Updates from the State Senate - May 16, 2018


The banner photo above was taken at Green Isle Park in Allouez.



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


Wisconsin's rivers and streams, if laid end-to-end, would stretch for 26,767 miles. That is almost 2,000 miles more than the circumference of the earth.


Helpful Links









Paving the Way to Highway Project Accountability


Last month, I wrote a column discussing bipartisan legislation to address a devastating audit of the Department of Transportationís State Highway Program. The column was published in some of the newspapers in the 2nd Senate District, including the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette, Green Bay Press Gazette, New London Press Star, and The Press (Covering Ashwaubenon, Hobart, Howard and Suamico). Iíve included a portion of the column below.


Every day, our state government spends hundreds of millions of dollars to provide the services Wisconsinites have come to expect. While providing these services, itís crucial that we ensure accountability and oversight for each dollar spent. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau have been the Legislatureís way to ensure accountability in Wisconsin state government for over 50 years.


A recent audit (Report 17-2) made headlines when some concerning results were released on the Department of Transportationís (DOT) State Highway Program. The primary finding showed costs for major highway projects exceeded original estimates by more than 110%, totaling over $3.8 billion!


Overall, the audit showed that the DOT systematically failed to properly budget for their fiscal needs, leaving DOT overworked and underfunded which lead to drastic project delays and wildly inflated costs. The Committee agreed that this audit should serve as a resource to tighten up DOT practices to ensure that project estimates correctly reflect true costs. Working with the experts at the Audit Bureau, the Committee introduced 2017 Senate Bill 85.


Senate Bill 85 turns this audit into action by laying out several requirements of DOT for current and future major highway projects that will increase accountability and ensure that taxpayers are receiving the best highway transportation services at the best costs.


This legislation passed the Senate in May of last year and the Assembly in February of this year, and saw strong, bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature. Last week, Senate Bill 85 was signed into law by the Governor as 2017 Wisconsin Act 247. Now that Senate Bill 85 is enacted, DOT has a statutory process to ensure that transportation resources are put to best use. Simply put, Act 247 will help to guarantee that our state receives the quality highways we desire through bolstering the accountability Wisconsinites demand.


Read the full column by clicking the link below.



Bill Signings in Northeast Wisconsin


Governor Walker recently signed a few bills into law in Northeast Wisconsin at the end of the Legislative Session, including 2017 Assembly Bill 745. This new law, which was signed at a construction site off Highway 172 in Ashwaubenon, opens the door for graduating high school seniors to gain valuable professional experiences and get a head start towards obtaining the critical skills they need for gainful employment through registered apprenticeship programs. Learn more about this legislation on WLUKís website.



I also joined some of my legislative colleagues last month at Bellin Health in Green Bay as Governor Walker signed two bills into law to combat opioid addictions. Thanks to the work of Representative John Nygren and others, Wisconsin has now passed 30 bills to make progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic.



Finally, the Governor was also in Wausau last month to sign part of the welfare reform package into law. These laws provide new accountability measures in our welfare programs while ensuring that we can transition certain recipients from welfare to work whenever possible. Learn more about these new laws on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinelís website.


Plan to Combat CWD and Easement Efforts Announced


Earlier this month, new steps were announced by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Governor Walker to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in white-tailed deer. These steps require deer farms to install enhanced fencing, ban the movement of live deer from deer farms in CWD-affected counties, and allow whole carcass movement out of CWD-affected counties only if the deer is headed to a taxidermist or meat processor.


For years, Wisconsinís deer hunting tradition has been put at risk by the spread of CWD. As weíve learned more about this disease through academic and field research done in Wisconsin and throughout the nation, the severity of this ecological epidemic has become more evident and recent calls for action by sportsmen and women throughout the state have been strong. The announcement to combat the further spread of CWD is a welcome step towards ensuring that the future of Wisconsinís deer population is healthy and our deer hunting tradition is strong.


Not only were the plans to combat the spread of CWD detailed at the Conservation Congress Convention in Green Bay last week, but Governor Walker also announced plans for a nearly 21,000 acre easement that increases public recreational access in Northwest Wisconsin. I was very pleased to hear this announcement when I attended the convention, and Iím especially happy that this easement will help to protect two pristine Class I trout streams which are virtually impossible to replicate. Learn more about this proposed easement and see my comments on Wisconsin Public Radioís website.


