Updates from the State Senate - March 20, 2017



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Fun Fact


The Wisconsin Badgers Menís Basketball team has made it to the NCAAís March Madness Tournamentís Sweet 16 for four straight seasons, and is the only team in this yearís tournament to have that claim. On Wisconsin!




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Focusing on Veteran's Care

Last week, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Veterans Affairs, of which I am a member, held a hearing. During the hearing, we approved the newly appointed Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Daniel Zimmerman, with a 5-0 vote. After the Committeeís unanimous vote for Mr. Zimmerman, his nomination will move to the full Senate floor for a vote, and, if approved, he will be confirmed.


Along with voting on Zimmermanís appointment, the Committee discussed several issues that impact veterans, including improving care at the King Veterans Home, the role that County Veteran Service Organizations (CVSOs) play in veteranís care, and how we can work to better address mental health through the DVAís Zero Veteran Suicide effort. The discussion I had with Mr. Zimmerman proved to me that he is not only knowledgeable on veteran care issues, but that he is ready to face the honor and the challenge of caring for Wisconsinís veterans.



Leading On Lead Act Shines in Committee Hearing

On Wednesday, March 8th, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy met to hear testimony on the Leading On Lead Act, and the response was positive. The Leading On Lead Act is a bill I introduced last month to assist municipalities in replacing lead laterals in water infrastructure through greater flexibility and local control. The proposal has 49 Co-Sponsors in the Legislature. During the two hours of testimony heard by the committee, we did not hear any testimony opposed to the bill.


Following my testimony (which can be read at the link below), we heard from several individuals and organizations concerned about lead in our drinking water; including Dr. Elizabeth Neary from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Rural Water Association, several municipalities and water utilities, and some of my legislative colleagues to name a few, all in support of the bill.


To watch the committee hearing on the Leading On Lead Act, visit Wisconsin Eye. To read the written testimony submitted to the Committee including my testimony, visit this page.

Taking a Stand Against Identity Theft


Credit card skimmers have been seen all over the news lately. Consumers throughout the state have fallen victim to fraud and identity theft just by using their credit cards to pay-at-the-pump or by using an ATM. On Thursday, March 9th, I introduced a bill to help Wisconsin law enforcement prevent this crime and to protect Wisconsin consumers.

The bill, currently known as LRB-1322/1, would place penalties on the possession and trafficking of credit card skimmers and stiffer penalties on the use of these devices. Wisconsin consumers should always remain vigilant, but should not have to fear identity theft at a gas pump or ATM. These penalties will provide a greater deterrence for criminals and a better tool for law enforcement to protect us.


To learn more, click on the image above to watch a segment from Local Fiveís Terry Kovarik.


Audit Committee Gets Updated on WPDES Permitting


Last week, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which I Co-Chair, held an audit hearing on the Wastewater Permitting and Enforcement Audit. The report evaluated the DNRís permitting and oversight of approximately 1,250 municipal wastewater treatment plants, industrial wastewater treatment facilities, and large livestock farms. This oversight is done through Wastewater Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permits. Protecting our water quality is a key issue for our state, and WPDES permits are one of the primary methods to provide that protection.


A primary finding of the audit identified that the DNR had only sent Notices of Violation (NOV) in 33 of 558 instances in which a violation could have been issued from 2005 to 2014. Other findings included a significant backlog of industrial and municipal permits and substantial staff turnover.


The testimony provided during the hearing highlighted the DNRís response to this audit, and  plan to improve the program's permitting and enforcement efforts. Ensuring those improvements are implemented will require further oversight and follow-up from the Committee. DNR Secretary Stepp noted there is still a backlog of permits. Until the backlog is reduced to within their recommended performance goals, I plan to continue being a thorn in the side of the DNR.


For more information, click on the image above to read a story from the Wisconsin Radio Network.


Taking Input


Each week I meet with different groups of constituents from throughout the district on a wide variety of issues. Some of these groups have questions on the legislative process while other want to make specific comments on different policy or budgetary proposals. Below are pictures from a few of the meetings Iíve had in the past two weeks.


 On Monday, March 6th, I met with the Green Bay Superintendent Parent Advisory Committee to discuss the issues most important to them as parents, and how they feel the budget and other policies being proposed could affect education for Wisconsin students.


On Thursday, March 9th, I welcomed Leadership Shawano County to the State Capitol and answered questions and concerns on Legislative topics they expressed to Representative Tauchen and me.


On Wednesday, March 15th, I discussed my legislative priorities with the Wisconsin Apartments Association.


Also on Wednesday, March 15th, I met with members of the Realtors Association from Northeast Wisconsin in the Assembly Parlor of the State Capitol.

Thanks For Reading!


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

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Senator Robert Cowles




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

Office: (800) 334-1465 | District: (920) 448-5092 | Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov