Monday December 5, 2022

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Women’s Equality Day

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, 24 August 2022
in Wisconsin

women-3genThis upcoming Friday, August 26th, is Women’s Equality Day in the United States. As we celebrate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we also recognize there is more work to be done for equality and women’s rights.


BRUNSWICK, WI - This Friday, August 26, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day and the 102nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment. I personally know and work with so many women that are influential leaders and work hard for a better Wisconsin, and I find it difficult to imagine a time when women were barred from participating in our democracy and so many other elements of our society.

Twenty states and territories extended voting rights to women prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment through their own legislative processes, but Wisconsin was not among them. In 1884 Wisconsin women were allowed to vote on school matters, but a short five years later the State Supreme Court rescinded this small democratic participation. For the next thirty years, the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly would try twenty-one times in various manners to enfranchise women, but they all would fail.

After failing on the state level in many places around the nation, women suffrage leaders and organizations started to focus on a constitutional amendment – no easy task. Yet in May of 1919, U.S. Representative James R. Mann (R-Illinois) proposed a resolution to approve the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, which was then sent to the states for ratification.

On June 10, 1919 Wisconsin and Illinois voted to ratify the amendment, but Wisconsin became the first state to approve it when Illinois was forced to vote again a week later due to a clerical error.

It took another fourteen months for the required three-fourths of the states to ratify the Amendment, and it was by no means a popular piece of legislation. The last state to ratify, Tennessee, hinged on the vote of one anti-suffragist, who nonetheless voted in support after hearing from his mother.

Eight days later, on August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the 19th Amendment. A few months later over eight million women across the nation cast their ballots for the first time.

It’s important to note that while the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, many women of color would wait decades to be able to exercise their right to vote due to oppressive poll taxes, literacy tests and other barriers.

voter-us-electionsIt took decades and a lot of personal sacrifice on behalf of the suffragists for women to have the right to vote in the United States. Leading suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, from Ripon, Wisconsin, spearheaded the “Winning Plan” to ratify the 19th Amendment in 1916. She went on to create the League of Women Voters, which for over one hundred years has been focused on increasing voter participation in our democracy.

On Women’s Equality Day we celebrate how far we have come, but also acknowledge all we have yet to accomplish. In 1984 women began to outpace men in turning out to vote in presidential elections, and that gap continues to widen.

As women continue to own more of the share of the vote, voting accessibility becomes increasingly important to keep women exercising their hard fought voting rights. Every absentee voting change and every early vote change disproportionately affects women.

jeff-smithVoting rights are fundamental for all people to own a stake in their democracy, but we can’t ignore the other societal issues plaguing women in our country. Reproductive rights, pay equity and gender bias are some of the issues that must be addressed to bring about true equality.

We can and must do better for women. Huge strides in advancement over hundred years ago should give us the courage to take the big steps today for equality. I hope you will join me in celebrating Women’s Equality Day with reflection and renewed action for the rights of women across Wisconsin.

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Fix the System with Final-Five Voting

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, 17 August 2022
in Wisconsin

voter-us-electionsSen. Jeff Smith writes about Final-Five Voting, how it works and how it can improve our current political system.


BRUNSWICK, WI - Last week, Wisconsin voters showed up to vote on Primary Election Day. Nearly 26% of Wisconsinites over the age of 18 turned out to vote in the August 9th election– the highest in 40 years. The fact that just a quarter of eligible voters showed up and it’s considered a record turnout really says a lot about our electoral system.

General elections typically see greater turnout, of course. But by the time we even get to the general election, we’re left with two candidates selected by a small percentage of the population. Moreover, these candidates are usually on opposite sides of the political spectrum, leaving very little room for compromise on the campaign trail.

People are tired of the status quo and want to see this broken system fixed. They want to know their elected officials are working for them. Politicians should be held accountable for their job performance.

We can accomplish this through Final-Five Voting.

Final-Five Voting will reform the electoral process to ensure candidates are listening to voters and actually delivering on their promises. This session, I introduced legislation with a bipartisan group of legislators to establish the Final-Five Voting process for U.S. Senate and Congressional elections in Wisconsin.

