Updates from the State Senate - July 24, 2017



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Banner Photo


The banner photo on the top of this E-Newsletter was taken during the Independence Day Parade in Bonduel. The 4th of July is a great reminder to celebrate the freedoms we sometimes take for granted, and to thank those who have sacrificed to defend our freedom.


Quick Fact


In May, Green Bay had an unemployment rate of 2.8%. That is the lowest rate ever recorded for the city!


Helpful Links









H.O.P.E. Agenda Provides Promise for Addicts

Recently, Governor Walker signed 11 bills to combat heroin and opioid abuse in Wisconsin. These bills, which are part of the H.O.P.E. Agenda, focus on getting addicts help. In 2014, more Wisconsinites died from drug overdoses than motor vehicle accidents. From 2004 to 2014, the number of drug overdose deaths doubled, and in 2014 nearly half of the 843 drug overdose deaths were from prescription opioid pain relievers. Wisconsin is facing a drug epidemic.


The opioid crisis in Wisconsin is a widespread problem. Thousands of Wisconsinites are impacted every day by their addictions, and countless more are impacted by their friends or family member’s dependence. The H.O.P.E. Agenda is a critical step forward in addressing this problem. I was the co-author of several of these bills, and am happy to see this agenda pass through the legislature and the Governor with strong, bipartisan support.


The bills that were signed into law include:


  • 2017 Act 25 which requires a prescription for certain Schedule V controlled substances;

  • 2017 Act 26 which allows hospitals to receive grants for addiction medicine fellowship or residency programs;

  • 2017 Act 27 which requires the Department of Health Services (DHS) to add an additional two or three opiate and methamphetamine addiction treatment centers in rural, underserved, or high-need areas;

  • 2017 Act 28 which requires DHS to establish an addiction medicine consultation program for physicians;

  • 2017 Act 29 which allows school bus drivers, employees, and volunteers as well as college or technical college residence hall directors with proper training to administer an opioid antagonistic, such as naloxone or Narcan, to those who appear to be experiencing an overdose;

  • 2017 Act 30 which permits the director of the Office of Educational Opportunity to contract for operation of a recovery charter high school as a four-year pilot project;

  • 2017 Act 31 which requires the Department of Public Instruction to establish a mental health training support program;

  • 2017 Act 32 which increases funding for the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion grant program by $2 million annually;

  • 2017 Act 33 which expands the “Good Samaritan Law” to provide immunity to an individual who calls 911 for a person experiencing an overdose;

  • 2017 Act 34 which allows people with a drug dependency to be committed under the process for those with alcohol dependency, and;

  • 2017 Act 35 which allocated four additional positions to be used for drug trafficking in the Department of Justice.


For more information, click on the below:


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GLRI Funding is Vital in the Fight against Asian Carp


The Great Lakes are a national treasure. Home to 20% of the world’s fresh surface water, the Great Lakes supply 1.5 million jobs, $62 billion in annual wages, and drinking water for 30 million people. The federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) has been a critical component in maintaining and increasing the prosperity of the Great Lakes. With $331 million supporting 416 projects in Wisconsin since 2010, the GLRI has generated $2 in economic return for every $1 spent.


Recently, an Asian Carp was found beyond the electric barrier in the Illinois Waterway and less than ten miles from Lake Michigan. With this discovery, a significant threat to the Great Lakes could be on the horizon. Annually, $40 million is transferred from GLRI to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee to stop this threat. The money from GLRI has helped to establish the electric barrier, coordinate rapid response, and harvest millions of pounds of Asian Carp annually from the Illinois Waterway. The federal government’s financial commitment pales in comparison to that of state and local governments, but is crucial to the long-term health of the Great Lakes. At a time where the Great Lakes are improving but threats still remain, reducing federal funding to Great Lakes restoration should be viewed as nothing less than reckless.


I personally have worked for years on bipartisan efforts to improve the Great Lakes by authoring proposals to eliminate plastic microbeads, combat the invasive sea lamprey, and create a phosphorus multi-discharger variance to reduce non-point source pollution. With these efforts and the restoration projects in the Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern, economic prosperity is returning to the bay. However, if Asian Carp establish in Lake Michigan, they could thrive in Green Bay and contribute to the destruction of our fishing and tourism industry while potentially impacting drinking water and human health.


Amending the Plan to Replace GBCI

Some of you may have seen the recent news stories regarding a plan to replace the Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI) in Allouez. After opening as the Wisconsin State Reformatory in 1898, the Institution has served the state of Wisconsin exceptionally well for over 100 years. Earlier this year, a plan was introduced to sell the existing facility and replace the prison with a privately built, publicly staffed facility in Northeast Wisconsin.


The plan, 2017 Senate Bill 228, creates a path to construct a modern corrections center that meets the needs of our state, and my amendment ensures the state has more oversight during this process. The amendment I have introduced strengthens Senate Bill 228 by including current state building procedures and additional safeguards to add more accountability and transparency. I look forward to hearing more debate and input from community members, stakeholders, and legislators on this proposal going forward.


Bill to Combat Child Neglect Highlighted on NBC15


NBC15 Madison recently did a story on a bill I am working on with Representative Cody Horlacher, Attorney General Brad Schimel and a wide variety of stakeholders to combat child neglect in Wisconsin. Children, especially young children, are completely reliant on their parents. Unfortunately, many parents are neglectful in their care, leaving children hopeless and often in danger.


In 2015, 3,282 reported cases of child neglect were substantiated, and over the last 10 years, 214 children have died as a result of maltreatment. This bill we’ve authored gives law enforcement the tools they need to protect children by defining clearer criminal statutes and penalties. To learn more about the bill and hear about the struggle one parent went through to remove their child from a neglectful caretaker, view the story by clicking on the image below.



Universal Service Fund Audit Release


Recently, the Legislative Audit Bureau released their audit of the Universal Service Fund (Fund), which is run by the Public Service Commission (PSC). The Fund was established in 1993 to ensure that all residents of Wisconsin receive essential telecommunications services and have access to advance telecommunication service capabilities. The Fund is funded by assessments on telecommunications providers that are typically recovered from consumers.


In Fiscal Year 2015-16, Fund revenues from assessments on telecommunications providers were used to support 14 programs across Wisconsin. The primary expenditures where the Aid to Public Library Systems, the Educational Telecommunications Access Program, and the Broadband Expansion Grant Program.


The primary finding of the audit was that the PSC did not consider the balance in the Fund when determining assessments on telecommunications providers. The audit also recommended that the PSC establish a minimum fund balance and increase the strength of the internal control over financial reporting. I hope these recommendations will help the PSC to improve their management of the Universal Service Fund.


To read the full audit, click on the link below.

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Carrie Schneider's Judicial Appointment

Recently, Governor Walker announced that long-time Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider would be appointed to fill the Outagamie County Circuit Court judicial vacancy from Judge Gage’s retirement. In June, I wrote a letter of support for Mrs. Schneider supporting her bid for the appointment. As Outagamie County’s longest serving DA, Carrie Schneider has proven herself to be a thorough prosecutor who is tough, yet smart on crime, and will serve Outagamie County honorably from the bench.


It’s great to see such a dedicated and highly qualified individual earning this position, and I’m proud to have supported her appointment. To learn more about Mrs. Schneider’s appointment, visit the link below.


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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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