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Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District

Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District

State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legislative assistant, Erpenbach was elected to represent the 27th Senate District in November of 1998 and was re-elected in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. Jon’s Senate colleagues elected him Senate Democratic Leader in December 2002. He served in that position until December 2004.
Senator Erpenbach has worked in the Legislature to regulate issue ads since his election in 1998 to the Senate, that includes working on bipartisan proposals to limit outside spending in elections and shed light on who is spending money to influence the outcomes of elections and legislation.
For more information please contact his office at 608-266-66790 or 888-549-0027 or sen.erpenbach@legis.wi.gov

Looking at the FOXCONN Deal with a Wisconsin Perspective

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 16 August 2017
in Wisconsin

Walker-gouThere is real desperation here, because our job growth has trailed the National average 22 straight quarters, but that doesn’t mean we need to give away the farm. We can do better.


MADISON - Every single elected official is interested and willing to help businesses build and create family supporting jobs here in Wisconsin. That’s because our job growth has trailed the National average 22 straight quarters, every single quarter since Governor Walker created the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). There is real desperation, because there is real need. But that doesn’t mean we need to give away the farm (literally) for the big fish that falls into our lap. We can work hard and build the businesses we have with investments in education and training, infrastructure, and our assets as a state like the environment.

We all love Wisconsin because it is such a beautiful area to live, raise a family, and retire. Every corner of our state has pristine natural areas we all use for recreation, hunting and other leisure activities. Sacrificing those natural areas as a part of the FOXCONN deal is foolish. Directly putting our water, air and environment at risk is bad public policy. The “give away our environment” attitude with this deal also opens the door to exempt future economic development deals from environmental approval rules and is simply unacceptable. We have dozens of examples of Wisconsin businesses that have grown and flourished without dumping waste and diverting streams and sacrificing Great Lakes waters.

Next we need to examine the deal. Is it really the best we could get for our taxpayer investment or does it reflect the political desperation some leaders feel because of their own failures? Any taxpayer funded investment should demonstrate the best return on investment we can get, build family supporting jobs to replace the union living wage manufacturing jobs we have lost, and have real recovery claw backs if the business packs up and moves or if they automate and eliminate jobs in the process. Governor Walker and WEDC do not have an awesome track record with recovery when companies outsource jobs and the potential replacement of supported jobs with automation is a brave new world for all of us.

The deal does have benchmarks before funds are released which is good, but lacks claw backs if jobs are outsourced or automated – the new Assembly version is just the same. Claw backs require businesses to pay back taxpayer costs if the business fails to keep the contract. Wisconsin needs to be able to at least try to take on FOXCONN if they damage our environment and our economy. FOXCONN is not a Wisconsin company building their future here. They are a Taiwanese company looking to avoid President Trump’s tariff threats and we are just the state with the best deal for them.

We cannot let the relentless pursuit of jobs take away what makes Wisconsin our home. We can do better.

****

If you would like more information on FOXCONN and special session Senate Bill 1 contact my office at 608-266-6670 or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Violating Privacy in Search of Fraud is Misplaced Justice

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Friday, 14 July 2017
in Wisconsin

trumpPresident Trump's new witch hunt for illegal voters is a waste of time. Voters are not committing fraud in elections. Politicians who pass laws rigging the maps and suppressing voter turnout are the real problem.


MADISON - Regardless of what happens in court or the with the “call back” from President Trump, the Wisconsin Elections Commission will follow Wisconsin law and grant a request to release limited information about our voters as they must under our open records law. Information like name and address of voters as well and when and where they voted will be given to President Trump’s commission if they pay for the records. But the secret ballot, party preference, social security number and date of birth is rightly protected by our laws. There is no other choice because our law on open records is clear.

voter-idHowever violating our voter’s rights in search of fraud is a waste of time and a violation of privacy because the Republican claim of voter fraud has been proven false more than once. This national ploy will show nothing different.

Voters are not the ones committing fraud in elections. Politicians who pass laws rigging the maps so only they can win is the true voter fraud. This fraud is so great a panel of three Federal judges overturned it and demanded new maps be drawn. This fraud is so valid that the US Supreme Court now will hear how fraudulent our maps are, how dirty Wisconsin elections have become under this one party rule.

