Monday December 5, 2022

An Independent Progressive Media Outlet

FacebookTwitterYoutube
Newsletter
News Feeds:

Progressive Thinking

Discussion with education and reason.

Protecting Our Watersheds for a Better Future

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, 14 September 2022
in Wisconsin

wetlands-wiOur rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands can only sustain us if we remain committed to caring for them. Jeff Smith writes about our connection to water sources here in Wisconsin.


BRUNSWICK, WI - Since humans have inhabited the Great Lakes region, waterways have been an integral part of travel, trade, farming and culture. Our shallow lakes supplied First Nations people with the wild rice that played an essential role in their culture and diet. Rivers provided a travel route for diplomacy and trade among cultures, allowing for the transportation of fur, timber and trade goods. Streams and wetlands provided homes to an amazing variety of plants and wildlife.

This month, the River Falls Preservation Committee is hosting a traveling exhibit from the Wisconsin Historical Society. The exhibit, entitled “Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin”, is geared towards adults and secondary school students, and will be housed in various locations until October 29th (see below for details).

Wisconsin boasts plentiful groundwater and a great expanse of surface water, from the lakes Michigan and Superior to the Mississippi river and the network of rivers, streams, wetlands and lakes in between. The U.S. Geological Service estimates fifteen percent of Wisconsin is covered by groundwater, the fourth highest by area in the United States.

lake-michigan-shoreWe cannot take this resource for granted. Our rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands can only sustain us if we remain committed to caring for them.

Climate change has taken its toll nationwide, as we see in headlines daily. As drought conditions ravage the American West, I have gained a renewed appreciation for all our water continues to do for us in Wisconsin. Not only does water hydrate us, it also sustains wildlife, fosters our recreation economy, generates energy and waters our crops and livestock.

kewaunee-harbor-familyWisconsin has historically been a leader in pioneering conservation practices. In the early 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built an erosion control demonstration in the Coon Creek Watershed that proved to be wildly successful and served as an example nationwide. Conservationists used measures such as terracing to shore up land and reduce the soil erosion that was obstructing the area’s rivers and streams.

Early land surveyors in Wisconsin mapped around five million acres of wetland statewide. The development of Wisconsin’s agricultural economy spurred settlers to drain much of these wetlands, driving wildlife from their habitat and opening land up to rapid erosion.  Since that time, local water conservation departments as well as private groups work hard to restore these habitats, essential to the survival of so many of our native species.

Our water sustains a broad variety of wildlife throughout the state. The Wisconsin Wetlands Association estimates 75 percent of Wisconsin’s wildlife depend on wetlands at some point in their lives, and 30 percent of Wisconsin’s rare, endangered and threatened species depend on wetlands for survival.

Not only do healthy rivers provide opportunities for recreation, they also play an important role in regulating ecosystems. This week, I’ll be touring some of our local trout streams. Local conservation groups continue to do an amazing job restoring habitats, benefiting not only trout but whole ecosystems.

Water has been a big part of Wisconsin’s renewable energy efforts. According to the Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin has over 120 hydroelectric dams. Hydropower was Wisconsin’s first renewable energy resource, stretching all the way back to 1882, when the world’s first hydroelectric power plant was built on the Fox River in Appleton.

jeff-smithFor all these reasons and more, it is essential to Wisconsin’s future prosperity that we retain our strong connection to our water and all it provides to us. I encourage you to get outside this fall and appreciate how blessed we are with an abundance of water.

The exhibit will be on display in the City Hall Atrium during business hours through Sept. 16th and at the River Falls Bacon Bash from 10-4 on Sept. 17th, also in the City Hall Atrium. Resources for teachers and more information on other locations/times available here: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Event/EV8679

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Wis Democracy Campaign - Who are the top 10 donors?

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 Friday, 09 September 2022
in Wisconsin

MADISON - Our research team just did an interesting study of the top 10 donors to the legislative campaign committees in Wisconsin. See if you can guess who was number 1. Also on the list: a Wal-Mart heir who lives in Arkansas. Here’s our post:

22-contributorsCheck Out the Top Contributors to the Wisconsin Legislative Campaign Committees

This week, as you may have heard, a judge down in Waukesha tied the hands of municipal clerks, forbidding them from fixing even the most picayune errors that the witness – not the voter! – made in filling out their address. Here’s what I had to say about that:

22-ballotWaukesha Judge Sides with Republicans on Petty Disqualifications

I’d also like to share with you what I wrote about Pres. Biden’s speech late last week in Philadelphia:

Three Cheers for Biden in Defending Democracy

Biden and all of us need to keep calling out the anti-democracy forces for what they are. Now’s not the time to pussyfoot around!

I hope you have a nice weekend.

