Updates from the State Senate - April 2, 2018


The banner photo above was taken of the Opera House, formerly Community Hall, in Hortonville which is part of the 2nd Senate District. This building was opened as a meeting space in 1913, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







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In February, Wisconsin hit a record low unemployment rate of 2.9%!


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Bill to Save Our Pets among Two Bills Signed into Law


A bill to save our pets was among two bills Iíve authored that were signed into law last week. While some first responders were already treating pets at emergency scenes, they put themselves at professional risk while providing care as their actions were illegal under state law. 2017 Senate Bill 435, which I authored with Representatives Considine (D-Baraboo) and Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), provides first responders with the legal authority they need to continue rendering aid to families throughout Wisconsin, regardless of whether the family member walks on two legs or four.


Under this bill, care could not be provided to pets until all humans are in stable condition at the scene or have been transported from the scene. I was joined at the bill signing by Officer Holly McManus and K9 Officer Bane of the St. Francis PD, Deputy Brian Noll and K9 Officer Blackjack of the Marquette County Sheriffís Department, and a number of veterinary medicine professionals from throughout the state (see picture on the right).


A second bill Iíve authored was also signed into law last week. 2017 Assembly Bill 821, which I authored with Representative Macco (R-Ledgeview), allows donated labor and materials to be provided to construct new structures on local public lands. Simply put, this new law allows clubs and organizations to become more involved in increasing the functionality and beautification of our parks. This bill was introduced after we learned of the difficulty the Green Bay Optimist Club had while trying to donate a structure to Green Bayís Optimist Park.


Seven More Bills Ready to be Signed into Law


Two weeks ago, the Senate held a Session day that included discussion and votes on over 100 pieces of legislation, including seven bills Iíve authored. All seven of these bills are now available to be signed into law. Learn more about these pieces of legislation below.

  • Assembly Bill 381: This bill, which I authored with Representative Steffen (R-Green Bay), allows the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial Fund to collect annual voluntary payments on their specialized license plates. The funds collected will help two trusted law enforcement memorial organizations continue their missions of providing support to the families and colleagues of fallen officers while commemorating a fallen officerís life and service.

  • Assembly Bill 617: This bill, authored by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee which I Co-Chair, repeals an unnecessary mandate on the Department of Workforce Development that was uncovered in an audit of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

  • Assembly Bill 731: Public notices are important to ensure government transparency. AB 731, which I authored with Representative Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), will help to increase these notices in some small-town and rural newspapers by allowing compensation for publishing notices in certain free circulations.

  • Assembly Bill 789: Hundreds of thousands of tons of non-recycled plastics go to landfills each year in Wisconsin. Through new technologies like pyrolysis and gasification, we will complement the current plastics recycling industry by diverting more post-use plastics out of landfills and transforming them into valuable commodities such as gasoline, oil, lubricants and waxes. RES Polyflow, a company that performs this process, recently announced an agreement with BP to convert 100,000 tons of non-recycled post-use plastics into diesel fuel that BP will sell each year. This project will create more than 100 permanent jobs at the new plant in Northern Indiana. This bill, which I authored with Representative Tittl (R-Manitowoc), will help open the door in Wisconsin to this new industry.

  • Assembly Bill 821: Mentioned in the section above.

  • Assembly Bill 926: This bill, which I authored with Representative Nygren (R-Marinette), removes the unnecessary burden of permitting on property owners who are looking to maintain their property though simple maintenance. Activities no longer requiring a permit include leveling sand, grooming soil, removing debris, and mowing vegetation on exposed land in the shoreline area on the Great Lakes and bay of Green Bay.

  • Assembly Bill 946: No one knows the land better than the farmers who cultivate it. This bill, which I authored with Representative Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) and Governor Walker, increases the amount available in the Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant Program by $500,000 from a segregated account for nonpoint source pollution (Environmental Fund) to encourage more coalitions of farmers to coordinate with conservation experts to protect the watershed.


School Safety, Juvenile Corrections Reform and Other Bills Passed 


Among the other pieces of legislation debated and passed in the Senateís Session on March 20th were a number of other bills that I co-sponsored or supported with my vote. All of these bills are now available to be signed into law. Iíll discuss some of these bills below.


Two key bills include AB 843, Wisconsin's School Safety Package, and AB 953, a bill on juvenile corrections reform.

  • Assembly Bill 843: This bill creates the Office of School Safety within the Department of Justice. Responsibilities for the office include implementing a $100 million grant program for school safety, maintaining blueprints and school safety plans for all schools, and developing model practices of school safety. Additionally, the bill requires mandatory reporting of threats of school violence for certain professions and the integration of trauma-informed care training for school staff. The bill was signed into law last week in Kaukauna, and the following day, I sent a letter to the Superintendents and District Administrators in the 2nd Senate District to encourage our schools to seek funding for safety infrastructure upgrades.

