Saturday June 12, 2021

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State Republicans, Nygren Fail Wisconsin on COVID-19

Posted by Karl Jaeger, Jaeger For Wisconsin
Karl Jaeger, Jaeger For Wisconsin
Jaeger For Wisconsin, Karl Jaeger has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 06 October 2020
in Wisconsin

trump-wh-covidWillfully downplaying the severity of COVID-19, disregarding the safety of our citizens by ignoring science, and fighting every attempt the Governor makes to slow the spread, has helped make Wisconsin the Nation’s new COVID-19 hotspot, says Karl Jaeger.


MARINTTE, WI - After months and months of John Nygren and our State Legislature downplaying the severity of COVID-19, willfully disregarding the safety of our citizens by ignoring science, and actively fighting every attempt the Governor has made to slow the spread of this virus, Wisconsin is quickly becoming the Nation’s COVID-19 hotspot.

The GOP has not done a single thing to slow the spread of COVID-19. In fact, they have fought the Governor at every step—filing multiple lawsuits to end public health orders and issuing celebratory press releases with each of their hollow “victories”.

karl-jaegerI’ve said this before, but the basic function of our state government is to protect our citizens’ health and safety. Acting to undermine public health like this will cost lives. The Wisconsin GOP owns this pandemic—the responsibility for every new case of this virus rests squarely in their hands. How many people have to be hospitalized before we start to matter to them?

john-nygrenWisconsin Republicans have not met or passed a single bill in over 170 days. Neither the executive branch nor the judiciary has the ability to write new laws: only the Legislature can do that. Lives are at stake and they don't have a single solution to offer. And now, instead of working toward solutions, they are using the courts, at taxpayer expense, to fight Wisconsin’s mask order. This is shameful. This reckless disregard for human life is completely unconscionable.

There’s nothing even stopping them from convening to rescind the mask order on their own—they’re just cowards who are too weak to take responsibility for their own actions. They’re afraid to hurt their chances of reelection, so they are shifting blame to the Supreme Court at taxpayers’ expense. They’ll spend our money to sue the Governor, but won’t convene to work on solutions. In fact, they haven’t offered one single idea on how to deal with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

November 3 is fast approaching, and it’s time Wisconsin elects leaders who will work together to put the health and safety of our people first. Please wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing—and please vote for change.

Karl Jaeger
Candidate, 89th Assembly District

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Tom Palzewicz Introduces Himself

Posted by Tom Palzewicz, Candidate for Congress
Tom Palzewicz, Candidate for Congress
Tom Palzewicz is the Democrat running for Congress in Wisconsin's 5th Congressio
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on Friday, 02 October 2020
in Wisconsin

tom-palzewiczTom Palzewicz is the Democrat running for Congress in Wisconsin's 5th Congressional District. He is a small-business owner and Navy Veteran running against Scott Fitzgerald in this traditionally red district.


BROOKFIELD, WI - Greetings, my name is Tom Palzewicz. I am a small-business owner, Navy Veteran, and Democrat running for Congress in Wisconsin's 5th Congressional District. I'm running because our country lacks vision. We are at a crossroads for our Democracy, and the stakes are high for our country. When I got into this race, I looked forward to an honest exchange of ideas and solutions. Unfortunately, my opponent, Scott Fitzgerald, has been unwilling to engage in this fundamentally democratic exercise.

The central tenet of our Democracy is debate. We will never agree with anyone on everything, nor were we meant to. Still, the ability to find common ground is almost impossible without a free-flowing exchange of ideas. A series of debates provides voters a window into the policy solutions we offer as prospective representatives. I am ready, willing, and eager to engage in a robust, open, and respectful conversation with Senator Fitzgerald because it is what the voters deserve. After sending letters, making phone calls, and reaching out across various channels, Fitzgerald still declines the opportunity to make his case to the voters and defend his ideas. I know the voters of this district, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as my friends, family, and neighbors. I know that no matter what party you identify with, you welcome solutions, and you welcome debates.

scott_fitzgeraldParty loyalty has sadly been absolute at the federal level of our government. In the White House, Senate, and even here in Wisconsin the “with us or against us" mentality is pervasive. I know Wisconsinites are better than this. Instead of placing the country's needs first and having real conversations about our values and ideas, we are dividing almost everything by fealty to party and raw power acquisition. We have not had a reasonable discussion about how to solve our most pressing issues. We are amid a pandemic that claimed the lives of over 200,000 Americans, we see racial injustice violently unfold before our eyes, and we are witnessing an unrelenting climate crisis. No matter how great these challenges may seem, we can overcome them through the American spirit of dialogue, discussion, and yes, debate.

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Every Day, Every Farmer Counts

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, 30 September 2020
in Wisconsin

farm-familyAlthough National Farm Safety and Health Week has already passed, it’s important that we continue thinking about what we must do to protect farmers.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in America. In 2018, the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety reported 23.4 accidental deaths per 100,000 farm-workers. National Farm Safety and Health Week takes place every year during the third week of September to acknowledge the dangers when farming, especially now, while farmers are harvesting. This year’s theme, “Every Farmer Counts,” compels us to recognize that behind these alarming statistics, there are lives lost and real families impacted by these tragedies.

As you’re reading this, National Farm Safety and Health Week has already passed. Ensuring the health and well-being of farmworkers is something we should take seriously every single day, not just one week out of the year. Our farmers have tremendous pride in what they do and what they produce. Their work in feeding America cannot be downplayed or taken for granted, because we know the health risks that are a part of the job are very real.

Harvest time is especially dangerous for farmers who become exposed to silo gas in their farm structure or become trapped in a silo while it’s being filled. Heavy machinery with all the working parts can also be dangerous. All it takes is a lapse of concentration for a moment and a person can get caught in a position they can’t get out of. Years ago, I got my pant leg caught in the power takeoff of my tractor and took quite a while to cut myself free. Fortunately, in my case, my tractor shut down before causing permanent damage. I was lucky.

Keeping hands and legs out of harm’s way is not the only approach to avoid injury. Tractor rollovers cause horrific accidents, which is why roll bars are recommended on tractors even when mowing.

This time of year, especially, we’re all responsible to look out for farm machinery on the road. Farmers are recommended to have emergency flashers on their machinery, but that doesn’t always happen. Farm machinery is generally wide and slow. Even when they’re off to the side, it can be difficult to see around them and passing can be treacherous.

Take care when coming across farm machinery on the road. Remember that machinery has the right of way and they won’t be on the road for a long distance. Be patient and only pass when the driver signals it’s safe or there’s a clear vision of the road ahead.

Obvious dangers may cause injury or even death on a farm, but some are more subtle. It’s just as important we emphasize the need for mental health support as much as identifying protections for farmers’ physical health. In the last couple of years, the loss of life through suicide has taken an especially tragic toll on farming families.

Farming is notorious for being a lifestyle passed on from generation to generation. When economic hardship occurs, like the current dairy crisis, farming families can face terrible stress. Through no fault of their own, a farming family may find themselves facing bankruptcy and the loss of a homestead that’s been in the family for decades.

