There is a
lot happening at the State Capitol and it is my hope that this email will
help you stay in touch with your government. As your Senator, I truly
believe in public service. If there is anything my office can do to
assist you, please feel free to contact us.
This Wednesday, I
joined the Center for Suicide Awareness in hosting the Empty Shoes
Memorial on the steps of the Capitol. This event aimed to raise awareness
about suicide's impact by displaying 900 empty shoes and 173 empty
military combat boots on the Capitol's front lawn. The visual impact of
it all was heartbreaking. The memorial was held in conjunction with the
passage of a resolution that Representative Jacque and I sponsored,
officially recognizing September as National Suicide Prevention Month.
Suicide is a critical issue that doesn't receive enough attention. This
event not only brought more attention to the issue, but also allowed the
community to connect with one another and learn more about resources that
provide constant emotional support, such as HOPELINE. HOPELINE is the
Emotional Support Text Line in the State of Wisconsin which helped
prevent 42 suicides in 2016. This year, I introduced a motion to provide
funding to HOPELINE in the Wisconsin State Budget, but it was shot down
during the Joint Committee on Finance along party lines, with all 12
Republicans voting against.
While I am disappointed that HOPELINE funding was rejected by the
majority-seated party, I am proud of the work that the Center for Suicide
Awareness does in our communities. I will continue to work within the
capitol and around the state to fight for access to health care and help
reduce and prevent the devastating number of suicides in our state.
Sickle Cell Event
On Tuesday, I spoke
at the Sickle Cell Awareness event held by the Froedtert Hospital and the
Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW). This event celebrated the success of
bringing increased awareness to sickle cell disease. Affecting over
100,000 Americans, sickle cell disease is an inherited red blood cell
disease that decreases the amount of red blood cells within the body,
leading to enhanced pain and other severe medical issues, such as stroke
and kidney failure.
Through the continued efforts of MCW and Froedtert Hospital, local
advocacy groups like Independence First and national advocacy groups such
as Sickle Cell Warriors have been able to reduce and better treat sickle
cell in our communities. Compared to decades ago, public education about
this disease has improved, more research has been funded and increased
ways to manage the disease have been discovered. I am proud of the work
that the MCW and Froedtert Hospital are doing across Wisconsin and
recognize that there is still more work to do.
I have the privileged opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Dane
County's 2017 Freedom Fund Dinner. As a local branch of the national
NAACP, the organization is dedicated to ensuring and protecting the
rights of all citizens. As stated by their former President Benjamin Jealous,
the NAACP is both steadfast in ending the societal problems and immovable
in their fight to do so. The Freedom Fund Dinner serves as the branch's
annual fundraiser, that enables their work both on the local and national
level. Since 1909, the NAACP has stood up against racism, bigotry, and
unequal treatment under the law. The NAACP, through grassroots
organizing, has used marches, civil disobedience, and the courts to
expose and fight against the social ills that plague this nation. From
Little Rock to our nation's capitol, the NAACP has stood strong. I am
honored to stand with them tonight to recognize their important work.
on the Fifth Wednesday of the Month
This past Tuesday
was National Voter Registration Day. I want to comment on the relatively
recently implemented voter photo I.D. laws in the Wisconsin State
Legislature. In 2011, Governor Scott Walker passed a bill requiring a
strict voter photo I.D. requirements that placed extreme limits on what
kinds of identifications were acceptable. After being implemented in
February of 2012 for the first time, the law faced challenges in the
judicial system. Though some parts of the bill were struck down as
unconstitutional, the same strict spirit of the bill remained intact.
When the Supreme Court declined to hear the case in 2014, the law was put
back into effect. In the 2016 elections when Wisconsin had its lowest
voter turnout since 2000, many wondered about the impact of photo I.D.
requirements and access on voter turnout.
For example, in Sauk City, WI, the only place to obtain a valid driver's
license or state-issued ID for the purpose of voting is the state
Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, the DMV customer service
center in Sauk City is only open on the fifth Wednesday of every month,
which totaled out to only four days of 2016. To access the nearest DMV in
another town, requires traveling a minimum of 20 miles. This is an undue
burden and has the effect of disenfranchising residents in Sauk. Further,
a study released this Monday, by UW-Madison political scientist Ken
Mayer, concluded 16,800 to 23,250 voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties,
in Wisconsin did not vote because of the voter ID law. Those most
affected appear to be voters of color, young voters and newly registered
voters. Whether Sauk or Milwaukee, I am working to ensure fair treatment
and ease of access to voting in our state.
High Cost of Doing Business with Foxconn
This week, documents
released by North Carolina officials showed they offered Foxconn $570
million in an effort to bring the technology plant to their state.
Ultimately, under Governor Walker's leadership, Wisconsin will pay nearly
5 times more than North Carolina to obtain the plant. State lawmakers
were repeatedly told that other states had made "better offers"
by the Governor and others supporting the Foxconn deal. Yet, we have yet
to see proof that any other state was willing to match the excessive
financial agreement we entered into with Foxconn.
Foxconn will basically pay no corporate tax in the state, as we struggle
to fund transportation and fill huge gaps in education funding for our
public schools. In 2011, the federal Government Accountability Office
reported that at least 60 percent of all U.S. companies -- including many
small ones -- reported no federal income-tax liability from 1998 to 2005.
In 2017, a new report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
found that 258 profitable Fortune 500 companies earning more than $3.8
trillion in profits paid no taxes in at least one year between 2008 and 2015.
I want Wisconsin and the country to be competitive in luring and
retaining businesses. However, I am also committed to taxpayers getting
straight-forward answers regarding the Foxconn incentive package and how
we compared to other states involved in the bidding process.
for Black Women's Empowerment
Saturday, I am
attending the Black Women's Empowerment March in Milwaukee. Hosted by
Uplifting Black Liberation and Community (UBLAC), the march is intended
to demonstrate solidarity with the March for Racial Justice happening in
Washington, D.C. on the same day. Speaking out against systems of
institutionalized racism, especially those affecting women and girls are
at the core of their mission to see an equitable future for communities
of color. After the march, UBLAC plans to continue to build an agenda to
better the lives of women and girls in Milwaukee, taking into account the
specific struggles we face here in our city. I am a firm believer in creating
a world in which all women, especially those in communities of color,
feel empowered to have their voices heard. I proudly stand with UBLAC and
all those who continue the fight to improve the lives of women and girls
or Stand, But Be Engaged
This past week, the
decision to kneel or stand at an NFL game has gained national attention
at the misguided stoking of the U.S. President. Mudding the waters of a
difficult discussion around first amendment rights to free speech, we
have watched the narrative of Colin Kaepernick's initial protest be
changed from one of calling attention for the deaths of unarmed
African-American men and women at the hands of law enforcement to
disrespect for veterans. The flag and anthem are a symbol of American
ideals and do not belong to one group, race, or organization. That is
likely why there is no constitutional requirement in which one has to
stand during the rendering of the national anthem.
The beauty of being in a country like the United States is that as
citizens, we are allowed to freely voice our opinions, without fear of
imprisonment or punishment, ironically unless you are actively serving in
the military. I encourage all to become involved with issues that you
care about, whether locally, nationally, or internationally. If you are
already engaged, thank you for your contributions and continued efforts
to build a better community for all! If not, I urge you to find an issue
you are passionate about and get to work! As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be
the change you wish to see in the world."