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



Bingo: The New Winning Musical

Friday, May 19

7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

The Muse Theater



FLW Foundation Youth Fishing Derby

Saturday, May 20

9 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.

Copeland Park



Kids Build

Saturday, May 20

10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Children's Museum of La Crosse



Public Works Week Open House

Wednesday, May 24

8 a.m. - 2 p.m.

La Crosse Municipal Service Center



Historic Trolley Tours 2017

Friday, June 2

10:30 a.m.

La Crosse County Convention and Visitors' Bureau




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


(608) 266-5780
Toll Free:

(888) 534-0095




Friends and Neighbors,


As we near June and the eventual Assembly vote on the state budget proposal, the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) has been busy tackling the budget bill piece by piece.


Noteworthy decisions this week included the committee voting to increase funding for the Department of Children and Families to provide to counties for child abuse and neglect prevention, investigation and treatment. As a result, $460,000 will come from the state general fund and $6.25 million federal dollars will be added. This would be the first increase since 2009. I was glad to see the committee also voted to expand services for child victims of trafficking and increase rates for foster care and kinship care, though disappointed that Republicans rejected Democrats' motions to increase funding to these programs. Republicans also deleted a tax credit which would have helped young adults who have aged out of the foster-care system.


Moreover, in light of May being Mental Health Awareness month, I would also like to highlight that the committee voted to give one-time non-general fund money to build a peer-run respite center in the Milwaukee area. This would be the fourth such center in Wisconsin. The committee also voted to provide one-time funding to create a certification program for Youth Crisis Stabilization Facilities; these facilities provide an alternative to psychiatric hospitalization for young people dealing with mental health issues. Unfortunately, Democrats' motions to make the funding ongoing instead of one-time was defeated on a party-line vote in both of these instances.


Please continue reading for additional budget updates from the past couple of weeks.


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


Please continue reading for more information on the happenings both in

La Crosse and statewide.


Best Wishes,

Jill Billings
State Representative
95th Assembly District




Upcoming Committees

Next week will be quite busy with three committees I serve on scheduled to meet. The Assembly Committee on Transportation, my first committee of the week, will hold a public hearing next Tuesday on AB 261, AB 162, and AB 272. Following the hearing, the committee will be voting on AB 185. You can read more about these four bills below:

  • AB 261 designates a route in Milwaukee County upon which "high-wide" motor vehicles may be operated with a permit. A "high-wide" vehicle exceeds general state limitations on vehicle size, and is used to transport property.

  • AB 162 pertains to professional baseball park districts (currently, only Milwaukee County). Under this bill, such districts will report to the Department of Transportation whenever they retire their available bonds for facility development. The remainder of additional annual fees will be distributed for special professional baseball license plates (i.e., Brewers plates) to the county where the vehicle for which the plate is issued is kept.

  • AB 272 allows heavy-duty vehicles with idle reduction technology and vehicles that run on natural gas to operate on public highways despite exceeding weight limits.

  • AB 185 eliminates the prohibition of the purchase and use of school buses that are more than five years old and were previously titled and registered in another state.

In addition, the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities will be meeting next week. AB 299 -- a controversial bill that would curtail the freedom of speech on UW campuses -- is expected to be voted on next Thursday in Colleges and Universities. Please read below for more details and my position on this bill.


AB 299 - Free Speech on Campus?

Last Thursday, the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities convened for a public hearing on AB 299, a bill that would impose sanctions on students exercising their First Amendment rights, including the right to free speech and to assemble. This bill prohibits and threatens to punish student conduct on the basis of vague, subjective classifications that alarm me, such as 'boisterous' and 'unreasonably loud.' These terms leave too much room for interpretation and abuse of power to be effective.

I am opposed to this bill because I believe free speech is an important, basic right in our democracy. Instead of dictating free speech to the university, the legislature should be empowering the UW System to handle these issues. Freedom of speech and the exchange of ideas on our campuses is enshrined in our universities' missions, and it is when students are presented with new perspectives that challenge views that critical thinking and learning truly occur.



