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Safeguarding Reproductive Health Care for All

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, 15 November 2023
in Wisconsin

women-healthSenator Smith writes about the urgent need to remove politics from the equation and leave reproductive health care choices up to each individual.


MADISON - Since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) passed their ruling reversing Roe v. Wade in 2022, doctors and women have been treated like criminals for providing and accessing reproductive health services. In Wisconsin, a controversial law passed way back in 1849 went back into effect, with devastating impacts on our state.

This provoked a groundswell of opposition across Wisconsin. Recent election results, not only in Wisconsin but across the country, have made it clear that women will not be pushed aside. Local areas have passed non-binding referendums in support of abortion rights.

women-1849Governments shouldn’t decide if women decide to have children. Here in the State Senate, my Democratic colleagues and I attempted to get a statewide advisory referendum on the ballot to ask voters whether the 1849 ban should be repealed, but Republicans blocked it. They don’t want to hear from their constituents that they’re doing the wrong thing.

But we haven’t given up on your rights. A recently-unveiled package of three bills, authored by my colleagues Senator Kelda Roys (D-Madison) and Representative Francesca Hong (D-Madison), would restore the power of individuals to make their own pregnancy decisions.

The first of these, LRB-4729, would repeal many of the stringent requirements which have been placed on abortion procedures which make it more difficult for those seeking reproductive health care.

women-3genThe current prohibition against prescribing medication abortion via telehealth is one such restriction. Drugs such as mifepristone are prescription medications shown to be safe and effective in the first ten weeks of a pregnancy.

In the wake of the pandemic we’ve successfully implemented telehealth services, but currently this safe, effective medication can only be prescribed in person. This legislation would give pregnant people the option to consult with a doctor via telehealth and pick up their prescription from the pharmacy.

It adds abortion services to insurance coverage, removes mandatory parental involvement and striking the requirement for doctors providing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital at least 30 miles away. (The admitting privileges requirement is based on faulty information regarding the risks of abortion procedures, and has been held unconstitutional by the courts.)

There are many facilities out there, funded by public dollars, offering so-called “pregnancy counseling services.” These facilities represent themselves as legitimate medical clinics, providing pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling and resources, but rarely if ever suggest abortion as an option.

wisconsin-senateBut many of these facilities omit information or even provide false information to patients. Their real aim is to prevent people who are pregnant from accessing abortion in a timely manner while promoting an abstinence-only approach to contraception.

Some groups falsely claim, for example, that condoms are ineffective or that hormonal birth control has dangerous side effects. Sometimes these organizations use manipulative tactics to get pregnant people to delay real counseling or medical care until it’s too late for a legal abortion.

The current Wisconsin law allowing for these practices undermines the doctor-patient relationship and informed consent process by controlling the information doctors can provide to patients. This harms patients and undermines trust in our health care system.

jeff-smith-2022Public money should not be used to subsidize disinformation or coercion. LRB-4892 would ensure that pregnancy counseling facilities receiving public funding provide information on all options available, including abortion. This bill would protect public funds from being misused to impair the right of pregnant people to receive truthful counseling.

It’s a patient’s right to receive medically accurate information from their health care provider. LRB-0382 affirms the obligation of health care providers to provide medically accurate information to patients. “Medically accurate” information is defined as information supported by “peer-reviewed medical research conducted in compliance with accepted scientific methods.”

Government interference in any person’s right to make their own health care decisions is simply wrong. Voters have made this loud and clear in recent elections. We must remove politics from this equation and leave these important choices up to each individual.

Only sound science and medical ethics should drive health care policy. Tell your representatives to stop trying to control your destiny.


Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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Eat Your (Local) Vegetables!

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, 08 November 2023
in Wisconsin

wisconsin_farm_windmillSen. Smith writes about the “Invest in Agriculture, Grow our Future” package of bills that provide support for farmers while making it easier for Wisconsin consumers to access healthy, local food.


