According to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos's declaration, the Assembly may not reconvene to take any further action this year, the 2017-2018 legislative session may be over. It is certainly possible we may come back to meet on bills and amendments the Senate takes up later this month. Even though we are officially out of session, I will continue to meet with constituents, community leaders, and fellow elected officials to make sure I am doing everything I can to be responsive to the needs and interests of Kenosha. I don't imagine you were watching at 1:00AM on the last day, but you can see what may well be the very last speech I give this session by clicking on the link: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/View-Video-Clip?vid=15385&start=00-30-16&end=00-34-26
Thanks to all of you living in the 65th Assembly District who have sent back your questionnaire I recently mailed out. I will be reading all of the comments and we will be tabulating the results to get a clearer idea of what your priorities are. If you haven’t sent it in yet, it’s not too late!
As always, if you would like something to be included in future e-newsletters, or have a problem with a state relate related problem, just let me know at (608) 266-0455 or Rep.Ohnstad@legis.wi.gov.
The 2017-2018 Legislative Session Comes to an End If you live in the 65th district, you should have received a legislative update from me in the mail, which summarizes my work on your behalf in the State Assembly. Since January of last year, I have seen some positive steps forward for our state in certain areas. And, unfortunately, I have also seen many negative actions taken which I believe will hurt the people of our state. With problems related to lead-contaminated water in local municipalities and a need for cultivating Wisconsin businesses promoting our state arts and culture still need to take place.
AB 290: I was pleased to co-sponsor this bill which will make it fiscally possible to replace lead pipe laterals in cities like Kenosha. Lead in drinking water is known to be extremely harmful to young children. Although the bill was weakened in the legislative process from where it began, it will still be helpful for the city of Kenosha and others throughout the state. Unfortunately some of the other lead related bills I worked on this session did not pass this session.
AB 393: I was once again disappointed the “creative economy” bill was not allowed a vote by the Assembly Republican leadership. This is the third session I have been a co-sponsor of this bi-partisan bill which would help energize down towns across our state.
The safety of my constituents is my top priority. This session, I opposed these bills, which I fear will do more harm than good to Wisconsin:
AB 547: Also known as the 'Wetlands Bill', this legislation will exempt non-federal and artificial wetlands from certain Department of Natural Resources wetland permitting requirements.
AB 748: In the wake of Act 10, so-called "Right to Work" and repeal of the prevailing wage, Wisconsin workers have fewer rights than ever in the workplace. Labor peace is critical to labor-management cooperation, this bill will cause more strikes and less cooperation between workers and their employers.
AB 759: The predatory nature of the Rent-to-Own industry rents household appliances to to individuals facing financial barriers. This bill seeks to exempt the industry from the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Act, which if exempted, will not requires businesses to provide customers with information like a truth-in-lending disclosure and interest accrual rate.
AB 811: This bill directs the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to collaborate with state agencies to develop and implement initiatives for the attraction of talent to and retention of talent in Wisconsin, including by leveraging the existing programs of state agencies for those purposes. it comes with nearly a $7 million price tag. I believe spending money to train Wisconsin workers would have been a better path.
Throughout the last year and a half, though, whether the outcome has been one I agree with or not, I am proud to say I have worked hard to represent the needs and interests of Kenosha. The 65th District is truly special, and it is my privilege to serve you in the Assembly.
There is new office art from Lemon Street Gallery! From clockwise: James Block, Sandy Boat Dock, Watercolor Barbara Farrell Bowl of Bings on Gossamer Things, Acrylic Juli Janovicz Pink Crayon Sky, Mixed Media
Foster Forward Initiative & Address the Opioid Crisis While there have been a number of things negatively impacting the state, there have also been a number of positive outcomes to come out of this session.
I am pleased to have voted for a group of bills on the Speaker's Task Force on Foster Care. Here in Wisconsin, there are proposed over 5,100 foster homes care for nearly 8,000 children a year, and it is not always possible for these families to get the support they need. Often times, some children in the foster care system do not return to their biological families nor find an adoptive family.
All 13 of the the Foster Forward bills passed the Assembly unanimously with bi-partisan support, and will now move to the Senate.
Additionally we also passed bills to address the opioid crisis earlier this session.
