Even as work continues on the 2017-19 state budget, the Assembly has convened twice in the last nine days to take up "regular" legislation that affects real people across our state. We took action to protect freedom of expression on our college campuses (more on that below). We're cracking down on the thieves who hijack credit card technology to steal from innocent folks. We moved to increase the options and resources (including state grant money) available to owners of contaminated wells. We are ensuring that all Wisconsin pupils are learning financial literacy skills at school. We're increasing accountability at the state agencies that issue regulations to make sure that elected officials, rather than bureaucrats, have a proper level of oversight and review. Perhaps most significant of all, we passed a measure this week that would protect those with preexisting health conditions and help them maintain affordable health care coverage--regardless of whether Congress repeals part, all or none of Obamacare. (This memo helps explain our move. Regrettably, Assembly Democrats decided to vote against that one.) You may click here and here for the complete lists of legislative business that we have tackled since last week.
These are big, complex issues that Wisconsinites struggle with. We can't legislate away every challenge that folks face, but I promise that we'll keep looking for creative ways to make Wisconsin a better place to live and work.
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!
Campus Free Speech Act
The American way of life (including our tradition of limited government, our entrepreneurship, our arts and culture--everything!) hinges on the individual right to free expression. But in several high-profile incidents at college campuses around the country, and in countless incidents that fail to make headlines, intimidation and even violence have disrupted the free flow of ideas inside and outside the classroom.
That's not the America that I want to hand down to my children and grandchildren. So I voted this week in support of Assembly Bill 299, which will protect free speech on UW System schools and encourage intellectual diversity. The bill directs the Board of Regents to establish a policy that protects the First Amendment freedom of expression on UW campuses and communicate that policy to all students during orientation activities. The bill creates real penalties for students who trample others' rights: a student who interferes twice with others' rights to free speech faces a suspension, and a third time could mean expulsion.
I wish it weren't necessary for the legislature to step in. But we can't permit political violence to close the doors of our taxpayer-subsidized universities to certain students or certain invited speakers, as has been happening around the nation. Outrageous, intimidating conduct should have meaningful consequences, and intellectual diversity must be the norm rather than the exception at our schools.
Secrets of the Capitol
As you may remember from my previous newsletters, the Wisconsin State Capitol building turns 100 years old this year. If you haven't already, I highly recommend that you check out the special Facebook page that has been created to help share the many memories made at the Capitol over the years. Some of my favorite posts on that page so far are the 1953 photo (posted on June 1) of Governor Kohler posing on the lawn alongside Alice in Dairyland and Elsie the Cow; the Popular Mechanics article (posted on June 5) published shortly after construction was completed; and the April Fools Day newspaper headline from 1933 (posted on April 1) that jokingly reported that the dome had toppled off of the Capitol due to excessive hot air generated by the legislature.
You might also get a kick out of the article published in the Wisconsin State Journal this week entitled "Capitol secrets: 10 little-known facts about the Wisconsin State Capitol building." Did you know, for example, that Governor Tommy Thompson once climbed scaffolding all the way to the top of the dome and touched the statue up there? Or that there is a ghost in the Assembly chamber? Or that the Mayor of Sheboygan once threatened legal action over Wisconsin's official replica of the Liberty Bell?
Wisconsin is a beautiful state with a beautiful history. I hope you'll take a few minutes to enjoy some of these fun stories that bring our history alive!