Updates from the State Senate - April 23, 2018


The banner photo above was taken in downtown Clintonville. Small Business Week starts on April 29th which is a great chance to explore and patronize more of the many great small businesses in Northeast Wisconsin.



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


We are in the midst of the annual Lake Sturgeon spawning season on the Wolf River.


Did you know that a 66 pound female sturgeon can produce up to 400,000 eggs?


Learn more about Lake Sturgeon and where to view the upstream run on the DNRís website at this link.


Donate Life Month


Do you have your orange dot? April is Donate Life Month, which is a good reminder to get an organ donor sticker on your driverís license or state ID if you donít already have one. Registering is quick and simple, and you could just save a life. Learn more at this link.


Helpful Links









Transportation Accountability and Ten More Bills Become Law


One of the key initiatives I worked on this year was recently signed into law. In early 2017, the Audit Bureau released a devastating evaluation of the DOTís State Highway Program. The audit revealed an unacceptable trend of under-estimating the initial cost of major highway projects. 2017 Senate Bill 85, authored by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee which I Co-Chair, provided a roadmap to ensure this recklessness doesnít happen again. With the signing of Senate Bill 85 into law, we have now paved the way to enhanced oversight and transparency in our major highway project design, construction, and costs.


SB 85 was just one of four key initiatives and eleven total bills Iíve authored that were recently signed into law. A second initiative, 2017 Assembly Bill 422, which I authored with Representative Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) and Representative Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee), creates the Hire Heroes program which makes all veterans eligible for transitional job assistance. The Hire Heroes program closes gaps in the former transitional jobs program 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.


In the shadow of Earth Day, itís important to know that hundreds of thousands of tons of non-recycled plastics go to landfills each year in Wisconsin. 2017 Assembly Bill 789, which I authored with Representative Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc), opens Wisconsinís doors to an innovative process that has the potential to divert tens or even hundreds of thousands of tons of non-recycled plastic each year from landfills and transform that plastic into valuable commodities like gasoline, waxes, and lubricants. Pyrolysis and gasification not only represent an exciting opportunity for businesses, consumers, and local governments, but this process also presents a more responsible reuse of our natural resources.


Itís fitting that in April, which is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, another initiative that I authored with Representative Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) with the help of Attorney General Brad Schimel, was signed into law. 2017 Assembly Bill 355 combats the growing problem of child neglect and subjection of children to drug endangered environments by adding substance and providing clarity in Wisconsinís child neglect statutes for law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, community leaders, and caretakers. AB 355 does not interfere with Child Protective Services ability to intervene and improve the situation, but instead it serves as a barrier that better protects children in these troubling situations.


Learn more about these initiatives by visiting the ĎNewsí section of my website at this link.


Seven Other Bills Signed into Law


Seven other bills Iíve authored were signed into law since the circulation of the last e-newsletter. Learn about these efforts below:

  1. AB 381, which I authored with Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay), allows the Law Enforcement Memorial Fund to collect voluntary payments on their specialized license plates. Funds collected will help to provide support to the families and colleagues of fallen officers and commemorate a fallen officerís service.

  2. AB 442, which I authored with Representative Andrť Jacque (R-DePere), creates uniformity in the placement of signs designating ATV routes that are posted within a municipality. This change eliminates uncertainty and eases the burden on local governments of having to post an unnecessary amount of ATV route signs.

  3. AB 617, which is authored by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee which I Co-Chair, removes an unnecessary mandate on the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development following an audit of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

  4. AB 618, also authored by the Audit Committee, will cleanup some of the unnecessary but statutorily required audits the Audit Bureau must perform. This change will free up more Audit Bureau resources to allow evaluations for other programs that are often overlooked.

  5. Public notices are important to ensure government transparency. AB 731, which I authored with Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), will help to increase these essential notices in some small-town and rural newspapers by allowing compensation for publishing notices in certain free circulations.

  6. Constantly fluctuating water levels on the Great Lakes often leaves homeowners with a messy shoreline. AB 926, authored with Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), removes a burden on homeowners looking to maintain their shoreline through simple upkeep activities like raking sand or removing dead vegetation.

  7. AB 946, which I authored with Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) and Governor Scott Walker, recognizes that no one knows the land better than the farmers who cultivate it. This bill increases the amount available for producer-led conservation by $500,000 from the Environmental Fund (a user-based account to fund non-point source pollution projects) to encourage more coalitions of farmers to coordinate to protect the watershed.


Recognizing NE Wisconsin's Law Enforcement


Some members of law enforcement and first responders in Northeast Wisconsin have gone above and beyond recently and have been recognized for their efforts. These acknowledgements are just a few examples of how our local law enforcement officers work to protect and serve our communities every day. Learn more below:

  • The quick response and actions by three law enforcement officials to save a gunshot victim in Oconto County have earned them the Department of Justice Top Cop Recognition. Learn more about their actions on WFRVís website at this link.

  • Another Northeast Wisconsin law enforcement officer was named as a DOJ Top Cop earlier this month. Green Bay Police Departmentís Officer Craig Brey earned this recognition thanks to his brave actions on the scene of a dangerous incident at Lambeau Field. Learn more about his actions on Green Bay Press Gazetteís website at this link.

  • According to Sheriff Bieber, deputies, firefighters and EMTs in Shawano County responded to 455 calls over the weekend of Winter Storm Evelyn, including 104 crashes and 165 disabled vehicles. THANK YOU to all first responders in Shawano County and throughout Northeast Wisconsin who endured the punishing weather from the historic snow storm to keep us safe. Additionally, thank you to all the snow plow drivers who worked long hours to get Northeast Wisconsin back to normal so quickly.


Questioning the Closure of Another Iconic Tower


Earlier this month, the Department of Natural Resources announced the permanent closure and dismantling of the observation tower at Potawatomi State Park (view from tower seen in picture to the left) in Sturgeon Bay without any plan to replace the tower. Combined with the closure of Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park, this decision marks the second Door County observation tower that has been closed in recent years.


Our state parks are not only critical in showcasing the best of our stateís natural beauty, but they provide hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity while generating thousands of jobs in the tourism and service industries. I believe the absence of these iconic towers will be greatly missed by park visitors and that and this decision could leave a chilling effect on tourism in the park and throughout the community.


I was recently on Wisconsin Public Radioís Central Time to discuss the issue of degrading infrastructure in our State Parks and the potential effects on tourism. Listen to that interview at this link or read more about this story on Wisconsin Public Radioís website at this link.


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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