February 11, 2016

Senate session speeding to an end

By Sen. Lena C. Taylor

Was the presidential debate in Milwaukee on Thursday a good thing?

When the Democratic National Committee brought the Democratic candidates for President to Milwaukee, they shined a light on our city.

Milwaukee is the home of a public research college, the two professional sports teams and the most fortune 500 companies in Wisconsin.

Yet, there is an incredible race problem in Milwaukee.

This week, PBS ran a special titled “Race matters: Why is Milwaukee so bad for black people?”

So what’s the answer?

The truth is that there isn’t any one answer. Our government must take responsibility from our federal government down to our state and local governments. Every level of government can do better for our community.

But it’s not all on government. It’s on us too. As a community, we must take ownership of this problem. I’ve been doing some great collaborations in our community to help alleviate racial health disparities, which ultimately will reduce our educational, incarceration and income disparities as well. Stay tuned to this column for more on that effort in the future.

As someone who still lives on the same block I grew up on, I know the problems mentioned in the PBS story are real. But with the end of Wisconsin’s 2-year legislative session coming to an end, I wanted you to know a few of the bills I’ve introduced over the past six weeks that will help address some of these problems.

Officially, the session isn’t supposed to be over until April 28th. However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ pledge to end Assembly action by February 18th has led to a scramble to get the job done by this deadline.

Just since January 1st, I’ve introduced over 30 bills and resolutions. I know the end of the Legislative session is near, but it’s not in me to slow down. I’m going to fight until the very end to help our community. Our state government has failed the people of Milwaukee and I will fight until the very last day to turn our government around. I believe there is no reason Milwaukee has to have the highest incarceration rate of black men in the nation. I believe we can turn around our illiteracy rate, poverty rate and health disparities.

Here are 11 bills I’ve put out there in the last six weeks.

  • Ban the Box – Prohibits employers from inquiring as to a person’s criminal record on the job application.
  • Truth in Corrections Budgeting Act – requires all bills that increase criminal penalties to have a fiscal estimate.
  • Revocation by Poverty – Prohibits a person’s probation or parole being revoked because they are too poor to pay their fines.
  • Restoring right to vote – allows individuals living in our community on probation or parole to vote.
  • Collateral consequences of convictions – Requires a person to be informed of collateral consequences of their conviction, such as professions they will no longer be able to hold, if they plead guilty of a felony before entering a plea agreement.

6-7) Criminal and civil CCAP expungement – Both these bills give people another chance by removing from CCAP a person’s finding of innocent, not guilty, pardons and certain civil judgements.

  • Creating an independent pardon council – Because Governor Scott Walker refuses to do his duty, this bill creates an independent pardon council to hear people’s pleas for pardon.
  • Substitute teacher pay equity – Substitute teachers who spend 30 or more days in the same classrooms deserve to be paid like their educational counterparts. This is a matter of fairness and economic justice.

10)  Tipped worker minimum wage – 1 in 10 tipped workers have reported their daily wages plus tips do not meet the minimum wage. Because many employers do not follow the law, this bill will simply require these workers earn the minimum wage.

  • Microstamping of bullets – This would help catch the criminals of many unsolved gun crimes in Wisconsin by leaving an imprint like a fingerprint on the bullet of a shot fired.

With just a few weeks left in the legislative session, I will keep fighting for these and the dozens of other proposals I’ve put forward this session.

To join Senator Taylor in her Legislative efforts, stay in the loop at Facebook.com/SenLenaTaylor, Twitter.com/SenTaylor, Instagram.com/Lena.Taylor or join her email list by emailing Sen.Taylor@legis.wi.gov.