Updates from the State Senate - March 18, 2019

The photo above was taken in Gresham. This mural serves as a great reminder for passersby how important forestry was in the making of many of our communities and how important it remains in our state's economy.


Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


March 14th was Pi Day, a day celebrating the mathematical constant known as Pi discovered by Archimedes around 250 BC. Have you noticed that the first seven numbers of Pi (3.141592) are also Packers retired numbers and Hall of Fame players? So instead of Pi Day, maybe we should call it Canadeo (3), Hutson (14), Starr (15), and White (92) Day.


Banner Photos


Iíve enjoyed sharing some pictures from throughout the 2nd Senate District in the banners of e-newsletters over the past couple of years, but I know many of you have sites in the district, in your community, and even in your own backyard that also deserve to be shared.


Thatís why Iíve created a webpage to allow constituents to upload images from the district to potentially be featured in a future e-newsletter banner. Images selected will be presented similar to how banners have in past e-newsletters and you will receive credit for your submission.


If you have a photo you think should be featured, please visit my website.


Community Events



One of my favorite things about being your State Senator is getting to meet constituents out in the community at some of our great local events.


The 2nd Senate District is also home to many great events and attractions. Whether you're a visitor or a life-long resident, you will not run out of things to do and see in Northeast Wisconsin.


To find an event or attraction in your area, visit the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Fox Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Shawano County Chamber of Commerce, or the Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce. To find more public events, visit the community calendars on WLUK News and the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Helpful Links










Dear Friends and Neighbors,


Weíre two weeks further into the 2019-2020 Legislative Session and updates I want to share seem to come faster than I can type them. Looking ahead to this week, a theme has quickly emerged as Iíll be focusing a lot of time on water quality.


On Tuesday at the Capitol, the first hearing of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, which I Chair, is being held on P3: Creating a Pollution Prevention Partnership (more on that below) followed by the first hearing of the Task Force on Water Quality on Wednesday. Iíll also be attending a few events this week on water quality.


In this jam-packed e-newsletter, I've included information on:

  1. A second Leading on Lead Act plan recently approved

  2. Proposed federal action on wolf protections

  3. More bills that Iíve introduced early in this legislative session

  4. A new visitorís center in the Governorís Capital Budget

  5. Recent events I've attended around the district

  6. And more


As always, 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 for more regular updates from around the 2nd Senate District and in the State Capitol.


Thanks for reading!


Senator Robert Cowles

Proudly Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District


Second Leading on Lead Act Plan Approved


Last week, I was pleased to learn that the state Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved the City of Manitowoc for a lead lateral replacement program. The announcement came during the confirmation hearing for new Commissioner Rebecca Valcq who was before the Senate Committee on Utilities and Housing. Manitowoc follows Kenosha as the second community to implement a locally controlled lead lateral replacement program to replace the private portion of lead water laterals under 2017 Act 137, known as the Leading on Lead Act, which I authored with Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac).


The recent action by the PSC is an important step forward for ridding Manitowoc of lead laterals. Kenosha and Manitowoc have taken the initiative to work locally on drafting and passing an ordinance supporting using ratepayer dollars for lead abatement and in this action, they have also provided a roadmap for other communities to take similar action. Itís my hope that we continue to see more Wisconsin communities approach PSC and pursue a locally driven and locally funded solution to lead in drinking water.


An estimated 160,000 lead service lines are scattered throughout Wisconsin in communities of all sizes. The PSC notes that an estimated 112 of Wisconsinís 578 drinking water utilities still have utility-owned lead service lines, and an even greater number likely have customer-side service lines that contain lead. The Leading on Lead Act provides a funding mechanism to address this problem by allowing municipal governments to pass an ordinance to ask the Public Service Commission for the authority to use ratepayer dollars for a low or no-interest loan or an up to 50% grant for private property owners to replace their lead service lines.


Federal Action on Wolf Protections Proposed


On March 6th, news broke about proposed federal action by the Department of Interior to lift endangered species protections for the gray wolf. I was pleased to see Secretary Bernhardt and the Departmentís decision to return gray wolf management to the states. For years, this management has been largely controlled by the federal government as Wisconsin residents have struggled with wolves, including dealing with the financial and emotional toll from deaths of farm animals, hunting dogs and pets because of wolf attacks. Several of these instances have taken place in or near the 2nd Senate District.


