Wednesday May 12, 2021

Moving Forward with Facts & Reason

FacebookTwitterYoutube
Newsletter
News Feeds:

Progressive Thinking

Discussion with education and reason.

Budgeting to Reflect the Will of the People

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 16 December 2020
in Wisconsin

amstuck-and-othersSen. Smith writes about the budget process and People’s Budget listening sessions hosted by Governor Evers. Wisconsinites need to know they can get involved and advocate at every stage of the process.


MADISON - It’s often said that a budget is more than just a fiscal document, it’s a moral document. While Wisconsin leaders work on creating and approving a new budget, we must make sure our state budget reflects the values we share as a state. You have an opportunity to get involved and advocate at every stage of the budget process, beginning with the People’s Budget listening sessions.

Two years ago, Governor Evers scheduled budget listening sessions around the state to hear from people like you while preparing his first budget. Hundreds of people showed up for each session and were divided into groups based on policy topics of interest. I attended most sessions and was duly impressed by the great discussions that took place. The Governor made it around to each discussion so he could personally hear from the public. In the end, this helped Governor Evers deliver the People’s Budget, which truly reflected the will of the People.

Two years have passed and it’s time again for the Governor to present us with another budget proposal. This year, as you can imagine, it’s impossible to responsibly schedule in-person budget-listening sessions. But this hasn’t prevented the Governor from holding listening sessions to help craft the next People’s Budget. Although the listening sessions have been held virtually this year, they’ve proven to be very productive.

Each budget listening session focused on different topics. The first session, held on November 17th, focused on healthcare and public health, which is certainly appropriate while living through a global pandemic. On December 2nd, the listening session centered on the environment, infrastructure and economy, topics incredibly important to create a safe and sustainable future for generations to come. In 2020, during America’s reckoning of systemic racism, it only made sense for Governor Evers to hold a budget listening session on Criminal Justice Reform, which took place on December 8th.

Throughout the budget process, Governor Evers and your elected officials want to know your budget priorities as they debate over how available funding will be spent over the next two years. The government is responsible for creating a budget that invests in our public schools, infrastructure and unemployment insurance system. The budget also supports the work of firefighters and law enforcement, our healthcare system and more.

These are the most basic examples that most people may agree need to be included in the budget, but determining other budget priorities can get difficult, especially while we’re in the midst of a public health crisis. It’ll be a challenge for Governor Evers to produce a budget prioritizing support services Wisconsinites need while addressing the global health pandemic.

Think of the state budget process similar to the way you manage your household budget. You consider the income you’re expected to receive each month and the necessities you must pay for.  While budgeting, it all comes down to balance. If you’re able to balance your budget, you can make it another month. If you have more coming in than going out, you might say you’re winning the battle. But, if you owe more than you have coming in, you have to look for ways to cut expenses.

jeff-smithBudgeting isn’t much different for the government – unlike the federal government, Wisconsin must balance the budget. Shared goals exist, such as bringing in more revenue, in case of unforeseen emergencies. But, unlike your own personal budget, government leaders have many different views and interests that impact budget priorities.

Last month, I met with Governor Evers to discuss budget priorities for residents of the 31st Senate District. We had a productive conversation about investing in rural broadband expansion, the UW-Eau Claire Science Hall, groundwater protections, CWD testing and much more. It’s clear Governor Evers is listening to the needs of Wisconsin residents, whether he’s having one-on-one conversations or at a budget listening session.

There’s still time to have your voice heard while Governor Evers continues to craft the next budget. The final People’s Budget listening session is happening on Wednesday, December 16th and it will focus on education and our schools. Submit public comment or register for the listening session here: https://evers.wi.gov/Pages/BudgetListeningSessions.aspx.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Fend for Yourself Unless Republicans Do Their Jobs

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 09 December 2020
in Wisconsin

wisconsin-senateThe COVID-19 relief package introduced by Governor Evers to support Wisconsinites through this pandemic was introduced in mid-November, and the Republican-led Legislature still hasn’t acted on it.


MADISON - The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives significantly, killing nearly 4,000 Wisconsinites, devastating our economy and leaving us in a hard place to recover.  After more than 230 days since the State Legislature met, Governor Tony Evers stepped up, once again, to provide relief for Wisconsin families.

On November 17th, Governor Tony Evers released a COVID-19 legislative relief package. Governor Evers’ plan dedicates $466 million to COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, vaccination distribution and support for hospitals. The relief package prohibits foreclosures and evictions through 2021. The proposal also makes necessary improvements to the state’s outdated unemployment insurance system. These changes protect our essential workers and streamline the process to expedite unemployment insurance payments at a time when Wisconsinites need it most.

coronavirus-small-businessWe must pass this COVID-19 relief package. For eight months now, the Republican-led Legislature refused to meet and pass additional COVID-19 relief measures. So far, much of our state response has depended on the federal government. With the federal CARES Act ending on December 31st, Wisconsin can’t afford to waste any more time.

Since Governor Evers was elected, Republican legislative leaders have made it their mission to prevent Governor Evers from getting the job done. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t do anything to change that. Even from the beginning of the outbreak, Republicans filed lawsuits and supported efforts to make it harder to control the outbreak. Most recently, immediately following the release of the Governor’s proposals, incoming Senate President Chris Kapenga (R – Delafield) said “he didn’t see any reason for the Legislature to act at all.

Last week, Wisconsin had a record number of deaths due to COVID-19. On the same day, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) shared a dangerous assortment of ideas that would hinder our state’s response to COVID-19.

