Tuesday December 11, 2018

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Senator Taylor Responds to Milwaukee Brewer Josh Hader’s Offensive Tweets

Posted by Lena Taylor, State Senator, 4th District
Lena Taylor, State Senator, 4th District
Lena Taylor, State Senator, 4th District has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 18 July 2018
in Wisconsin

milw-brewers-miller-parkMADISON – The ten-year old social media posts that have recently surfaced by Josh Hader are incredibly offensive. I recognize that Josh has apologized for his actions and stressed that those past tweets do not reflect his current beliefs.

As with Donte DiVincenzo, who had questionable posts written when he was 14 years old, we are asked to remember that Hader was a teen when these things were said. However, the irony of Colin Kapernick— who said nothing inappropriate—being kept off the field for raising issues of race and inhumane treatment is not lost on me or many in the community. The contrast between losing your career for speaking a peaceful truth to race relations and receiving sensitivity training for racially incendiary language is glaring.

This is a teachable moment for all of us. In Hader’s case, these vile attitudes came from somewhere…he heard them or learned them somewhere. I’m glad to see the Brewers respond in a way that incorporates education and awareness of these issues.

****

Yesterday, a series of offensive tweets by Milwaukee Brewer Josh Hader were recently uncovered. Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) released this statement upon learning about these tweets.

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FULL VIDEO: Rewatch the Democratic Gubernatorial Debate

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 13 July 2018
in Wisconsin

demgovdebateOn Thursday, the eight major remaining Democratic candidates for Governor met at WUWM studios in Milwaukee. Here is the video of the debate in its entirety.


MILWAUKEE - On Thursday, July 12, 2018, the eight major remaining Democratic candidates for Governor, Tony Evers, Matt Flynn, Mike McCabe, Mahlon Mitchell, Josh Pade, Kelda Helen Roys, Paul Soglin, and Kathleen Vinehout, met at WUWM studios in Milwaukee. Here is the video of the debate in its entirety.

Rewatch the Democratic Gubernatorial debate in its entirety as it was aired on TODAY'S TMJ4 and tmj4.com below.

*****

Video provided by YouTube.

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Critical Needs Go Unmet at Our Struggling Schools

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 Wednesday, 11 July 2018
in Wisconsin

school-kidsThe Wisconsin Budget Project recently provided insight into state school aid, which has not been restored to the funding level in 2011 when Gov. Walker made historic cuts. With schools struggling with less aid and increasing needs, resolving funding issues and the school funding formula are a priority.


BIRCHWOOD, WI - How can a rural school meet critical needs when money for schools is less than adequate?

“A school board member went door-to-door asking for support,” Birchwood Superintendent Diane Johnson said to members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding. “He raised $3,000 to get the front doors locked.” The money raised was for purchase of a long-needed intercom system at the front door. “The doors were not locked during the day until this month,” Dr. Johnson told Commission members in May.

Dr. Johnson went on to say next would come an effort to buy key fobs for the staff and re-key the doors. The school didn’t lock the doors or change the locks for over 50 years. With a population of less than 500 in Birchwood, “everyone has a key to the school.”

School funding is not adequate for students in many communities across our state. Mounting mental health and school safety issues are just some of the problems facing superintendents, school boards and bookkeepers like Birchwood’s Bonita Basty.

Ten percent of Birchwood’s tight school budget must be transferred to cover required costs for students with special needs, Ms. Basty explained. In addition, the small district is depleting its reserve funds to cover increasing costs for students with special needs.

The state pays only about a quarter of the costs for special education despite the legal requirement that school districts must provide these services. Both federal and state special education reimbursement dropped over the years, while the needs of students grew.

kathleen-vinehoutAcross the state, the Commission heard testimony regarding impossible trade-offs school districts are forced to make between basic building maintenance, school safety, achievement, accountability and student needs.

A new study released by the Wisconsin Budget Project, an initiative of the nonpartisan advocacy group Kids Forward, provided insight into why Wisconsin schools face such difficult challenges and what options exist to make changes in budget priorities.

“In 2019, the state will invest less in public schools than it did in 2011, something that has been true of every year in between as well. In 2019, Wisconsin school districts will receive $153 million less in state aid than in 2011 in inflation-adjusted dollars, or 2.6% less,” noted the Budget Project.

The series of cuts made to schools over the years add up. The Budget Project reported that between 2012 and 2019, Wisconsin spent a cumulative $3.5 billion dollars less in state aid to schools than if the state had retained the 2011 funding level.

Looking at where dollars moved in Wisconsin’s budget, the Budget Project reported the share of tax dollars used for schools dropped since 2011. In that year, Wisconsin spent almost forty percent of tax revenue on school districts. By 2019, this percent is estimated to drop to 32 percent.

