July 23, 2021


Shoreland Zoning Bill Gets Senate Public Hearing

This week, I was in Madison to attend a public hearing in the Senate for one of my bills, Senate Bill 387, which would make changes to county shoreland zoning ordinances relating to fences near public highways. The Assembly companion bill (AB 387) received a public hearing a couple weeks ago.

Currently, every county in Wisconsin is required to have a Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, which includes a shoreland setback area of 75 feet, and provides that a county ordinance may not prohibit the construction of certain structures within the setback area.  Those structures include such things as boathouses, utility lines and poles, satellite dishes, walkways that provide pedestrian access to a waterway, gazebos, and patios, as long as these structures meet certain requirements. Currently, there isn’t any exemption for a fence within a setback area near a public highway.  In certain instances a fence would be appropriate for safety and privacy along a busy highway. 

I introduced Senate Bill 387/Assembly Bill 387 after a resident of the 36th Assembly District brought this to my attention. The Department of Transportation (DOT) was doing a reconstruction project along the highway he lived on and needed to remove his mature treeline to do the work. He understood the project was necessary and an agreement was reached with DOT that a fence would be installed to replace the trees.  Only after the fence was installed was he informed that because of a nearby creek his property was subject to the local shoreland zoning ordinance and his fence wasn’t a permitted structure.

I began working on solutions to address this issue because there would certainly be instances when a fence along a public highway would be important for public safety, but I also wanted to protect the integrity of our shoreland zoning laws. I reached out to the DNR and DOT for feedback along the way and with the support and guidance of the DNR I introduced this bill, which should give some clarity on when a fence would be an appropriate structure. 

I'm pleased that other legislators have agreed this is a worthwhile change and added their names as cosponsors.  I was proud to be able to speak in support of this bill before the Senate Committee. I hope to see the bill signed into law this session.

This is a perfect example of how the residents of the 36th Assembly District can be involved in the legislative process.  Some of the best bills are a result of an experience a constituent has and we can work together to find a solution that can make things better. 

Question of the Week: 
Social Media Censorship

Social media has become more and more essential as a method of communication for Wisconsinites. From connecting with family, staying informed on local news and events, and even promoting businesses, social media has become involved in almost every aspect of people's lives. Because of that, these sites have been active places for folks to use their right to free speech by engaging with legislators and officials. However, sometimes these platforms have used their power to restrict folks from sharing their thoughts and concerns. 

Because of that, a new bill was introduced that would create requirements and prohibitions for social media platforms in how they regulate users and their content. In an effort to bring accountability and transparency to how these corporations work, the bill would prohibit social media companies from censoring content by or about candidates or elected officials. It would also require them to: 

  • Publish their content moderation standards
  • Apply content moderation consistently across all of its users
  • Give notification and an explanation for certain censoring actions, and provide annual notice of the types of algorithms used in moderation
  • Allow users to opt out of their algorithm's post prioritization (prioritizing certain content ahead of or below other content in searches, feeds, etc)

Supporters of the bill say that it protects people's right to free speech and their ability to engage in uncensored discussions with other Wisconsinites regardless of their beliefs. They believe that social media is unequally censoring people and posts based on the beliefs that are being expressed, and that this bill would increase accountability for these companies and protect our free speech and expression. 

Opponents of the bill say that free speech protects us from government censorship, not censorship by private companies. Since social media platforms are not owned by the government, they say there is no law that prevents these platforms from regulating their content. They also believe that even though free expression is important, we also should make sure to censor unnecessarily threatening or intentionally misleading, false, or potentially hazardous information or language on social media.

With the importance of this issue, particularly in recent years, I would like to hear your thoughts on this proposed bill. Please take a moment to answer my question of the week:

Click here for my Question of the Week

Last Week's Results:
GI Bill Eligibility Changes

I've heard from many people around the 36th Assembly District in response to last week's question. The chart below represents the responses from constituents to the question as of Tuesday afternoon.

Follow the Legislative Action

In order to stay up to date on any legislation, proposals, or your legislator, a free notification service is available through the Wisconsin State Legislature's website. You can sign up for nightly personalized email notifications based on our state's legislative activity. This is a wonderful way to stay informed about state politics and proposals that you are interested in.