Wednesday October 18, 2017

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State News
Hearing on King Audit Highlights Need for Legislative Oversight PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Assembly Democrats   
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:04

veterans-agingDVA unresponsiveness to Legislature, LAB audits should prompt legislative action.

MADISON – The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (“Audit Committee”) held a public hearing Tuesday on the results of the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB)’s audits (reports 17-8 and 17-14) of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King (“King”), which is operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). State Representatives Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and Terese Berceau (D-Madison), members of the Audit Committee, expressed their continued concerns about inaction at the DVA and demanded the Legislature act on the LAB’s audit recommendations.

melissa-sargent“Between the LAB audits and today’s public hearing, it’s clear that without legislative oversight and enforcement, we’re going to be back here in two years having the same conversation we had today,” said Sargent, ranking Democratic Assembly member on the Audit Committee.

“Executive agencies needs to respect the legislative process,” Sargent continued. “Complying with the Legislature isn’t optional—that’s how government works. Despite the Secretary’s unprofessional responses today, we’re not asking anything extraordinary, we’re asking for compliance with the LAB and the Audit Committee’s requests. As far as I’m concerned, the audit results and Secretary Zimmerman’s responses today are simply not good enough.”

terese_berceauTuesday’s public hearing comes only weeks after Governor Walker signed Wisconsin’s 2017-19 biennial budget, vetoing key provisions that would have removed the DVA’s unilateral authority to transfer money without legislative approval, promoted transparency and solvency for the veteran’s trust fund, and required the DVA to implement the LAB’s audit recommendations. Among many of the questions raised today related to DVA Secretary Daniel Zimmerman’s status report that was due to the Audit Committee on September 1, 2017, which many legislators suggested did not address many of the LAB’s recommendations.

“The DVA has given no indication it has meaningfully complied with the LAB’s recommendations, and seemingly didn’t understand the directives given in either audit, and the Secretary either could not or would not directly answer questions about it again today,” said Berceau. “There’s no shortage of concerns about what’s happening at King. We have staffing concerns, morale concerns, and we’re generating tens of millions in excess revenue, and the Legislature must take action to address this.”

The DVA is expected to provide another status report to the Audit Committee in January of 2018.

Audit Highlights Ongoing GOP Neglect at King PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Tony Palese   
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 16:13

veteran-olderRepublicans continue to raid funding from veteran nursing home.

MADISON, WI – A second audit of the state’s veteran nursing home at King revealed major staffing and health care concerns years after red flags were first raised by residents and whistleblowers. Since 2011, Republicans raided $21 million from the King Home while failing to ensure proper staffing, facility maintenance and health care services. Gov. Walker’s administration plans to raid an additional $26 million from the state’s veteran nursing homes over the next two years.

jennifer-shilling“It is inexcusable that Republicans would prioritize a $3 billion giveaway to a foreign corporation while our Wisconsin veterans and their families continue to receive substandard health care,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). “This audit reveals the damaging impact of Republican budget raids and proves that additional steps are needed to protect Wisconsin veterans and their families. Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans should stop sacrificing care for our veterans to fund their corporate tax giveaways.”

The audit was triggered after numerous reports revealed that Republicans and administrative leaders ignored years of warning signs and covered-up safety concerns at the King Veteran Home. A series of investigative reports exposed urine-soaked carpeting, tainted drinking water, staff shortages and outdated medical equipment at the facility.

Democrats introduced several legislative proposals and budget motions to prevent funding raids at King, address staffing concerns, invest in facility upgrades and improve veteran health care access. Senate and Assembly Republicans have rejected these efforts while approving Gov. Walker’s plans to continue raiding funding from the veteran nursing homes.

Hemp: Its Time has Come PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:06

hemp-fieldSenate Bill 119 would legalize growing hemp and create an active industrial program and license growers, actions eagerly supported by Wisconsin farmers. The Bill has strong bi-partisan support and Sen. Vinehout hopes it will pass quickly.