MADISON - Wisconsin’s proud agricultural history has been a part of our identity as a state for centuries, and it will remain an integral part of our state’s future. As a State Senator who represents farmers and agricultural producers across much of western Wisconsin, I’m delighted to join my colleagues in supporting legislation designed to boost our agriculture industry. This bill package – “Invest in Agriculture, Grow our Future” – focuses on harnessing the power of our farms and local agricultural producers to contribute to the ongoing health of our communities.

potato-farmerWhen consumers have affordable access to fresh, local farm products, they are less likely to rely on processed foods for the majority of their diet. Access to healthful food is a key aspect of ongoing physical health and preventative healthcare. What’s more, local production of food reduces how far food needs to travel to get to your kitchen table, meaning fresher food and a reduced carbon footprint.

The best place for our local, fresh foods is our schools. For years, Wisconsin has successfully managed a farm to school program to connect schools with nearby farms to provide children with locally-produced ingredients for their school meals. One of these bills creates a “farm to fork” program to expand to eligible non-school entities that have cafeterias. It also directs grants for expanding farm to school programs, prioritizing school districts with a high percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under federal law.

The best place to go in your community for locally-grown produce is your local farmer’s market. In order to help more people access the nutritious and local food produced within their own communities, another bill we proposed provides credit and debit processing equipment and services to farmer’s markets and farmers who sell directly to consumers.

These programs will include the ability to process EBT transactions so those who receive public assistance have access to healthy food. Research shows that food assistance programs have twice the impact on households in rural communities than they do in urban communities. While it’s hard to gauge the exact dollar amount, state-supported farmer’s market food assistance (EBT) programs infuse at least twice and perhaps as much as ten times more federal dollars into our local economies, based on similar programs in Michigan and Iowa.

In a wealthy country, no one should go hungry. Yet over 38 million people across the nation suffer from food insecurity, including 427,380 Wisconsinites. Another bill in this package provides grants to food banks, food pantries and other nonprofit organizations to purchase Wisconsin food products, benefiting food-insecure Wisconsin families while contributing to our local agricultural economy.

The flip side of food production is food waste. In 2020 to 2021 the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported food waste made up 20% of the trash headed to our landfills, 14.5% of which could have been consumed (this has increased twofold since the last study, conducted in 2009). That’s 294 pounds per Wisconsinite.

To turn this problem into a solution, another one of our bills creates a food waste reduction grant program designed to redirect surplus food to hunger relief organizations and compost the remaining food waste.

jeff-smithFarmers don’t usually get into farming to manage a business – it’s a deep-rooted desire to bring forth products from the land. The business side of the farm can be challenging and often isn’t the primary skill set of hardworking farmers, whose focus is on the land. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) helps farmers manage their businesses, farm succession and mental health support. The demand for assistance from DATCP is outpacing capacity, so one of our bills increases funding to add additional staff.

The future of agriculture is dependent on careful stewardship of our land. To that end, we’ve included a bill in this package to educate and assist farmers who want to transition to organic farming, adopt more efficient grazing practices and invest in new sustainability practices.

By supporting the programs and initiatives in these bills, we can help address hunger, support our local agricultural producers and reduce our overall carbon impact. It’s a win-win-win for all of Wisconsinites.


Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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Ban the Bans

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, 01 November 2023
in Wisconsin

movie-to-kill-a-mockingbirdSen. Smith discusses the dangers of censorship and the vital importance of libraries to the cause of intellectual freedom.


MADISON - “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. All titles you may remember from a high school literature syllabus. Yet each of these books have been banned – and in some cases, burned – in the United States.

In October we commemorated Banned Books Week, amidst an increase in attempts at banning books across the nation. In places like Menomonee Falls, certain books have been challenged as being inappropriate and therefore unworthy of inclusion in the library’s catalog. This year, the American Library Association (ALA) has recorded 26 attempts to ban books in Wisconsin and attempts to censor more than 1,900 titles nationwide. This is the highest number of books since they first started collecting data twenty years ago.

This coincides with state legislatures attempting to restrict access to materials across the country. Right here in Wisconsin, a bill was recently circulated for co-sponsorship to require school libraries and public libraries disclose to parents and guardians within 24 hours a list of the materials their child has checked out from the library.

school-tutor-readingAs it stands, if a parent or guardian is concerned about the material their child is accessing through the library, they can request that information. These are reasonable accommodations so parents can provide guidance if they believe their child needs additional context for the content they are reading or consuming.

