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Senator Hansen In Response To Violence In Madison

Posted by Dave Hansen, State Senator Dist 30
Dave Hansen, State Senator Dist 30
Dave Hansen, State Senator Dist 30 has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 24 June 2020
in Wisconsin

madison-violence-102320-gmtodayViolence needs to stop, but inaction by State Legislature on Police reform only fueling the fire says Green Bay Senator.


GREEN BAY, WI - For the past few weeks we have seen peaceful protests in our state in response to the killing of George Floyd and other black lives that have been taken before and since his death.

tim-carpenterThe violence we saw last night in which a state senator and others were assaulted and state property damaged cannot be tolerated. Senator Carpenter is not only a good legislator but a decent man who has supported efforts to end racism, police brutality and reform the way in which we provide public safety. No person should feel unsafe in their community.

dave-hansen-gbThe violence needs to stop so we can return the focus to the original intent of the protest: to provide systemic reform to our police departments so the rights of every person, regardless of their race, are protected.

In Colorado they passed significant police reforms in 16 days. As we sit here today nothing is being done thanks to Republicans like Robin Vos, Scott Fitzgerald and John Nygren.

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Aging in Rural Wisconsin

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, 24 June 2020
in Wisconsin

door-county-peopleSen. Jeff Smith writes about the existing challenges farmers face when aging in rural Wisconsin.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Growing old is an inevitable part of life. When it comes to aging, we can’t help but wonder where we’ll live when we retire, the quality of life we’ll have and how we’ll stay healthy. While most of us want to remain in our homes for as long as possible, aging in place is almost a must for farmers in rural Wisconsin.

Last week, I participated in a webinar about aging on the farm in rural Wisconsin. We learned about the unique challenges farmers face when it comes to aging, compared to older adults in other areas of the state.

Farmers have to be more than just an agricultural expert. They must be efficient in welding, woodworking, plumbing, machine repair and more. Farming is so multi-faceted that it’s hard for a farmer to imagine why they need a hobby. Even between planting and harvesting, there’s always plenty of repair work, while advising and supervising the next generation of farmers. This explains why farmers never really retire.

wisc-dairy-farmFarming families take pride in how many generations have grown up and continued the legacy of farming. I recently saw a report on television about a dairy farmer named Mr. Anderson who was ending his business after five generations. When asked what he’d do next, Mr. Anderson said he’d have to figure it out.

Like Mr. Anderson, when there isn’t that next generation ready to take over, there comes a time when a farmer is forced to make the tough choice and sell their equipment, land and other assets.

Often, even after selling assets, a farm couple will stay in their home and lease out the land. That way, they can age in place on their own terms. But, even under those circumstances, challenges exist.

In urban areas, medical care is within reach and grocery stores are usually nearby. However, aging in place in rural Wisconsin is more difficult. A hospital might be an hour or more away and groceries may be just as far. Neighbors, of course, don’t just happen to walk by and check on you when you are living on the farm.

When the time comes and it’s clear that more support is needed, they may search out long term care. It was common for small cities and villages to have assisted living facilities. I recall when my wife’s grandfather, who farmed in the Town of Chimney Rock, moved into the facility in Strum. Gramps knew many of the staff and appreciated that his own sister worked there and could look after him.

That isn’t the case anymore. It’s hard to find any village with a facility because they’ve mostly closed. Now, it’s not only more difficult to age in place, it’s difficult to even make the move into a facility nearby. Since many aging adults don’t have the option to choose their own facility, many find themselves far away from their loved ones, taking a toll on their physical and mental health.

While a semi-retired, seasoned farmer faces many challenges while on the farm, we must find ways to support those who choose to age in place in rural Wisconsin.

jeff-smithWisconsin must expand Medicaid to ensure residents have accessible and affordable healthcare. These federal funds would allow us to pay home healthcare workers a livable wage, empowering more of us to stay in our homes and communities as we age.

It’s equally important that Wisconsin expands its broadband infrastructure to ensure residents in rural Wisconsin have access to telehealth services, social media to stay in touch with loved ones and the opportunity to order groceries and medicine.

Even the professor leading the discussion on our call listed broadband expansion as a top solution. I didn’t expect this forum to become another opportunity for broadband expansion, but I shouldn’t be surprised it’s part of every conversation these days and the solution to so many issues we face.

