Updates from the State Senate - March 19, 2018


The banner photo above was taken in Navarino State Wildlife Area which was recently honored with the state's Disability Advisory Council's Richard Welsh Memorial Award for Outstanding Property for access. 



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


The name ĎWisconsiní evolved from ĎMeskonsing,í an English spelling of the French version of the Miami Indian name referencing red sandstone bluffs of the Dells along the Wisconsin River.


Learn more about the root of Wisconsinís name on the Wisconsin State Journalís website.


Helpful Links









Standing with Tailgaters


While we are still six months away from tailgating season in Green Bay, I recently learned that last-minute changes to Assembly Bill 433 could put the gameday tradition of tailgating at risk. On Sundays in Fall, Green Bay comes to a halt as the city roots on our Packers. But before kickoff, thereís a tradition surrounding pregame festivities at Lambeau thatís revered by residents and visitors alike. While tailgaters are not the intended target of this legislation, events like Packersí gameday are the unintended consequences of the amended bill.


While I supported AB 433, a bill with the worthy intention of extending the hours of operations for wineries, recent changes to this bill mean that tailgating could soon be against the law. Tailgating is synonymous with not only Green Bay, but Wisconsin, and I believe it is simply unreasonable to ask a homeowner to apply for a liquor license to allow a few tailgaters to get ready for gameday in their yard.


As a result, I have withdrawn my co-sponsorship of Assembly Bill 433 and choose to stand with the valued tradition of enjoying a beer and brat with friends in the frozen tundra.


Learn more about these last-minute changes at the link below.



Leading on Lead Act Signed into Law


February 21st was an important day for public health in Wisconsin, as one of the nationís first pieces of comprehensive legislation to remove lead water pipes from our communities was signed into law. 2017 Senate Bill 48, which was authored by Representative Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and myself, addresses the public health concerns that thousands of Wisconsin residents, especially children are faced with every day from lead laden drinking water.


Wisconsin has over 170,000 lead service lines, and an EPA study showed that the number of Wisconsin children poisoned by lead is higher than the national average. Exposure to lead, especially for children and pregnant women, can lead a number of negative health effects, including developmental delays, learning difficulties and birth defects.


Communities of all sizes throughout Wisconsin have lead service lines providing water to their citizens, and as a result, Senate Bill 48 recognizes that a one-size fits all solution will not work for Wisconsin. While the scope of the problem in each community is different, the local control provided by this bill will help to remove this harmful water infrastructure while addressing one of the largest public health concerns Wisconsin families face.


Senate Bill 48 provides a funding mechanism for communities to address lead contamination in drinking water. This bill allows a municipal government 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.


Special Session and Other Bills Passed by the Senate


In the last Updates from the State Senate E-Newsletter, I discussed over a dozen bills Iíve authored that have seen recent progress in the Legislature. Many other bills that Iíve co-sponsored or supported with my vote have also seen recent progress, some of which Iíll discuss below.


  • I supported Assembly Bill 835, which increases Wisconsinís investment in our K12 education. For years, low revenue ceilings have created a disadvantage for certain schools. Today, we took a big step towards closing that divide while ensuring that rural schools have the resources to provide the quality education all students deserve. Eight school districts in the 2nd Senate District will benefit, including Bonduel, Freedom, Howard-Suamico, Little Chute, New London, Shiocton, Tigerton, and Wittenberg-Birnamwood. Learn more about this bill on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelís website.

  • Over 100 years ago, Wisconsin established the workers compensation system between employers and labor. Under this system, workers compensation would be the Ďexclusive remedyí for workplace injuries. However, a recent court decision ruled that the workers compensation statute doesnít exclude temporary workers from suing their place of employment instead of using workers compensation. This puts an employer at risk and in turn causes employers to think twice before hiring one of the over 60,000 Wisconsinites in the temporary workforce. To fix this, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 781 with Senator Stroebel and Representative Duchow. This bill, which is supported by both labor and business organizations, has passed the legislature and was signed into law.

  • Senate Bill 415 provides individuals with disabilities the option to identify their disability on a state issued ID card such as a driverís license. In the event that a law enforcement officer requires the individual to turn over their identification, this bill will help the officer to better interact with individualís that have social limitations. 

  • Senate Bill 541 provides crucial tools that law enforcement needs to address the growing issues of human trafficking and child exploitation.

  • Assembly Bill 653 requires facilities that perform mammograms to provide a notice to women if the doctor determines the patient has dense breast tissue. This will help more women with early breast cancer detection, prevention, and awareness.