Wisconsinís Department of Natural Resources has a proven history of successful wildlife management. Weíve waited too long for gray wolf management to return to the experts in our state agency instead of Washington DC. Learn more about this proposed action and check out my reaction to this news on NBC26ís website at the link below.




Introducing More Bills in the 2019-20 Session


In the last e-newsletter, I discussed my legislation on water quality trading to create a Pollution Prevention Partnership. That bill has now been introduced to the Legislature with 50 bi-partisan co-sponsors and broad support from groups representing agriculture, business, local government, and natural resources. Iíve also discussed a few other bills working their way through the committee process in the first few e-newsletters of 2019. But among these bills, Iíve also been rolling out more legislation over the past few weeks for co-sponsorship and introduction that I want to keep you all updated on.


Some of these initiatives are addressing water quality, including 2019 Senate Bill 31 which Iíve authored with Representative Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) to divert more agricultural permitting resources to the permitting division at DNR to address a permitting backlog uncovered in a 2016 audit. Iíve also introduced 2019 Senate Bill 109 with Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) to nudge the state Department of Health Services to produce recommendations on groundwater quality standards on PFOA and PFOS compounds found in sixteen locations throughout the state. This process started about a year ago, and weíre looking for progress on new water quality standards instead of more delays.


While some legislation is created through myself and the experts in the legislative service agencies and various departments discovering problems in our state government, other legislation is inspired by conversations I have with constituents. A constituent called last year puzzled as to why the DNR offers discounts on a number of licenses for disabled veterans but not for the Conservation Patron package of licenses. To clear up this discrepancy and create a discounted rate for disabled veterans, Iíve introduced 2019 Senate Bill 85 with Representative Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago).


While I do focus a lot of attention on natural resource and sporting issues, I also take a lot broader look at the issues most impacting the district. One issue Iíve heard a lot about is the troubles being faced in nursing homes and assisted living centers throughout the state. One of the issues their facing is getting good staffing to care for their residents. While the state has an interest in ensuring that all individuals are qualified, Wisconsinís training requirements for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are far stricter than federal standards as we require about 60 hours of more training.


That is why Iíve introduced 2019 Senate Bill 103 with Representative Warren Petryk (R-Eleva) to align our training requirements with federal standards. For CNAs, nothing is more valuable than on-the-job training. Getting these individuals in the workplace sooner while still ensuring a credible licensure process will only address part of the problem faced by nursing homes, but could be a strong first step.


As anyone who reads my e-newsletters knows, accountability and transparency has always been a big focus of mine. In a simple step to create more accountability and transparency in state government, Iíve introduced 2019 Senate Bill 90 with Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem) to require the Department of Revenue to display a series of accessible, clear, and upfront charts and graphics on the e-File website and DOR homepage for taxpayers to know where their tax dollars are spent.


Wisconsinís state government has a strong tradition of accountability and transparency, and past changes including creating and developing Open Book Wisconsin and the Local Government Dashboard have built on this history by bringing it into the modern era. With passage of this legislation, we can build on that history of accountability and transparency and better inform the public discourse.


Stay tuned to future Updates from the State Senate e-newsletters for updates as these bills and others work their way through the legislative process.


New Visitor's Center in Governor's Capital Budget


The Governor recently unveiled his Capital Budget recommendations for consideration by the Building Commission and the Legislature. The Capital Budget, which is separate from the Executiveís Biennial Budget, is the means by which we fund and begin the approval process for state building projects for state agencies and the UW-System. In the 2019-2021 Capital Budget, the Governor has recommended providing $2 million for a new Visitors Center in Ashwaubenonís Titletown District.


This Visitors Center, which would be owned and operated by the Greater Green Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and would require a $5 million match from the CVB, provides a state investment in tourism in Northeast Wisconsin where there has been a historical gap. Learn more about this project and some local response including my comments on the Press-Times website at the link below.




Youth Prison Might be Located in Hortonia


Last week, the Governor announced that heís directed the Department of Corrections to move ahead with planning and building two new Type 1 Juvenile Correctional Facilities with one located in Milwaukee County and one in Hortonia on the Northwest side of the cross roads of State Highways 15 and 45. This action comes after the stateís decision to close Lincoln Hills and create regional county-run facilities and one or more state run facilities for higher risk juvenile offenders.


