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February 19th, 2021


E-Update: Legislative Happenings


Contents

  • PPP Bill signed into law
  • Roll Call Vote
  • Governor Evers Budget Proposal Introduced
  • Monroe Cheese TV Feature

  • Meetings
  • Deadlines for Crop Support Programs

 PPP Legislation Signed into Law

This week in session, the Assembly voted on a bipartisan basis to a pass a bill that will provide state-level tax relief for Wisconsin business recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. This bill eliminated an unnecessary tax burden on the small businesses that took these loans in order to remain open and keep their people employed. The bill was later signed into law by Governor Evers becoming Act 1 of the 2021-22 legislative session. I am proud to support this legislation as I believe it will make a difference and put small businesses in a stronger position as they begin to recover from the effects of the pandemic.


Roll Call Votes

Also happening this week, Senate Bill 62 (SB62) passed both the Senate and the Assembly. The bill will now be sent to Governor Evers for his signature. SB62 allows the State Public Defender (SPD) to exceed the annual cap on merit pay raises which will allow the SPD to achieve pay parity with Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs). An imbalance resulted when the SPD increase was left out of the budget last session. Last year, I voted in favor of a standalone bill that would have corrected this issue sooner. However, the timing of the pandemic disrupted its passage in the Senate.

The Governor signing this bill into law is critical as the SPD has lost 78 of roughly 370 attorneys since March of 2020. Providing these pay increases should assist with SPD retention. Having a strong SPD is critical to maintaining a well-functioning criminal justice system and ensuring the constitutional rights of the accused who cannot afford representation are preserved.

SB62 helps to strengthen the SPD and ensure that all Wisconsinites find equal justice in our courts, making our communities more just and safe.

 


Governor Evers Budget Proposal Introduced

Earlier this week, Governor Evers delivered his budget address to the Legislature. The budget included spending and tax increases, as well as many non-fiscal policy items that do not belong in a budget. While I am still working through the budget it is apparent that the spending levels appear to be unrealistic. The budget proposes paying for increased spending through tax increases. Proposing tax increases in this environment does not resonate with average Wisconsinites. It will be the hard work of the Legislature to craft a responsible budget in the coming months.

I do believe there are elements in Governor Evers budget in which we can find common ground. I was encouraged to see The Governor included many of the proposals that originated from the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality (Task Force) that I chaired last session. In particular, the Governor recommended increases for county conservation staff levels in order to support water quality efforts. This closely tracks with a bill I authored and introduced last session. With the Governor seemingly embracing the Task Force’s water proposals, I remain hopeful we’ll be able get some of those elements signed into law.

Additionally, the Governor included funding for free and charitable clinics as well as community health centers. This proposal is nearly identical to a bill I authored last session and reintroduced this session. Prior to the Governor’s budget address my bill received a hearing and favorable report out of committee in the Senate. I expect we’ll be working on the bill at the committee level in the Assembly over the coming weeks.

Finally, the Governor recommended a significant increase in state dollars dedicated to broadband access and expansion. This is encouraging to see as access to high quality broadband internet remains an obstacle in our district. This issue has been highlighted throughout the pandemic as schools and businesses were shuttered and many of my constituents shifted toward remote video meetings and other online platforms. The urban-rural disparity is glaringly obvious. Increasing access to rural broadband will be one of my main priorities this session. 

Again while I am discouraged by some of Governor Evers budget proposals, I do believe there are areas in which we can find common ground to craft a reasonable and responsible budget that addresses the needs and challenges that Wisconsin faces. Stay tuned to my newsletter in the coming weeks for more updates and developments on the state budget process.


Monroe Cheese Store Featured on Indianapolis News

A news crew from WTHR TV in Indianapolis recently filmed various locations in Wisconsin for a feature on Wisconsin and its deep rooted history in cheesemaking. Earlier this week a news story aired featuring Alp & Dell Cheese Store in Monroe. Alp & Dell Cheese Store is owned by Tony Zgraggen. The store features cheese that is locally produced in Green County. Green County currently has over 400 dairy farms and produces half a billion pounds in milk annually.

Tony and Alp & Dell Cheese are known for their deep roots in Swiss heritage. In fact, Tony is even known as a world-class yodeler in addition to his fondness for Swiss cheese.

You can find the link to the video here.


Meetings this Week

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet with student leaders from Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs). These school programs help develop citizenship, technical, leadership, and teamwork skills essential for students who are preparing for the workforce and further education. They enhance students' civic awareness and provide opportunities for developing social competencies and a wholesome attitude about living and working.

During the meeting I learned more about an initiative called "All CTSO". Wisconsin started the "All CTSO" initiative over 15 years ago when joint state officer training was in its inception. Today the tradition continues with shared "All CTSO" leadership events for all members. Students from the six CTSOs work together to develop leadership, teambuilding and organizational skills that will last them a lifetime. They are able to learn about what happens in each of the CTSOs as well as develop relationships for the future.

To learn more about CTSOs you can visit the website found here.

I also had the opportunity to meet with the Wisconsin Libraries Association to discuss their legislative priorities for this session. Several librarians from my district were present in the meeting, Sarah Kyrie from the Argyle Public Library, David Kranz and Michael Furgal from Monroe Public Library, as well as Nancy Howard and Vickie Strangel representing the Dodgeville Public Library.

I am a proud supporter of the public library system and I am really looking forward to continuing my efforts to support public libraries this session.

This week I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Arts Wisconsin. This organization helps support and develop arts programs in Wisconsin.

During the meeting we discussed initiatives to help bolster the tourism and arts industry in southwest Wisconsin.

It is estimated that in 2019 prior to the pandemic, $1.3 billion was spent in direct tourism spending throughout our district.

I believe it is important to continue supporting fine arts and other tourism programs in our district, especially during the recovery from the pandemic.


 Federal Crop Support Deadlines

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) reminds Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin producers that the final date to apply for crop insurance for spring crops such as barley, buckwheat, cabbage, canola, cigar binder tobacco, corn, cucumbers, dry beans, dry peas, flax, grain sorghum, green peas, hemp, hybrid seed corn, oats, onions, popcorn, potatoes, processing beans, soybeans, sugar beets, sunflowers, sweet corn, and wheat is March 15 for the 2021 crop year. Current policyholders who wish to make changes to their existing coverage also have until the March 15 sales closing date to do so.

Federal crop insurance is critical to the farm safety net. It helps producers and owners manage revenue risks and strengthens the rural economy. Producers may select from several coverage options, including yield coverage, revenue protection, and area risk policies.

Producers are encouraged to visit their crop insurance agent soon to learn specific details for the 2021 crop year. Agents can help producers determine what policy works best for their operation and review existing coverage to ensure the policy meets their needs.

For information on this program and other crop assistance program please click the link here.


Have a Great Weekend!

As always, please do not hesitate to follow up with any additional questions or concerns you may have. I can be reached at Rep.Novak@legis.wisconsin.gov or (608) 237-9151.