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



St. Patrick's Day Parade

Saturday, March 12 at 12:00 p.m.

Downtown La Crosse, 2nd and State St.



Victory over Violence Gala

Saturday, March 12

5:30- 9:30 p.m.

LHI Riverside South Center



League of Women Voters Legislative Breakfast

Saturday, March 19

9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

Days Inn Hotel & Conference Center




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


(608) 266-5780
Toll Free:

(888) 534-0095






Friends and Neighbors,

What a wonderful week to be in La Crosse! With the warmer temperatures, I hope you were all able to enjoy the outdoors this week. In Madison, several groups took advantage of the conditions to spend the afternoon at the State Capitol.

In this week's newsletter, I'll tell you more about meetings with La Crosse residents, along with important local and national updates.


Best Wishes,

Jill Billings
State Representative
95th Assembly District







Legislative Session: Highs and Lows


With this year's legislative session coming to a close, it is important that legislators reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of enacted policies.

As you may know, Assembly session ended in mid-February, with the Assembly Speaker announcing that session would not resume again until next January. I was disappointed that we ended this year's session without consideration of important legislation to improve our economy, alleviate student loan debt, and provide for our neighborhood public schools.

While this session was highly contentious, with a number of bills harmful to western Wisconsin being signed into law, there was also important legislation that passed this session.

Here are my highs and lows of the fall legislative session:

High: Introduction of Safe Harbor, and passage of anti-human trafficking legislation

In many of this year's newsletters I’ve spoken on the importance of Safe Harbor, anti-human trafficking legislation in Wisconsin. Last year, Representative LaTonya Johnson and I introduced Wisconsin's Safe Harbor bill, a bill that would eliminate the definition of "child prostitute." As children are unable to consent to sexual activity legally, they should certainly not be charged as prostitutes when forced into trafficking. The bill would have also provided services for victims of trafficking.

The bill received a public hearing before the Committee on Children and Families, and despite overwhelming support on the issue, it unfortunately did not move forward.

Another bill relating to the crime of child sex trafficking came before the full Assembly and Senate this session. I, along with Representatives LaTonya Johnson and Amy Loudenbeck, authored the bill. This legislation aligned 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, investigation, and provision of services for children involved in suspected abuse cases dealing with trafficking.

By passing AB 737, Wisconsin affirmed our commitment to combating child sex trafficking in our state. However, there is still more to be done -- comprehensive reform including a full Safe Harbor law for victims.

Given the support Safe Harbor received this session, and the needed help it would provide to victims of human trafficking, I will be introducing the legislation next session. I am hopeful my legislative colleagues will continue to stand behind smart reform on trafficking.

Low: Unaccountable Governance

This session, Wisconsin experienced massive blows to our most prized institutions and resources. While citizens around the state were calling for improvements to our economy, and to get our state back on track, the majority's legislators chose to move in the entirely opposite direction. Not only did they refuse to fix the problems our state faces, they made a whole host of changes that our Wisconsin neighbors and families never asked for.

Assembly session concluded on February 18, the earliest session has ended in 40 years. It is extremely disappointing that majority leadership would choose to end session so early, especially considering so many problems were left unsolved.

Worse yet, the 2015-2017 biennial budget as well as a slate of new legislation this session, hacked away at our state's best resources.

Through the budget and subsequent bills, legislators signed off rolling back Environmental Protections. In the budget, funding for our state parks, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) science research and education positions, our coveted Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, and smart transportation alternative programs were cut. In recent bills, Wisconsin's natural resources -- especially clean water -- were put in danger through loosening regulations, and removal of DNR oversight on water management.

Well-managed water levels on our rivers, lakes and streams are vital to fishing, hunting, boating and other outdoor activities, as well as quality tourism, commerce and maintained property values. Changes to environmental regulation are wrong for our state, and surely make the list of "lows" for this session.

Last year, our state also saw a great deal of cuts to Public Education and the University System. The UW-System faced a large cut of $250 million, while public K-12 education continued to struggle, with no additional resources to make up for previous cuts.

For the first time in history, Wisconsin's per-pupil spending fell below national levels. The impacts to both University and public education included larger class sizes, decreasing teaching staff, and a lack of available resources to students.

The impact to the University System is discussed later in this article. Education should naturally be our state's priority -- seeing as it shapes the success of future generations. However, in another low for this legislative session, Republicans significantly devalued Wisconsin education.

For the many of us who've traveled down Wisconsin roads, highways and bridges, it's safe to say our state's Transportation is in need of serious work. With a majority in the legislature, Republicans could have passed any sort of transportation plan they wanted. However, with over a year in time, they failed to produce a plan to address transportation funding.

Transportation funding has been left on the state's credit card, and Republican legislators have kicked the can down the road for another session, leaving Wisconsin's state of transportation exceptionally bleak.

There were many "lows" this session -- including the issues above, regressive policies towards women, restrictions on voting rights, further restrictions on workers' rights through so-called 'right to work' laws, and more -- showing that overall, this session was a failure for Wisconsinites.

We had ample opportunity to better the state for our constituents, and yet the majority party allowed political gamesmanship and regressive policymaking to stand in the way.




UW-La Crosse to Cut Positions to Make up for Budget Losses

2015-2017 budget cuts had almost immediate effects on our public schools, universities and public service agencies. The UW-System, the largest economic driver in the state, suffered a $250 million cut, which has in turn caused universities in Wisconsin to cut course offerings, increase class sizes, and let go of valuable teaching staff.

Last fall, UW-La Crosse faced a $1 million shortfall, forcing them to freeze 14 instructional positions. This year, given declining enrollment figures, UW-L will have to face another budget shortfall of $600,000.

University officials say that teaching positions will likely be cut to make up for the shortfall, meaning our dedicated faculty and students will lose out due to poor funding decisions.

Read the full article on this issue from the La Crosse Tribune here.




International Women's Day

Did you know that Tuesday, March 8 was International Women's Day? International Women's Day is a day meant to recognize the important economic, social, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. While women have made significant strides towards equality around the world, there is still progress to be made.

The World Economic Forum predicted last year that it the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.

To address this issue, this year's theme was #PledgeforParity, encouraging individuals to sign a pledge to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious bias, call for gender-balanced leadership, value women's and men's contributions equally, and create inclusive and flexible cultures.

The pledge aims to take a concrete step towards achieving gender parity. Click here to sign the pledge.




Youth Art Month

It's Youth Art Month in the State Capitol! Artworks from students around the state are on display in the Capitol rotunda during the month of March.

There are so many great pieces here by exceptionally-talented La Crosse students. Here are just a few of the pieces on display this month:



Rep. Billings Around the State


Members of the Wisconsin Civil Air Patrol stopped by my Madison office last week!


This Thursday, I attended a panel discussion comparing women's rights around the world. The panelists were excellent, and delivered sharp insights into the United States' relationship to the rest of the world on women's rights.

The Wisconsin REALTOR's Association stopped by the State Capitol last week, too, and met with many of our western Wisconsin legislators. It was great to meet with you all!





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