Wednesday February 21, 2018

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A Mom’s Reminder: Still More to do in Opioid Crisis

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 Monday, 13 November 2017
in Wisconsin

drugaddicts-youngTwo mothers who lost their children to addiction have taken their experience and turned it into advocacy and education.

MADISON, 11/10/2017 - This week two amazing advocates and grieving mothers, Bonnie and Bev, brought Faces of Addiction and Hope a story quilt to the State Capitol during our last session day of the year. It was a stark reminder we still have more work to do in the opioid crisis. Squares on the quilt showed people who have died, those incarcerated because of their addiction and those that are in recovery. It is a beautiful and tragic symbol. Both mom’s lost their children to addiction and have taken their experience and turned it into advocacy and education.

As I spoke with them about the message they hope to share with the quilt, they shared how they wished our criminal justice system could be a better partner with those addicted to drugs and alcohol and how they hope more than anything that people can see the true reality of the disease of addiction. Treatment and care should be available to everyone because we simply cannot afford to lose so many. In 2015, nearly 900 people in Wisconsin died from overdose. That is a 70% increase since 2009.

Unfortunately, where you live in Wisconsin makes a big difference whether or not you have access to treatment programs and whether you have opportunities for care in the community. Medicaid is the single largest payer of substance use disorder services in the nation and pays for one third of the medication assisted treatment programs. Right here in Sauk County we have a program that has been used as a national model for medication assisted wrap-around treatment. Ensuring that people have access to Medicaid or insurance through the Affordable Care Act plays a huge part in their success story.

Recruiting and keeping professionals that can provide treatment to those with addiction and other mental health disorders is also a barrier in many parts of Wisconsin. Increasing the reimbursement rate paid to substance abuse professionals will help make sure we have access to treatment outside of the major metropolitan areas in Wisconsin.

Accepting the BadgerCare expansion allowed in the ACA and covering more people with low cost health insurance in Wisconsin would make a huge difference to those in need of treatment and recovery. Unfortunately, we have been advocating to accept that federal money to no avail in the Wisconsin Legislature for a few years now. Truly only partisan politics stands in the way for Wisconsin to expand BadgerCare and I am hopeful some day we can move past that prideful political barrier.

As this Legislative session is coming to a close, I am also hopeful that the quilt will grow with white squares to show those in recovery and remain committed to legislation that supports our families and communities struggling with addiction and recovery.


For more information on the Faces of Addiction and Hope quilt contact my office at 608-266-6670 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You can see the quilt on my Facebook page.

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Posted by Mark Miller, State Senator 16th District
Mark Miller, State Senator 16th District
Mark F. Miller (D-Monona) is serving his third term in the Wisconsin Senate. He
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on Wednesday, 08 November 2017
in Wisconsin

mining_wisconsin_senateMADISON, November 7, 2017 - Today’s Senate session had one theme. Danger.

Senate Republicans passed several egregious bills today that do nothing to better the lives of Wisconsinites, but rather put them at risk.

There is no logical reason to make recounts for elections harder, except it consolidates power for those who hold it. There is no fathomable reason to put a gun in the hands of a toddler, except it benefits the gun lobby. There is no sensible reason to call a constitutional convention, except it benefits the billionaires who promote it to skew the playing field. There is no rational reason to allow acid mining in Wisconsin, except a foreign company really wants it. There are no comprehensible reasons for any of these things and yet, here we are.

These are dangerous policies at best. Wisconsin deserves better. In the words of Justice Antonin Scalia: “I certainly would not want a Constitutional Convention. Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it? A Constitutional Convention is a horrible idea.” Those poignant words cover a multitude of sins.”

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Speed and Secrecy Leaves the Public Out in the Cold

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Tuesday, 07 November 2017
in Wisconsin

capitol-nightTuesday’s State Senate calendar contains several bills that need time for proper debate, amendments to address significant concerns raised by the public, and bills that were sold as one thing and ended up being very different.

MADISON - In the past eleven years, I wrote 64 times about the problems of speed and secrecy in the legislative process. However, I never saw a calendar as broad and deep in controversy as the most recent one before the State Senate.

For weeks, we heard that the Senate would vote a hodge-podge of highly controversial bills. “Horrid,” one staffer called the expected Senate Calendar. None of us, including the public, knew what bills would come up for a vote.

The cloak of secrecy raised a bit on Friday when we received the tentative list of bills. But even the day before the vote, we did not have the official bill materials and were scrambling to get details.

Often what happens on the Senate floor is non-controversial. Previous Senate session days, with many bills pending, had perhaps a handful that end up in a partisan vote. The Senate calendar for “horrid” Tuesday detailed opposition by the minority to a full fifty-percent of bills scheduled.

Some of the bills were presented one way to Senators by lobbyists or constituents. However, the actual bill language or amendments added resulted in a very different bill voted out of committee. For this reason, some Democrats voted against bills they originally supported or removed their names as cosponsors.

Additionally, significant negative public testimony in public hearings should result in changes to a bill. Fixing problems with bills is the function of committee work. Many bills on Tuesday’s Senate calendar were not fixed, which leaves Senators scrambling to draft last minute amendments.

Big policy questions are behind many bills up for consideration – questions that deserve a thorough debate.

Should we change laws regarding cooperatives? Should co-ops be allowed to violate the basic cooperative principles of “one member - one vote” or limit members’ access to financial records? Should nonmembers serve on the board of directors? Should voting power be based on patronage, which gives larger farms a bigger voice?

Important questions need to be answered about a series of bills that increase mandatory penalties for crimes, keep youth in prison longer, make it easier to send someone on probation or parole back to prison, and limit the ability of prosecutors to work with minor players in a crime in order to catch the kingpin.

