A Tribute to the Dean of the Senate If I had a mentor in the State Senate, it would be my colleague from Madison, State Senator Fred Risser. He and I share a head for details, a dedication to the legislative process and a love of western Wisconsin. He often traveled to his grandparents’ farm near Fountain City. “I like that country...
Speed and Secrecy: The Last Act If you were a legislative leader in Wisconsin, and had an opportunity to pass new laws before your party’s governor left office, what would you do? What would you fix as your last act in power?
Boards & Commissions: Opportunities to Serve “I’m retired and I want to stay that way,” the gentleman told our Senate Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism Committee. “But I am looking for opportunities to give back to our state.”
Preserving Our Hunting Heritage Opening weekend of gun deer season, conditions were nearly perfect. The weather was cool, but not too cold. The sun came out and warmed us. A light dusting of snow made it easy to see critters’ tracks from the night before.
Citizens Vote to Raise Property Taxes to Pay for Schools A little-told story from the recent election is the change happening across Wisconsin as citizens voted to increase their property taxes to pay for local schools.
Menominee Nation Honored for Assisting Victims of Peshtigo Fire On October 8, 1871, an intense firestorm roared through the village of Peshtigo, Wisconsin and the surrounding area. The Great Peshtigo Fire burned parts of northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan on the same night as the Chicago Fire, however there are little similarities between the two fires.
What Does Foxconn Mean to Me? “Hard to wrap my head around,” the woman shared as she considered Foxconn. Just what do big budget decisions mean to us?
WEDC: Facts Don’t Jibe with Rhetoric What happens to state money given to companies to create jobs? Do the jobs get created? How do we ensure the money is not misspent?
Getting Ready to Vote “I talked with a group of women in Galesville,” my friend Mary Lee told me. “They were full of questions about the election, like when is it, where do I vote, how do I find out if I’m registered?” Mary is one of many folks helping to make sure people know and when to vote.
Protecting Our Great Lakes Our Great Lakes hold twenty-one percent of all the world’s fresh surface water. Wisconsin has over 1,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. More than half our population lies within its watershed. The Lakes provide us with many opportunities for recreation, commerce, transportation, and...
Legislative Audit Bureau: The Sentinels of State Government “As Governor, I would get rid of the programs that don’t work and fund the ones that do,” said a candidate at a forum last summer. I am sure people thought just how would you know that?
Potato Disease, the UW and the Wisconsin Idea Late blight is a devastating potato and tomato disease that spreads quickly in late summer. It can wipe out a crop in just a few days. This disease caused the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s which led to the starvation or relocation of millions of Irish, including my ancestors.
Tribes and Lawmakers Meet to Resolve Issues “Can you fix Syria?” a woman asked me. “No,” I said as I shook my head. “Syria is a bit above my pay-grade. My international work [as State Senator] is limited to work with our Native Tribes.”
New Study: Speed and Secrecy in Lawmaking “The length of time bills were deliberated [in the Wisconsin Legislature] dropped significantly soon after Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators took control in 2011,” wrote investigative reporter Teodor Teofilov.
Local Leaders Call for Fixing the Road Budget “We budget, and have to save up, for over three years to do one mile or less [of road],” wrote Barb Traun the Maxville Town Clerk. Even with the savings, the Buffalo County Township must borrow to pave roads.
Supporting the UW Helps All of Wisconsin “Investing in the UW System is an investment in Wisconsin,” said University of Wisconsin President Ray Cross, calling for an investment of another $107.5 million in the next biennial budget.
Peering in the Schoolroom Window “Welcome back to school,” the newsletter proclaimed. The Superintendent welcomed all with a cheery letter describing the amazing team at the school.
New Research Points to Benefits of Medicaid Expansion “The dramatic decline in the share of children without health insurance over the past two decades is an American health policy success story,” wrote Alan Weil, the Editor in Chief of the journal Health Affairs. The journal is widely seen as a leader in reporting research related to health policy.
State Shared Revenue: Not Much Sharing Going On “I just hope the county doesn’t cut the budget,” a local judge told me. We were discussing how effectiveness of his alternative treatment court program and how much he needed money to keep the program operating.
Fix State-Local Mental Health Partnerships “Let me tell you a story,” the county supervisor said.
Federal and State Decisions affect Health Insurance Premiums for Wisconsinites Recent news on the health front should give Wisconsinites pause when considering the direction our state is headed related to affordable health coverage.
Honoring Our Aging Veterans “How are things at our veterans’ homes?” the Korean War vet asked me at a forum on veterans’ issues. The man was particularly concerned about what he heard about care at our Veterans Homes.
Critical Needs Go Unmet - Study Provides Insight to Struggling Schools How can a rural school meet critical needs when money for schools is less than adequate?
Hemp Growing Pains “I, as a licensed hemp grower, cannot get a list of hemp processors in Wisconsin,” wrote Butch Mondeau. He stressed the problem is "a state road block.”
