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



Easter EGG-Stravaganza

Saturday, March 26

8:30 - 10:00 a.m.

Children's Museum of La Crosse



Easter Carnival

Saturday, March 26

12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

The Charmant Hotel



Downtown Spring Fling

Friday, April 8

4:00 - 8:00 p.m.

500 Main St.



Mid West Music Fest

Saturday, April 16

Downtown La Crosse

The Root Note





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


(608) 266-5780
Toll Free:

(888) 534-0095






Friends and Neighbors,

After an intense legislative session, I was glad this week to spend some time with my family. My kids Josh and Zoe are home in La Crosse for Spring Break – and we’re going to take advantage of the many exciting events the Coulee Region has this weekend.

Even with the change of weather, I hope you and your families enjoy the long weekend and get out into La Crosse!


Best Wishes,

Jill Billings
State Representative
95th Assembly District







Session Wraps Up in the Senate; College Affordability an Even More Far-Off Concept


Last week Tuesday, the Senate concluded what was likely to be its final session day of the year.

There were a few notable difference between legislation passed in the Assembly and Senate. In previous newsletters, I talked about the anemic "college affordability" plan proposed by Governor Walker and Republican legislators. This bill did very little, if anything at all, to provide for the thousands of Wisconsinites struggling to attend college, and still struggling to pay off college debts. During legislative debate on Tuesday, the "college affordability" plan came before the Senate.

In previous newsletters, I have discussed how the plan barely scratches the surface in the larger issue of making college more affordable for Wisconsin students. After Senate action on this bill package, this has become even truer.

The purpose of the college affordability package, as stated by Governor Walker, was to make "higher education more affordable for Wisconsin families."

The initial plan did very little to make higher education more affordable. The plan which passed the Assembly included the following bills:

AB 739, creating an individual income tax deduction for certain interest paid on qualified education loans.
AB 740, providing additional funding for Wisconsin grants to technical college students.
AB 741, providing grants to students enrolled in technical colleges and University of Wisconsin colleges to meet emergency financial need.
AB 742, requiring the Department of Workforce Development to provide student internship coordination
AB 743, assisting University of Wisconsin System students in securing internships with businesses
AB 744, requiring institutions of higher education to provide information to students relating to educational costs and financial literacy.

AB 739 and 743 did not pass the Senate. While AB 739 would have only impacted 4 percent of borrowers, it still made a small impact. The same can’t be said about the remaining bills on the slate.

The remaining bills dealing with funding do nothing to assist students in four-year colleges, and do very little to assist 2-year college and technical college students in our state. The plan, which started off as anemic at best, becomes entirely for show.

Worst of all, none of the bills passed address the massive and growing student loan debt burdens that Wisconsin graduates face. I am extremely disappointed that, despite this level of inaction, Republican legislators will still tout this bill package saying they’ve made college more affordable. That's simply not the case.

A weak excuse for a solution was passed under the guise of "college affordability," while sensible proposals like "Higher Ed, Lower Debt," a Democrat-sponsored bill that would allow students to refinance loan debt burdens, was not even considered by either legislative body.

Each of these bills will now go to the Governor's desk for signature. While the bills in themselves are not contentious, the idea that they make college affordable should be offensive to every college student and graduate.

It's plain to see that these bills do not solve the problem of exorbitant college costs.




Sunshine Week for Open Government

Last week, March 13-19, celebrated "Sunshine Week," a national event to promote open government and freedom of information.

Wisconsin had long been a strong advocate of open government practices -- with strong open records law, transparent public meetings, and legally-enforced accountability in legislators.

This year, when Governor Walker introduced Sunshine Week in a press statement, I couldn't help but feel his sentiments were particularly insincere. After the Walker administration’s actions this year, open government is barely intact in Wisconsin.

As you may recall, this session Wisconsin's system of open government was cut away by a series of harmful bills. With each successive bill, transparency between taxpayers and government decreased significantly.

Initially, Republican legislators attempted to repeal our exceptionally important open records law. This law, since its creation in 1982, guaranteed that the public had access to records, documents and activities of government bodies -- including legislators. Repealing the law would have created a distinct wall between the public and government.

Unfortunately, the attacks on open government did not stop there. Republican legislators introduced and passed legislation to demolish the Government Accountability Board (GAB), Wisconsin's nonpartisan elections and ethics board, replacing it with two politically-appointed commissions.

With that, the majority party also passed campaign finance legislation to allow for essentially unlimited corporate money in elections, and a great deal of anonymous spending. This makes it near impossible for elected officials to be held accountable to their constituents, instead of their political donors.

And as a final push to close the door between the public and government, Republicans repealed John Doe law. John Doe law was essential in performing investigations into government operations, in order to expose corrupt activity. Without John Doe investigations, the Justice Department is significantly limited in the actions they can take against corrupt politics.

I stood against these bills when they came before the Assembly as I believe an open, honest dialogue between legislators and the public is absolutely essential to governance. I and my Democratic colleagues will continue to support open government, and can only hope that by next year’s Sunshine Week all Wisconsin legislators will do the same.




AB 808, Sexual Assault Amnesty Bill, Signed into Law

This week, Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 808, the Sexual Assault Amnesty Bill, into law. The bill, which I co-authored, would prohibit the issuance of underage drinking citations to students who have been the victims of sexual assault, or have reported sexual assault-related crimes. When the bill was signed, I released the following statement:

"I am glad to see this piece of positive legislation become state law this session," said Rep. Billings. "This bill would ensure students who have been the victims of a sexual assault or related crimes, while under the influence of alcohol, would not be charged for underage alcohol consumption. This legislation also provides that students would not be subject to certain actions by the UW Board of Regents, such as eviction from student housing. In these scenarios, a student should be offered help without harmful repercussions."

"The most important part of this bill was its role in protecting victims of sexual assault. Sexual assault goes unreported on Wisconsin campuses every year."

According to the most recent figures from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, approximately 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted over the course of a college career.

"This law moves our state in the right direction, changing the relationship between students and law enforcement, and allowing students to feel secure in reporting sexual assaults on campus."




Friends of the La Crosse River Marsh

This week I attended a Friends of the La Crosse Marsh meeting to discuss the La Crosse River Marsh Strategic Plan. This plan was put together with a great deal of input from several organizations associated with marsh issues. The plan includes information on the importance of the marsh, as well as steps our community should take to preserve its environmental contributions.

Click here to read the full plan.



Rep. Billings Around the State



Longfellow/LDI Middle School won this year's Apple Distinguished School Award! Longfellow was one of 4 schools to be recognized for its innovation and creativity using technology in the classroom.



North Woods International School and Hintgen Elementary in La Crosse both received this year's Title I Schools Recognition awards

Last week I attended the Wisconsin Governor's Council on Tourism in Wisconsin Dells. Special thanks to Nancy Flottmeyer of La Crosse for her design work at this event - great job!





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