This should make no one proud. The voter fraud of rigged maps is what needs attention. Taking away the right to one person one vote, without political interference, is the crime.

Voters in this state work hard to access the ballot and that is not something that has been made easier with the elimination of special registration deputies and additional identification at every single election, not just when you register to vote. But these barriers and intimidation will not break the Wisconsin voter spirit. We have fortitude, we have strength, we are stubborn and we won’t let Republican voter intimidation take away our right to vote.

Coming off an election where the party I belong did not perform well this optimism and faith in voters may seem misplaced. But the reality is I believe in the value of the right to vote. Even if people don’t vote for me. The process of clean elections and the value of the right to vote is bigger than any politician, bigger than any party.

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If you would like additional information on voter’s rights and the violation of those rights with the current one party rule in Wisconsin, contact my office at 608-266-6670 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Republican Budget Cuts UW Classrooms

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 27 May 2017
in Wisconsin

uw-mdsn-studentsWalker and the Republicans who control the legislature are pushing the biggest budgets in the history of Wisconsin, yet they have cut $800 million from the UW.


MADISON - A budget is all about priorities and Republicans and Governor Walker have made it very clear that the UW is not their priority.

Since elected, Governor Walker’s state budgets have spent nearly $282 billion dollars – over $127 billion in GPR alone. These are the biggest budgets in the history of Wisconsin, yet Governor Walker and Republicans have cut $800 million from the UW in the last few budgets.

The funds are there, but Republicans have chosen not to restore their $800 million cut.

Democrats will not agree to continue this cut to the UW because we value the UW and the economic engine it is. Wisconsin deserves better than another state budget with cuts to our UW classrooms.

Truly the great state of Wisconsin deserves a strong UW system and the educational opportunities a strong investment in our UW schools brings for our people.

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More Accountability Needed for Taxpayer Funds at King Nursing Home

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Friday, 17 March 2017
in Wisconsin

veteran-olderFunds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first.


MADISON - Caring for our veterans is one of the most sacred duties we work to achieve as a state. We have been entrusted by the Federal government to care for elderly and disabled veterans and their spouses at our veteran nursing homes. These facilities should have the gold standard of care. Unfortunately, like many other operations of the state, infrastructure and maintenance delays and failures have affected the lives of those in our nursing homes, most notable at the Veterans Home at King. This is NOT a money problem. Even when state finances were tight just after the recession, the veteran nursing homes have been building surplus of funds.

While the federal government has decided not to limit how states can spend surplus revenues, we can still make the right choices here in Wisconsin and invest in our veteran care with money that was paid to care for veterans. The first step in that process is taking back control of transfers out of the veteran nursing home surplus fund. Currently about $35 million of revenue sits in this surplus fund. This money can be transferred out of the fund at any time not by the Legislature, but by a political appointee, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The only way the Legislature even knows about the transfers are because of a statutory required annual report to the Legislature on the Veterans Fund.

Why does the veteran’s nursing Home fund have a surplus? These revenues are derived from an exemption from the nursing home bed tax, the federal per diem paid to facilities for the care of veterans, federal service related disability payments made for the care of disabled veterans, the higher state rate for reimbursement for Medicaid, and private payment from veterans and their families.

The 2013 budget included language that allowed for unlimited transfers from the veterans nursing home fund into the Veterans Fund without Legislative approval. The Legislature added JFC passive review, but the Governor vetoed it. DVA can now transfer, at any time, surplus from our state veteran’s nursing homes facilities. Unfortunately, turning back the clock and granting facility upgrade requests is not an option. $18.5 million in facility improvements in the last state budget were zero funded by Governor Walker. Our only choice as a Legislature is to move forward. That is why I am proposing a bill to reestablish Legislative oversight of all funding for the veterans homes. The DVA will transfer a total of $21 million away from the Veterans Nursing Homes just this biennium. Passing the buck on financial oversight is wrong.