  • Assembly Bill 953: The Senate took needed action on juvenile corrections to lay out a roadmap to move juveniles to more hospitable environments closer to home as opposed to the current Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities in Northern Wisconsin. AB 953 will ensure a higher focus on reform and retribution for these juvenile offenders. I was happy to support this plan which unanimously passed both houses of the Legislature.


Some of the other bills I supported as they passed the Legislature include:

  • Assembly Bill 118: After years of work, a Legislative Council Study Committee drafted a bill providing an important update to laws around tribal burial sites. This bill ensures that these burial sites are properly disclosed and cataloged, and that a balance is struck between preservation and development.

  • Assembly Bill 581: For victims of domestic abuse that work in or have a spouse in the legal system, seeking legal help through a restraining order from their colleagues may be challenging. AB 581 eases some of this burden by allowing victims to seek a restraining order in a nearby county.

  • Assembly Bills 625 and 819: Two bills I co-sponsored to ensure that people with disabilities who want to work arenít left out of the workforce passed by the Senate. AB 625 helps to better coordinate state agency resources and AB 819 helps to coach individuals with disabilities on employment skills.

  • Assembly Bill 654: Cardiac arrest leads to over 6,500 deaths in Wisconsin each year, and when someone enters cardiac distress, minutes can be the difference between life and death. I supported AB 654 to allow 911 dispatchers to provide CPR instructions over the phone and help save more lives. Learn more about this bill on WBAYís website at this link.

  • Assembly Bill 732: A bill I co-sponsored creates a pilot program to provide outreach, support, and mental health and substance abuse services for veterans. This bill delivers critical assistance to veteransí in-need.

  • Assembly Bill 941: A bill I co-sponsored to create a reuse of a byproduct from foundries called slag also passed the Senate. AB 941 will ensure that more material is diverted from landfills and reused in transportation infrastructure.


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. Did you know March is Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month? I was reminded of that last month when I met with some constituents to talk about rare bleeding disorders like hemophilia as part of the Red Tie Campaign.

  2. Last year, Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officer Brian Murphy was seriously injured in the line of duty was assisting at a car fire. Itís great to see that after six months, Officer Murphy is back to full duty. I was happy to join his family, his colleagues, and members of the community to support the Wisconsin Injured Law Enforcement Officers Resource Council, an organization that supported Officer Murphy during his recovery, during an event in Ashwaubenon a few weeks ago. Learn more about his story on WBAYís website at this link.

  3. You may remember the Leading on Lead Act from previous Updates from the State Senate E-Newsletters. This bill, which was recently signed into law, provides a funding structure for municipalities to address the issue of lead laden water in our communities. Two weeks ago, the Wisconsin Apartment Association gave me their Legislator of the Year Award or my work on authoring and passing the Leading on Lead Act. Their support of the bill was valuable in getting SB 48 over the finish line.

  4. It was great to join the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding last week in De Pere for their discussion with local education and business leaders. Learn more about the hearing on WLUKís website at this link.

  5. In March I met with members from the Justice Organization Sharing Hope and United for Action (JOSHUA) at my office in the Capitol to discuss bills that were remaining for the rest of the legislative session.

  6. Also in Madison but while I was in-session, the Wisconsin Library Association came by my office and discussed issues important to them with my staff. We have a number of great libraries in Northeast Wisconsin, each of which serves as a staple in their community thanks to the hard work of their dedicated staff.


In Other News...


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

  • Check out this video of the Preble High School Band from Green Bay performing in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. Itís cool to see local student-musicians playing on such a big stage! Watch a clip of their performance on my Facebook page.

  • Last week, Governor Walker submitted his Economic Opportunity Zone recommendations. This economic development tool was created in the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to take areas of economic need in our communities and provide tax incentives for businesses to invest in those areas. Iím pleased to see portions of Ashwaubenon, Green Bay and Shawano included in these recommendations, and hope to see more development spurring in these areas soon. Learn more about this story and get a link to the full list of locations on WPRís website.

  • Weíve recently had a couple of championship sports teams from Northeast Wisconsin. First, congratulations to Mr. Basketball Jordan McCabe and the entire Kaukauna Ghosts boysí basketball team on their nail-baiting State Championship victory! It was great to join the community in welcoming the team back to Kaukauna during their parade back into town the day after the championship. Additionally, congrats to the St. Norbert College Hockey‪ Team on their National Championship in the NCAA Division III Menís Ice Hockey Championship Game! Finally, congratulations to the UW-Green Bay Womenís Basketball Team on their Horizon League Title and bid to the NCAA tournament.


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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