Written by Nathan Vine, Central Wisconsin Sunday
Just short of a year since she was elected as the state representative to the 71st Assembly District, Katrina Shankland is ready to return to Madison to keep pushing after already experiencing some major victories.
Shankland, D-Stevens Point, became the youngest representative in Madison at 25 years old after defeating Republican Patrick Testin in November. Originally from Wittenberg, Shankland had previously worked for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and then as a field organizer for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin during the recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker. Shankland emerged from a Democratic primary field of seven candidates before defeating Testin to win the seat which had been held by Louis Molepske Jr., the current district attorney for Portage County, since 2003.
Now 26, Shankland said one of the biggest moments of her young political career was the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee’s May 29 decision to remove almost $14 million in funding for a proposed single-vendor student information system from the 2013-15 state budget. Skyward, a Stevens Point-based school software developer, had lost the single-vendor contract, and company officials threatened to move out of state if they were unable to earn the state’s business.
Shankland was part of a bipartisan group of central Wisconsin legislators who lobbied against the single-vendor system, and the JFC ultimately voted to require the state Department of Public Instruction to develop a multivendor system that included Skyward.
Shortly afterward, Skyward announced plans to build a multimillion-dollar world headquarters in Stevens Point that will push the company to more than 1,000 employees in the next decade. During a community celebration event for Skyward held July 31 at the SentryWorld Sports Center, Gov. Scott Walker singled out Shankland for praise, saying he came away impressed with her knowledge and maturity in a contentious situation.
“Thank your for sending someone to Madison with that kind of fortitude,” Walker said.
Shankland said she’s ready to continue fighting for causes in Madison she believes are important, though it appears there will only be a small window of opportunity this fall. The Assembly won’t convene until mid-October, leaving legislators about a month to complete business for the year.\
One of Shankland’s main focuses will be advocating for redistricting reform. Shankland co-authored a bill that calls for the Legislative Reference Bureau, rather than lawmakers, to be responsible for redrawing legislative district boundaries. The bureau would be prohibited from considering voting patterns, party information or incumbent residency when drawing the maps and is intended to keep lawmakers from drawing boundaries to make their seats more secure.
However, the bill has yet to receive a public hearing since being referred to the Assembly Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing four months ago.
“It’s disappointing because it’s time to address this issue. There’s too much politics in the redistricting process, and people aren’t getting the opportunity they should to choose their representatives,” Shankland said.
Shankland said she will also speak out against issues or proposals she believe are against the public interest. She was an outspoken critic of a $500,000 grant that was set to be awarded to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin for recruiting sportsmen and women for hunting, trapping and fishing. Walker rescinded that grant earlier this month after questions arose about the group’s experience and ties to the Republican Party. Shankland, a member of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage, called the grant politically motivated and an insult to taxpayers.