The report provided some answers to the question, if WI didn’t spend money on schools, where did the money go? Since 2011, majority lawmakers enacted more than 100 tax changes.

“… some of which are extremely slanted in favor of the wealthy and well connected. One example is the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit which in 2017 gave 11 filers who each earned over $30 million an average estimated tax cut of $2 million each, according to figures from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit will reduce state revenue by an estimated $324 million in 2019.

“The combined cost of the new tax cuts has climbed each year, starting from a low of $57 million in 2012, and reaching $2 billion in 2019 in inflation-adjusted dollars. The combined total cost of the tax cuts adds up to $8.7 billion over eight years.”

Wisconsin needs to increase funding for schools. One place to go to find dollars without increasing total spending, is the expensive corporate cash subsidies and tax breaks given out in the past eight years.

However, the state also needs to change how money is distributed to districts. We need a new funding formula based on student needs. Much public testimony given to the Commission detailed greater student needs because of having parents suffering from addiction, and students with challenges related to mental illness and trauma. Additionally, there are increasing needs and less state support for students in poverty, with special needs, and English learners.

The Wisconsin Budget Project study makes it clear – money is available if lawmakers are willing to change priorities.

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Opioids vs. Medical Cannabis

Posted by Laura Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Laura Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Laura Kiefert lives in Howard and is a Partner in the Green Bay Progressive. Mem
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on Tuesday, 10 July 2018
in Wisconsin

brown-county-exec-comm-070918A person diagnosed with diabetic eye and peripheral nerve damage makes a statement on her personal experience with legal prescription drugs and her hope to see medical marijuana legalized in Wisconsin. Made before the Brown County Board Executive Committee on July 9, 2018.


GREEN BAY, WI - My name is Laura Kiefert. My husband and I own property in Howard, where we live next door to our son, his wife, and three of our grandchildren.

I appreciate the opportunity of speaking with you today about my personal experience with drugs. Legal prescription drugs, that is.

In 1998 after suffering a rapid onset of severe pain, I was diagnosed with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. It felt like my feet were constantly burning in scalding water. So far, that sensation has spread to my ankles, calves, hands and forearms.

Several neurologists confirmed the diagnosis by performing a myriad of diagnostic tests. All confirmed the diagnosis, agreed that finding an effective treatment was often elusive, confirmed the condition was progressive, and advised me to not expect the condition would ever improve.

laura-kiefertAt the beginning, I was prescribed anti-epileptic medications, the only drugs approved at that time to treat neuropathy. Then, those medications were combined with anti-depressants, which had shown to be effective with some patients suffering from neuropathic ailments. Along with those, I was prescribed low doses of opioids like Percocet and Vicodin.

In addition, I tried topical ointments, supplements, chiropractic, acupuncture, bio-feedback, electric stimulation, spinal injections, massage and relaxation, all efforts to ease my pain and slow the progression. None proved very beneficial.

My diagnosis coincided with Perdue Pharma launching an extensive marketing campaign promoting their so-called wonder drug, OxyContin, aimed at assuring physicians that it was safe and non- addictive when used for pain control.

It was during that time I received my first prescription for OxyContin and it was the start of what we now refer to as the Opioid Crisis.

OxyContin was originally developed to be an effective pain reliever. And it was. Pain sufferers like me weren’t looking to get high. We were looking for a medication to ease our pain.

As doctors wrote millions of prescriptions, the market became totally saturated with OxyContin, patients began sharing or selling their pills, people learned how to crush the tablets and snort or inject the powder. It wasn’t long before people were stealing it to get high and the drug became readily available on the black market.

By 2002, when I was just 47 years old, I was no longer able to work because of the neuropathy pain, and unable to drive due to the deterioration of my vision.

Periodically, over the next 13 years, the type of opioids varied and dosages were increased until I was taking maximum dosages of several at the same time. Along the way the numerous drugs I took caused serious side effects including weight gain, drowsiness, dizziness and swelling, heart, respiratory, and gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, itchy skin, dry mouth, nausea and infection.

Make no mistake, opioids relieved my pain, however between the years, 2010 to 2015, I was basically unable to function and rarely got out of bed.

For all intents and purposes during those years, I lost my life. I missed out on everything - loving moments with my husband, family and friends, birthdays and holidays, ball games, concerts and recitals, and especially all the little things a grandmother enjoys and cherishes while watching her grandchildren grow.

In 2015, I turned 60 and I realized with the quality of life I had, I might as well be dead. So I decided to stop taking the prescriptions I had been over-prescribed, and get out of bed or die trying. Against my doctor’s recommendation, and without any intervention or treatment, over a period 4 months of difficult withdrawal, I was able to successfully rid myself of my dependence on legally prescribed drugs.