Farmers should know the Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Program, overseen by The Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection, is available to provide critical support for those experiencing stress or a mental health crisis.

jeff-smithThe farming lifestyle is too often romanticized. We see the farming landscape when we drive through the countryside, without taking into account all of the hard, dangerous work actually happening on the farms. Farmers work tirelessly to be sure we have the food we need to keep us all healthy.

Every one of us, but especially lawmakers, need to offer more than rhetoric when expressing how we respect our farm families. We must show we mean it through our actions. Policies must be passed to preserve that way of life and protect our farmers from falling victim to corporate factory farms. We have to get serious and look out for those farmers who look out for us.

So, let’s consider every week to be Farm Safety and Health week for the health and prosperity of our nation.

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WI Democracy Campaign - Mourning RBG

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 Saturday, 26 September 2020
in Wisconsin

ruth-bader-ginsbergCareer dedicated to equality and justice, two things right at the heart of our work here.


MADISON - Here at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, we remain in mourning at the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Among the many causes she championed in her career dedicated to equality and justice, two are right at the heart of our work here.

The first is reducing the influence of money in our politics. She told The New Republic back in 2014 that the worst decision of the Roberts Court was Citizens United. “The notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be," she said.

And the second cause is ending gerrymandering.

In 2015, Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion in a case called Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The case revolved around the constitutionality of Proposition 106, the statewide binding referendum that passed in Arizona in 2000 and that took the redistricting authority away from the legislators and handed it over to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Committee.

Ginsburg ruled that the initiative process was totally in keeping with our founding principles. “The Framers may not have imagined the modern initiative process in which the people of a State exercise legislative power coextensive with the authority of an institutional legislature,” she wrote. “But the invention of the initiative was in full harmony with the Constitution’s conception of the people as the font of governmental power.” That conception is crucial in the context of gerrymandering, Ginsburg argued, stressing the importance of “lawmaking by the people, particularly where such lawmaking is intended to check legislators’ ability to choose the district lines they run in.”

In a sentence that rings so true for those of us in Wisconsin, she noted: “The legislature’s responsiveness to the people its members represent is hardly heightened when the representative body can be confident that what it does will not be overturned or modified by the voters themselves.”

matt-rothschildJustice Ginsburg knew well why our Legislature here in Madison is not responsive to the people. It’s because of gerrymandering.

May her memory be a blessing.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
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How “Doing Nothing” Works for Politicians

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, 23 September 2020
in Wisconsin

scott-fitzgeraldWe see politicians use a “Do Nothing” strategy to avoid responsibility or point fingers, says Sen. Smith in his weekly column.


MADISON - While scrolling through social media recently, I saw someone ask, “Why hasn’t Governor Evers distributed funds from the Heroes Act?” Others jumped all over this comment, claiming the Governor failed because the Heroes Act wasn’t being implemented when it could be.

The truth of the matter is the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act several months ago to provide more COVID-19 relief to states; but the U.S. Senate hasn’t taken any action on the bill. Governor Evers cannot take action on federal funding that hasn’t actually passed Congress and signed by the President.

This anecdote provides a good lesson for many of us who may be confused about how our government works. This story also represents the “Do Nothing” political strategy we’re seeing used these days. The theory seems to be if politicians do nothing, you’ll forget and they won’t have to justify their inaction or provide an answer on a politically-risky vote.

In this hyper-polarized political climate, especially in the weeks ahead before an historic election, it’s critical we understand how our government works to serve the People’s best interests.

You see, most people consider the Governor as the top political leader, responsible for making all of the difficult decisions that affect our day-to-day lives. In reality, the Governor oversees the executive branch and there is a Wisconsin Supreme Court and a Wisconsin State Legislature. These three branches of government place checks and balances on each other. This system effectively works to prevent abuse within every branch of government and saves us from falling into a totalitarian state.

robin-vos-is-safe-to-voteIt’s important to know the Governor can’t act without the Legislature first passing bills. Republicans have now used this process to their advantage, as a political tool. The Majority Party realizes if they do nothing, then Governor Evers can’t enact legislation to help Wisconsin families. Republicans also understand citizens will then place all the blame on the Governor while they hide and stay silent.

In Wisconsin, the Majority Party has taken the “Do Nothing” strategy to new heights (or lows depending on your view). Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, their plan was to stop working by early March and get paid for the last 9 months of the year. At the time the pandemic hit, the Senate didn’t even get through the final session calendar, so even less got done.

Amidst a global pandemic, an unemployment crisis and our country’s awakening to the realities of systemic racism, the Majority Party has sat idly by. Wisconsinites have called their leaders to act. The Legislature could act, but this would throw their “Do Nothing” political strategy off.

Disappointingly, the Majority Party developed another practice to carry out this strategy. They’ve learned they can delay and even avoid any action if they hide behind a task force. Task forces are designed to study new policy ideas and prepare legislation to be passed, but a task force only works if those involved are actually committed to seeing something get done.

jeff-smithThis session, Governor Evers declared 2019 as the Year of Clean Drinking Water and offered solutions in his budget, which were ultimately rejected by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee. Rather than acting on these policy proposals, the Assembly Speaker created a Water Quality Task Force, adding another hurdle to delay any progress from actually happening.

Most recently, Governor Evers declared a special session on police reform in response to the Jacob Blake shooting. Despite the fact that bills had been drafted and introduced from both parties, the Assembly Speaker established a Task Force on Racial Disparities, hoping it will delay action long enough for his members to get past the election and have you forget why it was necessary in the first place.

In the last session alone, there were thirty bills introduced from the various task forces established. Only three of these bills were actually passed and signed into law, exposing the “Do Nothing” strategy and the consequence it has on our state.

The “Do Nothing” strategy only works if voters let it work. Demand more from your elected officials and hold them accountable. Make us the Working Legislature we should be.

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Housing Crisis in a Pandemic

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, 16 September 2020
in Wisconsin

eviction-noticeSen. Smith writes about the resources currently available to Wisconsinites to cover mortgage or rental costs, including those recommended by the Treasurers’ Homeowners Task Force, the CDC eviction moratorium and the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Six months into a global pandemic, we’ve become familiar with language we’ve never expected to use before COVID-19. “Quarantine” was a word most likely associated with popular sci-fi movies, and “safer at home” was a phrase we probably only heard when we were expecting a big snowstorm.

There were many aspects of our lives we may have previously taken for granted, even in the beginning of this year. But if there was any confusion before the pandemic about the necessity of safe housing, it’s abundantly clear now. Unfortunately, affordable, safe housing is still out of reach for so many Americans. Most of us believe adequate housing is essential to have a decent quality of life. When you find yourself without safe housing it’s important to know the support available for you.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with members of the Treasurers’ Homeowners Task Force about their work. Last spring, Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski established the Task Force with the mission of helping more Wisconsin families reach the American dream of owning a home. To achieve this mission, the Task Force is prioritizing two strategies: preparing potential buyers and providing relief to owners, when needed.

