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(608)266-5780 | State Capitol, Room 307 West, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 | email@example.com
Friday, May 5 - Sunday, May 7
Various La Crosse locations
Saturday, May 13
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Downtown La Crosse
Saturday, May 13
7:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Weber Center for the Performing Arts
Thursday, May 18
5:30 pm. - 8:30 p.m.
Days Inn on French Island
Friends and Neighbors,
The month of May provides what are likely to be some of the last opportunities to take up legislation before the Assembly convenes to vote on the state budget later in June. The first floor session of the month was this past Tuesday and, among the legislation taken up, we voted on one of the most controversial bills so far this session: SB 76, which would remove DNR oversight of high capacity wells. This legislation unfortunately passed on a party-line vote. Please continue reading for more information on its passage and what you can do now to voice your opinion, as well as for state budget updates.
The Assembly also took up the last two of 11 special session bills meant to address the state's opioid epidemic. With the passage of these bills in the Assembly and the rest of the package passing out of the Senate, all 11 bills are ready to be signed into law by the governor, who has said he would sign them.
Looking ahead to next Wednesday's floor session, I will be paying close attention to Senate Bill 35/Assembly Bill 79, bipartisan legislation that would add juvenile correctional officers to the list of professionals who must report suspected abuse and neglect of children. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill and was glad to see it pass unanimously out of both the Assembly Committee on Children and Families and the Senate.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this pending legislation or any other issues, feel free to contact my office by calling (608) 266-5780 or emailing me at Rep.Billings@legis.wi.gov.
Please continue reading for more information on the happenings both in La Crosse and statewide.
95th Assembly District
Removing Oversight of High Capacity Wells Passes Assembly
This Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed Senate Bill 76, a piece of legislation that would remove Department of Natural Resources' oversight of the repair, replacement, reconstruction and transfer of previously approved high capacity wells. Since well permits never expire, eliminating the DNR review process would remove the only safeguard against these large wells over-pumping and draining water supplies in certain areas, thus jeopardizing people's access to clean water. Many of you have contacted me in opposition of this bill since its introduction.
To mitigate the harmful impacts of this bill's
passage, Assembly Democrats offered two amendments, which would have
required a DNR review of high capacity wells every 10 years and every 30
years, respectively. Both bills were met with Republican opposition and
failed to pass.
La Crosse Welcome Center Opened Friday
First impressions are important and the newly opened La Crosse Welcome Center will help the city and state will certainly make a good one to incoming visitors.
This morning, I joined Gov. Scott Walker, Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, and La Crosse area stakeholders and community members for the official opening of the welcome center at Exit 3. The La Crosse Welcome Center reflects the positive influence of tourism to our region and economy. As a member of the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, I also believe the new welcome center will be an asset to the Wisconsin Great River Road National Scenic Byway.
This project is especially close to my heart as I helped connect local stakeholders with state resources at its outset. Since then, I have been tracking the center's progress and was honored to attend its grand opening.
The Joint Committee on Finance met last week to vote on the budgets of a number of state agencies. The committee voted unanimously to remove the governor's proposal that would eliminate Wisconsin's judicial commission and judicial council. Similarly, all members voted to approve the governor's proposal to increase the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program's bonding authority by $5.8 million. The committee also voted to decrease interest rates for municipal projects in the Clean Water Fund Program from 70% to 55% of the market interest rate, to eliminate the Financial Hardship Program by June 30, 2017, and to extend repayment of loans in the Clean Water Fund program to be extended from 20 years to 30 years.
However, the Democrats' proposal to extend the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program until all lead laterals were replaced did not receive Republican support and thus failed to pass. Several other items were decided on a party-line vote, including cutting positions and $390,000 from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission's (WERC) budget; WERC is the agency tasked with administering labor relation law in the the state. The Republicans also refused to support the governor's proposal to create four new ombudsman positions for IRIS participants older than 60 - a demographic that does not currently have access to an ombudsman program. Although Democrats voted to pass Walker's proposal, Republican members of the committee voted to cut the proposal in half, only funding two new ombudsman positions.
Judicial compensation in the Supreme Court and the local property insurance fund were scheduled to be taken up, but will now be revisited at a later date.
The next meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 at 11 a.m. and will take up the following following agencies' budgets:
You can watch live streams of all of these hearings by tuning in to Wisconsin Eye.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
The beginning of May marked the start of National Mental Health Awareness Month. It is important to recognize that despite the stigma that often surrounds conversations of mental health, mental illness is more common than many perceive it to be. About one in every five Americans live with a mental illness. Unfortunately, of the Wisconsinites living with a diagnosable mental illness, 55.4% do not receive treatment or counseling. For this reason, Mental Health Awareness Month intends not only to increase conversation about mental illnes, but also to encourage treatment for those afflicted.
I hope you will all use this month as an opportunity to have a conversation about mental health with someone you love, as well as to take the time to care for yourself.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
UW-La Crosse Counseling and
Testing Center: 608-785-8073
Fishing Season Opening Day
Republicans Release Anemic Transportation Plan
Wisconsin Democrats believe tax relief should be for our state's hard-working middle class families, and will not support this weak plan.
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