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Come to the Budget Listening Session Tuesday, April 11

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 April 2023
in Wisconsin

jfc-plattevilleSen. Smith promotes public participation in the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee budget listening sessions. Join them next Tuesday, April 11, at the W.R. Davies Center at UW-Eau Claire from 10:00am to 5:00pm to share your thoughts on the 2023-25 state budget!

MADISON - It’s not fun, but we all have to budget. We budget our time and our resources because we have a limited amount – of hours in the day, of energy, of money. Every day, each one of us makes decisions on how we allocate our time and resources, and while it’s not always a zero-sum game, sometimes we have to make tough choices.

So budgeting is not a foreign idea to any of us. Planning something as large as a state budget may seem daunting, but the same principles apply. We have a limited amount of money and many priorities to keep in mind. We start by estimating as closely as possible the revenue our state can expect over a two-year period. Then we allocate funding to the areas of spending we know we will need to address.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone agreed on priorities, and it were as simple as filling out a spreadsheet, moving the funds we need into each column? Unfortunately, the reality is much more complicated than that.

tony-evers-2023-sosEvery odd-numbered year, the legislature and the governor (in theory) work together to draft a new budget for our state. Since we in the Legislature are elected to serve you, the people of Wisconsin, it is only right that you have the opportunity to have a say in which areas you feel are most in need of state funding.

jfcphotoIt's common for legislative committees to hold public hearings on bills before those bills are sent to the full body for a vote. Public hearings are where legislators gather more information and hear the thoughts and ideas of those people most affected by the policies on the table. Public input is vital, and the voices of our constituents is so valuable in making legislation better.

For my part, I get out every week in my red truck for my “Stop and Talks,” my mobile office hours throughout the communities in Senate District 31. I encourage anyone and everyone to stop and talk with me. I’ll be posting the dates and times on my Facebook and Twitter, and would love to have the chance to catch up with you the next time I’m in your community.

It’s somewhat rarer to have the opportunity to have your voice heard by a larger body of legislators, representing districts all across the state. Because the budget is the largest and most impactful bill that legislators vote on, representatives of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (or JFC) go on the road to hold public hearings on the proposals being considered.

This year, the JFC has scheduled four such listening schedules, one of them right here in western Wisconsin. They’ll be coming to Eau Claire next Tuesday, April 11th at UW-Eau Claire’s W.R. Davies Center.

The public hearing will go from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Anyone who wants to testify will be asked to fill out a form to be added to the queue. The earlier you are added to the queue, the sooner your name will be called to testify, so it’s good to arrive early.

jeff-smithGenerally each person gets two minutes to share their comments to the Joint Finance Committee, or five minutes for groups of three or more. Having printed comments of your testimony for each of the 16 members in encouraged. If you need accessibility accommodations, call the Legislative Fiscal Bureau at (608) 266-3847.

If you can’t make it to the hearing, you can also submit your testimony online at or by emailing your testimony to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Tuesday, April 11 is your opportunity to make your voice heard. Whatever your priorities, it’s so important that the members of this committee hear from you. These hearings are democracy in action, and no one can tell your story but you.

I’ll see you there!

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Power, Balance and the Status Quo

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, 29 March 2023
in Wisconsin

assembly-wi-robin-vosSenator Smith writes about the balance of power in the Wisconsin Legislature, where Republicans have had thirty years to change the status quo but have refused to do so.

MADISON - The English language has many words loaned from Latin, and the phrase “status quo” is one of the most recognizable. “Status quo" is Latin for “existing state,” and in our modern use, status quo is the existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues.

If the rules are tilted in your favor or you hold power, you definitely have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. After all, change threatens the existing state of affairs. Our political systems often pit those advocating for change against those who fear change will result in their being less well-off. In that way, the idea of the status quo defines our political environment as well.

The solution is never simple. But I would like everyone to consider how we get stuck in the mud and so little is accomplished. Somehow the people in power are able to convince voters to keep them there.

Here in Wisconsin it is downright puzzling to look back over the last 30 years. It’s typical for a sitting president to lose members of Congress of their same party in the middle of their term, known as the “midterm elections.” Rightly or wrongly, voters attribute the changes that occurred in the last two years as mostly the president’s doing, and often opt to create a “balance” by voting for the opposite party for Congress.