In preparing potential homebuyers, the Task Force is working with stakeholders statewide to provide educational resources and financial tools to make what may seem like a lofty idea of buying a home a reality.

working from homeThe Task Force is also determined to support current homeowners, especially those facing economic hardship. COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted us all, some a little more than others. Fortunately, there are resources available to those who may need some assistance to get through this challenging time. If you’re financially strained, Task Force members recommend talking to your county or city Treasurer’s office for guidance; contacting your mortgage lender to learn about COVID-19 relief options or reaching out to a local social service agency for assistance.

The Treasurer’s Task Force is working on long term solutions, but there is important short-term assistance available now. On September 1st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order temporarily halting evictions until December 31, 2020. Renters are not automatically protected. They must apply to become protected against eviction in emergency situations. Renters must prove to their landlord they’ve exhausted all other relief options and an eviction would leave him or her homeless. Also, the eviction moratorium still requires the renter to pay the landlord at a future date.

The CDC eviction moratorium is only one means of housing relief for Americans. In Wisconsin, there are more programs directed specifically toward state residents to provide housing support. Additional support was made available in March when Congress passed the CARES Act, which distributed $2 billion to Wisconsin from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF).

Since Wisconsin received the CRF payment in April, Governor Tony Evers has distributed $1.8 billion to direct critical support where Wisconsinites need it most. Governor Evers allocated this federal funding toward Wisconsin’s farmers, small businesses and childcare providers. Additionally, Governor Evers prioritized this funding to provide essential support for healthcare professionals, local governments, as well as our K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

jeff-smithIn May, Governor Evers announced the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (W.R.A.P.), a $25 million program to provide housing support for state residents. Eligible applicants can receive an award up to $3,000 to cover rental payments. To be eligible, applicants must be an adult, a Wisconsin resident with a household income at or below 80% of the county median income in the month of, or prior to the application date. W.R.A.P. funding is still available; renters are encouraged to reach out to their local Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (CAP) to apply.

Despite all of these efforts by Governor Evers and Treasurer Godlewski, there will always be housing insecurity. We, as a caring society, must continue to work toward solving homelessness in the long term while we assist as many families as possible right now. If you know someone in need of adequate housing, please share these opportunities with them right now.

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Frances Perkins’ New Deal

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, 09 September 2020
in Wisconsin

frances-perkinsFrances Perkins dedicated her career advocating for workers’ rights and became a high-profile leader helping to establish programs that are fundamental to the way our country runs today. Bold leaders like her and the collective efforts of Wisconsin workers move us forward.


MADISON - Annually, our country honors the contributions of American workers on Labor Day, but perhaps it wasn’t until this year, while living through a pandemic, when many really appreciated the essential role many workers have in our day-to-day lives.

Similarly, many Americans are unaware of the historical significance of the labor movement. Even lesser known are the leaders who helped strengthen workers’ rights and establish the working standards we all know today. Like many other labor activists, the story of Frances Perkins is remarkable, yet very few know of her and her efforts to improve working conditions in our country.

union-workersFrances Perkins’ remarkable story and her contributions to the United States helped our country become the greatest economic power in the world during the 20th Century. Her efforts for fair wages, labor rights and programs for helping people in difficult times resulted in far less families living in poverty and the birth of the middle class. Perkins’ story illustrates how we, as a nation and community look out for one another. The story of Frances Perkins is also a reminder that when we pull through together, we achieve great things.

Frances Perkins built a successful career as a labor rights activist at a time when many women didn’t hold leadership positions. Her career began in the early 20th Century advocating for working families, people living in poverty and improved working conditions for adults. She also led efforts to protect children who, more often than not, faced hazardous workplaces.

Historians from the Frances Perkins Center claim that one of the most pivotal points of her career came on March 25, 1911 when she and her friends witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This tragic event claimed the lives of 146 workers in a hazardous, fire-prone workplace. Many of the victims were young women who lost their lives because nothing was done to prevent this horrific fire. This event motivated Perkins to develop policies to support working people, much of this inspiring the New Deal.

At this time, Frances Perkins was already Executive Secretary of the New York City Consumer’s League advocating for fire protections in workplaces and standard work hours for women and children. In response to the fire, New York formed a citizens’ Committee on Safety and appointed Perkins as its Executive Secretary. The recommendations from this Committee became the model for laws in states across the country.

unemployment-great-depression-jobsPerkins continued to hold high-profile roles in her career, including Industrial Commissioner in New York. As she worked to stop New York’s rising unemployment, she challenged President Hoover’s false reports that employment was on the rise and the Depression was near the end.

In 1933, Perkins became the first woman to serve in a Presidential cabinet when Franklin Roosevelt appointed Perkins as Secretary of Labor once he began his first term as President in 1933. As Labor Secretary, Perkins created a platform centered on workers’ rights, helping to establish programs that are now fundamental to the way our country runs today, including the 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation.

jeff-smithAs U.S. Labor Secretary, she led the Committee on Economic Security, which helped develop the Social Security Act which instituted the Social Security program we all know today. Perkins was also a key leader in creating the Fair Labor Standards Act, enacted in 1938; her work with labor leaders on this legislation helped establish a minimum wage, maximum working hours and banned child labor.

Nearly a century later, our country is facing many of the same challenges Perkins dedicated her career to solving, including a struggling economy and families unsure of what the future holds. Right now, we need to take great leaps to build the next great economy. It will take ideas from brilliant and bold leaders like Frances Perkins and the collective efforts of Wisconsin workers.  With determination, backbone and foresight, we can make it happen.

****

Note: Information about the inspiring life and work of Frances Perkins for this column comes from the Frances Perkins Center.

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Now is Not the Time for Senate Recess

Posted by Jon Erpenbach Press. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach Press. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
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on Wednesday, 02 September 2020
in Wisconsin

scott-fitzgeraldRepublicans came to the floor and gaveled in Monday, but delayed action. Legislature should listen and act now, says Sen. Erpenbach.


WEST POINT, WI - The Wisconsin Legislature must rise to meet this moment. In March, Breonna Taylor was killed while officers executed a no-knock warrant on her home. In May, George Floyd was killed after being arrested by the Minneapolis Police. On August 23rd, a Kenosha Police Officer fired seven shots at Jacob Blake’s back; causing him to be paralyzed from the waist down. Reform is necessary.

In June, Governor Evers released a package of bills designed to begin to restore equal justice in Wisconsin. The bills are an attempt to address real issues that we need to take on in order to make real change. Republicans in the Legislature did not act in June. In fact it has been 138 days since they have done anything at all. Nothing to address unemployment, nothing to address the continued demands of a global pandemic, nothing to address racial justice.

jon-erpenbach-radioThe Republican answer to all of our state’s pressing issues has been to create a task force. How can we be expected to take that seriously when just 3 out of the 30 bills introduced by the Speaker’s numerous task forces have resulted in anything at all? Democrats stand ready to meet this moment and bring about the change that has been desperately needed for far too long.

