Updates from the State Senate - February 26, 2018


The banner photo above was taken of Grignon Mansion in Kaukauna, a National and State Historic Site dating back to 1837. 



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


After President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made it possible for black soldiers to enlist in Union regiments, African-American troops from throughout Wisconsin joined the Union army in 1863. Over the next two years, 272 Wisconsin men of color joined the Union army.


Helpful Links









Six Bills Now Ready to be Signed into Law


Thirteen bills Iíve authored have seen recent progress in at least one house of the Legislature. Six bills which are now headed to the Governor to be signed into law, and the other nine bills have passed the Assembly and are available for scheduling in the Senate during the next floor session. Learn more about each of these bills below:


6 Bills Ready to be Signed into Law:

  1. Senate Bill 85, authored by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee which I Co-Chair, reflects four recommendations from the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureauís devastating evaluation of the DOTís State Highway Program. The audit revealed an unacceptable trend of under-estimating the cost of major highway projects during enumeration. SB 85 is a roadmap to ensure this recklessness doesnít happen again, and with the passage of this bill, we are only one step away from enhancing oversight and transparency in our major highway project design, construction, and costs. Learn more about this bill by visiting my website and reading this press release.

  2. Assembly Bill 355, authored with Representative Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) and with the help of Attorney General Brad Schimel, reforms Wisconsinís neglect statutes to add substance and clarity for law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, community leaders, and caretakers. AB 355 also combats the issues of repeated acts of neglect and subjecting a child to a drug endangered environment. AB 355 does not override the ability of Child Protective Services to improve the situation, but instead it serves as a barrier to protect the child if other systems fail. Learn more about this bill by visiting my website and reading this press release.

  3. Senate Bill 435, authored with Representatives Considine (D-Baraboo) and Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), allows first responders to provide care to our pets in emergency situations like house fires or car accidents. While some first responders are already treating pets at emergency scenes, they put themselves at professional risk as their actions are illegal under state law. This bill, named Save Our Pets, will provide first responders with the legal authority they need to continue rendering aid to families throughout Wisconsin, regardless of whether the family member walks on two legs or four.

  4. Assembly Bill 422, authored with Representatives Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) and Riemer (D-Milwaukee), creates the Hire Heroes transitional jobs program. For veterans, too often one of the hardest parts of transitioning from military service to civilian life is finding gainful employment. The Hire Heroes program closes gaps in the current transitional jobs system to make the path to employment simpler for all veterans. By giving veterans a chance to get their foot in the door with a potential employer, we can ensure that employers see the value that veterans bring to a workplace. Learn more about this bill by visiting my website and reading this press release.

  5. Assembly Bill 538, authored with Representative Jagler (R-Watertown), aligns Wisconsinís emergency detention laws with federal standards. This bill will help law enforcement and medical professionals ensure that those suffering from a mental health crisis are not a danger to themselves or others.

  6. Assembly Bill 442, authored with Representative Jacque (R-DePere), creates uniformity in the placement of signs designating ATV routes that are posted within a municipality.


7 Bills Pass the Assembly:

  1. Assembly Bill 946, authored with Representative Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), increases funding to the Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant Program to ensure that more farmers can work together to reduce pollutant runoff, helping to improve water quality and the farmerís bottom line.

  2. Assembly Bill 852, authored with Representative Jacque (R-DePere), gives the DOT the tools they need to combat fraudulent automotive sales like what happened at the Kaukauna consignment car dealership Standard Pre-Owned. Learn more below.

  3. Assembly Bill 731, authored with Representative Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), loosens the standards for newspapers that can receive compensation for publishing legal notices, ensuring that these essential legal notices are readily available to the small town and rural citizens of Wisconsin.

  4. Assembly Bill 789, authored with Representative Tittl (R-Manitowoc), opens the door to a new pro-business and pro-environment industry which converts post-use, non-recycled plastics into valuable commodities such as oil, gasoline, or chemicals.

  5. Assembly Bill 821, authored with Representative Macco (R-Ledgeview), removes red tape blocking the Green Bay Optimist Club and other similar clubs and organizations from constructing donated structures in municipal parks.

  6. Assembly Bill 926, authored with Representative Nygren (R-Marinette), removes an unnecessary burden on homeowners on the Great Lakes or bay of Green Bay shoreline who are looking to maintain their shoreline through simple maintenance activities like raking sand or removing dead vegetation.

  7. Assembly Bill 617, authored by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee which I Co-Chair, removes a redundant mandate from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Developmentís Supervised Business Initiative.


Bill to Address Fraud in Auto Sales Speeds Ahead


From 2014 to 2016, dozens of vehicles on consignment at the Kaukauna car dealership Standard Pre-Owned were sold despite the original vehicle owner not being notified or receiving compensation. While complaints flooded into the Department of Transportation, more Northeast Wisconsin residents found themselves defrauded by Standard Pre-Owned as the lengthy and tedious process of license revocation failed to protect Wisconsinites in these consignment sales. These events lead to the drafting and introduction of Assembly Bill 852 by myself and my co-authors Senator Testin and Representatives Jacque and Steffen.