Generations of farmers have supported our communities and the state as a whole; their contributions are what makes rural Wisconsin such a great place to live. We owe a lot of gratitude to our farmers – we must continue finding ways to support Wisconsin farmers in all stages of life.

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The Movement America Has Been Waiting For

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, 17 June 2020
in Wisconsin

george-floyd-protest-eau-claireWe still have a lot of work ahead of us to address systemic racism and injustice, and it will take a collective effort to achieve equality.


MADISON - This Friday, on June 19th, our country celebrates Juneteenth, an important holiday commemorating the emancipation of slaves dating back to 1865. In the 155 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was read to freed slaves, many Americans have believed our country simply fixed its biased attitudes and racist behavior.

However, this assumption is far from the truth. The legacy of racism within our country wasn’t resolved because of the Emancipation Proclamation or the civil rights demonstrations in the mid-20th century. The fight for racial and social equity is nowhere near close to being finished.

Today, because we’ve never actually addressed racism and injustice through systemic societal change, we are experiencing a reaction that should not surprise anyone. Like a volcano that erupts after we’ve ignored it when it’s only boiling within its boundaries, racism hasn’t gone away because we chose to look away.

Racism is weaved into the social fabric blanketing our country. The everyday reality of racism may not be visible to many Americans, but it is very much there and will continue to exist unless we do more to reveal racial prejudice and expose institutional racism within our society.

The terrible murders of unarmed Black persons have continued to expose racial discrimination within America and have set off a powerful reaction across this country. Ahmaud Arbery was a young man out jogging when he was chased down by white supremacist vigilantes and killed. Breonna Taylor, an EMT in Louisville, was murdered in her own home by police. George Floyd was killed after an officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

juneteenth-1900These recent deaths have shed light on the horrific violence invoked by racial prejudice, but appallingly there’s a much longer history of suffering and brutality, at the hands of white vigilantes and police, against the Black community.

Activists throughout the country are raising awareness of racial injustice, while challenging all Americans to not only condemn racism, but actively work to be anti-racist. This movement and the call to action from young people, especially, allow me to feel optimistic. This eruption of social activism may be the push our country needs to think critically about changing the landscape and creating a more equitable society.

Last week, members of the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus sent a letter to Governor Tony Evers requesting a special session to take up legislation to reform the justice system at the state level. Their letter cites the emergent need for a special session while laying out the existing support from civilians and law enforcement alike. I’m proud to stand behind my colleagues within the Legislative Black Caucus in supporting a call to reform the justice system.

Achieving equality will take hard work and persistence. It isn’t enough for people to want justice and peace – we have to make it happen. Don’t walk away when the going gets tough. Be sure to hold your elected officials accountable. Don’t let your elected officials ignore this movement and move on, like so many already do.

jeff-smithToo many legislators know that if they just hide from the issue it’ll be forgotten and they’ll never have to answer the tough questions or take the tough vote. This movement will take endurance from all citizens who are demanding justice right now.

The change we need won’t happen tomorrow or next fall just because there are elections. It won’t even happen next year until laws are debated and votes are taken.

Just like any lesson we learn from history, we cannot ignore the work that must be done to truly achieve the promise of the Declaration of Independence for all Americans to obtain, “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A more just, equitable society will take more than changes in the law; it will take a change in attitude and willingness to learn and grow. I’m optimistic that our collective efforts will make a difference.

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What We Can Learn From Dairy Month

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, 10 June 2020
in Wisconsin

farm-familyThe Senator writes about ways we can support our dairy farmers and celebrate June Dairy Month in Wisconsin. He reflects on conversations with friends from the farming community and their ability to be resilient during tough times.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Last Friday, I had the chance to connect virtually with some good friends in western Wisconsin to celebrate June Dairy Month. We had a conversation about the ways dairy has made an impression on our own lives and the impact the dairy industry has on the State of Wisconsin. And of course, after sharing stories, we started a milk chug challenge, throwing back glasses of fresh, cold milk.

My friends on the call are farmers or have close ties to Wisconsin’s dairy industry going back generations within their family. They talked about their interest and lifelong dedication to the dairy industry while sharing their optimism of better days ahead for dairy farmers.

Time and again, Wisconsin’s dairy farmers have exemplified their resilience in times of uncertainty. This time isn’t any different. During June Dairy Month, let’s remember all of the contributions our dairy farmers have made to make Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland. Although we’ll be celebrating Dairy Month differently this year, we can still find ways to support our state’s farmers and the dairy industry.