Now, although I am functioning better, coping with constant pain is a never-ending struggle. I can’t walk very far, stand too long, or sit very long. Nights are the worse because my pain intensifies when I lay down. The only relief I get is when I’m submerged in water. I’ve spent so much time in our pool, it’s a wonder I haven’t grown gills.

My vision has deteriorated to where I have lost most of the vision in my left eye and considerable in my right. Now, damage to my optic nerve resulting from worsening glaucoma, has my ophthalmologist worried I’m going totally blind.

Pain is the first thing I think about when I wake up, the last before I go to sleep, and too many times in between to count. Being so visually impaired is a challenge I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

My personal experience with prescribed Opioid Medication proves taking them requires increasing dosages that can be a slippery slope that often leads to dependence, overdose and even death.

According to a study from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths involving opioids, in 2016 reached, 42,249. A staggering average of 115 per day.

Opioid overdoses recently overtook vehicular accidents and shooting deaths as the most common cause of accidental death in the United States. Ten states enacted medical cannabis laws between 1999 and 2010. Research from those states have shown that states allowing medical marijuana had a 24.8% lower annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared to states outlawing cannabis.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, as well as numerous other in-depth studies on medical cannabis has reported that like opioids, marijuana has been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain as well as other conditions such as Anxiety, Arthritis, Cancer, Crohn’s Disease, Epilepsy, Fibromyalgia, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Migrains, Multiple Sclerosis, Neuropathy and PTSD.

Furthermore, studies have shown that marijuana used as an alternative pain treatment would help mitigate the major public health opioid crisis because it is safer and less addictive, you can’t overdose from it, nor has anyone in the US died from using it.

Medical marijuana is an affordable, safe and effective alternative for many expensive, ineffective and highly addictive prescription opioid medicines currently being prescribed.

Legalization of the medical use of marijuana would have a significant positive affect on the Opioid Crisis. It would be a giant missed opportunity if data on safety, efficacy, and outcomes from medical cannabis use wasn’t considered when deciding whether marijuana should be legalized.

Personally, I’ve exhausted every pain management option, including massive doses of prescribed opioids. After extensive research, I’ve determined that medical cannabis is the only option left for me.

I have not tried marijuana for my nerve pain or glaucoma. Primarily because it’s illegal, but also because I can’t stand the smell of it.

Like many people of my generation, I thought marijuana was an evil drug that was making our kids stupid, was highly addictive, a gateway drug, and often led to overdose and death.

A surprising number of people still cling to that anti-factual, long-exploited, preconceived ideology that marijuana use is bad. My research has taught me otherwise.

I have learned it is nearly impossible to overdose on cannabis. To do so, you would have to consume 40,000 times the dose required to get “high”, all at once.

I was relieved to find out the neuroscience department at the University of Louisville has proven that marijuana use does not, in fact, kill brain cells.

Unlike opioids, marijuana has little addiction potential, and no deaths from marijuana overdose has been reported in the United States.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that smoking cannabis does not cause significant damage to the lungs. Tobacco, however, can be extremely damaging. And, marijuana can be consumed in edible forms, therefore alleviating the unpleasant stink.

Nearly all of us know someone who has been killed by cigarettes or alcohol, yet they remain legal. A recent study even found the majority of people believe consuming sugar is worse for you than smoking marijuana.

Opioids are the 3real “gateway” drugs to be worried about. Since the war on opioids has led to stiff regulations on the quantity and duration of prescriptions, many legitimate pain sufferers have turned to street drugs out of desperation after being cutoff by their doctor’s.

People who live relatively pain free just don’t get what’s it’s like to constantly have pain. Imagine if you had a toothache that went on for sixteen years.

The best solution for pain sufferers, and a real solution to the opioid crisis, would be the legalization of marijuana.

I know firsthand the downside of taking prescription opioids and just how detrimental they can be to one’s health and well being. Medical marijuana couldn’t possibly be anywhere near as bad.

I’ve asked many doctors how they feel about medical cannabis. They agree it would very likely be effective for my pain management. Healthcare practitioners who are charged with ensuring patient comfort, have a vested interest in providing viable alternatives to Prescription Opioid Medications as part of an integrated approach to pain management. They are left wondering how different their job would be if marijuana was legal.

I’m left wondering how different my life might have been over the past sixteen years, or how different my future might be, with the benefit of legal medical cannabis.

I didn’t reveal this much of my personal heath history looking for sympathy. I’m hoping you will consider what I’ve said when deciding how to vote on this proposed referendum. Quite simply, I need something done before I either die or go blind. I desperately want to live productive life as and see my grandchildren grow up.