Best,

matt-rothschild-2018Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

P.S. If you appreciate the work we do, please send us a tax-deductible donation by clicking here, where you can pay by credit card or PayPal.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Student Loan Forgiveness Can Strengthen Our Communities

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, 07 September 2022
in Wisconsin

uwgb-studentsJeff Smith writes about student loan debt forgiveness and how it will give students and graduates a break to boost the economy and offer our kids and grandkids new opportunities to thrive.


MADISON - Most of us take on debt at some point in our lives, whether we take out loans to purchase a car, become homeowners or pursue business endeavors. In an ideal world borrowers have a clear understanding of the terms of the loan and its repayment.

When it comes to college loans, however, our system is far from ideal. Several years ago, I was honored to serve on the Governor’s Task Force on Student Debt. At our meetings, I repeatedly heard from many student borrowers that their loans were uniquely complicated. Just as everyone’s financial situation is different, students face complex and challenging circumstances when it comes to student debt repayment.

On August 24th, President Biden announced his student loan forgiveness plan. The President’s plan would forgive $10k in student loans, or up to $20k if the student’s financial need qualified them for a Pell grant during their time in school. Borrowers are eligible for loan forgiveness if they make less than $125k annually as an individual.

This announcement comes as the cost of higher education has never been greater. For decades, tuition rates have skyrocketed across the board, dramatically outpacing inflation and reducing the affordability of higher education. Student aid is often the only option for those without the family resources to pay directly.

woman-living-aloneAccording to the U.S. Department of Education, student debt has reached $1.7 trillion, with a staggering $23.2 billion owed by borrowers in Wisconsin. Right out of college, students are facing large monthly payments and mounting interest rates. This often results in graduates leaving their home communities, not by choice, but because they need higher-paying jobs to make ends meet.

There has been a lot of talk about how this program will effect individual borrowers, but fewer conversations about what this means for our communities more broadly. Student loan forgiveness is part of a holistic approach to bolstering our recovery from the economic slump brought on by the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program was created to keep local businesses afloat and ensure that folks retained their livelihoods, we invested in our local businesses and the future of our communities. Over $787 billion went out to businesses nationwide, and as of now, over 95% of these loans have already been forgiven.

We can continue moving forward in this economy with student loan forgiveness. Providing relief to student borrowers helps keep wealth in our local communities. This is not only beneficial for the borrower personally, but also strengthens our community as a whole.

jeff-smithSue and I are proud to have raised our two daughters right here in western Wisconsin, and I want all of Wisconsin’s children to have that same opportunity.

Young families are our future. Local businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Graduates of our Wisconsin universities shouldn’t have to move to Minneapolis or Chicago for better-paying jobs and brighter opportunities. All of our young people should have the chance to build a life here.

By forgiving some of the debt owed by college borrowers, we free them to start families, grow businesses, invest in the local economy and start preparing for retirement. Instead of devoting a large chunk of each paycheck to out-of-state loan servicers, this money can be spent right here in our local community. Student loan forgiveness offers us another level of investment in our communities and businesses that are still recovering from the pandemic.

We still have very important work to do to ensure that our high school graduates have a strong path to a successful career, wherever that path may take them. However, loan forgiveness is an important first step in working towards a more affordable, effective higher education system.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Big Victory for Voters with Disabilities in Wisconsin!

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 Thursday, 01 September 2022
in Wisconsin

votingFederal Judge overrules Wisconsin Supreme Court, along with a state statute, that violated the rights of voters with disabilities to obtain assistance in the delivery of their absentee ballots.


MADISON—Yesterday was a day for celebration!

Federal Judge James Peterson ruled that a recent decision by the Wisconsin Supreme, along with a state statute, violated the rights of four voters with severe physical disabilities to obtain assistance in the delivery of their absentee ballots.

He granted summary judgment to these plaintiffs who brought the case (Carey v. WEC) and ruled that any disabled voter who needs assistance in the delivery of their absentee ballot can’t be denied such assistance.

At issue was a state statute that said that an absentee ballot must be “delivered in person, to the municipal clerk.” Also at issue was the Wisconsin Supreme Court July decision in the Teigen case that said voters themselves had to deliver that ballot to the clerk. The Wisconsin Supreme Court had also left unclear, in that decision, whether voters could get assistance in putting their absentee ballots in the mail.

Now voters with disabilities, if they need it, will be able to get assistance both in delivering their absentee ballot to the clerk and in putting their absentee ballot in the mail.

Judge Peterson, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, pointed out that the Wisconsin statute and the decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court had left voters with physical disabilities in a quandary.

He noted that they risked “imminent injury regardless of what they do. If they choose to comply with [the statute], they will have to forfeit their right to vote or attempt to vote in person with great difficulty and perhaps even at risk to their health and safety. But if plaintiffs violate [the statute] by obtaining assistance to vote absentee, their vote could be rejected, and they could be sanctioned for violating the law.”

