Shankland, Lassa connect with constituents on busses

Written by Nathan Vine, Stevens Point Journal


STEVENS POINT — State Rep. Katrina Shankland has taken a unique approach to reaching out to her constituents.

The Stevens Point Democrat already had connected with them on the city’s Green Circle Trail and at a renewable energy fair in Custer, and on Tuesday, she held office hours on a city bus with fellow Democrat state Sen. Julie Lassa.

The two took the unusual route to constituent relations just days after Democrats and Republicans drew battle lines Friday during the Legislature’s final regular session. On Tuesday, the two chatted up residents while they traversed Rice and Dixon streets, as well as the Campus Connection Route, which transports students to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Health Enhancement Center.

Both Lassa and Shankland said they were happy to get back to the area and hear from residents, especially after the Legislature’s final session Friday morning.

Republicans and Democrats originally agreed to complete their work by 2 a.m. Friday. The two sides then discussed a deal that would have postponed creation of a special pro-life license plate — a deal that would have ended the session even earlier.

But several arguments broke out during the session, including leadership in the Republican-controlled Assembly refusing to vote on a previously unscheduled resolution introduced by Shankland that would have honored the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. As a result, the license plate wasn’t taken off the agenda and was approved 54-39, moving on to the Senate for a second vote.

“I think you saw some areas where we could find some common ground this past year, but last week we went right back to the problems we’ve had in the past. I felt the Sandy Hook resolution was something that wouldn’t be controversial,” Shankland said. “I’ve said I’m willing to listen and work with people, and going back to arguing with each other over everything isn’t how we can best serve people.”

On Tuesday, both Lassa and Shankland talked with UWSP students about student debt.

Brandon Loging, a junior majoring in pre-physical therapy, said he had avoided taking out students loans up until this school year, and he and other students were concerned about having to pay back those loans.

Lassa said both she and Shankland were in support of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act introduced in October. The bill would let borrowers — about 753,000 people in Wisconsin have federal student loans — refinance their student loans and deduct student loan payment from their state taxes.

“Students should have the opportunity to get out from underneath these loans more quickly and not have it hanging over their heads,” Lassa said.

Nathan Vine can be reached at 715-345-2252. Find him on Twitter as @SPJNathanVine.