We need to know how much it will cost to change rules related to probation and parole. While no routine fiscal estimate was done, a staffer found a Department of Corrections memo estimating the cost in the first two years at almost $200 million. The cost is not part of the recently passed budget.

Another bill on the calendar that generated significant contact to my office is the question: should Wisconsin take action to call for a Constitutional Convention under Article V of the United States Constitution?

Calling a Constitutional Convention opens up the entire US Constitution to rewriting by the delegates to the convention, despite the fact they may be sent by their state to vote for only a balanced budget amendment. These delegates would have powers superior to the President, the Supreme Court and the Congress.

Such a convention is an extremely risky venture in our fragile democracy. Wisconsin is one of nine states targeted by Koch brothers funded groups. Nationwide, only a handful of state legislatures need to pass laws to reach the threshold where such a convention would be called.

Another controversial bill would open up our state to sulfide mining. Our state has strong protections for the most dangerous type of mining. This bill changes the law to allow nonferrous (non-iron ore) metal mining. Among other concerns, the bill creates a fast permitting process that limits DNR’s ability to collect scientific data.

The bills I mentioned and dozens of others deserve public scrutiny and extensive debate. Citizens need to be aware of the potential serious consequences of the action and weigh in on decision. Lawmakers need time to understand amendments, complex policy and balance competing concerns.

In an environment of speed and secrecy, legislators do not have the details to make good decisions and the public is left out in the cold.

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Constitutional Convention Action Alert!

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 Monday, 06 November 2017
in Wisconsin

constitutional-conventionMADISON - I need you – right now! -- to contact your Wis. State Senator about a horrible bill that’s up for a vote TOMORROW, Tuesday! It’s called AJR 21, and it seeks a Constitutional Convention on a balanced budget amendment. And if you are in one of the below listed districts, it is of particular urgency you contact your senator and encourage their "no" vote.

The balanced budget amendment is a horrible idea because it would tie the hands of our government in times of recession.

But there’s an even bigger problem with calling a Constitutional Convention, and that is, once it gets under way, it may go beyond its original mandate and throw everything on the table, including our basic rights.

This Constitutional Convention idea is closer than you think. If Wisconsin and just a few more states sign on, you’re going to wake up one morning to the news that there’s going to be a Constitutional Convention. And then who knows what’s going to happen and what damage can be done?

The bill again is AJR 21, and here are the Republican Senators that are crucial to contact and to urge to vote no:

  • Sen. Rob Cowles (SD2) -- (800) 334-1465
  • Sen. Dan Feyen (SD18) -- (608) 266-5300
  • Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (SD13) -- (608) 266-5660
  • Sen. Devin LeMahieu (SD9) -- (608) 266-2056 (pronounced Lemma-hue)
  • Sen. Terry Moulton (SD23) -- (608) 266-7511
  • Sen. Luther Olsen (SD14) -- (608) 266-0751
  • Sen. Jerry Petrowski (SD29) -- (608) 266-2502
  • Sen. Roger Roth (SD19) -- (608) 266-0718
  • Sen. Van Wangaard (SD21) -- (608) 266-1832

The Wisconsin Assembly has already passed their bills and now the State Senate needs to block them. Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

Thanks for picking up your phone! Please report back with feedback from your calls.


Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
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One Step Closer to Tackling Wisconsin’s Lead Crisis

Posted by Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7
Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7
Chris Larson (D) is the Wisconsin State Senator from the 7th District in Milwauk
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on Thursday, 02 November 2017
in Wisconsin

baby-lead-paintSenator says we need to continue the momentum after the passage of SB 48 relating to lead service line replacements and take immediate action to keep our kids safe from being further poisoned by lead.

MADISON – Each of our neighbors deserve to live in a healthy, safe community. Lead pipes are an avoidable public illness that is quietly devastating Wisconsin neighborhoods. Over the past few decades there has been significant research revealing how devastatingly harmful lead exposure is for both children and adults. We must prioritize addressing and preventing lead poisoning in our children.

Tackling the threat of lead poisoning is a moral and economic imperative. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), our state would save $7 billion if the threat of lead poisoning was eliminated. This includes savings in medical care, special education, and even crime reduction among adults and youth.

Today, the Senate took up a bipartisan bill (Senate Bill 48) that moves our state one small step towards addressing Wisconsin’s lead crisis. During the state budget debate last month, Senate Democrats fought for Wisconsin to take swift action by introducing a Lead Abatement Amendment, which would have committed the necessary funds to provide adequate relief to communities access the state, after Senate Bill 48 was stalled in committee for months.

I urge my Republican colleagues to continue the momentum and take immediate action to keep our kids safe from being further poisoned by lead. Among the available bills are Senate Bill 41, which would protect renters from lead poisoning, Senate Bill 141, which would give schools more flexibility to invest in lead abatement costs, Senate Joint Resolution 67, a bill to declare a Lead Poison Prevention Week in Wisconsin.

So far, despite the lead pipe crisis, none of these bills have even received a public hearing.


This statement from Senator Chris Larson (D - Milwaukee) regarding the Senate passage of Senate Bill 48 on October 31, 2017.

Senate Bill 48 was introduced by Senators Cowles, L. Taylor, Bewley, Carpenter, Darling, Feyen, Harsdorf, Johnson, C. Larson, Lasee, Miller, Olsen, Petrowski, Risser, Vinehout, Vukmir, Wanggaard and Hansen; cosponsored by Representatives Thiesfeldt, Krug, Genrich, Crowley, Barca, Bowen, E. Brooks, Brostoff, Fields, Goyke, Horlacher, Jagler, Kitchens, Kolste, Mason, Novak, Ohnstad, Ripp, Schraa, Spreitzer, Spiros, Steffen, Stuck, Subeck, C. Taylor, Tauchen, Tusler, Zamarripa, Zepnick, Anderson and Allen

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