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State Capitol Report

Friends and Neighbors,

A lot has changed since the end of the 2017-18 legislative session! We have begun a new session under new leadership, and many exciting developments have already come from the State Capitol. 

Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts, questions, ideas, or concerns. I am happy to meet with you, visit your workplace, take a tour of your business, or attend a meeting of your organization – just ask. To stay informed, feel free to check out my Facebook page and website for updates, including news stories and photos of my meetings and visits around the district.  


Thank you for following along, and please let me know how I can best serve you. Your voice is very important to me!


Katrina sig.png

Katrina Shankland, 

State Representative

71st Assembly District

 New Leadership but Divided Government

On January 7, 2019, Wisconsin welcomed a new executive branch: Governor Tony Evers, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, Attorney General Josh Kaul, and State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. While all of these offices are now held by Democrats, the State Assembly and State Senate are still controlled by a Republican majority. This means we are facing a divided government for at least the next two years, with a Legislature that can pass bills on party-line votes alone. My view is that divided government presents all of us an opportunity and incentive to work together, listen, and act on issues important to our constituents – from fixing our roads to investing in our schools.


Photo: (above) Governor Evers gives his inaugural State of the State Address to the Legislature


Groundbreaking for Groundwater: "Year of Clean Water" Initiatives

Almost immediately upon being inaugurated, Governor Evers declared 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water. About 10% of Wisconsin’s private wells are contaminated, and some communities have up to 50% of their wells contaminated, leaving many people without access to clean drinking water from their taps.

Last session, after hearing from constituents about the need to enhance our state’s water quality efforts, I introduced legislation to help. This session, I am continuing the fight by reintroducing Assembly Bill 21, which helps people remediate their contaminated wells and creates a first of its kind state private well testing program.

I’m grateful that AB 21 has bipartisan support in the Assembly and broad support among stakeholder organizations. It has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Local Government, where I hope that it will receive a public hearing soon and be allowed to advance to the full Legislature for a vote.

I am also excited to serve as the Vice Chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality. The task force is exploring contaminants like lead, PFAs, and nitrates in our water, and we will be traveling around the state to hear from you. It’s my hope that we can work together to develop science-based policies that help Wisconsinites across our state access clean drinking water.


Photo (below): Rep. Shankland asks a question at a Water Quality Task Force hearing


I am pleased that Governor Evers recognizes the need for science-based, sustainable solutions to our state’s water quality problem and announced several initiatives in the biennial budget that will significantly expand access to clean drinking water, including allocating $70 million to help farmers, homeowners, and local governments access clean water, and incorporating portions of my legislation to fund the remediation of the most contaminated private wells across Wisconsin.

I was also excited to welcome Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes to UW-Stevens Point to visit the water testing lab and talk about my legislation to ensure everyone has access to clean water. I appreciate our state leaders’ interest in and commitment to clean water!


Photo (above): Lieutenant Governor Barnes and Rep. Shankland tour the UW-Stevens Point water testing lab


The People’s Budget

Clean water initiatives are just one component of the budget introduced by Governor Evers, which is being referred to as “The People’s Budget." This budget was drafted based on feedback heard during a public input tour by Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Barnes prior to taking office.

On February 28, Governor Evers gave his Budget Address. Over the following months, the Legislature will debate and vote on the governor’s 2019-21 biennial state budget.

The budget calls for statewide boosts to public education, health initiatives, environmental conservation, and infrastructure that will benefit all Wisconsinites, as well as a 10% middle class tax cut. From $150 million in new funding to our UW System to a record investment in our public schools and fairer funding for rural schools, this budget delivers on education and equity.

I am especially thrilled to see that a significant amount of the budget is allocated to issues specific to rural areas of Wisconsin, including problems in our community that have gone unaddressed for years. Besides increased funding for clean water initiatives, the governor proposed a record investment in our local roads through General Transportation Aids and $78 million for broadband. This is transformational and will have a huge impact on rural communities.

The governor also proposed more funding for Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin and Farm to School, more money for dairy modernization and mental health resources for farmers, and increased funding for additional agricultural agents and and county conservationists.

The budget is likely to change significantly during the legislative process, so I encourage you to weigh in before the Joint Finance Committee begins voting on the budget bill.  


Photo (above): Rep. Shankland welcomes the crowd to the governor's listening session at UW-Stevens Point


 Stevens Point Budget Listening Session

Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov Barnes kicked off a new budget listening session tour in Stevens Point on Wednesday, April 3rd, aiming to bring the state budget back to the people again to gather feedback that will help them “check their work” and possibly make changes as the biennial budget moves forward.

More than 100 community members showed up to share their perspectives on healthcare, natural resources, criminal justice, the economy, education, and transportation. Folks shared insights, questions, and very compelling testimony on what the policies in the People’s Budget mean to them and their families. 

Photo (below): Locals attend the governor's Stevens Point Budget Listening Session


Looking Forward

I am excited to serve on a number of legislative committees that cover topics important to our community, from clean water to technical colleges, universities, and workforce development.