The midterm change sentiment often trickles down the ballot to state elections. Let’s look at Bill Clinton’s first midterm as an example. In 1994 Newt Gingrich riled voters up with what he called the “Contract with America” (the details of which we are still waiting to hear). By painting Clinton and his policies as the “status quo,” Republicans won majorities up and down the ballot across the country. These congressional and state legislative majorities retained power for decades.

Wisconsin is a good example of this national trend. Starting with the 1995 legislative session the Republican Party has held the majority in our state Assembly nearly continuously. Last year’s election did not change that, and Republicans have gerrymandered their way into two more years of power. With the current session majority decided, that makes 28 out of 30 years of Republican legislative majorities in the state Assembly. Though the Senate majority changed hands on occasion during that same 30-year period, power has not flipped in either house since 2011 – status quo in Wisconsin.

jeff-smithMany people say, “That’s why we need term limits.” But studies show term limits exacerbate the influence of the status quo, as new legislators rely increasingly on information from special interests and lobbyists. I won’t dive into all the reasons term limits don’t work in a democratic republic, but one reason is that those who hold the power (the status quo) are the same ones that would have to change the rules to limit their time in power.

Meanwhile voters ask why we can’t – or won’t – come to agreement on anything. Almost every meeting with constituents in my office reminds me that we have so much opportunity to make lives better. When visitors to my office mention that they have visited other offices “across the aisle,” I wonder how my colleagues believe that doing the same thing over and over again will result in different outcomes.

The next time you hear a politician complain about the current state of affairs or tell you we need change, ask them what they’ve done to effect positive change lately. When those expressing frustration with the status quo are the ones maintaining it, their words ring hollow. Such politicians are only parroting their constituents’ concerns, giving lip service to change while maintaining the status qu0.

The Wisconsin legislature can act to meet the needs of our people. We could accept Medicaid expansion as 40 other states have already. We could follow the lead of over 70% of our citizens and legalize medical marijuana. In my experience, these policies are overwhelmingly popular with Wisconsinites. But we don’t have a legislature that works for the needs of those we serve. We have a legislature that serves the status quo.

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Don’t Mail Your Absentee Ballot

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 Tuesday, 28 March 2023
in Wisconsin

vote-423MADISON - If you’ve got an absentee ballot, it’s too late to safely put it in the mail.

The best thing to do it is to deliver it to your clerk’s office this week, or certainly by Election Day next Tuesday.

sample-423I just delivered mine today!

And if you’re a voter with a disability, please remember that you have the right to get assistance in the delivery of your absentee ballot.

For everyone voting with an absentee ballot, make sure you sign your name and fill in the date, and make sure that your witness signs the form and fills in their address completely.

vote-early-2023If you’re not voting absentee by mail, you can still vote early (absentee in-person) this week. Check with your local clerk’s office about their hours.

And remember, if you’re not registered to vote, you can still register and vote at your polling place on Election Day, April 4. Bring your driver’s license or passport or other valid government ID, and if you’re registering, bring proof of residence, such as a utility bill.

This is a crucial election so please vote, and bring two friends or family members with you!

Thanks for your civic activism!


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

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Freedom to Choose is a Matter of Liberty

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, 22 March 2023
in Wisconsin

women-healthSenator Smith writes about the importance of protecting reproductive freedom in Wisconsin by repealing the 1849-era criminal abortion ban.

MADISON - The word freedom is tossed around quite a bit. It’s a convenient word to use when trying to make others fear they will lose their freedom. Some politicians will scare voters about losing their freedom to own a gun, or losing control over their children’s education. They beat that same drum and many take the bait.

This time, it’s different. Freedoms for women have been taken away. When the United States Supreme Court made the cowardly decision to overturn the 1973 case that recognized the right to choose when and if they bear children, they stripped women of their freedom to determine their own path. Justices who had declared that they would not rule against past precedent did just that. Justices who hold such a high office in the UNITED States divided us by which state we live in. Now a woman’s freedom is determined by where they live or their financial status and ability to travel.

women-1849Wisconsin is one of 28 states that ban or severely restrict abortion. A law outlawing abortion was adopted by Wisconsin in 1849 – 70 years before women were finally granted their voting rights. This law was designed to control women at a time when women did not have a voice in this country.