There are two key changes to implementing Final-Five Voting. First, all candidates run on a single ballot, regardless of party affiliation. Currently in a primary election, a voter must choose to only vote on a Republican or Democratic portion of his or her ballot— as we saw last week.

Under the Final-Five model, all candidates are listed together. Voters then select their favorite candidate. When the votes are tallied, the top-five candidates advance to the general election, no matter which party they represent.

The second key change happens during the general election, when voters are asked to rank their choices of the top-five. Voters pick their favorite, just like always. If they want to, they can pick their second choice, third choice, and so on using a ranked-choice voting ballot. The first-place votes are then counted. If one candidate gets over 50% of the vote, the election is over and that candidate wins.

If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the votes are counted again once the last-place candidate is eliminated. If your first-choice candidate was eliminated in the first round, your single vote is transferred to your second-choice. This method repeats until one candidate gets over 50%, which could happen in the second round or after four rounds.

Think about what could happen if all candidates, regardless of party, were on the same ballot and had to go through the Final-Five voting process. Candidates would be required to engage in civil debate and appeal to a broader audience. I doubt we’d see the same extreme gridlock and political attacks that are all too frequent today.

Despite what some may think, Final-Five Voting does not push all candidates to become more moderate. In reality, it creates an opportunity for voters to hear a diverse array of ideas and candidates can proudly stand behind their platform. I know many of us can agree how refreshing of a change this would be.

jeff-smithI’m excited to hear support for Final-Five Voting from my constituents. Many of them have seen how polarizing our elections have become and the damage that’s done to our democratic republic.

Here in western Wisconsin, there’s a local grassroots organization in Pierce County working to inform neighbors about Final-Five Voting. You may see volunteers at the local fair or farmers’ market; stop by and learn more!

The November General Elections are a few months away, but sadly, many electoral decisions were already made last week during Primary Day. Final-Five Voting promotes engaging policy discussion, which is what voters want to hear.

Our democratic republic doesn’t work without citizens getting involved. The more voices and perspectives that participate in our political process, the better.

Final-Five Voting makes sure our leaders are truly working for the people they’re running to represent … I think this is an idea we can all stand behind.

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Farmers’ Market for All to Enjoy

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, 10 August 2022
in Wisconsin

farmers-market-gbJeff Smith writes about farmers’ markets happening across Wisconsin and all one can enjoy by visiting a local market.


BRUNSWICK, WI - As Wisconsinites, we know we have something special that many of our neighboring states envy—and, no, I’m not just talking about our Green Bay Packers. We’re fortunate to live in a state with strong agricultural roots and a deep appreciation for farm-fresh goods.

There’s no better way to support our farmers and enjoy some fresh finds than by visiting a farmers’ market in your area. A farmers’ market is a community staple for so many all over the state, bringing together local vendors, families, and even local artists.

This week is National Farmers’ Market Week, and with over 300 farmers’ markets regularly held in Wisconsin, I can think of just the way to celebrate.

Farmers’ markets only happen because of our family farmers. They work hard every day to grow healthy fruits and vegetables that you can find at the market. You can also discover fresh cheeses and meats they’ve helped produce. It’s rewarding to spend time talking with farmers and learning about their business, family history, farming practices, and exactly where your food is coming from.

Farmers’ markets help Wisconsinites access fresh, quality products to feed their families. It’s important that fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods are available to the community. I’m glad to see there have been steps taken to improve accessibility for Wisconsinites while also benefiting our farmers.

There are many farmers’ markets in our state that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to make sure Wisconsin families have a quality source of fresh, healthy foods. In our region, the downtown Eau Claire Farmers’ Market, the St. Croix Farmers’ Market and West CAP Farm Market Program in Menomonie accept SNAP benefits. A full list of participating markets and vendors can be found at fns.usda.gov.

farmersmarketThe size of Wisconsin’s farmers’ markets ranges throughout the state. Did you know the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country is right here in Wisconsin? That’s something to be proud of.

This is one of the best times of year to head to a farmers’ market, and there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Travel Wisconsin compiled a list of farmers’ markets around the state to make it easy to find a market in your community or help plan a trip to a market you haven’t been to yet.