Republicans propose forcing teachers and state workers to work in-person while penalizing school districts for distance learning. The Republicans’ proposal would limit the ability of our local health departments to make decisions to keep their communities safe. Additionally, Republicans propose removing Governor Evers and public health officials’ ability to oversee vaccine distribution and the allocation of federal relief funding. These responsibilities belong to the Governor, but Republicans hope to seize control. Republicans also suggest penalizing Department of Workforce Development employees while they’re trying to process unemployment insurance claims in one of the toughest challenges the agency has faced.

After Assembly Republicans shared these proposals, the incoming Senate Majority Leader, Devin LeMahieu (R – Oostburg) said Senate Republicans have “no plan to immediately meet.” If you feel like we’re headed into our own version of the Hunger Games, you’re not alone. Constituents are left to fend for themselves while the CARES Act deadline is quickly approaching. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, Republicans have demonstrated they’re unwilling to show up for work.

Legislators are still being paid, even though the Legislature hasn’t met for eight months. Republicans demand teachers return to in-person instruction, but they’ve said the Legislature won’t be meeting until next year. While waiting for Republicans to call an extraordinary session, I’ve taken the initiative to hold public conversations on social media, respond to constituents and offer ideas to fix the unemployment crisis and help schools survive through the pandemic.

jeff-smithPartisan gerrymandering put us in this difficult position we find ourselves in today. Republicans manipulated Wisconsin’s maps almost a decade ago during the last redistricting process. The Majority Party created districts that lean so heavily in their favor they’ve stopped listening to you. They’ve ignored pleas to expand Medicaid, implement commonsense gun safety measures, improve broadband access for rural Wisconsin or fix the unemployment insurance system.

Your voice matters; it’s the responsibility of your elected officials to listen and work for you. Earlier this year, Governor Evers established the People’s Maps Commission, a non-partisan redistricting commission, tasked with creating fair districts for Wisconsin. Right now, the People’s Maps Commission is holding public hearings and accepting testimony. Now is your chance to share why fair maps are important to you while the Commission prepares new legislative district maps.

Pay attention and speak up because your future and our democracy are at stake.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Now Is Not the Time to Get Sick

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 02 December 2020
in Wisconsin

covid-19-n95-maskIn recent weeks, we’ve heard promising news about a COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s still critical we stay alert to protect ourselves and our loved ones.


MADISON - We’re finally reaching the point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In recent weeks, scientists released encouraging updates regarding effective COVID-19 vaccines. Reports indicate the potential vaccines have more than 90% efficacy, meaning they get the result they expect from their drug. Time to celebrate? Let’s hope so. Time to give thanks? Absolutely!

Our medical professionals deserve our appreciation for battling this pandemic and working diligently to develop vaccines to save lives. Although we still have more questions to be answered and vaccine doses yet to be produced, we might all breathe a little easier knowing this nightmare may soon be over.

We’ve received promising news, but we must still remember we’re not completely out of the woods. Most of the U.S. population isn’t expected to have access to a vaccine until spring, which means we need to make smart decisions to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

With help on the way it may be natural to convince yourself to relax and take chances. But, as I heard one doctor say following these exciting announcements, “Now is not the time to get sick.” Throughout the upcoming holiday season, we should all know the small sacrifices we make now will be worth it in the long run.

coronavirus-ventilatorCOVID-19 proved to be just as bad as scientists predicted. Since March – in just 9 months – over a quarter million Americans died. At the start of the pandemic in the United States, our country’s east and west coasts faced the brunt of the impact. However, more recently, states in the Midwest have experienced a shocking spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

In Wisconsin, 65 of our 72 counties have "critically high" COVID-19 activity levels; the other counties still have “very high” activity levels. Our hospitals in western Wisconsin are nearing capacity and our healthcare workers are overwhelmed. Nearly 90% of hospital beds in Wisconsin are in use. This means if someone came to a hospital, even for a reason unrelated to COVID-19, such as a heart attack or car accident, there’s a chance the hospital wouldn’t be able to accept and care for the patient. In Wisconsin, 3,307 people have died due to COVID-19, representing the tragic toll COVID-19 has had on so many families and communities across our state.

For those who have survived COVID-19, some are still suffering prolonged symptoms, affecting one’s quality of life. Scientists and doctors have discovered damage to the lungs, heart, liver and even the brain. Long-term complications from COVID-19 include heart inflammation, lung function abnormalities, depression, difficulty concentrating and more.

This information should remind us to continue staying alert and safe. It’s not worth taking any risks right now. Stay home, unless absolutely necessary. If you have to be out in public, wear a mask and practice social distancing. These simple preventative actions demonstrate our respect for one another, even at a time when this country is so divided. We know our country can heal from divisive politics and injustices by working together to overcome this pandemic.

jeff-smithWe have an opportunity to get through the pandemic stronger than ever. Whether it’s through the international effort to find an effective vaccine or the bipartisan group of Midwestern governors in unison calling for residents to stay safe over Thanksgiving.

Too often, I still hear some people say they’re unafraid of COVID-19 and don’t believe they’ll suffer if they catch it. I hope they’re right, but any of us can pass it to others who may get really sick and have serious complications. We must follow the recommended precautions, not because we fear for our own health, but we’re concerned for the health of others.

So I’ll say it again: now is not the time to get sick. We are so close to finally having a solution to battling COVID-19. Let’s see this through together without any more unnecessary deaths from this horrible disease

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Be Thankful for Each Other

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

A Safe and Healthy Hunt

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes
Tweet With Us:

Share

Copyright © 2021. Green Bay Progressive. Designed by Shape5.com