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(608)266-5780 | State Capitol, Room 307 West, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 |



Winter Farmers Market

Saturday, January 30

10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Valley View Mall

3800 State Rd.



Student Debt Listening Session

Monday, February 8

3:00-5:00 p.m.

UW-L Hall of Nations, Centennial Hall



Pearl Street Brewery Winter Ball

Friday, February 12 and Saturday, February 13.

Pearl Street Brewery



YMCA Valentine's 5K

Saturday, February 13, 8:00 a.m.

YMCA- North, Onalaska




State Capitol
Room 307 West
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708


(608) 266-5780
Toll Free:

(888) 534-0095






Friends and Neighbors,

Welcome to another busy week in the Wisconsin legislature! With legislative session set to wrap-up by mid-February, legislators and issue-advocates are swarming to get our important work done in time.

This week, my anti-trafficking bill AB 737 received a public hearing, I met with constituents on a range of issues from broadcasting to regional development, and I visited Milwaukee for another session of the Urban Schools Task Force.

Continue reading this week's newsletter for more in-depth coverage of what’s going on at the Capitol and around the state.

Best Wishes,

Jill Billings
State Representative
95th Assembly District








Student Loan Debt Listening Session

We want to hear from you!

With over 800,000 Wisconsinites facing student loan debt burdens, Senator Jennifer Shilling, Representative Steve Doyle and I will be holding a listening session on solutions to our student loan debt crisis. Details for the event are as follows:

WHAT: Student loan debt discussion
WHERE: Hall of Nations - Centennial Hall
UW-La Crosse Campus
La Crosse, WI 54601
WHEN: Monday, February 8th from 3:00-5:00pm

If you are a current student, former student facing loan debts, or concerned citizen, I would encourage you to attend this listening session and voice your thoughts.




Weak "College Affordability" Package Passes Committee

This week, the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities met to discuss Governor Walker and legislative Republicans' much-advertised "College Affordability" plan. The plan proposed anemic solutions that would, at best, only scratch the surface of an issue that affects 815,000 Wisconsinites. Despite the bill package's lacking sensible reform, it passed the Committee 9 to 5, along party lines. I voted against the proposal, and released the following statement explaining my vote:

"The 'College Affordability' plan put forth by Republicans, ironically, does very little if anything to make college more affordable for the nearly 1 million Wisconsinites facing student loan burdens.

"Student loan debt is now the 2nd largest consumer debt in the country -- larger than credit cards and auto loans. In Wisconsin, student loan borrowers face $19 billion in debt. This debt creates a serious barrier to Wisconsinites making normal post-graduate contributions to our economy.

"The proposals in this meager package would only apply to a small fraction of student loan borrowers. The package itself fails to include the most significant potential reform for Wisconsinites saddled with student loan debt -- allowing borrowers to refinance student debt.

The anemic plan Governor Walker and legislative Republicans put forward barely compensates for their massive cuts to education and job training. According to a recent memo from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Republicans have cut more than $2 billion in state funding from public schools, universities, and technical colleges over the past five years.

"Throughout this session and last, legislators had a sensible proposal to consider -- the Democrat-authored Higher Ed, Lower Debt proposal. This bill would allow student loan borrowers to refinance their debts at lower interest rates. Implementing the Higher Ed, Lower Debt proposal would save students, families and taxpayers millions of dollars.

Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) and her Democratic colleagues proposed sensible amendments to the bill package. These amendments would have:

  • Allowed borrowers to refinance their student loan debt, just like a car loan or mortgage;

  • Invested an additional $27 million in technical colleges;

  • Expanded the emergency grant program to students at four-year campuses; and

  • Provided need-based grants to students participating in unpaid internships.

"The Higher Ed, lower Debt bill was introduced this session -- before the so-called 'College Affordability' proposal was released -- and was again this year highlighted by legislators as the most sensible issue for our borrowers. Despite being well aware of this proposal for the past two sessions, and its estimated savings for borrowers, Republican legislators refused to work in a bipartisan manner.

“I’m extremely disappointed in legislators across the aisle for choosing the easy way out – allowing themselves to look like the good guys proposing a ‘college affordability’ package – when in reality, they are doing very little to help our students or borrowers.”




Human Trafficking Bill Receives Public Hearing


On Wednesday, the Assembly Committee on Children and Families met and discussed AB 737 – anti-trafficking legislation that I authored along with Representatives Johnson (D-Milwaukee) and Loudenbeck (R-Clinton). The bill received an overwhelmingly positive response at the public hearing, and I am hopeful it will move forward this session.
Prior to the bill hearing, I released the following statement:

“I am glad that our state will be able to bring more attention to the issue of human trafficking through this public hearing. January is nationally as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and our state should do all we can to increase information and prevention on the subject, and to protect victims – especially children.”

AB 737 aligns state statutes with the federal “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” by expanding what constitutes the crime of child sex trafficking, adding child sex trafficking under the definition of abuse under the children’s code, and requiring the reporting and investigation of suspected abuse cases involving trafficking.

“By passing AB 737, Wisconsin would affirm our commitment to combating child sex trafficking in our state. A federal sting that occurred early last year indicated that Wisconsin is 3rd in the number of underage victims of trafficking. This shows clearly that action must be taken to protect vulnerable children in our state.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Billings released additional anti-human trafficking legislation with Rep. La Tonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) entitled the “Safe Harbor” bill, in order to eliminate the term “child prostitute” and provide assistance to child victims of human trafficking.

“I’m honored to author legislation that will enable our legislature to take a proactive step towards combating child sex trafficking. However, there is still more to be done. I encourage my legislative colleagues to view this legislation as a stepping stone to more comprehensive reform on human trafficking.”





Urban Education Task Force heads to Milwaukee

The Urban Education Study Committee restarted its urban schools tour for 2016. This week, the group of legislators visited Milwaukee schools to discuss Early Childhood Education.

The Urban Education Task Force has been meeting since late last year, and has visited Green Bay, Madison, and Racine/Kenosha. Next week, the task force will visit Eau Claire.

Legislators visited and observed classrooms at Rogers Street Academy and MacDowell Montessori, and later in the day heard testimony from education officials in the Milwaukee area.

As one of the few truly urban school districts in our state, it was exceptionally important to hear from educators and administrators in Milwaukee. From this hearing, and previous Urban Education hearings, we have often been informed about the serious weight poverty plays in educational success. Unfortunately, there will be no Urban Education hearing specifically tackling the effects of poverty – though it plays such a critical role in urban settings.

Testimony provided by Milwaukee officials makes it clear that our state is not doing enough to serve students in urban schools.

Once public hearings through this taskforce have concluded, I encourage legislators serving on the task force to consider the many accounts we’ve heard, and take serious action to provide for our public schools and students.




Rep. Billings Around the State!


Western Wisconsin members of the Wisconsin Credit Union League stopped by my office in Madison. I had a great time chatting with all of them, and listening to their concerns on issues before the legislature.

Last session, I adjourned in honor of my daughter Zoey, who just began classes at UW-Madison this semester!



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