Anyone who had to walk with MY legs on MY feet, hold anything with MY hands, or see out of MY eyes, would understand my urgency in getting medical marijuana legalized in Wisconsin.

Most importantly, I don’t think my government should force me into becoming a criminal in order to obtain a medication with the potential to help me.

I must emphasize one final point. No one I know who’s advocating for Brown County to add this non- binding advisory referendum is doing so because they are potheads who walk around in a purple haze and just want to bring more drugs into our community.

Make no mistake, marijuana is already here and being used illegally by thousands of people in Brown County. I’m told it can be bought at bars near the university, on street corners on Main Street or University Avenue, and during the summer, at Disc golf courses.

Drugs are pervasive in our society. Just open your medicine cabinet. Those drugs can be purchased on every other street corner and Walgreens, CBS, Shopko and Walmart.

Thank you for listening and I sincerely hope you consider my statement in your decision about whether this issue should move forward.

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Hemp Growing Pains

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
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 04 July 2018
in Wisconsin

hemp-farmerWisconsin farmers are facing challenges starting the new industrial hemp pilot program. Now confidentiality roadblocks are generating a new organization to connect growers, processors, retailers and consumers to establish and promote a dynamic hemp market.


ALMA, WI - “I, as a licensed hemp grower, cannot get a list of hemp processors in Wisconsin,” wrote Butch Mondeau. He stressed the problem is "a state road block.”

Mr. Mondeau is an Eau Claire County hemp farmer. He was planning to sell his crop to the company that supplied seeds but recently learned the company will only buy back certified organic hemp crops. Mr. Mondeau’s farm is not certified organic. Looking for someone to buy the crops growing in his field proved a more complex task than expected.

The new law legalizing hemp keeps confidential all contact information for hemp growers and processors in the state. This makes it difficult for farmers to find buyers for their crops in Wisconsin.

kathleen-vinehoutI recently spoke with Rob Richard of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF). “We were concerned growers would be harassed by people who didn’t understand hemp,” said Mr. Richard, who serves as Senior Director of Government Relations. We worked together during the passage of the bill.

Perhaps lawmakers should rethink keeping hemp growers and processors confidential. Mr. Richard suggested one option is to allow farmers and processors to “opt in or opt out of public information so growers can access the list.”

Meanwhile, farmers with hemp crops in the field whose marketing plan fell through need immediate help.

Mr. Richard’s advice is to proceed with caution. “You have to find a buyer and have a plan on what to do with the product.” He noted processors are coming into the state to “manufacture and sell CBD [oil]. Processors are also coming in to deal with grain and fiber, but this is slower.”

Mr. Richard is working with former Legislative Council attorney Larry Konopacki to create the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance (WHA), which will work to bring processors, retailers and consumers together with farmers.

The organization is just getting off the ground. Connecting farmers and processors is one of the biggest challenges now.

“There are a lot of people who want to make money, but not a lot doing advocacy, education and marketing,” Mr. Konopacki told me. “Growing pains’ is a good way to describe it. There are the regular farming problems; equipment, harvesting, and growing conditions. But there are added problems with varieties and markets.”

“There are so many different kinds of hemp,” Mr. Konopacki pointed out. “It’s like saying there are vegetables for sale. I don’t want your cauliflower, but I’ll buy your tomatoes. There is a lot of seed growing but most of it is starting out organic. This is a market that really likes organic.”

Advocacy is needed to assure retailers, consumers, processors and farmers that hemp and products made from hemp are legal. Some District Attorneys around the state still want to prosecute those in the hemp industry. Uncertainty about transporting raw hemp also creates problems.

“There is still uncertainty about crossing state lines, even though this is allowed under the federal and state hemp pilot program,” said Mr. Konopacki. “A nationwide market wouldn’t have these problems. There’s not a lot of flexibility.”

Efforts to add hemp as a commodity to the national farm bill could help resolve transportation problems and, perhaps, ease marketing concerns. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced bipartisan language to the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill that would legalize growing the plant and allow states to set up the best system for regulation. Both Wisconsin U.S. Senators cosponsored the proposal.

Hemp is one of the few bright spots in Wisconsin’s agriculture community. WFBF’s Rob Richard noted, “The economic hardship and morale of farmers is really low right now.” Farmers are looking for alternatives and hemp provides some hope for better cash flow.

Some farmers are sitting on the fence watching their neighbors solve problems related to agronomy and marketing. “I really think you are going to see big growth in Year Two and Year Three,” Mr. Richard said.

Farmers looking for help finding a market for their product or folks interested in being advocates should contact the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance. Especially helpful are people willing to buy hemp.

“If you are a processor or buyer, we know of farmers who would like to connect with you!” Folks can reach Larry Konopacki and the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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