It’s been a busy few weeks here at the Capitol! Republicans scrambled to ram harmful legislation through the condensed legislative calendar they artificially created, which means certain bills weren’t given the due diligence and public input we must provide in a democracy. As always, I continue to advance my progressive agenda and push back against policies that will harm the people of Wisconsin while looking for ways to work on a bipartisan basis.
Common Sense Gun Safety Efforts
I’ve been absolutely heartbroken for the past few weeks in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. However, the organizing and energy I’ve seen from the young people in our community has been incredible, and gives me hope that we can get common sense gun safety measures passed here in Wisconsin. I was honored to join them as they marched to the Capitol – Our young people are showing us the way forward when policymakers have failed them.
Gun violence happens indiscriminately in rural, urban, and suburban places, as well as in Democratic and Republican districts. This violence takes place in the most ordinary, everyday places – concerts, movie theaters, college campuses, night clubs, elementary schools, and baseball fields. From a mass shooting in Las Vegas, to a domestic violence case in Wisconsin, gun violence pervades everyday American life.
My Republican colleagues continue to be in the death grip of the NRA and refuse to pass the most basic gun safety laws. Earlier this month, despite the support of 90% of the public, Assembly Republicans spent hours engaging in procedural maneuvers to block the consideration of a Democratic bill to require universal background checks (AB 65). In the end, Republicans prohibited the proposal from being considered.
But we tried again. Just yesterday, we advanced universal background checks (again), reinstating the 48 hour waiting period for handgun purchases, a bump stock ban, and lethal violence protection orders, which allow family members or law enforcement to request, through a judicial process, for guns to be removed from those intending to do harm. Republicans again voted against these common sense gun safety reforms.
Additionally, I joined with Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, and local high schools students in calling on Governor Walker to convene a special session on gun safety legislation.
Democrats have had a robust common sense gun safety legislative plan for the past several sessions – It’s time for Republicans to get serious about adopting them.
Here’s a short segment of my argument in favor of these common sense gun reforms on Here and Now.
Wisconsin Coalition for Gun Safety
The Wisconsin Coalition for Gun Safety (WCGS) is a nonpartisan organization composed of community stakeholders across Wisconsin dedicated to reducing gun violence through community engagement, legislative action, policy reform, and collaboration. WCGS is a diverse coalition that includes law enforcement, health care professionals, parents and community members, community organizations, violence prevention advocates, and faith communities. I am proud to be a founding member of this group.
WCGS has spent the last couple of weeks supporting our students and speaking out about the need for common sense gun reform. WCGS sent Governor Walker and Republican legislative leaders a letter that outlined a comprehensive plan to keep our schools, communities, and kids safe.
Included in the plan were common sense gun safety proposals that make it harder for dangerous individuals to gain access to firearms, policies that enhance school safety, and measures to support access to behavioral health services.
Governor Walker’s Incomplete School Safety Plan
Governor Walker released his school safety proposal this week, and the legislature took it up on the floor. The cornerstone of the policy proposal is grant funding for school district for facility upgrades, and it leaves out any mention of additional safety measures, such as universal background checks.
What is glaringly clear from his proposal is that the Governor did not listen to the thousands of students who were at the Capitol or who walked out of their classrooms around the state. Per usual, my Republican colleagues are nibbling around the edges of an issue they have a chance to address in a meaningful way.
The answer isn’t to make our schools fortresses – it’s to give schools the funding they need to create a positive school climate with social, emotional, and behavioral health supports. I’m also alarmed that the Governor’s proposal gives oversight of the grant program to Attorney General Brad Schimel, who seems intent on having more guns in our schools.
Here is my statement on the governor’s proposal.
Here is the WCGS’ statement on the governor’s proposal.
GOP Stands in the Way of Critical Wisconsin Elections Commission Funding
A retaliatory campaign against public officials and entities involved with several corruption investigations has reached a critical stage as Republicans refuse to act on a Wisconsin Elections Committee (WEC) request for additional staff position authority for election security issues.
It has been confirmed that “Russian government cyber actors” targeted Wisconsin’s voter registration system and/or other state agencies as a means of compromising our elections. Security concerns are especially acute in Wisconsin, where elections are run locally by 1,853 municipal clerks, creating many opportunities for breaches.
In the budget process, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) gave the WEC five additional positions, which Governor Walker subsequently vetoed. In fact, over the last two budgets, the WEC staff has been reduced by 28%. Following the Governor’s veto, the WEC submitted a request to JFC to restore three positions, two of which will focus on election security. It is important to note that the WEC is not requesting any additional funds and has the ability to pay for the additional staff through federal funding and other existing revenue streams.
We desperately need secure elections, and the failure of the Republicans on the JFC to provide the WEC with the authority for the staff they need will continue to leave Wisconsin vulnerable to interference by foreign government actors or parties, especially in advance of the 2018 elections. According to outgoing WEC Administrator Michael Hass, “[w]e are running out of time for the positions to be of significant help to the agency, clerks, or voters prior to the fall election cycle.”
Here’s a letter the Democrats on JFC sent to the co-chairs asking them to schedule a session to address WEC’s request.
Reasonable Accommodations for Student Victims of Sexual Assault
As we all know, sexual assault is an incredibly pervasive and dire issue on college campuses across the country. According to Callisto, a non-profit organization dedicated to combatting sexual assault on campuses nationwide, 20% of female students and 7% of male students will experience sexual assault during their time in school.
Sexual assault is the most under reported crime on campuses, yet it is one of the most common. At our UW campuses the number of reported sexual assaults has doubled since 2013, and our 13 four year campuses alone found a 44% increase of on-campus sexual assaults reported.
That’s why I’ve introduced a bill that would ensure that every student on a UW campus not only has the right to reasonable accommodations in the aftermath of a sexual assault, at no additional cost to them, but also that they are notified of this right, whether they pursue a formal investigation through the school or law enforcement. Accommodations can be a crucial aspect of healing after an assault and can prevent a survivor from dropping out of school or failing classes. Allowing a student to switch classes or forms to avoid contact with their attacker is a simple, yet effective way to ultimately help a survivor remain in school and feel safe.
These accommodations could include, but are not limited to:
Here are some of my upcoming office hours in the community – I hope to see you there!
Friday, April 6th
Cargo Coffee (750 E Washington Ave)
Friday, April 27th
Rule of 50
As we get closer to election season, I want to remind you of a longstanding legislative rule that ensures legislators don’t use taxpayer resources to campaign for public office. As of April 15th, which is the first day we can circulate nomination papers for re-election, legislators are prohibited from distributing state materials in quantities of 50 or more, including legislative emails. I will therefore be suspending this email newsletter as of April 15th until after the November elections. Please feel free, however, to connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.
We still have plenty of 2017-18 Blue Books available! The Blue Book was first published in 1853 and is essentially an encyclopedia of state government. They are available at no cost for residents of the 76th Assembly District. If you’d like one, please let my office know, and we’d be happy to mail you one!
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any state legislative questions or concerns! Keep those policy ideas coming – I get so many great ideas from you.