A state that supports their veterans spends state money for programs for veterans and does not use money meant for the care and comfort in nursing homes for agency administration and rent. Funds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first.

For more information on the Veterans Fund please contact my office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027.

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Seasonal Unemployment Changes Hurting Businesses and Communities

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Monday, 13 February 2017
in Wisconsin

construction-workersFor years, people in occupations like the construction trades could get up to 12 weeks of UC wages when laid off seasonally. The rule helped local contractors keep their workforce intact until projects could resume and they were glad to pay for it, but in 2015 the Walker administration ended the practice for what it called cost savings. Sen. Erpenbach is introducing a bill to put it back.


MADISON - One thing you can always count on in Wisconsin is winter. Winter will come and with it for some businesses and employees a time when work simply cannot be done because of the weather. Recognizing that seasonal unemployment is different than getting fired from a job, Wisconsin law has allowed businesses to place a “winter hold” on their employees when the weather makes working impossible.

This hold means not only that businesses can keep the people that they have trained, but is also keeps employees from having to take a job they don’t need just because they are required to accept a job or lose unemployment insurance. I am proposing a fix with colleagues that I hope will receive overwhelming support in the Legislature.

This issue came to my office through a listening session and played out in the real world a bit differently than I would have expected. A constituent from New Glarus works outside construction so every year he is seasonally unemployed. To keep busy and help his community, he volunteers significantly more in winter with the local fire and rescue which is an all-volunteer force. This gives a break to everyone else who puts their lives on hold to save the lives of their neighbors. Turns out he is not alone.

Finding people willing to get up in the middle of the night to pull a neighbor from a burning house, or a car accident, or suffering from a stroke is more and more difficult. The incentives for volunteer fire departments just are not there, and with an aging rural population this is truly an emergency care crisis. Last summer a Legislative Council Study committee worked to address this crisis and has proposed a set of bills to help rural Wisconsin. I will support each and every one of them and I hope my colleagues will too. Missing from that list unfortunately is this bill, which I believe should have been included.

This issue is not just about volunteer emergency crews in rural Wisconsin, it is also about each and every business in rural and urban Wisconsin that wants to keep their employees they have trained and invested in. The change to prohibit a “winter hold” on employees was not made by the Legislature; it was made by the Department of Workforce Development and the Governor Walker administration. In 2015 this rule changed and we have heard from businesses and employers ever since how bad it is for business in Wisconsin.

Despite our advocacy to have the rule changed and outrage at the unemployment advisory council, the administration has failed to change this rule. That means we will have to try a law change again this year. I am hopeful other Legislators that represent rural areas will step up and cross party lines to support their local businesses and communities and support this change. Contact your state Legislators and ask them to support allowing a “winter hold” on employees to help your community and the businesses that keep it working.

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For more information on seasonal unemployment changes and what they have meant for businesses, employees and emergency medical services contact my office at 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

This issue is being discussed by the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council (UIAC). For more information about it and it's work, go HERE.

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Wisconsin Roads Desperate for Leadership

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Friday, 03 February 2017
in Wisconsin

road-closed-delayState highway Projects have cost $3 billion more than projected, and the quality of Wisconsin roads have deteriorated in just five years. What's wrong, and what can we do better?


MADISON - The Department of Transportation audit announcement felt like a sucker punch to the gut. Projects in the works for our state roads have cost $3 billion more than projected. $3 billion more than the Legislature planned for. This is simply unbelievable. Wisconsin roads have gone from 53% “good” to 41% “good” in just five years.

How do our roads deteriorate that much in just five years? Complete lack of adequate funding. The 2011 state budget cut road funding by delaying projects, postponing large projects and cutting funds to rural roads in Wisconsin. Each and every budget since then has done the same thing. The Transportation Fund has been in crisis mode since the Legislature repealed the indexing of the gas tax and there have been no true solutions put forth by the majority party.

