Updates from the State Senate - August 7, 2018


The banner photo above was taken on the Mountain-Bay State Trail in Bonduel.



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


July 10th was Main Street Day, a perfect chance to recognize the 440,763 small businesses in Wisconsin and the approximately 1.2 million Wisconsinites that work for these companies.


Not only do these businesses and their entrepreneurs play an important role in our communities, but they help to move all sectors of Wisconsinís economy forward.


Learn more about how small businesses contribute to Wisconsin's economy on the Small Business Bureauís website.  


Helpful Links









Celebrating Water Quality Month


As August is Water Quality Month (declared by the American Public Health Association), I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the positive changes we made in the past legislative session to improve and preserve water quality in Wisconsin. This includes bills Iíve authored to remove lead water pipes from our communities (2017 Act 137), complete critical health and safety water infrastructure upgrades in our most popular State Parks (2017 Act 71), increase funding to producer-led water and soil conservation projects (2017 Act 196), and help homeowners replace or remediate contaminated wells and failing septic tanks (2017 Act 69).


These changes have only been enhanced by legislative changes Iíve authored in previous sessions, including bills to ban plastic microbeads from beauty and hygiene products to keep these plastics out of our waterways (2015 Act 43), provide the funding needed to combat the spread of the invasive and destructive sea lamprey from the Great Lakes and their tributaries (2013 Act 72), incentivize businesses to work together to combat nonpoint source phosphorus pollution (2013 Act 378 and 2015 Act 205), and ensure proper property liability and prompt and thorough remediation efforts in instances of lake and river bed contamination (2015 Act 204).


But legislative changes havenít been Wisconsinís only avenue towards improving and preserving water quality in Wisconsin. Governor Walker announced last month that over the past two years, $26 million has been distributed to 42 Wisconsin communities to help remove lead water pipes. While the future of this federally funded program is uncertain, the Leading on Lead Act mentioned above will help continue community efforts to remove this harmful water infrastructure while addressing one of the largest public health concerns Wisconsin families face.


Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has also recently implemented administrative rules specific to over a dozen eastern Wisconsin counties where Silurian bedrock (also known as Karst) is present. The presence of this bedrock, which allows the rapid transport of contaminants without proper filtering before they reach the groundwater, meant that new agricultural performance standards were needed to meet groundwater and surface water standards. The performance standards in this newly revised rule, NR 151, will help to minimize the risk of groundwater pollution from surface runoff.


Of course, work on improving and maintaining water quality is never over. While the current Legislative Session is adjourned, Iím working to address the issue of groundwater pollutants in Marinette and various other locations throughout the state that have risen to the surface (learn more about these pollutants at this link). As no enforceable water quality standards exist at the federal level for these chemicals, Iíve been working with a few of my legislative colleagues from Northeast Wisconsin including Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) to push the DNR and state Department of Health Services to set state standards.


While most water pollution limits are set at the federal level, the absence of pollutant levels on PFOS and PFOA chemicals is not in the interest of Wisconsin families. To ensure that we have the best information available while we work to set these standards in Wisconsin, I sent a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services with two of my colleagues to encourage the release of a federal draft study on these chemicals, and shortly after, the draft study was released to the public. We believe that this study will benefit our stateís decision making process on where to set water quality levels moving forward. Iím proud to work with my colleagues and the experts in our state agencies to create needed action and provide clean water to more Wisconsin residents.


Wisconsin residents and visitors rely on clean and safe ground and surface water not only for their health and safety, but also for recreation and natural scenery. Wisconsinites deserve a state where every single person can rely on safe water coming out of their faucet and clean water in our lakes and rivers. I look forward to continuing my work next session to make Wisconsinís water even more drinkable, fishable, and swimmable.


Advocating for an Overpass on VV and 29


I recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation supporting a grant request from Brown County to help fund the creation of an overpass on County Highway VV (by Maplewood Meats in Hobart) over State Highway 29 (map). Replacing the J-turns with an overpass will help to foster economic development in a growing community while also being much safer for school transportation and easing the mobility of goods and people through this intersection. The County is hoping to hear back from the federal government with good news by the end of the year.


You can read my letter of support and the joint statement I co-authored with four of my Assembly colleagues in Brown County on my Twitter page. You can also learn more about the necessity for this project on WFRVís website.


Approving an Audit of the Department of Corrections


A recent hearing by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which I Co-Chair, included a discussion on the scope of a proposed independent, nonpartisan audit of the costs associated with our adult correction institutions. The comprehensive audit, which was approved by the Audit Committee in the same hearing and should come out early next year, will help the state as we plan for our future corrections needs.


WBAY ran a story shortly after the approval of the audit on how the results could help gather information that may lead to the closure of Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez. Check out the story at this link.


Applauding the New TitletownTech Partnership


Last month, I attended an announcement on the new TitletownTech partnership between Microsoft, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the UW-System, and the Green Bay Packers. Thanks to this partnership that started with Microsoftís announcement last year about the new TitletownTech, Northeast Wisconsin is ready to prove that you donít need to be in Silicon Valley to be on the cutting edge of the new digital world.


