Updates from the State Senate - April 22, 2019

The photo above was taken along the Wolf River near New London.


Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


The Tank Cottage, now located at Heritage Hill State Historical Park, is the oldest original pioneer building in Wisconsin. It was built in 1776 and was remodeled several times during the nineteenth century.


Banner Photos


Iíve enjoyed sharing some pictures from throughout the 2nd Senate District in the banners of e-newsletters over the past couple of years, but I know many of you have sites in the district, in your community, and even in your own backyard that also deserve to be shared.


Thatís why Iíve created a webpage to allow constituents to upload images from the district to potentially be featured in a future e-newsletter banner. Images selected will be presented similar to how banners have in past e-newsletters and you will receive credit for your submission.


If you have a photo you think should be featured, please visit my website.


Community Events



One of my favorite things about being your State Senator is getting to meet constituents out in the community at some of our great local events.


The 2nd Senate District is also home to many great events and attractions. Whether you're a visitor or a life-long resident, you will not run out of things to do and see in Northeast Wisconsin.


To find an event or attraction in your area, visit the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Fox Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Shawano County Chamber of Commerce, or the Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce. To find more public events, visit the community calendars on WLUK News and the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Helpful Links










Dear Friends and Neighbors,


Among other things happening throughout the district and in the Capitol, the Legislature recently held a Senate Floor Session, which, with an Assembly Session the same day, allowed the Legislature to send some bills to the Governorís desk for his consideration and signature. We also heard from the Oneida Nation Chairman at the annual State of the Tribes address. More on these items below.


Looking ahead to this week, I want to make sure everyone is aware of an upcoming budget listening session. Members of the Joint Finance Committee and area legislators will be in the Unionís Phoenix Rooms at UW-Green Bay this Wednesday, April 24th, from 10 am to 5 pm. Members of the public may come and testify about what budget matters are important to them for two minutes and may submit written testimony. The hearing notice is available on the Committeeís website.


In this jam-packed e-newsletter, I've included information on:

  1. Three bills Iíve authored heading to the Governorís desk

  2. Introducing a bill to prevent another sexual assault kit testing backlog

  3. Advocating for the residents of Hortonia

  4. Potential help for Shopko employees

  5. Welcoming new elected officials in Northeast Wisconsin

  6. Save Our Pets legislation paying off in emergency situations

  7. Reacting to the State of the Tribes address

  8. PSC approval of two new solar energy projects

  9. Recent events I've attended around the district

  10. And more


As always, 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 for more regular updates from around the 2nd Senate District and in the State Capitol.


Thanks for reading!


Senator Robert Cowles

Proudly Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District


Three Bills I've Authored Head to Governor's Desk


On April 9th, the state Senate met to vote on a number of resolutions and bills. On the calendar were three bills Iíve authored, including Senate Bills 1, 3, and 4. All three bills passed unanimously through both houses of the Legislature. This action sends these three bills to the Governorís desk to be signed into law. More on each of these bills below.



Senate Bill 3, which I authored with Representative Steffen (R-Green Bay) and with the help of Senator Andrť Jacque (R-De Pere), will allow the Department of Transportation to more adequately protect Wisconsinites from fraudulent activity in automotive transactions. This legislation, which was authored in response to the events at the Kaukauna and Suamico car dealership Standard Pre-Owned, provides for a quicker license denial, suspension, or revocation process to stop fraudulent activity sooner while still protecting due process. To learn more, check out this recent WBAY story.


Senate Bill 1, which I co-sponsored with Senator Roger Roth (R-Appleton), Representative Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) and other legislative counterparts from the Fox Valley, will designate the 41-10-441 interchange in Winnebago County as the Michael G. Ellis Memorial Interchange. My former colleague was a once in a generation elected leader for our state. Given that this interchange was one of the key achievements he championed, I feel this is a fitting honor for a truly great legislator, community member, and friend who committed decades of his life towards making the Fox Valley and the entire state a better place to live, work, and visit. Visit WPRís website to read some of my comments from the floor or read this press release from Senator Roth (R-Appleton) and I on the billís passage.


Senate Bill 4, which I authored with Representative Spiros (R-Marshfield), cleans up antiquated statutory language to let Wisconsin municipalities utilize new products to better administer their parking enforcement and make it more user-friendly for the habitual parking violator when faced with an immobilization device. This bill was supported by local government and law enforcement groups.


Introducing a Bill to Prevent Another Sexual Assault Kit Testing Backlog


You may remember stories from recent months and even going back a couple of years discussing the backlog of testing on sexual assault kits. This backlog existed for a number of reasons, but ultimately accumulated through decades of failures to properly handle this evidence. Thankfully, through pursuing an aggressive kit testing protocol, the backlog has now been cleared and some prosecutions for tests that found matches are underway.



Last Tuesday, I joined some of my legislative colleagues, law enforcement, sexual assault victim advocates, and the Attorney General to announce a bipartisan effort to pass legislation that creates a statutory safeguard to ensure that this crucial evidence will follow new guidelines to prevent the circumstances that created a backlog in the past.