Before the last biennial budget, this crisis was truly recognized statewide by all Legislators and the Governor. Governor Walker even asked his Transportation Secretary to come up with possible solutions to this economic crisis. A group of experts met and they came up with many different options for ensuring that our immediate road needs and our long term funding crisis could be addressed. Governor Walker and the Republican majority rejected each and every idea this group of experts put forth. Instead, they chose to borrow once again for our roads and delayed projects, postponed large projects, and cut funding to rural roads. It is like ground hogs day with an increasingly bumpy road.

Why is funding for roads so important? First and foremost is the safety of all of us going where we need to go. Hazardous roads equal unsafe roads for our families. Second is the economy. How can we expect our lagging economy to improve if we don’t have the infrastructure to support the businesses that work here? How can we expect new businesses to move into a state that has 41% “poor” roads? From farms to factories, road travel is still the cheapest and fastest way for businesses to move products and supplies. We will never catch up to our neighboring states if we do not invest in our roads.

Delaying and bonding and backfilling have been used time and time again to fund our roads and it simply is not working. Over 20 cents on every dollar we are spending now to build our roads is going to financing of yesterday’s projects. This credit card, funding scheme has to stop.

I stand ready, as I have for the last six years, willing to work with any Legislator with the strength to find a short term and long term solution for transportation funding. Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans need to put their money where their mouths are and help this state. No more excuses.

******

For more information on the Legislative Audit of the Department of Transportation or the Transportation Financing crisis contact my office at 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Illegal Coordination Highlighted in Guardian Story

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 14 September 2016
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-sworeinSenate Republicans knew they were blowing our campaign finance laws to pieces for their own personal benefit. That is the true crime in all of this.


MADISON, WI - Last November, the Wisconsin Senate Republicans made changes to Wisconsin election laws that they knew would allow collusion and coordination between political candidates and dark money issue ads in elections. This move was needed because they had been breaking the law, most notable in the recall elections as highlighted in The Guardian leak of thousands of pages of a John Doe investigation into Governor Scott Walker.

Wisconsin courts have found that if a group is coordinating on issue ads with a candidate, their spending -- regardless of whether it includes express advocacy -- can be considered a contribution, which under Wisconsin law encompasses both cash donations and the giving of anything of value. AB 387 changed that and made collusion and coordination legal, even when candidates coordinate with ’issue advocacy’ groups.

Issue ads claim they are NOT campaigning because they are just educating voters, not trying to influence the outcome of an election. But coordination with a candidate is the definition of campaigning. We argued all day on the Senate floor and every single Senate Republican knew they were blowing our campaign finance laws to pieces for their own personal benefit. That is the true crime in all of this. Politicians voting to benefits themselves.

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Services Best Delivered in Counties with Direct Veteran-to-Veteran Support

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 28 July 2016
in Wisconsin

iraq-warCounty Veterans Service Officers are our most essential direct contact to veterans in Wisconsin, but the State DVA has targeted them and it needs to stop. Why this relentless attack on CVSO officers and veterans by the Wisconsin DVA?


MIDDLETON, WI - Veterans in Wisconsin need only to travel within their own county to have personal contact with another veteran helping navigate access to services. That office is the County Veterans Service Office by statute a “bricks and mortar” office where a veteran can receive support and assistance from another veteran.

CVSO’s are our most essential direct contact to veterans in Wisconsin. Why are they under attack from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Secretary John Scocos? I have no idea, but I want it to stop.

CVSO’s should have easier access to direct service connections with state and federal benefits, but instead, the Wisconsin DVA has been making it harder for CVSO’s to help veterans. From limiting access to benefits programs to blocking grants without proper legal authority, the DVA has targeted CVSO’s and it needs to stop.

There is no reason Wisconsin government should be trying to consolidate veterans services and make veterans travel farther for help, but that is exactly what the DVA is peddling in the Legislature.

I support expanding the role of CVSO’s to help veterans; that is not only logical but good public policy. We have a public health crisis with delayed mental health services for veterans and their families and we should expand CVSO offices to help with this crisis.

Why this relentless attack on CVSO officers and veterans by the Wisconsin DVA?

The answer to that question really doesn’t matter. No state agency should stand in the way of community driven services for veteran-to-veteran counseling and benefit support.

