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The Sargent Voice Issue #94                           November 22nd,  2017

Friends and Neighbors,

The 45-day enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act is happening now through December 15th--a much shorter period than has been allotted in years prior. To add insult to injury, the current administration also slashed the education and advertising budgets by $90 million--more than 90 percent!--meaning that many are likely unaware that enrollment has started, and worse, that it has been shortened significantly. There are estimates that enrollment will drop by at least 1.1 million because of these outreach cutbacks.

That’s why I need your help.

If you enroll in plans under the Affordable Care Act, be aware of the approaching deadline, and make sure you sign up on time. If you’re already signed up or do not typically enroll in the Affordable Care Act, please contact five family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, or anyone else in your circles and remind them that the enrollment period is happening now and that it is closing sooner than usual.

If you’re wondering whether you should be signing up, generally if you don’t have access to insurance through an employer or Medicaid you are likely eligible for a marketplace plan, so here’s how you can sign up:

  1. Go to Healthcare.gov to preview 2018 plans to see if you are eligible for insurance through a marketplace plan, or if you are already enrolled, make sure to compare your options as plans may have changed from last year;
  2. If you have questions, go to localhelp.healthcare.gov to get connected up with people who can help you navigate the enrollment process;
  3. Make sure to review options like covered providers and health systems when comparing plans;
  4. Complete your sign-up process at www.healthcare.gov.

If you have questions or need some additional assistance, please feel free to call my office at 608-266-0960, so we can help connect you with the resources you need. The best way to show how much the American people want comprehensive health coverage is to make sure you are taking advantage of enrollment and signing up for health care today, and reminding your friends and neighbors to get signed up, too!

Working for you,

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Melissa Sargent

State Representative
48th Assembly District

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Our Democracy Initiatives 

Sargent Satellite 

It’s time for another Sargent Satellite! We will be heading to Manna Cafe on the Northside. Sign up for a one-on-one meeting with me to enjoy a cup of coffee or some of Manna’s delicious breakfast treats while we chat about what’s happening in the Legislature, things happening in our community, or the issues that are most important to you. Here are the details:

Friday, December 15th
10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Manna Cafe and Bakery
611 N Sherman Ave
Madison, WI 53704

Time slots usually go quickly, so be sure to sign up soon. Looking forward to seeing you Friday the 15th!

Rotunda Report 

Foxconn

Although Republicans rammed their Foxconn scheme through the Legislature awhile ago, the Foxconn contract has still been making headlines.

A month ago, the WEDC board had to delay its vote on the contract after a glaring error was found in the contract. At an Audit Committee hearing on October 25, 2017, I noted that this instance was not the first time WEDC had struggled to adequately execute a contract, which has been a consistent problem in the last three state audits of the agency. I asked Secretary Mark Hogan to allow public review of the WEDC contract before it was executed--after all, it seems like it might behoove Wisconsin taxpayers to be able to review the contract they’re on the hook for over the next twenty-five years. Regrettably, Secretary Hogan declined to make the contract available to the public.

After there was public outrage, Secretary Hogan finally gave the WEDC board (and only the WEDC board) the opportunity to review the Foxconn contract, giving it to the board members only 48 hours in advance of the board vote. I again sent a letter to Secretary Hogan asking him to release the contract to the public before the board’s vote. Secretary Hogan never responded. The board ultimately approved the Foxconn contract, and the contract was signed on November 10, 2017, without the public having reviewed it.

Whether conservative or liberal, urban or rural, pro-Foxconn or anti-Foxconn, the one thing people across Wisconsin can all agree on is that this process absolutely stinks, and it has from the beginning. It’s an absolute disservice to the people of our state who are supposed to be able to trust elected officials to be good, prudent stewards of our tax dollars. There was absolutely no excuse for the lack of accountability and transparency with this much on the line for Wisconsin taxpayers.

My Legislative Agenda 

Hygiene Product Accessibility Act:

A few weeks ago, I introduced the Hygiene Product Accessibility Act, which aims to promote accessibility to tampons, sanitary pads, and other hygiene products used during menstruation.

Menstruation has long been highly stigmatized around the world despite being a natural bodily function that is experienced at one time or another by 50% of the world’s population. Byproducts of this stigma and underrepresentation have been laws, norms, and practices that inherently financially penalize menstruation—and women, specifically—and decrease accessibility to hygiene products like tampons and sanitary pads.

Hygiene products are not optional; they’re necessities. Hygiene products are also unique necessities in that no analogous, sex-based sales tax exists on any other good, and no analogous hygiene need exists. The Hygiene Product Accessibility Act is comprised of two pieces of legislation aimed at increasing access to menstrual products:

LRB-0272/2 requires tampons and sanitary napkins to be available at no charge in restroom facilities of buildings owned, leased, or occupied by the state or political subdivisions.