Every credible poll I’ve seen shows most people believe women should have the choice whether to carry a pregnancy or not. Most recent polls show sixty percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Seventy percent believe the government should butt out of this issue, and voters should decide through a ballot initiative. 1

I realize that this is a divisive issue that many are passionate about. We all know someone who has been personally affected. Many of you have been in touch with me with diverse takes on this issue, and I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

But repealing Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban is a matter of personal liberty. This past Sunday, I attended the Rally for our Rights in Eau Claire. At this event and many others, I have been honored and grateful that so many shared their stories, some of which broke my heart. Hearing these heartfelt personal accounts, it saddens me that so many have used this issue as a political gambit.

jeff-smithI have said for many years that reproductive freedom has been transformed into a wedge issue, designed by unscrupulous politicians to garner votes and hold on to power. These politicians – overwhelmingly men – have cynically harnessed people’s strong emotions around this issue to accumulate power and influence.

They didn’t really think it would actually happen, but now that the Supreme Court has reversed 50 years of precedent Republican responses are all over the place. The voters have told them that they should repeal the abortion ban. Already this session, some have offered very limited exceptions, but anything less than full repeal is simply unacceptable.

Half measures get us nowhere. Either you have reproductive freedom or you don’t. Either ALL men AND women are equal or we aren’t. Either we all have freedom to choose our life paths or that freedom can be denied us.

I will continue to oppose Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban because by doing so, I am doing my part to protect Wisconsinites’ personal liberties. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but no one is entitled to control over another’s body.

1 Most Americans say overturning Roe was politically motivated, NPR/Ipsos poll finds,” NPR, Jan. 22, 2022

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High Court Spending Continues Record Soar

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 Monday, 20 March 2023
in Wisconsin

money-behind-politicsThe flood of money continues, as outside groups have spent $18.1 million on reported independent expenditures and secret phony issue ads in the Supreme Court race, more than three-and-a-half times the previous record.

MADISON - Two weeks away from the April 4 elections, candidate and group spending in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court stands at more than $20.2 million – smashing state and national records for spending in a judicial contest.

Outside group spending for Daniel Kelly now exceeds that for Janet Protasiewicz by $4.2 million.

About 30 outside electioneering groups have spent $18.1 million on reported independent expenditures and secret phony issue ads in the race, more than three-and-a-half times the previous record. Groups backing Kelly or opposing Protasiewicz have doled out $9.9 million. Groups backing Protasiewicz or opposing Kelly have spent $5.7 million. (About $2.5 million in group spending was directed at the two candidates who lost in the primary.)

The top-spending groups behind Protasiewicz were:

A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund, $5 million on television and online ads and mailings;

Wisconsin Conservation Voters, $785,836 on campaign literature and brochures and payroll expenses;

Organizing Empowerment PAC, $532,500 on phone and other voter mobilization activities;

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, $476,755 on radio and digital ads, canvassing, and mailings;

One for All Committee, $450,000 on videos and online advertising.

The top-spending groups behind Kelly were:

Fair Courts America, $4.6 million on television and radio ads and mailings;

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), $3.1 million on broadcast advertising;

American Principles Project PAC, $795,894 on digital ads;

Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, $600,000 on television ads;

Americans for Prosperity, $374,531 on online advertising, mailings, and canvassing.

Both WMC and the Alliance for Reform spent most of their money on television ads. In two instances – here and here – the groups used the same television ads, which accused Protasiewicz of handing down a light sentence for a man convicted of kidnapping and raping a 15-year-old girl.

The most recent reports filed by the candidates showed they spent a total of $2.12 since they entered the race last year, through Feb. 6. Spending was led by Protasiewicz who has doled out $1.37 million, which is nearly six times the $237,719 spent by Kelly.

Whoever wins will determine the ideological balance of the court, which is currently controlled 4-3 by conservatives. Protasiewicz, who is viewed as a liberal, and Kelly, a former conservative Supreme Court justice, are vying to replace a retiring conservative justice.

Protasiewicz and Kelly moved on to the April ballot because they were the top finishers in the Feb. 21 primary, knocking off two other candidates who had spent a combined $507,699 through Feb. 6.

matt-rothschildThe next batch of fundraising and spending reports by the candidates are due March 27 and will likely show that several million dollars more in candidate spending. (Other news outlets, such as WisPolitics, have reported higher figures than the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Our numbers are based only on figures already reported to the state by candidates and independent expenditure groups or that we could estimate from so-called “issue advocacy” groups.)

But spending to date has already surpassed the record $10 million spent in 2020 on a Wisconsin Supreme Court race as well as the national record of $15 million spent on an Illinois judicial race in 2004.

For more information about all of the groups involved in the 2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court race, please visit the Democracy Campaign’s Hijacking Campaign 2023 feature. For more information about candidate fundraising and spending and their top contributors, please go here.

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