Wednesday December 2, 2020

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Be Thankful for Each Other

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 25 November 2020
in Wisconsin

coronavirus-nurse-tiredSen. Smith writes about the people in our lives we can be thankful for, and shares tips from the Trempealeau County Health Department for Wisconsinites to have a safe Thanksgiving this year.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - Every year, we gather around our dining room table with our loved ones for Thanksgiving dinner and reflect on the past year. We think about all that we’re thankful for: our family and friends, our job and an excitement for what’s yet to come. This year is different. It’s been an incredibly difficult year for so many of us as we deal with the stress, loss and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, you might just wonder what there is to be thankful for in this challenging year we’ve been through. Distractions, including politics, the latest weather event or the increasing threat of COVID-19 make it even harder to find a reason to be thankful.

We can still find something to be thankful for despite all of the obstacles we have faced in an unprecedented year. We’ll realize how this past year has revealed all that we have to be thankful for. By celebrating Thanksgiving safely this year, we can look forward to creating more memories and cherishing future holidays spent with our whole family.

Think back to the spring when COVID-19 first came to our state. We all put aside our differences and stepped up to stop the spread of COVID-19. We stayed home, posted encouraging messages on our windows, opted for drive-thru birthday parties and virtual graduation ceremonies or weddings instead of in-person celebrations.

There’s no doubt about it: Wisconsinites have made a lot of sacrifices this year. We’ve made changes to our lifestyle and our day-to-day routine. We’ve gained perspective and it’s helped us realize how grateful we are for the people supporting our communities through this crisis.

Our farmers continued to work hard to grow and harvest the food necessary to sustain our communities. Grocery store clerks, truckers and delivery drivers also provided an essential service to make sure we’re getting fresh, healthy food to feed our families safely.

schools-reopening-2020Our teachers, school staff and faculty went above and beyond to educate children in these unprecedented times. Teachers were determined to teach and support Wisconsin students despite the challenges of virtual learning or the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in schools.

Poll workers and election officials across our state stepped up and delivered a safe, organized election for voters to participate in even with historic voter turnout.

We are very fortunate to have dedicated public servants to keep us safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 testers, National Guard members and contact tracers have been here to help us better understand the outbreak and control the spread of the disease. We can be very grateful for the scientists responsible for diligently working on a COVID-19 vaccine that we hope to see in the very near future.

In the past several weeks, Wisconsin has seen a dangerous surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Our healthcare workers have been heroes saving lives during this pandemic; they’re still working their hardest to keep more people alive.

jeff-smith-ofcWe can show gratitude to Wisconsin’s healthcare workers by staying home for Thanksgiving. The Trempealeau County Health Department shared great ideas to enjoy your holiday while keeping you and your loved ones safe: Have a classic Thanksgiving dinner with members of your own household. Prepare traditional family recipes and deliver them to your family to avoid contact. Host a virtual dinner and watch the Thanksgiving football games from home.

Generations before us have lived through tumultuous times. They faced starvation, war and complete economic ruin, and yet, Americans still found reasons to be thankful. In those times, folks wondered if they would survive. People came together to feed and look out for each other in those trying times. Now it’s our turn to do the same.

I saw a friend recently post, “This is not the year to get everything you want. This is the year to appreciate everything you have.” As we prepare for Thanksgiving, let’s remember this year has still shown us there is much to be thankful for, even if it’s not obvious at first glance.

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Vos Press Conference Had No New Ideas

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 Friday, 20 November 2020
in Wisconsin

robin-vos-is-safe-to-voteState Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) responds to the Assembly GOP press conference Tuesday announcing the latest Republican 'ideas' on COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

MADISON - Today we saw a total lack of leadership from Representative Vos, and Senate Republicans were absent altogether. April 15th was the last time we took the floor to address this issue and Robin Vos hasn’t brought a thing to the table since. The latest Republican 'ideas' of testing and contact tracing could have, in fact, should have, been addressed months ago were it not for GOP inaction.

jon-erpenbachEver since Republicans went to court to stop The Evers Administration from combating COVID-19, we've been told by the GOP that they were working on legislation. That was months ago, and still nothing.

Ninety-two people have died since yesterday and Speaker Vos is still trying to blame Governor Evers. As the Governor has been saying over and over again, his door has been open, it's the majority Republicans who continue to say no. And, it's not lost on Wisconsinites that the Republican Speaker of the State Assembly held a press conference today and said nothing.