Audit Committee Explores Agency Accountability At a recent public hearing of the Joint Committee on Audit, on which I serve as ranking minority member, lawmakers publicly pondered how to hold government accountable if they repeatedly ignored audit findings.
Penalizing People for Being Poor: Court Case Challenges Policy Do new strict requirements for Medicaid adopted by states violate the law? A federal court is set to decide after recent arguments presented by policy experts who said the requirements do violate law.
The Way Wisconsin Funds Schools Must Change The way Wisconsin pays for schools is unfair, inequitable and antiquated.
Former DOT Secretary: Honest Discussion about Transportation Needed Farmers in western Wisconsin are worried new bridge weight limits will add time and cost to their already stressful lives.
Sand Mine Spill Exposes the Consequences of Poor Regulation “A really unfortunate series of circumstances,” was how Kevin Lien described a recent spill of ten million gallons of orange sludge from a sand mine processing facility.
Attorney General Causes Scare with Local Hemp Farmer Abbie Testaberg is a soon-to-be Wisconsin hemp farmer. She and her husband will be planting, growing, harvesting and processing hemp this year at the Kinnie Hemp Company near River Falls. They are among the many farmers who received a license to grow hemp this year.
Watching My Son Cross the Stage “Can’t you be a toddler again, just for a day?” the mom asked her son. I stood with other moms drinking tea. The moms shared stories about children growing up.
NAMI: Wisconsinites Helping Those Affected by Mental Illness ‘Mental health issues have touched my family in many ways,” Barb Habben recently told me. “Because of this [work with NAMI] has become my second career.” Barb is the local coordinator of NAMI Chippewa Valley.
Audit Reveals Serious Management Issues at State Fair Park “The State Fair is greatly loved by people all over the state,” Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said at a recent Audit Committee hearing. “But the back-office operations need to be improved.”
Rural School Leaders: Schools in Wisconsin are Unequal “Where kids live should not determine their education,” rural school administrators told members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding Reform.
“What Can We Do to Protect Our Water?” “What can we do to protect our water?” This is a question I am often asked. Many Wisconsin residents are concerned about protecting our precious natural resources, and much of the concern is focused on water quality.
Serious State Tech Problems Need Public Scrutiny Is the state of Wisconsin at risk for a cyber-attack? A new audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) shed light on what may be vulnerabilities in the state’s Information Technology (IT) system that could affect every business, taxpayer, student or recipient of state services.
Blue Ribbon Commission Explores School Funding Inequity Linda Brown recently passed away in Topeka, Kansas. Ms. Brown was the student at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education that struck down school segregation. Ms. Brown’s father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll his nine-year old daughter in the all-white Sumner School.
Why I am Voting “No” on Eliminating the State Treasurer Spring Elections are here. Voters are going to the polls to elect a new Supreme Court Justice and many local officials, from county board to school board. Voters will also make a decision to change our Wisconsin Constitution.
Giving a Voice to People Who Live with Disabilities “Many people with disabilities depend on public programs so they can stay healthy and live, work and participate in the community,” Jason Endres wrote to me in favor of a bill I recently introduced.
Listening to Those Who Cannot Hear “The quality of interpreters is so important. I need someone who has the fluent skills to work with me,” Leah Simmons explained. “Their lack of knowledge reflects negatively on me.”
One Step Moves Us Forward “Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise, I’ll see you Tuesday.” I said as I left the office in Madison.
A Wheelchair is Not a Trampoline: Questioning Assumptions about Support “Public assistance should be a trampoline not a hammock,” read the title of Governor Walker’s press release touting work on a package of bills introduced in a Legislative Special Session. The bills made changes to certain programs targeted at helping those living in poverty.
Removing Wetland Protections Needs Serious Deliberation “How can they possibly know what they are voting on?” she asked me. I replied there is no time to talk with people and learn the effects of these changes.
Moving Broadband Forward for Wisconsin In a recent committee hearing, I argued majority lawmakers were moving broadband expansion forward by press release and little else.
Who is Working Under New Wisconsin Works Program “With more people working in Wisconsin…, we can’t afford to have anyone on the sidelines, we need everyone in the game,” stated Governor Walker, calling for a special session to take up bills he nicknamed, “Wisconsin Works for Everyone.”
Farmers Advocate for Agriculture and Rural Communities Farmers from several western Wisconsin counties traveled to Madison as part of the annual Ag Day at the Capitol.
Kicking Us When We Are Down … Mom asked her to stop at the store to buy milk. She touched the coupons and note. She couldn’t lose them. Mom was so sick with cancer.
Why Are My Property Taxes So High? “I’m paying higher property taxes and I haven’t had a raise in years.” Sound familiar?
Looking Forward to 2018 Snow falls gently on the farm. It’s the light, fluffy snow that comes when it’s very cold.