The Legislature also recently finished a Special Session focused on welfare reform. There were nine separate pieces of legislation that were debated and passed in the Special Session. Those bills included:

  • Special Session Assembly Bills 1 and 2: Strengthens the work opportunities for able-bodied adults by encouraging greater work participation through an expanded 30-hour per week work opportunity and also expands FoodShare Employment and Training to able-bodied adults with children who are in school (Aged 6+).

  • SS AB 3: Increases program integrity by instituting reasonable asset limits, ensuring only the truly needy receive public assistance.

  • SS AB 4: Assists individuals receiving public housing assistance that are struggling with addiction by testing for substance abuse and connecting them to resources to help overcome addiction and connects able-bodied adults utilizing public housing assistance with employment opportunities.

  • SS AB 5: Creates a Ďpaycheck styleí Earned Income Tax Credit payment pilot program to help address poverty.

  • SS AB 6: Improves performance outcomes in public assistance by monetarily incentivizing vendors to place individuals in long-term, good paying jobs.

  • SS AB 7: Creates a framework to implement pay for success contracting which funds private, free-market solutions to social problems.

  • SS AB 8: Builds on our commitment to increase child support compliance statewide by requiring that a parent comply with court ordered support, or act in good faith to achieve compliance as a condition of receiving public assistance.

  • SS AB 9: Creates a savings account program in Medicaid similar to a Health Savings Account, giving participants a more active role in their healthcare choices.


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. At the Capitol, I spoke to Leadership Waupaca County (pictured below). This UW-Extension program is dedicated towards developing civic-minded community leaders and public officials who are working for a better future for the communities of Waupaca County. A few weeks later, I also met with Leadership Shawano County during their visit to the Capitol.

  2. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.ís birthday is a good time to reflect on the mission of Dr. King, and thatís just what I did when I attended the 23rd Annual community celebration titled ĎRespect The Dream!í at NWTC. Hosted by Brown County MLK, this event featured a number of speakers and performances to honor the life and ideas of Dr. King.

  3. A diagnosis of childhood cancer will be life changing not only for the child, but for the family as well. In honor of a young boy who passed from childhood cancer, his family started Coltonís Cure to lighten the burden of this diagnosis by providing the family with assistance. It was an honor to help them continue their mission by attending the Coltonís Cure Foundation Gala at Lambeau Field. Learn more about the organization and the event at this link.

  4. For the 43rd time, the Green Bay Chapter of Trout Unlimited held their annual Conservation Banquet. This year, I joined a few hundred local TU members at Stadium View during their banquet and discussed my conservation efforts.

  5. I also attended the 14th Annual Fundraiser to benefit Rural (Rx) Health Initiative in Cecil. This nonprofit program is designed to address growing concerns regarding health and safety issues facing todayís farm families.

  6. On National History Day, more than 160 students exhibited 95 different history-based showcases on UW-Green Bayís campus. It was a blast to learn more about these historical events from some young and enthusiastic students. Learn more about the event on WLUKís website.


Audits Provide Recommendations for UW


As Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I have the responsibility to work with my colleagues in the Legislature to ensure accountability within state government. Two recently released audits related to the University of Wisconsin-System have provided recommendations for the Committee and the System to consider.


The first audit, Report 18-2, was a financial evaluation of the UW-System in Fiscal Year 2016-17. The audit confirmed that, overall, the UW-Systemís financial tracking was in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. However, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau also reported concerns related to information technology security policies, procedures, and controls at the UW-System. IT security is critical, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Audit Committee and the leadership of the UW to address this vital issue.


The second audit, Report 18-4, looked into the relationships between UW and certain affiliated foundations that support the mission of individual UW institutions. The Audit Bureau found that UW institutions had relationships with 90 affiliated organizations, and over the course of the past ten fiscal years, an estimated $257.9 million was transferred from UW institutions to the foundations. Additionally, the Audit Bureau found that UW employees are working as the executive directors of most foundations.


These transfers and relationships were not illegal nor against UW policy until recently, but generally deserve scrutiny as it proves that the institutions and foundations were not fully independent over those ten years. The UW System needs to address the issues surrounding affiliated-foundation relationships. By developing consistent and comprehensive transparency policies, we can help avoid future situations like those that have occurred at UW-Oshkosh.


Learn more about the second audit at the link below.



Tax Assistance for the Disabled, Elderly, and Low-Income Earners


As April 15th falls on a Sunday this year, the deadline to file your taxes is Tuesday, April 17th. If you need help preparing your taxes, you may qualify for the federal assistance including the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs offered by the IRS to help qualifying income earners, the elderly, and disabled individuals with tax counseling and basic income tax preparation.


These programs are made possible by IRS-certified volunteers. To learn more, please click here.


Thanks for Reading!


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

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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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