This is an unacceptable bind to put any voter in, Judge Peterson ruled.

And he explained that the Wisconsin statute and the ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court collide head on with the protections under the Voting Rights Act.

“The Voting Rights Act is clear: disabled voters who need assistance in returning an absentee ballot are entitled to ask a person of their choosing for that assistance,” he wrote. He quoted the relevant section of the Voting Rights Act, which states:

voterid_hand“Any voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter’s employer or agent of that employer or officer or agent of the voter’s union.”

This conflict between federal law and state law also put voters with disabilities in a bind, the judge said. “Voters shouldn’t have to choose between exercising their federal rights and complying with state law,” he wrote. “But that is the position that plaintiffs find themselves in.”

But they no longer are in that position now because Judge Peterson pointed out that federal law takes precedent over state law. As he put it, the Voting Rights Act “preempts” the state statute.

And so he issued a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, ruling that Wisconsin must provide “third-party ballot-return assistance to disabled voters who require such assistance.”

This is a tremendous victory for voters with disabilities, for disability rights activists, and for our fundamental freedom to vote.

And it’s a bracing defeat for the rightwing justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court who so cavalierly dismissed the rights of disabled voters in Wisconsin.

It’s also an embarrassing defeat for the rightwing Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which brought the Teigen case in the first place in an effort to erect barriers for all of us to have to clear in the exercise of our freedom to vote.

matt-rothschildI send my congratulations to the four plaintiffs who courageously came forward and to Law Forward, the great pro-democracy law firm that represented the plaintiffs so brilliantly. And I send my congratulations to Disability Rights Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition, which has pushed so hard on this issue.

It's a big victory, well-earned.

##

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

America is Best When Labor is Strong

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, 31 August 2022
in Wisconsin

electrical-workersWith Labor Day just around the corner Jeff Smith writes about the importance of organized labor and unions for our communities.


BRUNSWICK, WI - As Labor Day weekend approaches, summer is beginning to wind down. We’re taking our last chance to fish or camp for the season. Children are reflecting on their summer and eagerly anticipating the new school year.

This time of year is always an opportunity to reflect back on my upbringing in Eau Claire and remember the hardworking families in my community. I think about the great strides made in the 20th century because of organized labor. Unions knew the core of their mission is that nobody should live only to work. Every American’s job should provide them with the stability to live a comfortable life.

Growing up on the north side of Eau Claire, I had a pretty ordinary childhood. My mother worked hard to raise seven children and my father opened his window cleaning business, which he ran for decades. It was common for families to have one parent working outside the home and one in the home.

working-women-aflcioFamilies in our neighborhood were lower-middle income by today’s standards. I grew up near the Uniroyal factory. The paper mill was close and Presto was just a couple of miles north. Many of the kids I grew up with had parents who worked in one of these places. Their parents could support their family because they earned union wages and benefits. That era was the height of a comfortable working class that made America prosperous.

Many of the families were able to afford fishing boats, camping trailers and cabins on the lake. My neighbors were able to spend more time doing the things they enjoyed with their families because of their union wages and benefits. My family was not supported by these union wages and benefits and so we did not have the same opportunities.

The union jobs in our community provided my neighbors a chance to feel secure in their lifestyle and build Eau Claire’s middle class. They allowed families to own cabins in the resort areas of northern Wisconsin. It was common for a family to take two weeks off for a family vacation in the summer and a week off for deer hunting.

unemployment-great-depression-jobsNone of this would’ve been possible if it weren’t for the courage and foresight of organized labor in the early 20th century that advanced workers’ rights in America. Federal legislation, including the Occupational Safety & Health Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, and Labor Relations Act supported workers, ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions. The Social Security Act was revolutionary, putting protections in place for citizens of all ages. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for employers and unions to discriminate against individuals based on race, national origin, religion or gender.

Although there have been tremendous strides for workers’ rights, there is still more we must do for workers in our country. Too many families today need multiple jobs to get by. According to the U.S. Census, there are approximately 13 million Americans that have more than one job, and women are more likely than men to have a part-time job to support themselves and their families.

Union wages and benefits guaranteed most workers would have a comfortable future after retirement. The decline of unions and well-paying jobs in our country forces workers to consider how they’ll retire without a pension or 401K plan to supplement their Social Security.

jeff-smithThere are steps we can take to support hardworking men and women. We should begin by increasing the minimum wage, restoring the prevailing wage law, implementing paid family and medical leave and repealing the “Right to Work” law.

We often forget the impact of organized labor makes in our communities. Union members before us worked tirelessly to improve working conditions and living standards for all. We can’t fall behind.

As we push forward, let us remember working people and the example they set. Economic growth must benefit all Americans, not only the wealthy. Our future prosperity depends on standing up for the economic interests of working families.

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

Share

Copyright © 2022. Green Bay Progressive. Designed by Shape5.com