Monday Republicans came to the floor and gaveled in because they had to; because the rules of a special session called by the Governor require them to. It is now up to them how they answer the demands for justice being heard around Wisconsin.

We stand with those calling for change, with those peacefully protesting injustice. We share the anger and frustration of those who want the Legislature to act. We can no longer turn our backs on this moment and wait for it to pass.

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Repair Trust in Pursuit of Racial Equality

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, 02 September 2020
in Wisconsin

kenosha-jacob-blake-shooting-wsjThe Governor called for a special session of the Legislature to reform police practices and improve police accountability. As state leaders, it’s our job to make Wisconsin more just and equitable for all residents.


MADISON - This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of Americans came together at the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C to commemorate the anniversary of the March on Washington. Activists stood on the same steps, delivering remarks reminiscent to the same call to action shared 57 years ago from Civil Rights leaders.

During the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, calling for racial equality while recognizing the urgency to act. Dr. King explicitly denounced police brutality, citing its “unspeakable horrors” for people of color. Decades later, this dream memorably described by Dr. King and shared by so many Civil Rights leaders of that time, is still far from reality for so many Americans today.

Just last week, Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot 7 times in the back by police in Kenosha. To add to the horror, his three children were in the vehicle and witnessed the whole thing. There are so many questions that went through my head in the aftermath of this horrific encounter. But what I do know, for certain, is there are things our generation can do to continue the work for racial equality.

Back in June, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes introduced 9 bills aimed at reforming police practices. This package of legislation included measures to establish a statewide use of force standards for all law enforcement agencies; prohibit the use of chokeholds and no-knock search warrants; create a civil cause of action for unnecessarily summoning a law enforcement officer; and more.

Since they introduced this legislative package, the Majority Party hasn’t taken any action on it. This isn’t the first time Republicans have neglected to act while Wisconsinites are struggling and asking for support. The Majority Party has also failed to fix Wisconsin’s outdated unemployment insurance system, act on gun safety bills and provide additional relief during this pandemic.

Last week, in response to the Jacob Blake shooting, Governor Evers called a special session for the Legislature to act on these policing reform bills. I was wholeheartedly prepared to participate in this special session to address the root causes of these appalling encounters. This is what we are called to do when we are elected: repair the broken trust and work toward a more just, equitable state for all residents. Unfortunately, the Majority Party didn’t even show up for session; their absence signals their ineptitude and lack of responsibility, especially at a time when Wisconsin needs responsible leaders.

I know many still believe people of color are overreacting to these cases of police brutality, but when you dig deeper, you find there is a history of racial injustice that makes someone with dark skin leery and fearful of police.

Soon after the George Floyd murder, I saw a question, “what age were you the first time a police officer pointed a gun at you?” posted on Facebook that really brought it home for me. The responses were shocking. Black men shared their first encounters that occurred when they were 17, 14, 12 and even 10 years old. That post more than any helped me realize my privilege as a white person. Never in my life have I ever feared that a police officer would pull out his gun and aim it at me. It’s hard to imagine living your life fearing a police officer, rather than being relieved that law enforcement has arrived to protect you.

jeff-smithTrust is key to any relationship. When trust is broken, it’s almost impossible to restore without a long and painful process. We need to start that process immediately. We all must admit fear and distrust has torn us apart; politicians must quit feeding off that fear and get to work to build the trust we need to survive together.

A friend and colleague who represents Milwaukee once said, “Our issues are your issues, just as your issues are our issues.” We must keep these words in mind while remembering the sacrifices of so many in the pursuit of racial equality.

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Everyone Must Do More to Interrupt Systemic Racism

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Saturday, 29 August 2020
in Wisconsin

kenosha-militia-streetCommentary on the arrest of the white supremicist militia member who murdered two Black Lives Matter protesters and injured a third in Kenosha, and law enforcement’s apparent lax response before and after he shot his victims.


MILWAUKEE, WI - As a white and gay man, I am struggling like many of you to figure out what I can best do to support our African American friends and neighbors in this horrific moment. I did not make a new statement yesterday because I am trying, as many of you are, to gather my thoughts and listen to the people of color leaders within Citizen Action, my network, and in the media.

In the eloquent statements and actions of so many Black Americans, from Marquette alum Doc Rivers, the professional sports strike begun by our own Milwaukee Bucks, Jacob Blake’s parents, scholars such as Princeton’s Eddie Glaude, and so many across the land, they are pleading for all of us to do more. If we are not Black Americans we can never fully understand the depths of their feelings, but we can listen with an open heart and act on their moral appeals.

robert-kraigI believe that each and every person with love in their hearts must look into their souls and decide what they can do to immediately interrupt and begin to unwind systemic racism. If we are being honest with ourselves, most of us, myself included, are not doing enough. Merely sympathizing or signalling that you are on the right side is inadequate. Merely voting for the better candidates is not enough. The scary thing is that despite the progress against overt Jim Crow racism since the 1960s, we seem to be reliving the same pattern of events which led to its reimposition by other means. The depressing pattern is all too familiar:

  • A Black man is assaulted with deadly official force in a situation that no reasonable person believes a white man would have been, a pattern that is over 400 years old.

  • Community members and allies rise up using the most sacred American right of free speech to demand justice and immediate action to end the structural racism which devalues and dehumanizes all African Americans.

  • When there is not a timely and satisfactory response from official authorities (timeliness is defined by the harmed community, not others), and property destruction takes place, attention is shifted to property damage and white fears, and away from the true victims of on-going dehumanization and oppression, and the act of official violence that perpetrated the chain of events.

  • kyle-rittenhouse-rifleOften evidence emerges that members of law enforcement took a lax approach to white people committing violence. In Kenosha, in shocking contrast to the immediate use of deadly force against Jacob Blake, there is compelling evidence that law enforcement allowed right wing militia to roam the streets, interacted with the white nationalist who murdered two Black Lives protesters, including the murder before he committed his crimes, and let him flee the scene even as onlookers pointed him out, and he walked towards a police vehicle with his hands up. There is also evidence of some white community leaders enabling the entrance of right-wing vigilantes with apparent impunity.

  • The politicians that use strategic racism to advance themselves turn attention away from the true victims, and toward the destruction of property, using dog whistle racist appeals such as “looters,” “thugs,” and “rioters” seeking to tarnish the entire largely peaceful liberation movement. They turn attention away from the true victims of racism, and the official violence which sparked the protests in the first place, and to white fears and the traditional racist privileging of property over human life. The evidence is overwhelming that a super majority of the violence now and for the past 30 years comes from far right-wing extremists like the man who murdered two peaceful protesters, but you would never know it listening to the media and our elected officials. The lie that the threat of violence comes from liberation movements and Black and brown people is perpetrated by self-interested politicians, their elite backers, and abetted by media of all kinds.

  • Politicians who sympathize with the Black community and count on it for their elections empathize with the victims, their communities, and the liberation movement, but out of fear or political calculation also start to focus attention on property and further militarize the situation in ways that intimidate and endanger the directly impacted community and peaceful protesters. They counsel patience and obedience to process, and offer half measures that do not even begin to get at the fundamental reasons Black life is so devalued in a country we call the land of the free.