If the DVA needs to cut their budget they should look to their own agency overhead rather than the small grants that CVSO’s get from the state. Recent articles have cited that the DVA spends two dollars on administration costs for every dollar they spend on services; that certainly can be improved.

This should not be a war between the DVA and veterans receiving services in the community through their local CVSO office. Making it a war is a huge mistake for Wisconsin’s veterans. I am hopeful Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans see through the bad public policies the DVA is putting forward trying to consolidate CVSO offices regionally, making veterans drive even further to receive help.

Regardless of the DVA’s poor decisions, there are Legislators just like me committed to supporting county based veteran-to-veteran benefits support and counseling. But we need your advocacy help working together to stop this ridiculous policy push right now.

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For more information on CVSO offices and how to get in touch with your Legislators contact my office at 888-549-0027 or 608-266-6670 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For more information on CVSO officers, check here.

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Federal Bill Gives WI Another Chance to Capitalize

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 03 May 2016
in Wisconsin

aca-workingWisconsin taxpayers have missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars from the Federal government as a part of the Affordable Care Act implementation, but now there's a chance to push the “reset” button.


MADISON - That fact that Wisconsin taxpayers have missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars from the Federal government as a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA-ObamaCare) implementation is not new news. One of the few states that to say “no thanks we don’t want our own tax dollars back, please send it to Illinois or Texas” has been a painful decision to watch as students cannot graduate because classes are cut, potholes get bigger and another school referendum hits property taxpayer’s pocketbook. Well the good news is that this bad decision by Governor Walker and the Republican majority in the Legislature can be reversed at any time. We could come in session tomorrow and get this done.

Now that no one from Wisconsin is running for President and we have seen the unnecessary struggle that the choice to refuse $320 million just this biennium has had on our state economy, we can come back to the table and accept Federal dollars and give access to affordable health care. Not taking Federal funds does not mean that our tax dollars are squirreled away and saved for a rainy day by Congress. It just means they send our money to another state, to help them balance their budgets and help their citizens with health insurance.

Excellent new news from the Federal government is the introduction of the SAME Act by Senator Tammy Baldwin and others. This bill would push the “reset” button for Wisconsin. We could choose to accept our tax dollars back as a part of ACA and start at the same full reimbursement rate that we could have had in the first place; 100% reimbursement from the Federal government for expansion of our current BadgerCare Plus program. Under SAME, for four years we would be at 100% reimbursement, phasing down to 90% reimbursement after another three years. Still a lot better than where we are now, which is zero. This could be a huge windfall for our state budget.

What people don’t understand is general purpose revenue (GPR) was used to backfill Medicaid expenses for Wisconsin this budget. That means dollars that should have gone to our schools, roads and UW schools were diverted because of the political decisions of the Legislature. Republicans can even accept the Federal funds for a year and then change their mind the next year. The flexibility and sheer amount of tax dollars makes this decision a no brainer.

It is time for the Legislature to put politics aside and accept Federal BadgerCare expansion funds so our financial house can improve. The SAME Act from US Senator Baldwin will provide Wisconsin a unique opportunity to hit the “reset” button for our taxpayers and citizens. It simply is time to put more than $320 million in our coffers without raising taxes and without cuts.

For more information on the BadgerCare Plus expansion dollars or the Federal SAME Act please contact my office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 888-549-0027 or 608-266-6670

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There Are Difficulties for Some to Obtain an ID to Vote

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Friday, 15 April 2016
in Wisconsin

voter-idWhile it is not an undue burden for most people to obtain a valid photo ID to vote, it is too difficult for some people. Voting is a right for every eligible person, and no political party should place barriers in front of those who want to vote.


MADISON - The decision by the US Appeals Court to send a recent voter ID case back to the Federal District Court (lower court) acknowledges that for some, obtaining an ID to vote is so burdensome that they may not be able to vote in violation of the state and federal law.

The Appeals Court directed the lower court to find a way to allow some voters to vote without a photo ID because they cannot receive one the way the law currently stands.

This is not a surprise to those of us that did not support passage of this proposal.