LRB-4682/1 creates a sales and use tax exemption for hygiene products in Wisconsin. Hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary pads are not currently exempt under Wisconsin’s sales tax, and are taxed at the state sales and use tax rate of 5%, with the potential for additional, locally-imposed sales and use taxes on the purchase price.

Bump Stocks Update:

A month ago, Representatives Taylor, Berceau, Subeck, and I introduced a bill to ban the sale, possession, use, or manufacture of bump stocks in Wisconsin. Bump stocks or bump fire devices were found affixed to several weapons in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel room, and are used to modify semi-automatic weapons to effectively allow them to fire automatically.

Despite Republicans and the NRA expressing their early support for this legislation including U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, Charlie Sykes, and even a member of GOP leadership in the Wisconsin State Assembly, not a single Republican in the Wisconsin State Legislature signed onto our bump stocks bill. Yet, we’ve been hearing rumors in the Capitol that the Wisconsin GOP is considering introducing their own version of the bill with minor changes, I guess because they weren’t interested in being on a bill with Democrats.

Reps. Taylor, Berceau and I released a statement on this condemning Republicans for being more interested in playing politics than do anything with bipartisan support. Since then, there’s also been an article in the New York Times explaining This is exactly the kind of sad, tired politics that people in Wisconsin are sick of--when legislators can’t come together even on the most commonsense issues to do what’s right because of special interests. It’s a real shame.

$15 Minimum Wage

No hardworking Wisconsinite should have to work full time all year to provide for their family only to have to live in poverty. That’s why I was proud to join my colleague, Senator Bob Wirch, in introducing a bill to support working families in Wisconsin by increasing minimum wage to $15 an hour and indexing wages to inflation. The time is long overdue for us to #raisethewage from $7.25 an hour, which amounts to starvation wages by today’s living standards.

LRB-0287 is currently being circulated for co-sponsorship until December 1st. Please contact your state representatives and ask them to co-sponsor LRB-0287!

Bills Circulated for Co-Sponsorship 

LRB-4862/1: relating to appointment of majority and minority members to legislative committees and task forces.

Last week, Speaker Robin Vos announced his appointments to a task force charged with examining Wisconsin state prisons and overpopulation, except one thing was notably absent: a Democratic Assembly member on the committee.

Departing from precedent and longstanding legislative practice, Speaker Vos declined to put a Democrat on the committee, instead appointing only Republicans. This type of petty political theatrics is what we’ve come to expect from the majority party, but this simply adds insult to injury, especially as important issues like prison privatization, Lincoln Hills, racial disparities in incarceration are expected to come up.

In response, Representative Dianne Hesselbein, along with many Assembly Democrats, introduced a resolution that would require both majority and minority representation on every legislative committee or task force. The Republican Party is out of control in Wisconsin, and Democrats are working hard to bring back decorum and decency to the Legislature. Please call your legislators and ask them to support LRB-4862!

LRB-4052 & LRB-4827 – The Employment Law Standardization Act

This package of bills is just the latest in the 100+ bills Republicans have introduced that repeal local control. This bill includes a variety of terrible provisions, but most notably is that the bill creates uniform regulations for employee benefits, gives employers the right to ask for prospective employees’ salary information, and creates a statewide standard for employment discrimination, which would effectively prohibit local governments from creating their own employment discrimination ordinances. For a party who supposedly celebrates “small government” and “local control” Republicans certainly seem to enjoy dismantling it every chance they get, especially when it comes to Madison and Dane County. Call your legislator and ask them to stop LRB-4052/LRB-4827 in its tracks!

Final Session Days Update

The Assembly was in session three days in the last three weeks and passed several new pieces of legislation. Some bills were relatively uncontroversial and passed with bipartisan support, and others were extremely problematic. Here are just a few highlights from the final session days of 2017:

  1. Under current law, a child as young as ten can go on a mentored hunt with an adult in Wisconsin. A bill passed in the Assembly eliminates the age restriction, allowing a child of any age to be allowed to participate in mentored hunting. The bill also eliminated a provision that prohibited a mentor-mentee hunting pair from possessing more than one hunting weapon jointly. Under the bill, children under ten can hunt with a mentor, and both the mentee and mentor can possess one or more hunting weapons. We made national news for this legislation.

  2. In Wisconsin’s very own chapter of The Handmaid's Tale, Rep. Scott Allen argued on the Assembly floor that economics tells us we should restrict access to abortion to in increase Wisconsin’s workforce. Yes, really.