In Other News...


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

  • This week is National Police Week, a federally recognized annual celebration of the brave and dedicated law enforcement officers who protect and serve us in Wisconsin and throughout the United States. The end of National Police Week also coincides with Armed Forces Day where we thank all those serving to protect our freedom both at home and overseas. If you see a police officer or member of our armed services this week, please take a moment to thank them.

  • At the Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Conference in Green Bay, law enforcement from Northeast Wisconsin and throughout the state gathered to learn about the latest tactics to improve their abilities in the fight against the online exploitation of children. One of the focuses of the Conference was a law Wisconsin passed in 2016 called Aliciaís Law which is named after the victim of an internet crime that led to a brutal assault who now advocates for these policies. Learn more about Aliciaís story and Wisconsinís efforts to fight internet crimes against children on WLUKís website.

  • Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. A stroke can happen to anyone at any time, so make sure you know how to improve your health to prevent a stroke and how to spot the warning signs of a stroke by visiting the American Stroke Associationís website.

  • Itís great to see that Wisconsin received an ĎAí grade and ranks among the top four states in government spending transparency according to a recent national study. Government transparency, especially with taxpayer dollars, has always been a top priority of mine. Learn more about the study on Wisconsin Watchdogís website.

  • Recently, Ashwaubenon High School received a $25,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for a fabrication lab. This Ďfab labí will help to enable students to learn the skills necessary for the 21st century workforce. Iím happy to see Ashwaubenon taking advantage of this important grant program.


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. Several teachers from the 2nd Senate District in Green Bay, Pulaski and Seymour were recognized last month at the 25th Annual Golden Apple Awards hosted by the Greater Green Bay Chamberís Partners in Education. Congratulations to the teachers honored at this event and thank you to all of Northeast Wisconsinís fine educators.

  2. For the seventh straight year, Wisconsinís tourism industry continues to grow. In 2017, tourism spending topped $20.6 billion from 110 million visits! In the four counties I represent (Brown, Outagamie, Shawano and Waupaca), tourism accounted for over $1.9 billion in sales. Tourism holds a key role in our economy, and I was happy to talk more about tourism at the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau Annual Meeting last week. At the meeting, I sat with Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) showing that tourism is truly a bipartisan topic. (picture to the right from Jeff Bollier of the Press-Gazette)

  3. Congratulations to the 935 newest alum of UW-Green Bay who walked across the stage at graduation this past weekend and congratulations to all of the other Northeast Wisconsin residents who celebrated their college graduation this past weekend.

  4. Ending Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for good is a tall order, but that wonít stop the people at Walk MS from shooting for that goal. I was happy to join the event organizers and hundreds of members of the community in De Pere last month as we walked with the shared goal to create a world free of MS.

  5. For the 30th time, Wisconsin Public Service held their annual Volunteer Awards ceremony to recognize those individuals who have dedicated their time to giving back to the community. This year there where over 1,700 nominees!

  6. If you live in the Green Bay area, thereís a good chance that youíve spent time on the Baird Creek Trail. The trail and preserve would not have been possible without the work of the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation. I was happy to support this organization at the 21st Annual Banquet last month.

  7. Our first responders are a critical component of our community, and their jobs would not be possible without the dedicated work of the communications experts at emergency operations centers. Last month, I attended the Brown County Public Safety Communications Awards Ceremony which recognized the work of some of these dedicated individuals who help to keep us safe.

  8. Last month, I attended the 20th Annual Green Bay Port Symposium to learn more about the future of the greater Green Bay areaís transportation industry and the importance of the Port to the region. One of the highlights of the event was the plan to bring cruise ships to Green Bay in the near future. Learn more on WBAYís website.

  9. The government closest to the people often makes the largest impact on your daily life which is why I like to stay in-touch with local government officials in the 2nd Senate District. Last month, I attended a HALOS (Howard, Hobart, Ashwaubenon, Lawrence, Oneida, and Suamico) meeting to explain some of my efforts to assist local governments in helping Wisconsin residents.


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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