I was as surprised as anyone when the Governor announced his plans to put one of these facilities in the 2nd Senate District without consulting or even informing local elected officials, including myself. Iíve heard from residents and local government officials expressing concerns over this decision. These sorts of decisions should require buy-in from elected officials and neighbors of the project. Thatís why Iím hoping that moving forward the state looks to work cooperatively with local government and residents and be prepared to compromise when possible.


To learn more and see more of my comments on this proposal, check out this story from WBAY or this story from the New London Press Star.


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. I also get to welcome dozens of residents from Northeast Wisconsin into the Capitol each week as they come to my office to talk about the issues important to them in their professional and personal life. Here is just a sampling of some of the events Iíve recently attended around the district and meetings Iíve had in the Capitol:

  • The construction industry is such an important part of our economy as they help everyone, from small to large businesses to farmers and homeowners, grow into their space. I was happy to attend a forum with some of my legislative colleagues in Neenah early last week to discuss the latest updates in construction.

  • Thanks to Leadership Shawano County for letting me speak to the group during their visit to the Capitol on Thursday. It was a pleasure to meet the participants, discuss the legislative process, and provide updates on my efforts this session.


  • Law enforcement officers in Northeast Wisconsin and throughout the state frequently have the misfortune of interacting with people on one of the worst days of their year, if not their life. While their job is often thankless, itís important to recognize the excellence we have in Wisconsin law enforcement. It was a pleasure to attend the Outagamie County District Attorneyís Best of the Badge Awards last week to get a chance to say thanks to these officers.

  • As you read above, I spend a lot of time focusing on water quality in the State Legislature. While these efforts by my colleagues and I are important, the changes being made closer to home by local government and farmers make some of the largest impacts. I recently met with Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach and some local experts on water quality to discuss what theyíre doing to improve our water quality.

  • After attending a recent event with the Fox Valley credit unions, I followed-up and met more great leaders and members of Northeast Wisconsin credit unions at a legislative event with the institutions in Brown County.

  • It was great to meet with three members of the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council from the Fox Valley last week at the State Capitol. We talked about how a vibrant main street contributes to a strong community and a lively economy, and how we can help to preserve and promote downtowns throughout Wisconsin.


  • I was happy to be able to join a few hundred community members a couple of weekends ago at an event to support Happily Ever After, a no kill animal shelter that connects residents and families with a new furry friend at their Green Bay Adoption Center.

  • Networking with our local elected officials is one of the best ways for me to learn how we as Legislators can make the greatest impact in our communities. It was a pleasure to welcome leaders from eight different 2nd Senate District school districts to the Capitol from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.


In Other News...


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

  • Once again, Wisconsin cheesemakers dominated at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. This year it was held at Lambeau Field, and cheesemakers from around the country came to compete. While the winner was from Ohio, 10 of the top 20 finalists were Wisconsin cheesemakers, including one from Seymour. Maybe Iím just being cheesy, but no one makes cheese as gouda as Wisconsin cheesemakers!

  • Two high school sports teams from the 2nd Senate District have recently excelled in their divisions at WIAA state championships. Freedomís Wrestling Team took home gold at the State Wrestling Tournament while the Bay Port Girls Basketball Team beat Middleton in a thrilling finish to take home the Division 1 Championship. Congratulations to the members of both teams and to all high school student-athletes who excelled in their sport this season!

  • Last week was recognized as National Groundwater Awareness Week. For Wisconsinís own recognition, the DNR released a few short columns and press releases about the importance of ĎTest, Tend, Treatí if you get your drinking water from a private well. Learn more about what ĎTest, Tend, Treatí means on the DNRís website.

  • While some legislation is easy to verify that itís been implemented by the state agencies, most bills require some long-term thinking to see how the new law is working in practice. Last session, I was a co-sponsor of 2017 Assembly Bill 732 to create a pilot program at the State Department of Veterans Affairs to provide outreach, support, and mental health and substance abuse services for veterans. This legislation, authored by Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) and Representative Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), appears to have been a great success! In under a year, this pilot program has successfully served more than 550 at-risk veterans in Wisconsin and is now being considered for renewal.




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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