The legislation is currently out for co-sponsorship to gain even more support from my legislative colleagues, and will be introduced in the Legislature next week. To learn more, watch this story from WBAY, watch the press conference on NBC 26ís website, or read the joint press release announcing this legislation I released with the Attorney General and my fellow bill authors.


Advocating for the Residents of Hortonia


Residents and local leaders from Hortonia were caught off guard by the decision to put a juvenile corrections facility in their community. Last week, I worked with my colleagues from the Fox Valley to ask leaders of the Legislatureís Joint Finance Committee to not approve the request from the administration to build this facility until the Department of Correctionsí leadership works with residents and local officials to addresses their concerns. The people of Hortonia and their local elected leaders deserve a voice in this process, and Iíll continue working with my colleagues to give them a voice before the stateís decision makers.


To learn more about this request, watch this WLUK story or read the letter at this link.


Potential Help for Shopko Employees


Itís been disheartening to see the news about the closure of Shopko. Iíve been following this story closely and learning as much as I can over recent weeks. This retailer has been a staple in the Wisconsin and the broader Midwest marketplace for so many consumers for decades. While no layoffs are ever good news, these workers should have confidence that theyíre getting this terrible news in a good job market, hopefully lessening the impact on them and their families.


Shopko, local employers, and workforce development organizations in the region have hosted a number of recent job fairs for outgoing Shopko employees, and it appears these job fairs have helped to make the transition to new employment easier for many workers. For those still searching for a job following the news about Shopko, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development offers services to help dislocated workers navigate their way to a new position. To learn more, visit their website or a local workforce center.


Welcoming New Elected Officials


Congratulations to all the newly elected officials in Northeast Wisconsin following the recent spring election, including Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich, Hortonville Village President Jeanne Bellile, and Freedom Town Chair Charles Kramer. Further congratulations are due to Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach on his reelection. Finally, congratulations to the new and returning members of the Kaukauna Common Council, Howard Board of Trustees, and School Boards in Freedom, Green Bay, Kaukauna, Little Chute, Pulaski, and Shawano.


I look forward to meeting all of the recently elected officials when theyíve settled into their new role, and I want to thank the outgoing officials for their service and dedication towards making their communities and Northeast Wisconsin a better place to work, live, and visit.


Save Our Pets Bill Paying Off in Emergency Situations


Last session, some veterinarians including Dr. Lisa Peters from Appleton and law enforcement K-9 handlers told me that a state law prevented first responders from treating animals at emergency scenes even if humans are okay. This led to me drafting and passing Senate Bill 435, named Save Our Pets, to remove the prohibition on first responders treating animals if humans are stable or transported.


Northeast Wisconsin and well-wishers from throughout the nation were recently watching the story of Pyro, the Green Bay Police Department K-9 who was stabbed in the line of duty. This case highlights the dangers that law enforcement face every day to keep our communities safe. For first responders in a situation where a police dog like Pyro is injured, there is no doubt in their mind that theyíre going to do what they can to help. I could not be happier that, with this new law in place, first responders did not have to put themselves at legal or professional risk by taking care of this K-9 hero. Iím wishing all the best for Pyro in his recovery!




Reacting to the State of the Tribes Address


On April 9th, Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill delivered the annual State of the Tribes address to a Joint Session of the Legislature on behalf of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council. I thought Chairman Hill did a good job of continuing the discussions and the relationships between the Legislature and Wisconsinís tribal nations. The Oneida Nation plays a pivotal role in the culture, community, and economy of Northeast Wisconsin.



I especially would like to thank Chairman Hill for his focus on clean water during the address and for the Oneida Nationís continued efforts to safeguard water quality for Northeast Wisconsin residents. Check out more coverage from the State of the Tribes address on WPRís website.


PSC Approves Two Solar Projects


During an April 11th meeting of the stateís independent Public Service Commission (PSC) which regulates Wisconsinís utilities, the Commissioners approved two utility-scale solar projects, the first of their kind in Wisconsin. One of these projects will be in Two Rivers by the old nuclear plant. This action by the PSC is a bold step forward for our stateís energy diversity and security, and could mark the beginning of a new era for Wisconsinís energy industry. This announcement comes on the heels of renewable energy becoming more economically competitive against traditional energy generation and the realization that Wisconsinís renewable energy workforce is growing. Not only will these projects create enough energy to power approximately 120,000 homes, but this decision will help to pave the way for a more clean and robust energy portfolio in years to come.


In the process of approving these projects, the Public Service Commission also took the necessary action to safeguard small businesses and residents impacted by any new major utility projects when they get their monthly power bill. By rejecting some of the major cost overrides, the PSC sent a message that, as their dockets evolve to meet the changing energy markets, customers will still come first.


Learn more about these projects and see more of my comments in the WBAY story below.




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. I also get to welcome dozens of residents from Northeast Wisconsin into the Capitol each week as they come to my office to talk about the issues important to them in their professional and personal life. Here is just a sampling of some of the events Iíve recently attended around the district and meetings Iíve had in the Capitol:

  • The UW-System offers opportunities for students to be able to work with faculty on original research. Last week, I had a chance to learn more about some of the research being done by these students at UWGB and throughout the UW-System. Four students from the district, including Ryan Jackson and Sarah Klemp from UWGB and Benjamin Sumnicht and Hayley Vandenboom from UW-Oshkosh, were in the rotunda to present their work. Keep up the good work students!


  • There was an amazing turnout for a fun event with a great cause when I joined community members at Bark and Brew in Suamico to show support and raise money for Pyro, the Green Bay police dog injured in the line of duty. Thanks to Heather Heil and others who organized this event. Learn more about this event on WTAQís website.

  • I get to welcome a lot of constituents to the Capitol on a weekly basis, but recently, I had an even busier day than normal as I met with constituents representing EMS, local tourism bureaus, restaurateurs, social workers, farmers, and bottlers. Thanks to all of them and everyone else who takes the time out of their week to come to the Capitol.

  • It was a good morning for a walk recently at the NEW Donate Life Walk. Here I am with Dottie, the Donor Dot, and Erin Davisson from WFRV. With April being Donate Life Month, itís the perfect time to take out your driverís license and see if you have your orange dot. Learn more about the event on WFRVís website or learn more about how you can donate life here.


  • If youíve ever watched the TV show ĎShark Tankí, you know how hard it can be for those entrepreneurs to have a good idea and properly articulate the idea in such a high-stress manner. Some young local innovators had a chance to do the same thing at a recent event called ĎThe Pitchí at the new TitletownTech. It was interesting to learn more about these new ideas.

  • On April 6th, I was in Clintonville for the ribbon cutting of the new Moose Lodge. Itís a beautiful building that will serve as an asset to the community for decades to come.

  • I spoke with students from Victor Haen Elementary School in Kaukauna during their recent trip to the Capitol. It was fun to speak with them about the legislative process and some local history.


  • I always enjoy meeting with local elected officials. Last week, Iíve met with elected leaders in Brown County.


In Other News...


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

  • April 7th to the 13th was National Work Zone Awareness Week, a good reminder that, with the start of road construction on the horizon, be sure to slow down and be extra attentive in work areas. Remember: see an orange cone, put down your phone. Also recently it was National Telecom Week, a chance to recognize the outstanding work of our telecommunicators throughout Northeast Wisconsin who help to keep us safe.

  • We recently wrapped-up one of sports fansí favorite times of year. Among the Wisconsin connections in March Madness with two Wisconsin teams in the tournament (despite an early exit for both), a few handfuls of other players who went to Wisconsin high schools on out-state teams, and of course, Clintonville-native and UWGB great Tony Bennett coaching the Virginia Cavaliers (including an appearance by UWGB and UW-Madison legend Dick Bennett, Tonyís father) to a National Title, Northeast Wisconsin can be proud that the Menominee Tribe was responsible for providing every piece of wood on the floor of U.S. Bank Stadium where the Final Four was played. Check out a story on this achievement for the Menominee Tribal Enterpriseís sawmill on the Press-Gazetteís website.  

  • On April 9th, the Assembly honored 188 Wisconsin National Guard members who spent nine months serving in Arizona and New Mexico as ĎHometown Heroes.í SPC Daniel Barker from Clintonville was one of those honored. On their mission, the Wisconsin National Guard contributed to more than 12,516 apprehensions and 1,425 turn backs while seizing thousands of pounds of drugs. Thank you to all the service men and women who assisted with border security efforts and for their broader dedication to our state and bravery in-service of our country!


  • Strokes are a leading cause of death and disability. Each year in Wisconsin, over 11,000 people are hospitalized due to a stroke. The good news is there have been significant medical advancements in stroke care over the past decade, and there is a lot that can be done for people suffering a stroke. The key is to get the right care quickly. To diagnosis a stroke, remember FAST, standing for Face, Arms, Speech, and Time to call 9-1-1. To learn more, visit stroke.org.

  • Homelessness is not an issue reserved for big cities, but is a problem faced in all of our own communities. According to the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition, about 500 homeless people are served by housing programs in Brown County per month. A new joint effort between the Green Bay Police Department and the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition known as the Homeless Outreach Team (H.O.T.) is looking to tackle this problem by combining the boots on the ground with connections to local resources to help people exactly where they are. Learn more about this effort on WBAYís website.

  • A heartwarming story from a couple of weeks ago came out of the Northwoods as a Marine veteranís tweet about a rescued puppy went viral. Once the internet blew up, donations started to pour in to the local humane society caring for these puppies, and thanks to the care of the local animal shelter, these puppies are now up for adoption. Learn more about this story on the Green Bay Press-Gazetteís website.




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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