Updates from the State Senate - June 13, 2017



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Banner Photo


The banner photo on the top of this E-Newsletter was taken in the Navarino Wildlife Area earlier this Spring.


Quick Fact


Outagamie County produces more sauerkraut than any other county in the United States.


Helpful Links









It's June Dairy Month!


In America's Dairyland, we don't just celebrate National Dairy Month in June; we celebrate year-round! Dairy in Wisconsin is a larger portion of our economy than citrus in Florida or potatoes in Idaho. In Northeast Wisconsin, dairy farms make up the largest portion of our enormous agriculture industry. I've pulled together some facts to illustrate just how important the dairy industry and agriculture in general are to the four counties I represent.



For June Dairy Month, I volunteered in the serving line at the Outagamie County Breakfast on the Farm last Sunday. The event was held at Voight Acres Farm in Shiocton. Check out this story from WLUK on the breakfast.


Progress Seen on Two Bills I've Authored


On May 16th, I testified before the Assembly Committee on Environment and Forestry on two bills. The first was Assembly Bill 179, which is designed to better utilize brownfield sites with the goal of reducing or even eliminating blight in our communities. Brownfield sites are areas that are contaminated from a current or previous occupant, but arenít an area of concern for environmental cleanup and donít pose any imminent health or safety risks. An example of a possible brownfield would be an out-of-business factory or plant.


These areas often appear abandoned and distraught, and not only are a waste of valuable land, but may lower surrounding property values. Redeveloping brownfields helps strengthen our economy, and this bill helps to alleviate hurdles that are preventing more sites from being redeveloped. This bill stems from recommendations by the DNRís Brownfields Study Group, and is supported by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and Wisconsin Realtors Association.


Also on May 16th, I testified in the Assembly Committee regarding Assembly Bill 226, which provides homeowners greater assistance in replacing contaminated wells or failing septic tanks. I testified on the Senate companion to this bill on June 6th before the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which I chair. The next day, the bill was approved unanimously during an executive session, and the Assembly Committee is scheduled to vote on this bill on Wednesday, June 14th. A story from last week detailed how nearly 30% of wells in Kewaunee County are polluted by human waste. If this bill is passed, it will help homeowners replace one of the sources of groundwater contamination these residents regularly face. I hope to see continued progress on both of these pieces of common-sense environmental reform.

Enacting Fiscal Prudence on State Leases


One of my responsibilities as a state Senator is to find financial savings in government. In April, State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk discussed potential government waste in this article stating that a deal from 2010 could cost taxpayers up to $45 million more compared to a newly constructed state building. Our government currently has little accountability in the leasing process, and this potential for waste is the reason I am a co-author on Senate Bill 145.


This bill would require the Department of Administration to conduct a cost-benefit analysis comparing the proposed lease to the purchase of a suitable space. It also requires that it must evaluate comparable lease options to ensure that the proposed lease rates do not exceed rates on comparable properties. In addition, if a proposed lease involves an annual rent of more than $500,000, the Department must get approval from the Joint Finance Committee.


On Tuesday, June 6th, the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection voted unanimously to recommend the billís passage. While this bill may seem complex or even boring, it is an important step towards strengthening fiscal prudence in our bureaucracy.

Audit of the Umemployment Reserve Fund Released

Last week, the Legislative Audit Bureau released their financial review of the Unemployment Reserve Fund, which is managed by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The Fund became the first such program in the United States when it was created in 1932 by the state legislature.


As Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I am pleased to see the fiscal stability the audit has shown. Since June 2014, the fund has increased its net position by $905 million, totaling $1.2 billion as of June 30, 2016. This stability is the result of the historically low unemployment rates Wisconsin is experiencing, and will assist in lowering the tax rate on businesses during this calendar year.


As a result of the increased net position of the Fund, DWD has not had to borrow from the federal government for this Fund since July 2014. I'm glad to see this progress in the Fund, and I hope the reserves continue to grow to ensure long-term viability. To read the audit, visit the Audit Bureau's website.


Legislative Tool to Combat Skimmers Moves One-Step Forward


On June 1st, the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted to recommend the passage of Assembly Bill 196 which helps to combat credit card skimmers in Wisconsin. This compliments the unanimous decision of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety during a meeting on May 12, 2017 to recommend the passage of the Senate companion (SB 133).


By working with numerous stakeholders, including law enforcement, prosecutors, and banks and gas station owners, we created a solution to one of the largest threats to consumers. With the help of my Assembly Co-Author Representative Summerfield (R-Bloomer), our colleagues in both houses of the Legislature recognized the problem and the ability of this bill to address the problem. Over 25 communities and hundreds of consumers have already been harmed by a credit card skimmer on a gas pump or ATM. We must give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to fight against identity thieves. I hope that leadership in both houses will schedule Senate Bill 133 and Assembly Bill 196 for a vote on the floor.


Thanks for Having Me

It has been a busy end of May and start of June between my time in Madison and the district. Over the past few weeks, I've attended dozens of functions and met hundreds of constituents. Here is a highlight of some of the events I've recently attended:

  • On My 25th, the Green Bay Packers held a meeting of their Mentor Protťgť Program which is designed for experienced leaders in business and industry to share their expertise with the leaders of new and budding companies. You can read more about this program on the Green Bay Press-Gazette's website.

  • For Memorial Day, I posted a list of events throughout the district on my website and on social media. I personally attended a few events, including a chapter meeting of the Disabled American Veterans the week before Memorial Day, Heritage Hill's A Soldiers Remembrance and Celebrate De Pere's Memorial Day Ceremony. Thank you to all veterans and families of veterans, especially those who have sacrificed in defending our freedom.

  • On June 8th, I attended the 28th Annual Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce Business Recognition Luncheon. From small to large, businesses throughout Northeast Wisconsin are accomplishing great things, and are contributing to the betterment of the community through employment, taxes, and charitable work. Read more about that event by visiting this link.

How Water Has Shaped Wisconsin Activity Guide

If your child is home for summer, you can keep them busy with this educational student activity guide from the Historical Society on how water has shaped Wisconsin. In this guide, students will have the opportunity to learn about our major waterways, the basics of the water cycle, how water was pivotal in historical travel, and more! To access the guide, click on this link.


Congratulations to New Graduates!

Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District became smarter over the past few weeks with hundreds of local students graduating from high school or college. Congratulations to everyone who graduated, and best of luck in your future endeavors!


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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