But automatic notifications disclosing what books your kid is checking out is not the way. On a very practical level, it would be hard for libraries to develop such systems without funding. Libraries are expected to develop these programs using the financial and personnel resources they already have.

The larger concern is the role of privacy in freedom of speech. Privacy has long been a concern of the American Library Association, and has historically included the privacy of youth. Privacy is included in the “Library Bill of Rights,” drafted in 1939. Article VII states, “All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use.” In their publication “Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights”, the ALA clarifies, “The right to privacy includes the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others …. ALA and its members recognize that children and youth have the same right to privacy as adults.”

school-meeting-crowdBook bans and legislation like this are products of the manufactured culture wars we see erupting around the nation. They create a “chilling effect” on speech where, fearful of consequences, people choose for themselves to self-censor what they access or write, diminishing the quality of public discourse and decreasing intellectual freedom.

This past month, my colleague and friend Representative Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) introduced a bill intending to contribute to the ongoing intellectual freedom of our great state by banning book bans. Freedom of speech is one of the founding principles of America, and we must all get behind efforts to protect it. I think we can agree that not all books are for everyone, but it isn’t up to anyone to tell others what they can or cannot read.

jeff-smithI am in total agreement with Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, when she says, “These attacks on our freedom to read should trouble any person who values liberty and our constitutional rights. To allow a group of people or any individual, no matter how powerful or loud, to become the decision-maker about what books we can read or whether libraries exist, is to place all of our rights and liberties in jeopardy.”

From a favorite and trusted author of so many wise words, Theodor Seuss Geisel: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Let’s not stand in the way of learning and going places we cannot otherwise reach without the wonder of the written word.


Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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Planning For A Bright Financial Future

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, 25 October 2023
in Wisconsin

young-couple-worried-payments October is Financial Planning Month, and a great opportunity to examine how we’re preparing ourselves for a prosperous future.


MADISON - October is “Financial Planning Month,” and last week we recognized “Save for Retirement Week” and “Get Smart about Credit Day”. But every day is a good day to think about how we plan for our financial future. We should be committed to financial wellness year-round, but that also comes with a need to advocate for progressive policies aimed at improving the financial lives of all of our citizens.

The general rule for saving is to have 3 to 6 months of wages saved up for an emergency. The benefits of having an emergency fund alleviates financial stress and provides families with a little bit of breathing room to make important job decisions if laid off or while being unable to work. However, for those of us who live paycheck-to-paycheck that’s easier said than done.

Budgeting is critical. Each hard-earned dollar should have a purpose. Sometimes it’s for rent or the mortgage payment and sometimes it’s for our future retirement. Tracking how much we spend on food, gas, utilities and other essential personal expenses gives us a better understanding of the value of a dollar.

But some elements of our society are keyed towards taking advantage of consumers. During my time in the State Assembly back in 2009, I worked on bills to prevent payday lenders from taking advantage of consumers and introduced legislation to keep credit card companies away from students on campus.

Having personal savings can help us avoid predatory lenders too. Payday lenders, auto title loans and credit cards shouldn’t be part of our “emergency plan.” Students, the elderly and low-wage earners can be susceptible to predatory lenders, scams and fraud. Having a better understanding of our personal finances and creating savings is a good defense against falling prey to these lending practices.

Not everyone has the income security to fall back on and the ability to set aside money for a “rainy day fund.” Wages are stagnant for most Americans, but livable wages for everyone holding a job is a good start. Neither the federal nor state minimum wage has kept up with inflation or the rapid pace of change in the world.

jeff-smithIn a column I wrote 4 years ago, I cited census data that on average, the top 10% of earners make about 9 times more than the bottom 90%.  Now, according to the census, that number has grown to almost 13.5% -- a big step in the wrong direction.

Bankruptcies are too high, and not because families don’t plan well. The leading cause of bankruptcy is an unexpected health crisis. Health insurance, if a family can afford it, doesn’t always cover everything. Not only do health care costs affect our finances, but our ability to work is also affected with health-related problems. Too often, an unexpected health crisis can set a family back so far they never recover financially.