Over the past few weeks, Assembly Bill 852 has been heard and recommended by the Transportation Committees in both the Assembly and the Senate, and the bill has already passed the full Assembly. By simplifying the process of denial, suspension and revocation of these licenses, we provide DOT the ability to better protect Wisconsinites. While these changes may not have prevented the situation at Standard Pre-Owned, AB 852 would allow DOT to adequately address the most egregious cases of fraud and prevent situations like Standard Pre-Owned from escalating out of control again.


Assembly Bill 852 simplifies the process for DOT to deny, suspend or revoke certain licenses issued to motor vehicle manufacturers, importers, distributors and dealers. Under this bill, DOT could perform an initial determination and immediately suspend or revoke a license if they find that the licensee violated their consignment sales license or are selling a motor vehicle without a dealerís license, or if thereís intentionally fraudulent conduct. AB 852 also sets forth an appeal process before DOT and the Courts System.


Learn more about the situation from Standard Pre-Owned and our legislation to address the problems from WBAY at the link below:



Two Senate Scholars Represent 2nd Senate District


Every year, the State Senate hosts a program for High School Seniors from throughout the state known as the Senate Scholar Program. This week-long, intensive crash course of our state governmentís operations is meant to mold a sense of civic engagement and encourage public service from some young and enthusiastic individuals. This year, the 2nd Senate District had two representatives during two different Senate Scholar sessions. In January, Gage from Shawano High School joined us in Madison, and in February, Tom from Gresham Community High School joined us in Madison. Both of these young men represented the district very well, and I thank them for their participation.


Wetlands Reform Bill Amended and Passed


Since Senate Bill 600 on wetland reform was referred to my committee in early December, my staff and I have been working diligently with the billís authors Senator Roger Roth and Representative Jim Steineke to address several concerns that have been raised. While this legislation underwent several iterations, two weeks ago, Senate Substitute Amendment 1 was released. Subsequently, Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited removed their opposition to this bill.


This amendment constitutes the greatest possible balance between conservation and community growth. This conciliation represents a step forward in wetlands regulations for everyone, and the creation of the Wisconsin Wetlands Study Council will help to provide future recommendations on wetland regulations from industry, local government, and conservation experts for years to come. The legislation as amended has been passed by the Assembly and the Senate, and now waits the Governorís signature.


Senate Substitute 1 to 2017 Senate Bill 600 limits the scope of the bill. In urban areas, the disturbance to a nonfederal wetland may not impact more than one acre, and mitigation is required after 10,000 square feet. In rural areas, an exemption from permitting only applies if the discharge is for an agricultural structure, and the disturbance may be up to three acres with mitigation required after one and one-half acres. The Substitute Amendment includes conditions in both urban and rural areas that could preempt the exemption, including rare and high-quality wetland types and adjacency to trout streams.


The substitute amendment also addresses exemptions for artificial wetlands, extending the lifespan of a delineation, and establishing qualified third person delineations. Finally, Senate Substitute 1 takes portions of 2017 Senate Bill 702 to establish a grant program for nonprofits to perform wetland mitigations on certain state-owned lands and creates a Wetlands Study Council to address future concerns or problems with the law, administrative rules, or implementation of those laws or rules regarding wetlands.



In Other News...


Here are some other links I wanted to share with you:

  •  Last September, I voted for a state budget which included the establishment of an engineering school at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Two weeks ago, the UW Board of Regents gave the final approval needed to establish this school. Every day, itís more evident that the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields are what the future workforce needs. Iím pleased to see this program move forward and look forward to the studentís graduating from this school contributing to the community for years to come. Learn more about the new Engineering School at this link.

  • While it may have come a little late, Iím happy to see Jerry Kramer finally inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame. WBAY ran a great story on this distinction and ran it the night of the induction. Check it out at this link. In other football news, itís great to see Wisconsin native J.J. Watt named as the NFLís Walter Payton Man of the Year. Learn more about J.J. Wattís award on Fox Sportís website.

  • The Winter Olympics are done, and I'm sure you enjoyed watching them with your family and friends while cheering on the USA. Of course, we are proud of all of our Olympic athletes, but Wisconsin is incredibly blessed to have 24 athletes with Wisconsin ties competing in Pyeongchang, South Korea. See the full list of these athletes on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinelís website.


Thanks for Reading!


Feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have, and be sure to

visit my website and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Senator Robert Cowles




Mailing Address: P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 | Office: 118 South, State Capitol

Office: (
608) 266-0484 | District: (920) 448-5092 | Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov




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