Taking real and appropriate action is hard in real time, it is only easy from the safety of history. It is too painless now to signal support for Black Americans today by identifying with liberation movements and their heroic leaders of the past. But the truth is that the bloody march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge or the 6th Street Viaduct, the Mason-Dixon line of Milwaukee in the 1960s, would not have been necessary if all people of conscience had stepped forward to make the hard and costly decisions required of them. Martin Luther King made an eloquent statement on this theme in his justly famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail.

The ugly truth is that the people just like us in the past did not act because there were costs. Elected leaders could lose votes, organizational leaders could risk their positions, corporate leaders fear a lose of customers or standing with their peers, and average people worry about offending friends, neighbors, and family members, or losing privileges. It is cost free to stand with MLK and John Lewis now, it is not so to really and truly stand with Blacks Lives Matter.

While empathy and individual efforts to increase racial consciousness are useful enterprises, a much deeper and more challenging level of commitment is called for by the leaders of modern Black liberation. In fact, far too many corporations and elected officials are embracing opposition to structural racism and giving symbolic support to Black Lives Matter and yet at the same time draining these terms of their actual content, as if saying the words or putting them on a sign or a website is enough. The same has been done to Martin Luther King, who fought and died for true economic equality, not merely the technical right to vote or a mythical “colorblind” society that has never existed. For the real MLK, people with vastly unequal economic means could never have the power to be truly free. One of the reasons white people are not slaughtered on suburban streets by their own police is both race and the economic power they have to fight back.

The most compelling African American thought leaders I have read on the subject, Michelle Alexander’s penetratingly eloquent The New Jim Crow and Ibram X. Kendi’s brilliant pair of books Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist, call for every moral person to use their power to disrupt and unwind structural racism. For Kendi, you can’t meet his definition of antiracist without both recognizing the deep racism in our society and in each of us, and taking effective action to replace racist structures. For him the defining mark of antracism is effective deeds, not words or personal reflection. A perfect example of this is the professional athletes who have gone beyond words to withdraw their labor until meaningful action is taken. They have used their power to disrupt the system and create a crisis of conscience. The same is called for from all those with substantial power such as our political leaders, corporate leaders, and at a lesser level of power nonprofit leaders such as myself and every person with love in their hearts for all humanity.

There are some immediate policy actions in our Monday statement, but consider these more of a rough draft than all that needs to be done to create a true antiracist America.

Chart Graph: Almost All Organized Violence is from Right-Wing Groupsviolence-right-wing-caw

(Source, Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/analysis/escalating-terrorism-problem-united-states)

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It’s Time to Act on Student Debt

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, 26 August 2020
in Wisconsin

uwgb-studentsThe Student Debt Task Force released its final report to Governor Evers, outlining 8 policy recommendations Wisconsin must act on to help students and families.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Over the last four months, I was honored to participate in the Governor’s Task Force on Student Debt, established by Governor Tony Evers to address the student debt crisis impacting more than 700,000 Wisconsinites. The latest statistic from the Board of Governors shows the level of student debt owed has reached a mind-boggling $1.7 trillion; Wisconsin, alone, has more than $24 billion in student loan debt, according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

After learning the extent of the student debt crisis, the Task Force came prepared to strategize on ways to provide necessary relief for Wisconsin families. Just last week, the Task Force released its final report to Governor Evers outlining the crisis and providing 8 recommendations to help solve it.

For all the work we did on the Task Force, one thing is clear: the time to act on student debt relief is now. As a state, we must adopt these policy recommendations and fix this crisis to strengthen Wisconsin’s future.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Task Force was able to hold 8 virtual meetings. This format allowed us to hear testimony from current and former students, parents, borrowers, lenders and officials from other states. Some information was familiar to those of us who have navigated the system with our own children; other information highlighted the urgency in addressing this growing threat to our way of life.

uwec-campusIn addition to the obvious negative effects student debt has on personal finances, it also has an enormous negative impact on our nation’s economy. Student debt delays many graduates from starting their careers or contributing to the marketplace by buying a home or car. Consequently, student debt also affects one’s saving habits. Student debt makes it more difficult for graduates to save for retirement or even get into the habit of putting money aside for emergencies.

As with so many other issues, the state and federal government have passed erroneous bills that have made things worse or have ignored the problem altogether, allowing student debt to become the monster it is today. Due to congressional action, debtors aren’t able to refinance student loans like you would with your home loan. At the state level, the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board lost much of its funding and authority to truly look out for borrowers’ best interests.

jeff-smithAfter we heard from the diverse group of speakers, the Task Force initially thought of 37 recommendations to address the student debt crisis. From there, the Task Force divided into three groups to determine the most pertinent and immediate solutions. As part of the “Consumer Protection” group, I discussed with fellow group members what action Wisconsin can take to ensure residents are informed and protected when making this significant investment in their education and lives. The other groups were “Government, Public and Private Subsidies & Financing Solutions” and “Borrower Education and Management of Higher Education Expenses.”

We winnowed down these 37 original ideas by combining and clarifying needs until we had 8 strong recommendations the entire group could accept as realistic policy changes we can implement at the state level. These recommendations won’t fix everything for everyone, but they will move us in the right direction. Collectively, the Student Debt Task Force proudly released the following recommendations:

1.       Create a borrower Bill of Rights and Student Loan Ombudsman to protect borrowers throughout the entire borrowing process.

2.      Enhance proprietary school regulations and reinstate the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board to strengthen oversight over predatory lending practices.

3.      Expand access to financial literacy education.

4.      Increase need-based and targeted aid for post-secondary education.

5.      Provide loan counseling.

6.      Implement loan forgiveness programs.

7.       Modify existing refinancing practices to benefit more borrowers.

8.      Create state student debt relief tax credits for borrowers and employers.

Many of us can relate to how confusing and misleading the system can be. We must ease the burden for young people to get their footing while pursuing their dreams and future. We must prioritize this issue and take action next session.

You can read the full Student Debt Task Force report at LookForwardWI.gov.

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It’s Well-Past Time for Wisconsin to Expand Medicaid

Posted by Jon Erpenbach Press. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach Press. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
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on Saturday, 22 August 2020
in Wisconsin

medicare-patientBottom line, far too many Wisconsinites are without coverage, making our state even more vulnerable to the threat at hand.


WEST POINT – In this month’s primary election, Missouri voted to expand Medicaid. The initiative that made its way onto the ballot will expand coverage to about 230,000 low-income residents, and was supported by over 53% of voters, making Missouri the 38th state, and the sixth Republican-led state, to do so. When given the chance to be heard, Missouri’s citizens said ‘yes’ to providing medical coverage to those who need it most – and it’s time for Wisconsin to follow-suit.