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A Safe and Healthy Hunt

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 18 November 2020
in Wisconsin

deer-huntersSen. Jeff Smith (D – Brunswick) and Rep. Katrina Shankland (D – Stevens Point) write a about the precautions Wisconsinites must take to prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) this hunting season.

BRUNSWICK, WI - As we approach another gun deer hunting season in Wisconsin, hunters are getting ready – sighting-in their rifles, remembering a sharp knife, and preparing their gear. Of course, anyone set to hunt should always be prepared, even for Wisconsin’s unpredictable weather.

Hunting truly instills our attention to planning for the unexpected. This year, we know being prepared is more important than ever. Unlike years past, hunters must take additional precautions to prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). While we eagerly await gun deer season to begin, it’s important to know the steps we can take to preserve Wisconsin’s hunting heritage and keep our communities and loved ones safe.

Although CWD isn’t talked about much in between hunting seasons, it’s still out there and poses a real threat to our deer herd. CWD is a highly contagious disease affecting hoofed animals, including whitetail deer. CWD is caused by abnormal proteins called prions, which lead to brain damage and attack the central nervous system.

CWD testing and the proper disposal of deer carcasses are the most effective actions to slow the spread of CWD. This session, we introduced the Healthy Herd, Healthy Hunt legislative package to advance research and prevention strategies to mitigate the spread of CWD. One bill would invest $1 million annually over a two-year period for CWD testing, management, and research. Another bill would allocate $200,000 to fund CWD testing kiosks and expand the Adopt-a-Kiosk program to make it easier for hunters to have their deer tested.

katrina-shanklandAlong with testing efforts, it’s critical that hunters are able to dispose of deer carcasses properly, since prions from a deer carcass can survive in the soil for years. These prions can uptake in plants, which then act as a carrier of CWD, transmitting it to deer that eat these plants. The third bill in the legislative package would provide $2 million for carcass dumpster sites where hunters can dispose of their carcasses safely and prevent further spread of CWD. This bill would also improve CWD education efforts for hunters.

Whitetail deer hunting is a proud tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation. Hunting is an important aspect of Wisconsin culture, connecting us to each other and our ancestors. Importantly, hunting also contributes significantly to our economy while encouraging tourists worldwide to visit our great state.

In Buffalo County, deer hunting has become a prime economic driver because of the world-record deer that have been harvested there. Across our state, the nine-day gun deer season has a total economic impact of over $1 billion to our state’s economy, and it’s also a healthy and cost-effective way for families to fill up their freezers.

jeff-smithOutdoor recreation has been pivotal to maintaining our physical and mental health during this pandemic. Hunting is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while observing the recommended public health precautions: keep your hunting party to members of your own household, hunt within your local community to limit travel when possible, and avoid large gatherings. While following all the usual hunting safety precautions this season, remember to wear a mask, stay at least six feet apart from people outside of your household, and wash your hands frequently. Also, to avoid in-person deer registration, you can register your deer online or by phone.

If your hunt is successful, please have your deer tested and dispose of your carcass properly to prevent the spread of CWD. Due to COVID-19, in-person CWD sampling is canceled, but you can visit one of the hundreds of self-service sampling kiosks to have your deer tested. Kiosk locations can be found on the DNR website. Test results are expected to take approximately two to three weeks from the time the deer head or tissue sample is received due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together, we can keep Wisconsin’s hunting tradition going strong for future generations. Follow public health guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19. Test your deer for CWD and properly dispose of your deer carcass. All these actions add up to help us stay healthy and preserve our rich hunting heritage.

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Take Action: Please Write the Wis. Supreme Court

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
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on Tuesday, 17 November 2020
in Wisconsin

gerrymander-elections-redistrictingCourt is considering a proposal that would likely lead to another gerrymander in Wisconsin. Let them know how you feel.

MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court is taking public comments on a proposed rule that would pre-rig the process for the drawing of legislative and congressional district maps and would likely lead to another gerrymander in Wisconsin.

The proposed rule was submitted by the rightwing Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), and it has the following flaws:

First, it would jump any legal challenge to redistricting immediately to the Wisconsin Supreme Court rather than let that challenge work its way through the courts in a normal fashion. The establishment of a record at the lower court level would enhance transparency and enable the citizens of Wisconsin to grasp the evidence in the case and the competing arguments as they wend their way through the courts.