During the beginning of the 20th century, farmers experienced an agricultural crisis like they’d never seen before. The rising cost of agricultural products after World War I, in addition to extreme drought conditions, created significant problems for farmers trying to make ends meet.

Even at the end of the 20th century, farmers still faced significant market challenges. Many of us can still remember the heart-wrenching bankruptcies and farm auctions that destroyed the dreams of many farming families. But, once again, the grit of our farmers showed through as they stuck with their love for the land and their lifestyle.

Today, our farmers are still facing serious challenges, many of which are man-made. While farmers experience the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic head-on, they’re still under escalating pressure due to over-production, high land prices, and low milk prices. But farmers push ahead and show us, how resilient they can be in stressful situations.

During last Friday’s call, Shane Goplin, a member of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, proudly said, “Dairy is the glue that keeps rural America together.” I couldn’t agree more and that’s why I’m so committed to making sure we do everything we can to support our hardworking dairy farmers.

We all have a role to play to support our farmers moving forward and to keep our close-knit rural communities growing stronger. The Legislature must get to work, set aside ideological politics, and pass policies that give farmers the resources and tools they need to survive. I know that laying out the tools in front of clever and resilient people leads to amazing growth both intellectually and economically, just like farmers have demonstrated throughout the last century.

In May, Governor Tony Evers announced the distribution of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for Wisconsin. As part of this relief package, $50 million will be directed toward the Wisconsin Farm Support Program, which will provide payments between $1,000 and $3,500 for eligible farmers. The goal of the program is to provide immediate assistance to farmers struggling amid this global pandemic. This is a solid first step, but it’s only a down payment for what else the state must do to offer support to help our farmers.

jeff-smithWhile there are state-level solutions that must be considered and passed, there are simple ways you can support Wisconsin’s dairy farmers during June Dairy Month. Start by buying dairy products from local family farmers and producers. Find out if your county is celebrating June Dairy Month through a virtual or drive-thru dairy breakfast. Also, take part in a milk chug challenge with your friends on social media to share why you’re thankful for our farmers and what Wisconsin’s dairy industry means to you.

Like always, we should acknowledge our farmers’ resiliency to get us through these tough times. During this month, as we celebrate Wisconsin’s dairy industry, let’s remember how our farmers’ determination has pulled us through crises before. Let’s learn from them and return the favor, honoring them in the month of June and supporting them for years to come.

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Erpenbach on Nationwide Protests: Black Lives Matter

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 Wednesday, 03 June 2020
in Wisconsin

george-floyd-protest-milwWe must listen to Black Americans, their experiences, acknowledge the hurdles they face, and make bold changes to address these systematic inequities and injustices, says State Senator.


West Point, WI - While many are feeling the pressure of a global pandemic, for many Americans there is another virus that has been running through the veins of our society for centuries - racism. The protests that are taking place throughout our country, and all over the world, reinforce that our society and our leaders need to do much, much better at delivering justice and equity in our communities. No more Black lives should be lost due to hatred and bigotry.

As many of you were, I was sad to witness a woman overtly use her whiteness as a weapon against a Black man, and then I was devastated to learn about the murder of George Floyd. Unfortunately, these were only the most recent tragedies – the lives of Tony Robinson, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, and many more have also been senselessly taken.  Black people are dying in Wisconsin, and all over our country while doing the most mundane things that as white people we often take for granted.

jon-erpenbachI will not pretend that I do or will be able to understand the experiences of Black Americans. However, as an elected official, I hope to be a part of the solution to put in place structural changes that will prevent injustices from happening again and again. We cannot stand for leaders in Wisconsin or on the federal level calling for violence against those who are asking to be heard.

These individuals are our friends and neighbors, and we must listen to their experiences, acknowledge the hurdles they face and make bold changes to address these systematic inequities and injustices.

It is not our jobs as white people to tell those who are continuously and systematically oppressed how they can or cannot protest. I know the damage and looting that’s been done has not been from those seeking to put a face on the injustices and giving voice to those who are no longer with us.  Don’t lose sight of the issues at hand. Don’t lose sight of the changes that need to be made.

Change starts with us. It is time to do the work.

Black Lives Matter.

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