Voting is a right for every eligible person in Wisconsin and it is simply not the job of any political party to place barriers in front of those that want to vote. The illusion that voter fraud is a reality has been shattered many times. Attorney Generals, Judges and District Attorneys have found no voter fraud.

It is this simple, voting is just not a high benefit crime for criminals and the outlier in our 5 million person state who votes more than once is found out and prosecuted like the case against republican Robert Monroe.

To sum up the decision, while the court said it is not an undue burden for most people to obtain a valid photo ID to vote, it is too difficult for some people. Some people can even be put into classes, or groups of individuals who cannot obtain a valid ID that qualifies under the Wisconsin law. While three groups are a part of this action by the court, some may say there are other groups that have exceptional difficulty obtaining a valid ID to vote. This ruling opens the door.

Homeless and those that move frequently for a variety of reasons often have no valid ID because they live on the streets, in shelters or on a friends couch. Being transient does not make an individual ineligible to vote. In Wisconsin, the number of people experiencing homelessness has increased every year since 2008 with the numbers reaching at least 25,000 in Wisconsin.

In this decision the court acknowledged that for some groups of individuals who want to vote obtaining a valid photo ID is an exceptional challenge. My hope is that through this decision and what happens next in the lower court there will be a clear path for the right to vote for all.

The absence of Legislative remedy is not a reason for the court to be blind to the realized and actual shortcomings of the law. The courts job under the Constitution in the balance of the powers doctrine is to interpret the law. The Republican Legislature passed this law and said over and over “not one voter would be displaced by this law.” It is the job of the courts to make sure that is a reality.

For more information on this recent court decision or voter ID laws in general please contact my office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 888-549-0027.

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Sunshine Week 2016, Reflecting Back on the 2015 Budget Open Records Attack

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Friday, 04 March 2016
in Wisconsin

joint-financeMADISON - The last day of the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) state budget work in the summer of 2015 was expected to be a day with some surprises. One surprise no one could have anticipated was the inclusion of page after page of open records changes. Limiting not only nearly every Legislative office record, the changes also would have closed state public agency records and the Governors records as well. Maybe that is why we celebrate “Sunshine Week” every year, to remind us all of the value of open government and the importance of transparency.

To close open records was monumental, epic and dangerous. As JFC Democrats we were given only 15 minutes to talk about the Republican motion that gutted open records. I spent every single second of my time talking about the mistake of the open records change. I remember saying that in the future when these Legislators left office and were looking back, this vote, to gut the open records law, would be their biggest regret because of the damage it would cause the people of Wisconsin.

Not one Republican vote was swayed by that argument and every single Republican on the Committee voted in favor of gutting Wisconsin open records law, including Representative Czaja and Senator Harsdorf. So of course it was a little disappointing that the Wisconsin Newspaper Association honored these two Legislators with awards.

Wisconsin had some of the first open records laws in the country. Decisions making sure records of the government were open for inspection in Wisconsin are almost as old as the state itself. As we are about to embark on Sunshine Week 2016 to celebrate open government, I hope we will all reflect on the 2015 budget open records crisis and remember how quickly the rules can change if we take them for granted.

I have always been a defender of a strong Wisconsin Open Records law, even when I was sued because I would not give out personally indefinable information of constituents who had contacted my office. The ability to make a decision as a custodian of public records and the counter balance of being able to bring suit when you disagree is central to the Wisconsin open records law and I hope it will be for years to come. Let’s celebrate Sunshine Week 2016 with extra vigilance given the summer of 2015 action.

For more information on Wisconsin’s Open Records law contact my office at 608-266-6670 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 888-549-0027.

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Consumers Beware, It’s that Time of Year!

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 10 December 2015
in Wisconsin

grinchGuest columnist Senator Jon Erpenbach talks about the value of the Wisconsin Consumer Act in consumer credit transactions in Wisconsin.


MADISON - Maybe it is our strong work ethic because Wisconsin consumers expect to get what we pay for. From services and food monitored and regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to the Consumer Act enforced by the Department of Justice, Wisconsin’s consumer laws are a model for many other states and remain one of the most comprehensive laws in the nation.

