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(608)266-5780 | State Capitol, Room 307 West, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 | email@example.com
Friday, September 22
La Crosse Community Theater
Thursday, September 28
Begins at intersection of Kane St and Gillette St
Saturday, September 30
Saturday, September 30
Begins at Clinton St & Copeland Ave
Continues on Copeland Ave to Downtown La Crosse
Thursday, October 5
4 p.m. - 6 p.m.
UW-L University Gallery
UW-L Center for the Arts
Friends and Neighbors,
Last week brought final votes on two of the biggest outstanding bills of the session thus far: the biennial budget bill and the Foxconn bill. Both passed the Assembly and Senate, with the majority of Democrats voting no. Gov. Scott Walker signed the Foxconn bill this Monday, followed by a signing of the budget bill on Thursday.
I voted against both of these bills on the grounds that the way they are written does not serve hard-working Wisconsinites, but instead favors Republican donors and a big foreign corporation. I was looking for a budget that is fair and prioritizes community and equitable opportunities for all Wisconsin families. Instead, this budget increases transportation borrowing with no sustainable solution to fix our local roads, takes away local control, and deals a final blow to prevailing wage laws once coveted in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin gubernatorial veto pen has been called one of the most influential in the nation because of the extensive veto powers Wisconsin law gives to the governor. My Democratic colleagues and I sent a number of letters petitioning Gov. Walker to use this pen to veto certain harmful provisions in the budget bill, including voucher school program expansions and elimination of labor protections. We were successful in convincing him to veto the elimination of the Working Families Tax Credit, as well as a provision that would have taken away local control of quarry regulation. However, he failed to strike a provision limiting school districts' ability to call referenda and refused to acknowledge the diversity of the UW System's 26 campuses by forcing a one-size fits all approach to performance-based funding. Moreover, he missed an opportunity to veto frivolous spending of taxpayer dollars on funding an airport to a Republican donor's private golf resort. I am disappointed in Gov. Walker's failure to take this opportunity to improve this unfair budget.
While the budget is incredibly important and has dominated press coverage, business as usual did go on. In the past week, I traveled from Denver to Dodgeville to Baraboo, working on the issues I am passionate about and listening to experts in the respective fields. In Denver, I learned about early childhood education and its tremendous benefits on the economy and our society. In Dodgeville, I attended a meeting of the Speaker's Task Force on Foster Care, which you can read more about further down, and in Baraboo I met with the Governor's Task Force on Opioid Abuse to discuss trauma-informed care, medication assisted treatment and recovery support.
The past two weeks have been incredibly busy, and I am glad to be back home in La Crosse. I look forward to constituent meetings and seeing all of you during Oktoberfest!
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns. You can contact my office by calling (608) 266-5780 or emailing me at Rep.Billings@legis.wi.gov.
Please continue reading for more detailed information on the happenings both in La Crosse and statewide.
95th Assembly District
National Voter Registration Day
The fourth Tuesday of every September marks National Voter Registration Day. This year, it falls on Sept. 26 and it provides a great opportunity to discuss the importance of voting in all elections - from the local to the federal level. Voting is among our country's most sacred civic duties, yet millions of eligible voters are unable to partake each year because they miss the voting registration deadline, fail to update their registration when applicable or do not know where and how to register. Many others simply choose not to show up to the polls for "smaller" elections, despite the fact that school board members, alders, mayors and other local representatives are the ones making the decisions that often impact us most directly and immediately. As such, I would encourage all of you to take every opportunity to weigh in on behalf of your candidates of choice. Moreover, I urge you all to check that you are properly registered so that no one can try to deter you from making your voice heard at the polls next spring and fall. Click here to learn more about the City of La Crosse's voter registration policies. In addition, you can learn more about statewide elections and policies here.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many of you who have contacted me in support of Assembly Bill 44/Senate Bill 13, which would take the job of drawing voting district maps out of the hands of the majority party and delegate it to the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau. This is legislation I have supported in the past and I am a co-sponsor of it this session as well because I believe it is imperative we return power to the Wisconsin voter. I applaud all of you who have been active on this issue calling for the bill to be given a public hearing and a vote. To stay updated on this and other legislation, you may sign up for the legislature's free email notification system here.
Foster Care Task Force Update
The Speaker's Task Force on Foster Care met this Wednesday in Dodgeville, with one of the main messages of the meeting being the unmet need for qualified personnel to work with foster children and those aging out of the foster care system. Among other speakers, we heard from the Wisconsin Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (WICASA), who addressed the need for expansion of services. WICASA is a group of judge-appointed volunteers that support children through the foster care process, serving as "the eyes and ears of the court" to ensure the wellbeing of the child.
La Crosse is fortunate to have WICASA working in our area, with 96 children served in La Crosse, Monroe and Vernon Counties in 2016. Other parts of the state, however, are not so lucky. There are 60 unserved counties statewide, and even in those counties that have services, judges only assign volunteers on cases where they feel they would have the biggest impact. This is not necessarily for a lack of volunteers, however. In Dane County, for instance, there is a wait-list of people signed up to volunteer who have not been able to get started due to a lack of staff to train and supervise. We have seen that kids have better outcomes with more adults in their lives, so it is truly unfortunate that we see such high rates of turnover in positions that serve foster children.
The next task force meeting will be held in La Crosse on Thursday, September 28, will focus on courts and termination of parental rights.
With Oktoberfest weekend approaching, there will be a number of community activities in which people can partake. You can find a full schedule of events on the Oktoberfest website. Above all, I hope everyone stays safe this weekend and enjoys this beloved La Crosse tradition. I look forward to seeing many of you at the fest grounds and as I march with other area Democrats in the Maple Leaf Parade on Saturday morning - be sure to say hello! Prost!
Fall in Wisconsin
As the leaves continue to change but the weather remains warm, consider taking a hike at one of the many trails at Grandad Bluffs and enjoy the stunning views La Crosse has to offer. Or if you are looking for a more leisurely activity, take a drive along the Wisconsin Great River Road Scenic Byway. This 250-mile stretch of road runs along the Mississippi River and crosses through more than 30 unique Wisconsin communities. As a member of the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, which oversees the Great River Road, I am glad this beautiful road is being highlighted. If you like what you see while on your drive, vote for the Great River Road in the Travel Wisconsin Ultimate Fall Drive Showdown here.
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism has updated their annual "Wisconsin Fall Color Report" map, which estimates how much the leaves have changed color as autumn kicks off. According to the Color Report, about 35% of the leaves in La Crosse have turned color, with the peak expected to be during the third week of October. For more ideas on fall day and weekend trips, click here.
Whatever your fall day or weekend plans, make sure to take full advantage of La Crosse and the area's beauty.
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