It’s well-documented our healthcare system is broken and we are behind the rest of the developed world. We desperately need to convert our healthcare model to a national health system that doesn’t leave people behind. Even Medicare needs improvement, but Medicare for ALL is the answer.

Each of us are stewards of our personal financial future. The unexpected should always be expected and our personal savings should reflect it. Policymakers are responsible for making an economy that works for us – decreasing health care costs, increasing living wages and curbing predatory lenders is what each of should expect from our leaders in Madison and Washington.

We all need to work together to help everyone become financially independent. We can’t overlook those among us who are far too often forgotten. Maybe part of our planning as society should include advocating for a system that works for everyone so nobody gets left behind. As Paul Wellstone used to say, “We all do better when we all do better.”


Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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Listening with an Open Heart

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 October 2023
in Wisconsin

eauclairebridgeSen. Smith is embarking on his “Stop & Talks” tour of District 31 and announces his mobile office hours and schedule.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Fall is here – one of the most beautiful times of year in Wisconsin. If you choose the right day and take a drive through western Wisconsin, the colors are spectacular. Beautiful as they are, they don’t last long while days grow shorter and the temperature gets colder.

Sadly for me, fall is also a sign that my “Stop and Talk” season is coming to a close. My “Stop and Talks,” or my mobile office hours, is the time when I park my old red truck near busy roads so people can stop by and share their thoughts quickly while they are on the go.

There is nothing about my job I enjoy more than having these personal one-on-one discussions. I learn so much from these talks. I am humbled by the willingness of my constituents to share their stories and concerns with me.

Some conversations may be considered bland, dry or just plain unimportant by some folks. Sometimes the smallest details are the ones that affect your life the most. The importance of collecting experiences and comparing notes cannot be downplayed, no matter how small the issue seems.

Never assume that your story, or how a policy affects you, is obvious to me or anyone else. We all walk our own path and cannot ever fully understand someone else’s. I have numerous examples of times a constituent has stopped to share their story with me and given me a new understanding of how a law has or may affect them and their neighbors. I rely on that information to inform my position on all the issues we address in the State Senate. I depend on these conversations in order to advocate for you effectively in the Wisconsin Legislature.

I wish all my constituents had the same opportunity I have to hear their neighbors’ experiences and stories. These conversations are a constant reminder to me that nothing is as simple as it may seem from only one perspective. These conversations also allow me to share my experiences in state government and keep you informed of information I have access to that might not be as readily available to your average citizens.

Not every effort to understand another’s viewpoint is easy, successful or changes hearts and minds. But we live in a democracy, and uniformity isn’t our goal. The strength of our system of government relies on civil engagement as the first step to resolving inevitable conflicts.

wi-senate-swearing-inI have spent many years in roles where I’ve represented my neighbors and their communities in local and state government. That’s taught me that sometimes, listening does not come naturally. Listening is a learned skill that we have to work on and engage in with intention.

jeff-smithIt’s also something I constantly strive to improve on in myself. When we’re very passionate about what we’re talking about, it’s natural to state one’s own position before listening to others. But as a state legislator, I’ve worked hard to keep my ears open and my mouth shut to listen more, and have often been surprised at what I learned.

In some cases, we may even reverse our own stance based on what we learn. It isn’t a sign of weakness to re-evaluate your own positions. Quite the opposite – keeping an open mind is a strength, showing others you’re someone who takes their point of view seriously. False assumptions can be swept away when we truly listen to and evaluate others’ experiences, or facts we were not aware of before.

I’m not writing this with any particular issue in mind today. Instead, I want you to know that as long as the weather cooperates, I’ll be out there having mobile office hours in my red truck, to hear about your priorities and concerns.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to pull over and chat for a second when you see me in your community. Even if we disagree, I look forward to having conversations which help me better represent you in the state Senate. We can find agreement even in the most unlikely situations if we keep our ears and hearts open to others.

Upcoming dates and times available on my web site. If you are unable to connect with me that way, you should always feel free to contact my office at (608) 266-8546 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

Subscribe to Senator Smith’s e-updates!

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