  3. AB 164/SB108 was passed, which eliminates continuing education requirements for cosmetologists, aestheticians, manicurists, and electrologists, and removes the requirement that a person moving to Wisconsin must have 4,000 hours of experience to be granted a reciprocal license. This legislation would effectively eliminate any oversight and educational requirements which work to legitimize and ensure the integrity of the cosmetology et al. professions in our state.

  4. A bill was passed to help provide financial assistance for replacing home lead service lines. This bill came through the Energy & Utilities Committee, and I voted to recommend the bill for adoption. I’ve been a strong advocate for taking concrete steps to address Wisconsin’s lead crisis, and while I supported AB 78/SB 48, I still think we need more comprehensive, substantive solutions to really address lead contamination and exposure in Wisconsin.

  5. AB351 was another bill passed relating to law enforcement use of body cameras in Wisconsin. One provision, in particular, would make it difficult if not impossible for body cam footage to be released to the public. Groups like the ACLU, YWCA, and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association all registered against this proposal. According to the ACLU of Wisconsin It is critical to not prevent the public from being able to access these by creating additional layers of government bureaucracy.”

  6. Many of you have likely heard about a bill moving through the Legislature called ‘Marsy’s Law,’ which is a constitutional amendment to effectively include Chapter 950 victim’s rights in the Wisconsin Constitution. You likely also know I have been a strong advocate for victims, especially survivors of sexual assault; however, I voted against Marsy’s Law when it came through the Assembly. I have serious concerns about including these provisions in the Constitution, how it works in tandem with the state and federal constitutions, and whether the provisions present realistic rights for crime victims. Crime victims in Wisconsin—especially survivors of sexual assault—deserve real, meaningful actions, not false notions of legal rights and empty promises.

    Many of the goals Marsy’s Law seeks to accomplish could be attained by doing things other than amending the Constitution. For example, we could pass bills allowing claims for violations under Chapter 950, or fully funding and staffing district attorneys and public defenders, or preventing sexual assault on UW campuses, or demanding the Department of Justice make a dent in the 6,000 untested sexual assault kits here in Wisconsin. There are better, more tangible solutions than this bill and I look forward to continuing my work on those efforts for victims and survivors in Wisconsin.

  7. The Assembly also passed a bill that would establish state licenses for farmers who want to grow industrial hemp, presenting a unique opportunity for agriculture and manufacturing in Wisconsin. However, several of my colleagues and I were concerned about this legislation including a provision would require persons seeking a license to go through a background check and prohibits DATCP from issuing a license to a person if they’ve been convicted of violating controlled substances law. The bill has been passed in both houses and now awaits Governor Walker’s signature.

Committee Updates 

I am excited to announce that I was recently appointed to be the ranking Democratic member on the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means and am looking forward to this new challenge.

The Chair of the Committee, Representative John Macco, recently announced the Ways and Means Committee will be taking up Wisconsin tax reform in the coming months, and the creation of four new subcommittees to help do an in-depth review of Wisconsin’s tax code. The subcommittees are designated to review the sales and use tax, personal and corporate income taxes, local government taxes and funding, excise taxes and fees, respectively. The subcommittees will be meeting over the next few months, and will present their findings to the full Ways and Means Committee in March of 2018. Stay tuned for future updates!

Community and In-District Events

Listening Sessions 

These last few weeks, I have been in and around the 48th Assembly District holding listening sessions. I had the opportunity to speak to a group of residents at Oakwood Village, and hear their questions on issues ranging from gun violence to alcohol use. I also had the opportunity to speak to folks over a beer at Alt Brew to talk about money in politics, gun violence, and the environment. I made sure to hand out copies of my neighborhood survey so folks could let me know more about what issues are important to them (which you can fill out online here). Thanks again to our great hosts at both locations!

Rep. Sargent In The News

WPR, Assembly Passes Bill Allowing Hunting At Any Age

The Cap Times, WEDC won't release Foxconn contract before it's signed

WKOW, New bills repeal tax and increase access to menstrual products

The Cap Times, Q&A: Jennifer Weiss-Wolf takes periods public in 'menstrual equity' fight

The Badger Herald, Lawmakers introduce bill to increase minimum wage for Wisconsin workers

Wisconsin Gazette, Sargent offering bill to repeal Wisconsin's 'Tampon Tax'

Special Highlight!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The last few weeks (hell, about the last year or so, give or take) have been really hard in politics, and on all of us, really. But I’m reminded during holidays like Thanksgiving about how grateful I am to be able to serve you in the Legislature, and how lucky I feel to have the opportunity to represent you and your family in the State Capitol every day.

Although we certainly have some work to do, and we have a long way to go toward our shared progressive vision of Wisconsin’s future, I’m honored to be in this fight with you. Safe travels, and have a great Thanksgiving!

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