Greetings from House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan's office balcony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC! In Wisconsin, I'm a member of the new Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations. In that capacity, I traveled with my colleagues this week (including committee chairman Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, pictured above at far right) to the nation's capital to talk about a number of topics that require cooperation between federal and state authorities. For example, in addition to some productive meetings with our Wisconsin Congressional delegation, we visited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to discuss Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program; we talked tax reform, infrastructure and transportation with the National Conference of State Legislatures; we visited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (see below); and much more. I returned to Wisconsin confident that the new administration intends to make good on many ideas to return authority to the states, roll back many of the unfair federal rules promulgated over the past few years and get our tax system (and our out-of-control federal spending) under control. More photos of my visit, including additional photos of our conversation with Speaker Ryan, are on my Facebook page.
As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions. Best wishes on your weekend!
Cleaning Up the Clean Air Act?
A great example of an issue that requires federal cooperation to resolve is Sheboygan County's nonattainment status under the federal Clean Air Act. For decades, the federal government has declared Sheboygan County to be a place where ozone levels in the atmosphere are too high. Our allegedly dirty air is the reason why our residents, unlike residents in most of Wisconsin, are required to have our cars undergo emissions testing (costing millions of taxpayer dollars), and it's why local businesses are required to spend millions of dollars in state-of-the-art pollution control measures.
Trouble is, the data is just plain wrong. The data comes from an air quality monitor right on Lake Michigan that the federal government intentionally located in a spot where it would measure the pollution that is generated in other states. Studies prove that Wisconsin contributes less than 10 percent of the ozone being measured there. A new air quality monitor, located near downtown Sheboygan, gives a much more representative sample of the county's true air quality; its data shows that our air is more than clean enough to meet the federal standards. In fact, you could shut off every single ozone source in Sheboygan County and the Lake Michigan monitor data would still say that we're failing to do our part. But, so far, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has remained unwilling to change our nonattainment designation, so our businesses have to keep spending big money (and limiting their opportunities to grow) trying in vain to fix a problem that isn't ours.
Along with other state legislators and many stakeholders in Sheboygan County, I have been serving as part of a task force to communicate to our federal partners how much this unfair extra regulation is hurting our communities and urging them to reconsider the nonattainment designation. (I've even heard anecdotes of families who have considered moving to Sheboygan County but changed their minds when they learned of our nonattainment status because they figure that our air must be unsafe. It just isn't true!) We are very eager to work with new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and others in the new administration to demonstrate that Wisconsin is able to comply with reasonable environmental protection standards. Pictured below is our task force after a recent work group meeting with Senator Johnson at the Blue Harbor Resort. We're going to get this resolved!
Drug Take Back Day
This Saturday, April 29th is "Drug Take Back Day" across Wisconsin. Local law enforcement agencies, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration, offer these events to provide the public with safe, accessible opportunities to dispose of unused medications.
Despite the many steps taken over the past few years by the state legislature (mainly via the HOPE Agenda) to combat the drug abuse epidemic, government can never prevent all drug abuse. More than two thirds of people who have abused prescription painkillers got them illegally from a family member or friend. It's a good idea to make use of events such as Drug Take Back Day to get unneeded medications out of your house entirely and to dispose of them safely. (Side note: it's a really bad idea to flush medicines down the drain. Water treatment facilities are not equipped to fully remove these substances from the public water supply; trace amounts of pharmaceuticals are showing up in rivers and lakes!)
On Saturday, St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan, Oostburg Village Hall, the Plymouth Intergenerational Center and the Random Lake Fire Department (among others) will all be accepting unwanted medications for disposal from 10:00 AM until 1:00 PM. Other nearby locations (including the Sheboygan and Sheboygan Falls Police Departments) accept unwanted medications year-round, 24/7. Click here to find a specific location near you; click here for specific program guidelines.