Despite the fact that an overwhelming 70% of Wisconsinites support expanding Medicaid, legislative Republicans have spent the last nine years playing politics and refusing to accept federal dollars that would extend coverage to tens of thousands of our states most vulnerable citizens. And Wisconsinites have been paying the price, literally. In this budget cycle alone, accepting Medicaid funding would’ve saved $324.5 million in state taxpayer money, and brought in over $1.6 billion in additional federal dollars for health care services that could benefit our struggling rural hospitals and clinics. Instead, our taxpayer money is going towards the expansion of Medicaid programs in other states like Illinois and New York.

jon-erpenbachWhile it’s clear that when it comes to crunching the numbers, our state is much better off accepting the Medicaid expansion money, there’s an even more compelling reason to do so. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. People are sick and dying, and we need to take action, now.

Since March, Wisconsin has seen more than 70,000 COVID-19 cases, leading to more than 1,000 deaths. And with workplaces shutting down or laying off employees as a result of this pandemic, thousands of people are losing medical coverage during the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. Not to mention all of the folks who fall into the coverage gap by not quite meeting income restrictions under our state’s current Medicaid policy – many of which, like grocery and transportation workers, are considered ‘essential,’ and are expected to face the threat regardless of their ability to fight the virus or afford the medical bills should they contract it.

Bottom line, far too many Wisconsinites are without coverage, making our state even more vulnerable to the threat at hand. And, if you ask me, if our system is failing us during such a clear time of need, it’s broken, and something needs to be done to fix it.

With Missouri voting to expand Medicaid, the people of America have made it clearer than ever – they do not support Republican agendas that put politics before the health of their fellow citizens. If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that we need to care for one another. And that starts with your legislature fighting for what’s best. I encourage you to call on your Republican representatives to do their jobs and act on legislation that would allow us to join the 38 other states that have expanded their Medicaid programs. Because every single person in Wisconsin deserves access to affordable healthcare. Especially during a global pandemic.

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Big Agenda for Small Farms

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, 19 August 2020
in Wisconsin

farm-familySen. Jeff Smith writes about the ways we can support our state’s family farms and preserve Wisconsin’s status as an agricultural leader in the country.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - When it comes to farming, one thing is certain – it connects us all. Many of us in western Wisconsin can trace our roots to farming. But even if we’ve personally lost a physical connection to the family farm, all Wisconsin residents have an obvious connection to Wisconsin’s agricultural heritage.

Many Wisconsinites share a romanticized view of our state’s family farms: the rooster crowing, cows mooing and machinery running through the field. The same sounds and smells that we remember connects us all to the farm.

But, let’s face it, one of the main reasons many Wisconsinites are connected to the state’s farms is the need to eat. We must remember farming is a vital economic driver for the state, contributing $104.8 billion to our state’s economy every year. Wisconsin has a significant role in agricultural production within the country and even the world. In fact, Wisconsin exported more than $3.3 billion of agricultural products to 151 different countries in 2019, according to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protections (DATCP). It’s also worth noting the agricultural industry’s contribution to Wisconsin’s workforce, which makes up 11.8% of our state’s employment.

4h-paulaTo preserve Wisconsin’s status as an agricultural leader in the country, it’s our job as elected officials to support our family farms. If our rural communities are to survive, our small family farms must survive. It’s as simple as that.

This session, as the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions, I introduced 9 bills and voted in favor of legislation to support Wisconsin’s family farms and promote rural prosperity throughout our state. These bills strengthen Wisconsin’s agricultural industry by encouraging residents to start farming, establishing sustainable farming practices, developing the state’s hemp program and more. Even the development of the “Better Broadband” bill package I introduced in January had farmers in mind to better connect them to agricultural experts and consumers.

These legislative efforts will support our farmers and sustain Wisconsin’s role of being America’s Dairyland, but there’s still more we can and should do.

Due to the lack of action by the Majority Party, Governor Tony Evers called a special session on agriculture in January to pass legislation to further support our farmers by creating a Small Farm Diversity grant program; bolstering the Farm-to-School program; promoting practices to diversify farm operations; providing additional mental health services; and much more.

Since then, of course, everything changed with the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowing all that we do.

Fortunately, Governor Evers allocated $50 million of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money to create the Wisconsin Farm Support Program to provide direct payments to Wisconsin famers who have faced financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the first round of Farm Support Program applications, which happened in June, 11,884 Wisconsin farmers received a $3,500 award, amounting to $41.6 million. In counties within the 31st Senate District alone, 1,390 farmers received a Farm Support Program award, which came to a total of $4.8 million.

jeff-smithLast week, the Department of Revenue (DOR) and DATCP announced a second application period to distribute the $8.4 million in funding still remaining for the Wisconsin Farm Support Program. The second round of grant applications are now being accepted until midnight, August 24th. Residents who did not receive a payment in the first application round and who have a gross income from farming between $10,000 and $5 million are eligible. Gross income does not mean profit and is limited to sales. Payments are expected to be made by DOR in mid-September.

Beyond these government efforts, we all can do our part in supporting our state’s agriculture industry by buying local. Insist on Wisconsin farm products. Dairy products produced in Wisconsin are universally accepted as the highest quality in the world. The produce you can get from local farms is the freshest and best tasting by far. Support your neighbors who feed the world. We need them. We need each other.

Wisconsin residents interested in the Wisconsin Farm Support Program should visit Revenue.wi.gov.

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Pass the Healthcare Heroes Act

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, 12 August 2020
in Wisconsin

coronavirus-nurse-tiredThe Legislature must reconvene to pass the Heroes Act, supporting frontline healthcare workers, and work to address the other pressing issues impacting Wisconsinites during this public health crisis.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Back in April, I participated in a virtual roundtable discussion with Wisconsin’s frontline healthcare workers. Amidst the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic in Wisconsin, this group of healthcare workers shared deeply unsettling safety concerns related to the scarcity of COVID-19 testing, the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and healthcare affordability.

Healthcare workers have gone above and beyond to serve their community throughout this global pandemic while putting their lives at risk. Yet, there’s very little our state has done to show its appreciation for these heroes. Today, our state’s healthcare workers are still sharing the very same concerns they expressed four months ago in April during the roundtable discussion. And they have every reason to do so.

coronavirus-ppeAs of August 10th, there have been 124,813 cases among doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, and 600 American health care personnel have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tragically, many public health experts figure these statistics misrepresent the actual count and believe the number of cases and deaths of healthcare personnel to be higher. As of August 2nd, data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reveal 767 nursing home staff alone have died, a shocking statistic upholding the point made by public health experts.

Our healthcare professionals have been at the forefront of this public health crisis since the beginning. We must do everything we can to show our support for their selfless work. As a legislature, this starts by passing the Healthcare Heroes Act.

In July, I proudly joined my Democratic colleagues to co-sponsor the Healthcare Heroes Act, a comprehensive bill aimed at protecting our state’s essential healthcare professionals. First, this legislation will provide hazard pay to healthcare workers during a public health emergency and provide paid medical leave for healthcare workers who contract a communicable disease. Second, this bill covers COVID-19 testing and treatment for Wisconsin’s frontline health care workers.