Second, nonprofit public interest organizations and concerned citizens could get aced out of any hearing on redistricting maps before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The WILL petition, in Section 5(b), requires only that the political parties be heard by the Court in any dispute over the maps. It does not allow room, explicitly at least, for groups like ours that have a longstanding interest in this issue to be heard. Redistricting is not simply a dispute between the parties.

Third, the proposed rule that WILL is advancing gives the Court the leeway to disregard the procedures and requirements laid out in the rule itself. So that’s no rule at all if it allows you to toss everything out the window and just do what you want. If you’re going to have a rule, it should be abided by, and it should be transparent, and it should be applied in a fair manner.
So I have a favor to ask: Please write the Wisconsin Supreme Court today and tell them that you oppose this rule and tell them why in your own words.

At the top of your letter, please note that you are writing concerning Rule Petition 20-03 relating to legal challenges to redistricting.

If you copy your letter into this form by Nov. 22 at 5:00pm via the Wis. Fair Maps Coalition, we’ll submit it for you.

Thanks for your help!


Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Democracy at Work

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 11 November 2020
in Wisconsin

voting-2020-538Although Americans may have different reactions now that the election is over, it’s important that we continue having conversations to move forward together.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - And, just like that, Election Day has passed! What a relief for all of us. At the end of an election season, you may feel overwhelmed with emotion; we feel excited, relieved and disappointed all at the same time.

As someone who has run multiple campaigns, I can tell you it isn’t easy on candidates when it’s all over. It can be a terrible blow when you lose, but even when you win, there can be a sudden drop in energy. A candidate can feel like they’re racing at 100 miles per hour in the final weeks and, win or lose, the day after the election is like hitting a brick wall. It can feel like everyone and everything has come to a stop and you don’t know what to do with all the energy.

For so many of us, Election Day couldn’t have come soon enough; we want nothing more than to have a respite from politics. Having been hammered for months with ads, mail and calls, election season can be discouraging and exhausting. Receiving election results can be just as stressful. Nobody gets what they wished for 100% of the time – there are both wins and losses among the candidates or ballot initiatives you supported. But what’s important is we have the right to have our voice heard through our vote. This is democracy at work.

wi-fair-mapsWe must keep the momentum going after Election Day by holding our elected officials accountable. We can’t forget why we had an election in the first place. We must continue conversations about how we move our nation, state and communities forward.

It’s important to remind successful candidates of the responsibilities to serve everyone, not just those who voted for them. We should expect civility among our elected officials.

The Wisconsin Legislature still has not met or passed legislation for over 200 days. This record is embarrassing and shameful, especially while so many have struggled to meet their daily needs during this pandemic. But every day is a new day, and we have new opportunities to change this course of inaction into action. It starts with elected officials fulfilling promises they made during a grueling campaign season.

Think about what you heard from candidates while they were on the campaign trail. Did you hear a candidate talk about expanding access to high-speed internet service? Then don’t let your legislators forget, because the need continues to grow. Did you hear a candidate say we should fix the unemployment insurance system, so those who need support can get it quicker? Remind them we can make these fixes right now before things get worse.

jeff-smithDid a candidate campaign on supporting our public schools to weather this pandemic? I’m sure most candidates suggested this was a priority for them. We must remind them these are all still top priorities to move Wisconsin forward. Don’t let your elected officials forget.

As we near the end of 2020, COVID-19 remains a major hurdle.  Lives are being lost, families are isolated and we are all looking for the end of this crisis. It wasn’t until this pandemic did we realize just how difficult life can be and how important public health is to our society.

COVID-19 turned into a political football this election. Public health is no game. It showed us just how dangerous it can be to trivialize a global pandemic for political purposes. Moving forward, our leaders must take COVID-19 seriously and reach across the aisle to find progress.

As winter nears and the holidays are approaching, families will be staying indoors. We will have to get creative to celebrate the holidays we look forward to all year long without risking the lives of our loved ones. Working together as a community to stop the spread is a perfect way for us to heal wounds left over from a vicious campaign. Let’s care for each other. Let’s learn how to earn a living, pursue an education and govern together during this pandemic so the America we are so proud of can unify as one.

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