For decades, Northeast Wisconsinís economy has largely been led by fields like agriculture and manufacturing, both of which have become more reliant on technological advances in recent years. The support and resources that will be available from the addition of TitletownTech to our region provides an opportunity for creative minds who understand the challenges in our regionís economy to come up with innovative digital solutions and drive progress not only in our region, but in the entire nation.


TitletownTech is a two-story, 46,000-square foot facility which, when opened, will include a Venture Studio to assist early-stage companies and an Innovation Lab to work with established businesses to develop new digital products and services, and a Fund to invest in companies that participate in the programs and potentially other regional startups.


In Other News...


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

  • Iím very proud to be named a Municipal Champion of the 2017-18 Legislative Session by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. As a state legislator, I believe itís my duty to find more ways to work with our local governments to make Wisconsin an even better place to live, work, and visit. Last month, I went to Ashwaubenon Village Hall where Village President Mary Kardoskee and LWM Deputy Director Curt Witynski presented me with the Municipal Champion award.

  • Itís been a banner year for the greater Green Bay areaís business community, and it looks like people are noticing. As the Green Bay Press-Gazette says, ďmore than a dozen major announcements have positioned Brown County up for positive growth in manufacturing, technology, education, health care, business development and innovation.Ē Read the full article at this link.

  • The Department of Justice has been busy reviewing and approving school safety grants for hundreds of schools throughout Wisconsin after the legislature authorized $100 million to support projects designed to improve safety in Wisconsinís K-12 schools. Many schools in the 2nd Senate District have received grants, including Ashwaubenon, Bonduel, Bowler, Clintonville, Freedom, Green Bay, Gresham, Hortonville, Howard-Suamico, Kaukauna, Little Chute Area, Marion, Seymour Community, Shiocton, and Tigerton school districts and Notre Dam de la Baie Academy in Green Bay and St. James Lutheran School in Shawano. The remaining funds in this grant program will be distributed in a second round of funding targeting student mental health. Thank you to the schools in Northeast Wisconsin and throughout the state who took advantage of this resource to help make kids safer in Wisconsinís schools.


Recent Events Attended 


I have the opportunity to attend a number of community events each week. These events are central in my role as an elected official, as they allow me to stay up-to-date on the latest news from businesses, non-profits, and local governments. These events also give me a chance to meet great people and recognize the contributions that so many people make to our communities. Here is just a sampling of some of the events Iíve recently attended:

  1. I was pleased to have the chance to attend the ribbon cutting for Northeast Wisconsin Technical Collegeís new 32,000 square-foot state of the art Great Lakes Energy Education Center. This investment proves that NWTC is ahead of the curve in responding to the workforce needs not only for Northeast Wisconsin, but for the entire Midwest to have a skilled pipeline of utility and energy workers with the training to use todayís newest technology and the education to prepare for tomorrowís energy challenges.

  2. Last month, I attended a tour of the Badger Hydroelectric Facility in Kaukauna. Energy production is one of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of Wisconsinís infrastructure. Thanks to the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, Kaukauna Utilities and General Manager Jeff Feldt (in the photo to the right), and WPPI Energy for organizing this opportunity to learn more about hydropowerís place in Wisconsinís energy past, present, and future. Learn more about the tour and watch my interview about the event on WBAYís website.

  3. The Green Bay Packers put out this short video from a ceremony I attended permanently honoring the late Mike Aubinger in the Titletown District by naming a street after the former Village President, local newspaper editor, and all-around community-minded man. His memorialization in Titletown, a project which Mike helped to foster, is a very fitting tribute for a man who was so dedicated to his hometown.

  4. A few weeks ago, the Oneida Nation put on a great event titled the Growing Our Future Agricultural Expo. I was happy to be able to attend this event not only to learn more about one of our regionís largest industries, but see some of the progress in the less traditional farming industries like maintaining bee hives and growing hemp (which is a brand new industry to the state).

  5. The Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of JDRF, an organization aimed at combating and curing type 1 diabetes, held their annual meeting recently in Kimberly. This ailment is a burden on so many lives in our region and throughout the nation. Itís great to see the work that a dedicated group of local residents are contributing to combating this problem.

  6. Last month, I joined city officials and community members for the ribbon cutting of the new Clintonville Wastewater Treatment Plant. This new facility will remove nearly every pollutant found in the 600,000 gallons a day that pass through the facility, helping to protect the health and welfare of the citizens in Clintonville and surrounding areas and helping to preserve the ecological diversity of the Pigeon River.

  7. Dose of Reality, a campaign aimed at fighting opioid abuse and addiction, was expanded last month with a newfound focus on messaging towards veterans and active service members. The goal is to show those who have served our nation that their not alone, and that someone will understand and is ready to help if theyíll reach out. It was my pleasure to be able to attend the announcement of the kick-off of what will hopefully turn into a life-saving effort.


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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