I am looking forward to working on these vital issues for our area and state, and I encourage you to weigh in on any bills that may come forward in the legislature. In addition to my monthly district office hours, I've hosted five budget office hours over the past few weeks, and I always appreciate hearing from you!



Celebrating our UWSP Men’s Hockey Champions

Photo (above): Welcoming UWSP Men’s Hockey to the State Assembly as AJR 21 passes unanimously

I was thrilled to invite the UWSP men’s hockey team to the State Capitol on Tuesday, April 9. I introduced Assembly Joint Resolution 21 to honor their undefeated season and national championship title, and I was excited to organize a day in the Capitol to recognize them.

Governor Evers presented a plaque of recognition to honor the team. The State Assembly welcomed them, and I presented the resolution to the team captain, Stephan Beauvais, who addressed the Assembly. The team also took a tour of the Capitol. It was an honor to have the Pointers in the Capitol!


The Governor Declares Trivia Weekend in Wisconsin!

 Graphic (above): 90FM Advertisement for Trivia 5-0

I am happy that Governor Evers has issued a proclamation declaring April 12-14 as Trivia Weekend in all of Wisconsin! It’s wonderful that he recognizes the cultural and economic importance of trivia to our region and state, and it’s especially exciting given that this year is the 50th anniversary of trivia! Trivia is important to our community, and I was happy to request this proclamation from the governor!


Turning the Page on Point Forward

Over the past eight years, the UW System and UW-Stevens Point have experienced devastating cuts. I believe we can and must renew our commitment to higher education by adequately funding our UW System. As the ranking member of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, I look forward to continuing to advocate for our students.

Following the initial announcement of the Point Forward proposal in March 2018 I had many questions about how this would impact our community, and how the proposal would solve the university’s structural deficit. Some of these questions still remain. In November, a revised Point Forward proposal was announced, which outlined plans to add new programs and eliminate six current programs, down from the 13 originally announced in March 2018. On April 10, 2019, UWSP announced they would be scrapping Point Forward.

Over the past year, I have met with UWSP administration, faculty, students, and staff frequently to discuss the proposals, how I can be supportive of UWSP, and the progress being made by the various committees that have been working to find a sustainable path forward for the university. I appreciate the hard work of the many people who served on committees to explore alternatives and solutions to the budget deficit.

Photo (below): Rep. Shankland speaks to a crowd on campus shortly after Point Forward was announced


While UWSP is no longer considering Point Forward, the budget deficit at UWSP still exists and our three campuses continue to face significant challenges. Governor Evers’ budget includes an additional $150 million in new funding above the base budget, including funding the tuition freeze. I'm pleased with this investment and will strongly advocate for its passage. We must recommit to strengthening the Wisconsin Idea and bring everyone to the table to determine what’s next for UWSP. I will continue to fight for access to affordable higher education in Wisconsin and look forward to working with everyone as we turn the page on Point Forward.


Lame Duck Special Session: Recap & Lasting Effects

In early December, in an unprecedented move, Republican lawmakers called an extraordinary session to erode the authority of the executive branch and the attorney general, duly elected officials. From allowing legislators to hire private attorneys using taxpayer money to giving legislators the power to intervene in lawsuits, these bills were loaded with ways to bloat the authority of power-hungry politicians while forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.

In one fell swoop, Republican legislators passed legislation to cut early voting hours in half. They passed legislation requiring the attorney general to ask the legislature for permission to withdraw from lawsuits. They required the governor to get permission from the legislature to change benefit programs run by state and federal governments. These bills aren’t just costly to taxpayers, but also to our democracy. In the last month, many of these lame duck laws have been struck down as unconstitutional, and as they weave their way through the courts, taxpayers should ask if passing laws that violate the Constitution’s separation of powers is an appropriate use of state resources.


Photo (below): Rep. Shankland and Rep. Taylor listen to public comments on December's lame duck session legislation


Wisconsin’s Withdrawal from the ACA Lawsuit

One consequence of the lame duck session was a law that requires the Attorney General to seek permission from the legislature before withdrawing from lawsuits. One example includes the lawsuit Wisconsin is a plaintiff in which challenges the Affordable Care Act, the law that protects people with pre-existing conditions and guarantees them access to insurance coverage.

On March 21, a judge issued an order enjoining the lame duck law requiring the attorney general to obtain permission from the legislature to withdraw from lawsuits. Within hours, Governor Evers sent a letter to Attorney General Kaul, asking him to withdraw from the lawsuit. He formally filed a motion to withdraw Wisconsin as an involved party in Texas v. United States, an action in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, April 9, a federal appeals court granted Attorney General Kaul’s request to leave the lawsuit, meaning Wisconsin is out of the case at every level. Thus, they fulfilled a promise that both the attorney general and governor made to the people of Wisconsin.


Thank you for following along. I look forward to staying in touch!

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First State Capitol Report of 2019!