Kaminski to Retire as Executive Director of LWV Wisconsin PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by League of Women Voters Wisconsin   
Tuesday, 10 October 2017 10:58

andrea-kaminskiWill step down by the end of the year, Erin Grunze has been selected to replace her.

MADISON - Andrea Kaminski, Executive Director of League of Women Voters of Wisconsin (LWV WI), announces her retirement for the end of December 2017. The LWV WI Board has selected Erin Grunze to be the next Executive Director effective January 1, 2018.

During her remarkable 13-year tenure, Kaminski has seen an unprecedented number of challenges to voting rights through restrictive photo ID and registration laws, an influx of dark money into politics, and the dissolving of governmental checks and balances. She has been at the forefront advocating for voters’ rights and government accountability. “It has been an honor to work with Andrea on best practices for election administration, voter outreach, and accessibility,” says Maribeth Witzel-Behl, Municipal Clerk of Madison. “Andrea’s expertise and thoughtful recommendations have helped make our elections more accessible, secure, and transparent.”

LWV WI filed a lawsuit in 2011 to prevent the photo ID law from taking effect and separately filed amicus briefs in other voting rights cases including the Gill v Whitford partisan gerrymandering case now in the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Kaminski’s focus has not just been on litigation. She has often collaborated with other organizations such as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin VOICES, and Common Cause in Wisconsin to secure increased educational resources and multilingual materials to inform all Wisconsin voters.

matt-rothschild“Andrea has been a model leader in Wisconsin’s progressive nonprofit community. Wise, thoughtful, and courageous, she also has shown her trust in the grassroots and in coalitions,” remarks Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The League has increased its presence in the state in the last few years. There are currently 18 local Leagues in the state with recently formed Leagues in the Northwoods and Upper St. Croix Valley. Four additional communities are in the process of developing a new League.

Kaminski has worked very effectively to make sure the core principles of the LWV WI remain consistent: that voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed, that everyone has the right to know how government acts on their behalf, and that these values are universally shared by citizens from all backgrounds and political ideologies. Her leadership has established a strong base on which LWV WI will continue to thrive as it approaches its 100th Anniversary in 2020.

“I have been so fortunate to be able to work for the wise and hard-working League members, who devote countless volunteer hours to registering and educating voters year-round just because it’s the right thing to do,” said Kaminski. “Never endorsing a political candidate or party, our local Leagues are known as trusted conveners of high-quality voter education forums in their mission to advance informed and active participation in government – whether there is an election coming up or not.”

Grunze is the current Voter Education Coordinator for LWV WI where she manages the nationally recognized statewide Election Observation program. Last year she coordinated the Gear Up To Vote minivan tour for voter education and registration that traveled across Wisconsin between July and October. “Erin has demonstrated an ability to mobilize the vote and inspire active participation for good government. Since she joined our staff in February 2016 she has become a trusted and reliable leader, with a positive vision and an ability to guide and enhance communication among all members of the League. She has a determination to support the good work of our local Leagues and this will propel our ability to build a better democracy," said Debra Cronmiller, President of the League’s State Board.

“I am thrilled by this opportunity and it is such an honor to be selected as the next Executive Director of LWV WI,” said Grunze. “I am so very fortunate to be part of this organization in any capacity and I now look forward to my new role and venture. Andrea has been instrumental to the firm foundation of financial and organizational strength of LWV WI with her unwavering integrity and steady leadership. It has been a wonderful experience for me to work with her for nearly two years. I look forward to building upon what the LWV WI Board and League members across the state have committed their volunteer work to as defenders of the democratic process. With voting rights being assaulted and voting turnout in Wisconsin down in the last election, LWV WI has much work to do. League members are rolling up their sleeves and directly tackling these challenges within our communities and our state.”

Although she will retire from her daily duties as Executive Director, Kaminski will continue to serve as the League’s lobbyist and Board Secretary.


The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is a nonpartisan organization that advocates for informed and active participation in government. The League welcomes women and men across the state as members. With 18 local Leagues (and growing) in Wisconsin and 800 affiliates across the country, the League is one of the nation’s most trusted grassroots organizations. Follow @LWV_WI on Twitter.

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