No matter your location, your age or reason for showing up at a farmers’ market, there’s always something there for you!

Many people are on a mission at the farmers’ market to find ingredients to try a new recipe or create a family favorite. Some folks enjoy leisurely walking around the market with a friend and checking out all that’s available. You’ll typically find kids on the look-out for a delicious treat, or fresh, squeaky cheese curd. At some markets in the state, you’ll see vendors selling beautiful handmade artwork and unique home goods.

jeff-smithI’ve had the chance to stop by many farmers’ markets in western Wisconsin over the years and I’ve never been disappointed in what I’ve found. Be sure to stop in Trempealeau for fresh vegetables, beautiful flowers in River Falls, delicious baked goods in Whitehall or tasty cheese in Ellsworth. And that’s just the beginning!

The Wisconsin Farmers Market Association is a great organization that shares the dates, times and locations of your local markets. They also have helpful food facts on their website, wifarmersmarket.org, which can help you learn when fruits and vegetables are in season, when they’re ripe and how to best store them. Consider checking this website out before stocking up on fresh food and after you’ve made it home.

This summer, I’ve had the chance to stop at the Whitehall market and the Eau Claire farmers’ market in Phoenix Park and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m happy to see the community coming together to support our farmers, artists and entrepreneurs in such a fun, welcoming environment.

Don’t forget, there are farmers’ markets happening year-round. Enjoy your stops this National Farmers’ Market Week, and thank a local agricultural producer for their contribution to our community’s health the next time you drop by a farmers’ market!

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Staying Safe in the Summer Sun

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, 03 August 2022
in Wisconsin

water_drinkingJeff Smith shares some tips for readers on how to stay safe in the hot summer weather.


BRUNSWICK, WI - It’s hard to believe summer is more than halfway over. Like so many others, I’ve had a busy summer visiting the local fairs in the region, enjoying the outdoors and spending time with friends and family.

Although back-to-school commercials are starting to appear on our TVs, there are still many ways to enjoy the warm weather and summer fun with your family – just be sure to stay safe!

August is one of the hottest months of the year. Warm temperatures combined with high humidity levels can pose a risk of heat-related illness and death. There are ways to stay cool and avoid serious illness: drink plenty of water and watch your local weather forecast to stay informed about extreme heat events. Community spots, like libraries or malls, have air conditioning, to help you stay cool.

Some populations are more at-risk from serious illness, including young children and people 65 years or older. It’s important to check in on neighbors and loved ones to make sure they are informed and safe. Also, beware of hot cars; never leave a person or pet in a parked car, even for a short time. According to the Department of Health Services, “on an 80 degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes.”

If you’re spending extended periods of time outdoors, be sure to know the symptoms indicating serious illness. If you are experiencing dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, weakness, nausea or vomiting, get cool or get help immediately. Call 911 if you have hot, dry skin, chest pains, shortness of breath, confusion or are with someone who is unconscious.

These tips are important to remember and share with others to stay safe and enjoy all that summer has to offer!

We’re fortunate, especially here in western Wisconsin, to have access to so many waterways. Whether you’re boating, fishing or swimming, it’s critical you know how to stay safe. Make sure you have a swimming buddy or a boat float plan so at least one person knows when you plan to be back.

Here are some recommendations to keep in mind if you’re on a boat: ensure each passenger has a personal floatation device that properly fits; check the weather of your route; and bring along a first aid kit in case of emergencies. Also, stay hydrated and avoid alcohol while operating a watercraft.

The Department of Natural Resources has additional guidance on ways to stay safe on the water. You can call DNR Center Staff toll-free at 1-888-936-7463) between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for more information.

During the summer, there are a number of chances to interact with wildlife, animals (and, unfortunately, pests) while you’re on a hike, or visiting a petting zoo or local fair. Always wash your hands after interacting with animals to avoid the spread of disease, like salmonella or rabies.

