR funded this project to construct a groundwater flow model for the Little Plover River basin in Portage County, and it was carried out jointly between the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey. This model can serve as the foundation for other models in the Central Sands and around the state. You can read more about it here.
My interest in this issue is in bringing stakeholders together, finding common ground, using data to discuss evidence-based policy solutions, and most importantly, putting everyone first -- not leaving anyone behind. It's clear that we need everyone at the table to ensure that any policy suggestions are equitable, fair, and helpful. Thank you to everyone who attended and the many of you who have contacted me about this issue! We're lucky to have such an involved community, and I hope we can continue to bring stakeholders together to have a thoughtful conversation about how we can manage our resources so no one -- property owner, lake association, tourism and recreation industry, sporting community, agricultural industry -- is left behind. If you would like to sit down and discuss this, I'm all ears. Central Wisconsin community members have made clear this is an important issue to them.
I'll be on Glen Moberg's Route 51 show on WPR this Thursday, April 14 at 10:00 a.m. with State Rep. Scott Krug (R-Rome), Dr. George Kraft (Professor of Water Resources and Director of the Center for Watershed Science and Education), and Tamas Houlihan (Executive Director, Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association) to discuss these issues! I hope you tune in and ask questions.
Chronic Wasting Disease: Report
You may have seen recent reports in the media highlighting the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) findings that nearly 10% of the deer analyzed by the DNR tested positive for chronic wasting disease. While most of the cases came from southern Wisconsin, there were two cases that came from Central Wisconsin.
Our hunting heritage is a proud tradition in Wisconsin and I, along with my colleagues on the Assembly Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage Committee, are incredibly concerned about these reports. That's why I spoke to the DNR about this and, along with my Democratic colleagues, asked the governor for action.
Congrats, Stevens Point Area Sports Teams!
With the winter sports seasons wrapping up, several local athletes and teams made impressive runs to punch their tickets to the various state and national tournaments.
I want to congratulate the Amherst Falcons on their impressive showing in the Boys Division IV State Basketball tournament! The Falcons came into a semifinal matchup against Cameron High School with an impressive 25-1 record and the players, coaching staff, and students of Amherst should be extremely proud of their successful season.
The SPASH Panthers rode their #1 ranking in Division I Boys Basketball into their second consecutive state tournament. The Panthers, led by seniors Sam Hauser and Trev Anderson, wasted no time jumping out to an early lead in the state championship game against Muskego and cruised to a 89-64 victory. Congratulations to Coach Anderson and his staff, the players, and all the fans who made the trip to Madison to watch the Panthers! I introduced a resolution in the legislature to honor the SPASH Panthers for their second consecutive championship title, which you can read here!
Congratulations to UWSP men's hockey for bringing home the NCAA Division III National Championship trophy for the first time in 23 years! With a 5-1 victory in the championship game, we are all extremely proud! Congrats also to Coach Brooks for being named a finalist for the Division III National Coach of the Year!
We have a lot to be proud of in the Stevens Point area. It's truly an honor to represent you. Thank you for making this community great. We are all in this together!
It's been a pleasure keeping you informed! Please stay in touch and let me know how I can best serve you.