Budget Update

In addition to the funding decisions on Children and Families and Health Services, the following were among the provisions passed by the Joint Committee on Finance over the past couple of weeks:

  • Removal of a provision which would have eliminated exam requirements for journeyman electricians, plumbers, cosmetologists, and barbers if they completed an apprenticeship

  • End the Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Grant Program by 2021, but maintain current funding until then. The program provides low and middle income homeowners and small businesses with a grant to repair or replace a failing septic system; the vote to remove it was party-line.

  • Eliminate the weatherization program, which requires either current or future landlords to ensure that the property complies with certain energy efficiency standards

  • Support funding for the County Veterans Service Officers grant program, veterans grant programs, a crisis intervention services pilot program, and a women veterans study

  • Fund five positions to complete the additional duties and responsibilities required by state and federal law for state and local elections; six funded positions were initially proposed in the budget

  • Adjust the age at which volunteer firefighters are vested to receive service awards; cut the state's maximum match funding for volunteer firefighters form $500 to just $390 annually

  • Delete the governor's proposed tuition freeze on Wisconsin technical colleges, as well as additional funding for these colleges, instead allocating $2.5 million annually to need-based Wisconsin Grants; the technical colleges originally requested $23 million to eliminate the need-based waitlist

  • Eliminate the governor's proposal for performance-based funding to technical colleges

  • Remove provision that would have reduced the homestead tax credit that helps low-income homeowners and renters offset their property taxes; however, 11,300 people would be cut off from the credit

  • Keep local governments at current funding levels ($753 million) annually; add inflationary increases to state aid to local governments for computers, cash registers and fax machines

Unfortunately, a number of motions made by Democrats failed along party lines, including motions in favor of nonpartisan redistricting reform and repealing Wisconsin's voted ID law.

At their next meeting, the JFC will take up parts of the budget related to: program supplements, the Office of the State Treasurer, the Department of Administration, Medical College, Higher Education Aids Board, UW System, and economic support and child care in the Department of Children and Families. Remember you can always watch live streams of all JFC hearings by tuning in to Wisconsin Eye.




May is American Stroke Month

This May is American Stroke Month. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the fifth most common cause of death in the U.S. Stroke is also the leading cause of long-term disability, yet it is largely treatable with early detection and treatment.

The American Heart Association's "F.A.S.T" model is an easy and effective way to remember the warning signs  -- (F)ace drooping, (A)rm weakness, (S)peech difficulty, (T)ime to call 9-1-1. Being able to spot the warning signs and call 9-1-1 immediately could save a life and limit the risk of long-term disability. The faster the stroke is treated, the more likely it is that the person will recover.

Eighty percent of strokes can be prevented through detecting the early warning signs. While strokes can occur in babies, children or adults, it is important to take necessary health measures to reduce one's risk of having a stroke. By routinely checking one's blood pressure and taking steps to keep blood pressure at a healthy level, American adults can reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke.



DNR Free Fun Weekend

On Saturday and Sunday June 3rd and 4th, Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources is hosting a statewide Free Fun Weekend, and waiving otherwise required fishing licenses, state trail pass fees, vehicle admission sticker fees, and ATV registration and trail pass fees for all state parks and trails. Typically, fishing license fees are $20 annually, trail pass fees are $5 per day or $25 annually, vehicle admission fees are $8 per day or $28 annually, and ATV registration fees for public use are $30. Fishing limits on the size and kind of fish will still apply, however.

As we are blessed to be surrounded by so much natural beauty in La Crosse, I urge you to take this opportunity to explore Wisconsin's natural beauty free of charge, and to explore some of La Crosse's local majesty. Nearby recreation areas to our beautiful city include (but are not limited to) Perrot, Merrick, Mill Bluff, and Wildcat Mountain State Parks, as well as the La Crosse River, Great River, and Elroy-Sparta State Trails.

For an interactive map of Wisconsin State Parks and rivers, click here.


Meeting with Student Groups

You can tell it's spring again as the Capitol halls fill with young voices and laughter. Since the beginning of the year, and especially in the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure to meet with a number of school groups from La Crosse who are visiting Madison for the day. Coming to the Capitol -- often one of the last and most memorable field trips for Wisconsin 4th graders -- is a great opportunity for kids to learn about state government. I greatly enjoy meeting with our students, who always have great questions and are so excited to be at the Capitol. Below are photos from Northside Elementary School's visit.



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