Tell Gov. Walker: Pass Common Sense Gun Control Legislation
On February 14th, 2018, we witnessed one of the largest school related shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012. This Stoneman Douglas tragedy underscores the number of American children affected by gun violence. Comprehensive background checks for firearm sales would reduce segments of gun violence with over 90% of the American people supporting universal background checks for gun purchases. When we tried to bring a background check bill up for a vote, we could not get the Republicans to vote for it.
As you may know, Wisconsin law prohibits the possession or shooting of a firearm within a school zone. The regulation of firearms in Wisconsin, which was modeled on the federal Gun-Free Zone Act of 1990, defines a school zone as the school building, the school grounds, and the area within 1,000 feet of the school grounds. Such legislation enhances the safety of children while within Wisconsin’s educational settings.
This session, I signed on to a letter circulated by my colleague Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) to Governor Walker calling on him to advance gun safety legislation immediately. In addition to the letter, on February 20th, my Democratic colleagues and I urged for legislation requiring universal background checks to be brought to the Assembly floor. Unfortunately, Republicans made the irresponsible decision to refuse a vote to even consider background checks.
Dark Stores I am disappointed Republicans voted against taking up AB 386, the Dark Store bill, on the Assembly floor during the February 13th session. It is important for this legislation to be brought up--the more we delay this legislation, the greater the amount of tax burden is shifted away from big box retailers and toward local homeowners.
As you may know, the 'dark store' issue focuses on a tax loophole being used by Big Box retailers and other national chains to lower the amount they pay in property taxes. They argue that when the government assesses the market value of their store for tax purposes, it should be based on the sales of similar size “comparable” properties that are vacant and abandoned.
I am a proud cosponsor of bipartisan legislation which would close this 'dark store' loophole here in Wisconsin and signed on to a letter circulated by Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha), calling for the Governor to hold a special session on this matter. Despite the bi-partisan nature of the legislation and support from local governments and elected officials across the state, Speaker Vos indicated he has no intention of passing this common sense bill this legislative session. By refusing to pass legislation, they denied tax fairness to Wisconsin residents and sided with special interest groups. Closing the dark store loophole would save money for municipalities, counties, and school districts.
Assembly Hometown Hero During the February 15th floor session, Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and I had the opportunity to recognize Tammi Conforti for her outstanding leadership and commitment to the City of Kenosha.
Through her leadership, the Kenosha Dream Playground Project raised over $1 million from donors, businesses and grants. It was built with the help of over 3,000 volunteers, myself included.
Upcoming Events Lemon Street Gallery Featured Artist Exhibit When: March 10, 2018, 6 – 9 p.m. Where: 4601 Sheridan RD, Kenosha, WI 53140 What: Meet the artists and enjoy refreshments at the opening reception.
Susan B. Anthony Women of Influence Awards Dinner When: Friday, March 23th @ 6pm Where: Madrigrano Marina Shores, 302 58th Street What: The purpose of the Susan B. Anthony Award is to annually honor lifetime achievement of an outstanding woman who lives in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/susan-b-anthony-awards-dinner-tickets-42109391323
6th Annual Police & Firefighter’s Ball When: March 24, 2018 5:00 - 11:00 pm Where: Madrigrano Marina Shores, 302 58th Street, Kenosha, WI What: Reserve seats at: KPFBall18.Gesture.com A charitable event for the Kenosha Community hosted by Kenosha Professional Police Association and Kenosha Professional Firefighters Association Local 414.
The Tabernacle’s Chili Cook Off When: Sun, March 25, 2018, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Where: The Tabernacle, 7951 36th Ave, Kenosha, WI 53142 What: Admission to the event will be at the door only. The cost is $8/person or $32/family (Kids 3 years & under are free)
18th Annual Bowls & Books Soup Fest Contest When: March 28th, 2018, 11AM—1PM and 5PM—7PM Where: Kenosha Rhode Center for the Arts What: The restaurants serve their favorite and best soup. The attendees go from table to table, tasting, enjoying and scoring the soups.
Kenosha Creative Space Opening Event When: Saturday, March 31st, Time TBD Where: 624 57th St, Kenosha, Wisconsin, 53140 What: Join the community in celebrating the opening of the Kenosha Creative Space's downtown location!