The Healthcare Heroes Act will also expand Medicaid in Wisconsin. The COVID-19 public health crisis has clearly identified how important affordable, accessible healthcare is in keeping people safe and healthy. Now, while we’re still experiencing the severe impact of COVID-19 in the state, is the time Wisconsin should join the 39 other states that have already expanded Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is a commonsense solution, supported by 70% of Wisconsinites, to provide critical relief during this tumultuous time.

Unfortunately, it’s now been over a month since we introduced the Healthcare Heroes Act and Republicans have shown no interest in passing this legislation to protect Wisconsin’s healthcare workers.

Instead, Republicans have expressed their eagerness to return for session to strike down Wisconsin’s face mask requirement, a simple, practical measure to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, keep our communities safe and protect our healthcare heroes.

jeff-smith-ofcWe should return for session to pass the Healthcare Heroes Act and also work to address the biggest challenges people are facing throughout our state: the unemployment insurance crisis, rent and mortgage payments, a plan to ensure our children and teachers are safe as the next school year opens and more. Once again, the Majority Party is unwilling to meet to take action on these measures to keep Wisconsinites safe; they’re only interested in scoring political points.

COVID-19 has been a terrible disaster, causing great harm and even death. But there are things we’ve learned about ourselves and others that will be forever engrained in the way we approach things moving forward. Maybe the most valuable lesson has been recognizing the essential workers that keep our communities going.

Never have the words “essential worker” meant so much as it does now. Just as the first responders were recognized for the heroes that they always were after 9/11, every healthcare professional is recognized today. From doctors, nurses, and EMTs, to the dedicated workers performing essential services at our hospitals, we realize now how important they are to all of us.

We’ve made the call for the legislature to get back to work for 4 months now. It’s time for the legislature to pass the Healthcare Heroes Act and show our appreciation for the heroes among us.

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Legislature Must Act for Unemployed

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, 05 August 2020
in Wisconsin

unemloyment-lines-covid19-bgThe COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us out of work and policy decisions made in more normal times have made it difficult for Wisconsinites to get the help they need now. The legislature must meet to get us through this difficult time.


MADISON - “I’ve been working my whole life, and was doing fine before COVID-19, and now suddenly, I can’t work, and can’t get unemployment. I’m scared of what life will be like in a few weeks when I run out of money for food, let alone bills,” said a man whose unemployment benefits were delayed 10 weeks.

He was one of the hundreds of constituents we’ve helped over the last 4 months. His Unemployment Insurance (UI) was held up because the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) needed to investigate his previous employment.

UI was created so anyone who lost their income would have something to fall back on. As a society, we’ve learned we’re better off if we have insurance programs to support families during tough times. Our economy and family lives are better when unemployment payments can prevent evictions, provide food and supplement lost wages.

/unemployment-lines-hialeah-flWe must always remember the intent of these essential programs. There will always be detractors, but also opportunities to improve. In the past 10 years, detractors got their way by changing the unemployment insurance to a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy. They claimed abuses of the system but forget about people who really need a smooth-running system to help them through what is normally a bump in the road.

For over a decade, Republicans knew DWD’s software and computer system wasn’t prepared for a flood of UI requests, but DWD’s warnings went unheeded by our Joint Committee on Finance. Wisconsin was left with a 40-year-old phone system and software that requires retired technicians to perform maintenance because it is so outdated.

My office, like many others, have become mediators for constituents who’ve had difficulty contacting DWD or have waited an inordinate amount of time for their case to be resolved. With the enormous surge of claims, people have waited up to 15 weeks to receive resolution and payments they desperately need to pay rent, buy food, pay for utilities and afford other vital needs.

One of the changes made by Republicans prevented people who received Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) from receiving unemployment. This resulted in one of my constituents, who is blind, unable to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, even though she worked part-time to supplement the meager SSDI payment she receives due to her disability.

A young, fresh-out-of-high-school worker was let go by his previous employer and found a new job. Due to suitability determinations created by Republicans, his unemployment claim was stuck for weeks in adjudication.

DWD must verify workers’ job history to determine their benefits. Complex cases make the hurdles even greater for DWD to pay out UI. A woman from the district was undergoing cancer treatments. A week or two into the pandemic she was scheduled to go back to work. Her short term disability payments forced her UI claims to be held up in adjudication for verification, which resulted in all her payments being delayed months.

These are just a handful of examples of the hundreds of constituent cases my office has worked on in the past 4 months. Much of the delay and trauma in UI cases could be resolved if the legislature acted. We’ve been on hold for over 100 days because Majority Party leaders are unwilling to bring us together before the November election.

jeff-smithMy colleagues and I introduced bills to motivate the Republican leaders to fix the delays in UI claims, but no response. They are more interested in running for reelection than helping unemployed workers.

Many people have never needed to navigate the UI system before but found themselves trying to figure it all out for the first time. Some may have wondered if UI was ever really needed. This pandemic has clearly shown UI matters and so do the details.

An old neglected system, additional hurdles imposed by Republicans in the last 10 years and their reluctance to address the unemployment crisis have left Wisconsin workers without answers. We can do better, but we have to work together to get the job done and help Wisconsin get through this difficult time.

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Erpenbach on GOP Emergency Session

Posted by Jon Erpenbach Press. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach Press. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
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on Saturday, 01 August 2020
in Wisconsin

coronavirus-mask934 people have lost their lives in Wisconsin and 96% of our state’s population lives in a place with a high level of COVID-19. Blocking real public health plans to keep us safe is reckless.


WEST POINT, WI - People have been struggling to navigate a UI System filled with barriers created by Senator Fitzgerald and his caucus. The pleas for social justice and safe elections have been ringing across the state for months. And yet, the only time we rush back to the floor is to restrict the Governor’s ability to respond to this pandemic.

jon-erpenbachAnd I’m not buying the ‘freedom’ argument or ‘it’s my body and my choice’ argument either. Voting rights have been eroded from people of color, and women have been losing their ability to make their own healthcare decisions for years now.

Almost 600 people have lost their lives in Wisconsin and 96% of our state’s population lives in a place with a high level of COVID-19. Saying no is an easy thing to do. But not having a plan to keep Wisconsinites safe during a pandemic is reckless.

As we’ve seen before, the GOP has NO PLAN for this pandemic, only to say ‘NO’ to the one thing we know will keep Wisconsinites safe.

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Fitzgerald Decision to Overturn Governor’s Mask Order Just More Politics

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 Saturday, 01 August 2020
in Wisconsin

covid-19-protest-madisonSenate Republican move to overturn Governor’s order requiring people to wear masks in public is simply pandering for votes and power, ignores public health.


GREEN BAY, WI - In what is no surprise, Senate Republicans wasted no time announcing their intent to overturn Governor Ever’s Executive order requiring people to wear masks in public along with his earlier order that could result in the National Guard no longer being able to help with virus testing or assisting poll workers in providing safety at the polls for voters this fall.

dave-hansen-gbSince the Republicans came to power under Scott Walker their only concern has been protecting their own hold on power. This has come to include attacking Governor Evers at all costs even if it costs the lives of their own constituents.