Nearly every purchase you make, every service you pay for, the gas we buy, the food we eat, the milk we drink and many more products and services are regulated by the laws of DATCP and the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) including the Consumer Act. The strong values of our state are the framework of our consumer protection laws. Safety, remedy, inspection and the value of every purchase and monetary agreement in this state are important to the people that live here.

The Wisconsin Consumer Act is the state law that regulates consumer credit transactions and debt collection. Consumer credit transactions are transactions that include a finance charge or are payable in more than four installments. Examples of consumer credit transactions are loans, credit cards, credit sales, second mortgages and leases.

Not all credit transactions are covered by the WCA. Transactions not covered are those that are over $25,000, made to businesses or are secured by first lien real estate mortgages. The WCA also does not cover non-credit issues, such as those involving checking or savings accounts.

Major provisions of the WCA:

  • Require detailed disclosures in credit contracts and advertisements
  • Limit certain interest and non-interest charges assessed in credit transactions
  • Provide a three day right to cancel certain contracts
  • Require judicial process in certain repossessions
  • Prohibit certain collection practices

DATCP also administers the Wisconsin No Call List laws. Every year violations of the “do not call” law top the list of consumer complaints.

If you believe that you have been wronged in a consumer transaction through a faulty product, lack of the service that was promised to you, or unfair practices in general you can file a complaint online at http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Complaints/?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1 or you can request a complaint be mailed to you by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.

Good business practices are a core value in Wisconsin and our citizens expect that when they make a purchase or contract for a service they will receive quality. For more information on Wisconsin’s consumer protections law please contact my office at 888-549-0027 or 608-266-6670 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Changing How We Police Politicians Forever

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
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on Thursday, 29 October 2015
in Wisconsin

russell-walkerWhen a political crime is committed, politicians should not have special privileges. Exempting politicians from the reach of John Doe investigations, making the GAB partisan and allowing unlimited corporate contributions are not “reforms” to make Wisconsin laws better.


MADISON - For Republicans in office right now, the John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 criminal investigations feel very personal. That’s because they involved their political leader Governor Walker and his former staff and groups that he coordinated campaign activity with. Those are undisputed facts. The reality though is that those investigations were not personal at all. They were not political at all. They were routine action taken against people that were believed to have broken the law. The case was made, by multiple judges, by multiple district attorneys of both parties to take action in these political crime probes.

As a gut reaction to these criminal investigations the Legislature is enacting a set of three bills that will change the rules for every politician forever. District attorney’s in this state have investigated and pursued criminal charges against politicians throughout our history. Recently both Democrats and Republicans were charged and convicted for political criminal activity.

When a political crime is believed to have been committed there should be equal treatment under the law, police, district attorneys and judges. Politicians should not have special privileges.

Exempting politicians from the reach of John Doe investigations, making the Government Accountability Board partisan and allowing unlimited corporate contributions is what the Legislature is enacting into law. It is not political to say that this is a Republican effort; not one Democrat has voted for these changes to the law. These are not “reforms” to make Wisconsin laws better, because if they were they would be bi-partisan. If there were a true interest in reforming the law it would be done with cooperation. People believe we don’t work together on anything, but in reality we do – almost every bill that gets enacted into law has support by both Democrats and Republicans.

It is only bills like these three; the ones that are true partisan agenda items that do not get broad support in the Legislature. Again I would offer I understand the knee jerk reaction to investigations of criminal activity against a leader, I think it is natural to defend someone you follow. But when we change the law, we change it forever. We change it for every politician that will sit on the Senate and Assembly floor in the years that stretch ahead, long after current political leaders are gone. These bills make it easier for political criminals to break the law and harder for district attorney’s to prosecute political crimes. That is simple fact. These bills leave fewer prosecutorial tools in the toolbox, partisan watchdogs rather than non-partisan policing and unlimited corporate contribution made legal.

These changes affect the political and prosecutorial process forever. For more information on any of these bills please contact my office at 608-266-66790 or 888-549-0027 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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