Insect repellents are useful to protect yourself against biting insects and ticks that transmit disease, such as Lyme Disease. To use repellent safely, apply it sparingly and only to exposed skin or clothing. Do not apply repellents to eyelids, lips or wounded skin; also, do not spray repellents in a confined space, like a car or tent. Visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/environmental/repellents for more information about selecting a repellent and additional precautionary measures.

weather-lightingLastly, always be prepared for severe weather during the summer when we can see thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding. Be alert and take general preparedness measures now so you are ready in the event of a severe weather event.

jeff-smithOne thing you can do today is make a disaster kit with basic items that household members may need in the event of a disaster. Food and water should last for at least three days. Visit ready.gov/kit for steps to create your disaster kit and more information on how to be prepared.

Wisconsin summers are a wonderful time with limitless activities your whole family can enjoy. While you’re outdoors, spending time in the sun before kids are back in school, just remember to stay safe and be prepared. Enjoy the many memories you make during the rest of the summer!

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Supporting Veteran Opportunity

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, 27 July 2022
in Wisconsin

veterans-vietnam-foxJeff Smith writes about the Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity and what he has learned as a member.


BRUNSWICK, WI - United States veterans have made many sacrifices to preserve our freedom as Americans. Our veterans deserve recognition for their commitment of putting one’s country over one’s self. More importantly, our veterans deserve the assurance that the country they served will be there to offer unyielding support if and when they need it.

Veterans often face unique challenges affecting their mental, emotional and physical health after completing their service. These challenges can take a toll on the lives of veterans and their families, contributing to financial insecurity or long-term health issues.

It’s critical that we address the immediate needs of our veterans and consider new solutions to fix the root causes of the issues facing our veterans. I’m very proud to be a part of a team focusing on this exact mission.

tony-eversEarlier this year, Governor Evers established the Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity. With more than 20 members, most of whom have military experience, the commission is charged with developing comprehensive, long-term efforts to support Wisconsin's more than 300,000 veterans and address challenges they may face. I’m honored to work with such a qualified group to better understand the issues at-hand and deliver recommendations to reduce barriers to employment, healthcare, housing and more.

The commission has already met five times since May. In each of these meetings there are four key goals we are to accomplish: examine current issues facing veterans, hear from the public, discuss policy ideas and prepare proposals for the governor. There are different themes addressed in each meeting, but we’ve remained focused on these goals to best understand how we can help our veterans.

During our first meeting we learned about how we can further sustain the Veterans Trust Fund, an important program that provides support for veteran museums, outreach and recovery programs, county veteran service offices and more.

In our second meeting, the commission discussed long-term nursing quality and accessibility, including in our state’s veterans homes. This is an issue of great concern to many, especially as we all know, we have an aging population with a shrinking caregiver workforce. We discussed how COVID-19 affected access to quality care and the effectiveness of the vaccine to protect residents. We looked forward to consider how new technology and specialized care can benefit veterans in care facilities.

vets-gi-billPost-service education, job training and employment were the main topics of conversation at our third meeting. I was interested to learn about the systems currently available to support veterans’ career paths and help them leverage their unique skills and specialties to new roles in the civilian workforce. We spent time thinking of ways we can improve ADA accommodations for veterans and develop employment on-boarding processes specific to veterans.

We held a public hearing during the fourth commission meeting. In all of the past meetings, we had experts and invited members of the public speak on each topic; this meeting was insightful to learn from Wisconsinites about the challenges and solutions they’ve identified to support fellow veterans. We heard from residents in areas of the state including Fond du Lac, Ashland and Dunn County—I am grateful for their valued participation in this meeting.

Last week we had our latest meeting, which focused on housing accessibility and mental health. We learned about mental health support programs and the barriers experienced by veterans that affect their housing stability. These issues are top priorities for the commission, and I’m hopeful our work will prompt action and results to support our veterans.

jeff-smithThe commission will continue to meet through the rest of the summer. Based on the presentations we’ve joined and in-depth conversations we’ve had, we will develop a report with recommendations for Governor Evers to be included in the 2023-25 biennial budget proposal.

As the son of a World War II Navy veteran, I am incredibly honored to serve on the Blue Ribbon Commission and do my part to support Wisconsin’s veterans. My father’s uniform hangs in my office to this day to remind myself of Americans’ service to their country. Now it’s our responsibility to support our brave veterans who truly exemplified the meaning of public service.

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