Since we met in March the Republicans ignored doing anything to protect the people from this deadly virus or to remove the barriers that have led to delays in processing unemployment claims. Apparently the only thing that can get them to bring the Senate back into session is an opportunity to take another partisan shot at Governor Evers.

This is just one in a continuing list of examples for why non-partisan redistricting is so badly needed.

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Wis Democracy Campaign - Trump’s Move Backfires

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 Saturday, 01 August 2020
in Wisconsin

portland-fed-force-2020MADISON - You might have thought I was being a bit on the hysterical side last week when I wrote to you about the risk of Donald Trump imposing martial law. But there he was this week tweeting about postponing the election!

Fortunately, this move backfired, as he was met with near universal condemnation, including from Republican elected officials (even in Wisconsin!).

We at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign signed on to a letter denouncing this reckless move, which you can read here.

Meanwhile, this week we kept doing what we do, day in and day out: Exposing money in Wisconsin politics.

matt-rothschildBefore I came to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, I didn’t even know what Legislative Campaign Committees are. But I soon found out: They’re the treasure chests that the Speaker, the Senate Majority Leader, and the two minority leaders have at their disposal for elections.

This year, these campaign committees raised record amounts, with the Republicans way ahead, as you’ll see here:

Legislative Fundraising Committees Raise Record Cash

In a related post, we discussed another record that was broken: fundraising by all the legislative candidates. Speaker Vos, for his personal campaign, led the way with $355,000 on hand. Add that to the $2,371,000 he controls as head of the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, and you can see why he’s so powerful. You can find all the details here:

Legislative Donors Undaunted by Pandemic

And here’s some good news! The Marathon County Board this week passed a resolution in favor of independent, nonpartisan redistricting. That makes 52 counties out of the 72 in Wisconsin that have passed board resolutions to ban gerrymandering. Also this week, the Bayfield County Board voted to let the citizenry weigh in on this issue on November 3 with an advisory referendum. That makes 10 county referendums coming up: Adams, Bayfield, Brown, Crawford, Door, Dunn, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha, and Rusk.

Thanks to all the amazing grassroots activists who are making this happen!

I hope you have a nice weekend.

Best,

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

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Questions Remain Unanswered for Schools

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, 29 July 2020
in Wisconsin

schools-reopening-2020-cnnWith the COVID-19 pandemic spreading, school districts are wrestling with questions to safely bring students back this fall. Schools need answers fast for educating students, supporting teachers and helping parents stay employed.


MADISON - The first day of school has always been an exciting time for children. About this time of year, heading into August, families begin to plan their schedule and stock up on school supplies. For some it might mean new supplies or even new clothes. Kids want to make a good impression that first day and parents want a routine in their busy life.

That was then, and this is now.

Since school buildings closed last spring to protect families from the spread of COVID-19, schools districts have been figuring out the best way to educate our children while keeping them safe. Of course, that was always the objective, but now we’re facing new challenges and school districts are forced to look at this school year through a different lens.

In March, school buildings closed because the COVID-19 epidemic was just beginning in Wisconsin. Now, at a time when many districts are preparing for the students’ return, the crisis only seems to be getting worse in the state. Balancing physical and mental health concerns can always be tricky, but now the public health pandemic presents a difficult element for balancing mental and physical health needs for children.

We also have to consider an economy that has taken a severe hit. Parents are struggling to make ends meet and they are concerned their kids’ education may fall behind. Families want normalcy; parents want to go back to work and kids want to go back to school, but many questions have to be answered before we can get there.

reading-bookDuring these past several months, we’ve been encouraged to stay safer at home so we don’t inadvertently contract the virus and spread it to others. Now, many are demanding children return back to the classroom. What will a classroom look like this fall? It’s clear that schools have a responsibility to keep children at least 6 feet apart whenever possible, which means smaller class sizes spread out in the room. Public health experts have also made it exceedingly clear that the best weapon we have to slow the spread is wearing a mask, but I think many parents know all too well how difficult this will be for young children.

Starting this new school year, how do we transport kids to school in buses that are typically packed shoulder to shoulder? School districts will have to get creative in spreading kids out in buses and covering the additional costs, or leave it to the parents to drive their kids to school themselves.

There’s no doubt in my mind that our teachers love what they do and love their students. They always put their best foot forward and place the students’ interests above their own. But, this decision whether to open schools has caused quite a dilemma for teachers who will soon be in classrooms with multiple children who may very well bring the virus without realizing it. What happens if a teacher becomes sick? What does that mean for their family?

jeff-smithDo we test each child and teacher every day? What happens when (not if) the first case of COVID-19 shows up in the school? Will everyone be placed in quarantine? Does this mean the end of in-person learning? What does this mean for parents who are trying to go to work with a COVID-19 positive child? Who would be held responsible for spreading the virus at the school?

There are so many questions to consider when thinking of children returning to school.

More than 100 days have passed since we passed the COVID-19 relief bill. Unfortunately, the Majority Party has been silent on meeting again to take up legislation to fix the unemployment crisis and any bills aimed at helping our public schools educate our children during this difficult time.

Our public schools have always been the center of our communities, something our communities take a lot of pride in. If we as a community want our schools open again, then we all need to step up. We must take responsibility and take care of each other through this. That means caring enough to wear a mask, social distance and look out for our neighbors and our children.

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Wis Democracy Campaign - Trump’s March to Martial Law

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 25 July 2020
in Wisconsin

portland-fed-force-2020With Trump's placement of federal forces in Portland and his vow to send them to other cities, Matt Rothschild fears democracy may be lost.


MADISON - For many years, first while I was at The Progressive magazine and for the last five and a half years at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, I’ve been worried about our little experiment in democracy in this country ending at the hands of an authoritarian.

Well, now we have an authoritarian as President, and with his placement of federal forces in Portland – and his vow to send them to other cities, including Milwaukee! – my fears are growing stronger by the day. I write about how Trump might overturn our cherished system here:

Trump’s Troops in Portland and the March to Martial Law

Focusing back on Wisconsin, we looked at the recent campaign finance filings and noticed that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is way ahead in the money chase. If you’re a Democrat, you may be cheering this news. But I’m not because I think it’s obscene that anyone can give unlimited amounts of money to the political parties now. Until 2015, when the Republicans disastrously rewrote our campaign finance law, the ceiling on gifts to political parties was $10,000. Now there is no ceiling. The sky is the limit. And so out-of-state billionaires are throwing their money into Wisconsin to influence the outcome of political races here. Find out who they are by clicking here:

State Dems Raised 10X More Than Republicans in Recent Months

Ok, let’s end with some good news! The Public Service Commission, under pressure from the Sierra Club, Citizen Action, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, and other public interest advocates and activists like you, reversed course this week and decided not to let the utilities start cutting people off, which they were going to do as of tomorrow. Instead, the PSC extended the moratorium on shut-offs until at least Sept. 1.

Activism pays off!

Best,

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

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