Updates from the State Senate - July 16, 2019

The photo above was taken at 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna.


Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


The Village of Embarrass was named by French Canadian lumberjacks in early modern Wisconsin history after a region the lumberjacks were occupying around modern day Embarrass caused difficulty navigating logs down the river because of many snags and other debris. This led the French Canadian lumberjacks to name it Riviere Embarrase, with embarrase being a French word meaning to impede, obstruct, or entangle. 


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,


Iíve been talking about it for months, and weíve now wrapped up the legislative process on the 2019-2021 State Budget. After being passed by the Legislature in late June and signed into law by the Governor in early July, state agencies will now begin implementing the new programs and funding levels in this biennial budget. Iíll talk more about this below.


The Governor has also signed a few bills into law recently along with the budget, some of which I co-sponsored and all of which I supported on the floor. Iíll talk more about these bills and other updates from the State Capitol and around the district below.


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

  1. The 2019-21 State Budget enacted

  2. Shawano Lake is open for the summer

  3. Supporting the residents of Hortonia

  4. More bills signed into law

  5. Area athletes excel in high school spring sports

  6. Recent events I've attended around the district

  7. 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


2019-21 State Budget Enacted


With the new fiscal biennium beginning on July 1st, the Legislature passed 2019 Assembly Bill 56, the 2019-2021 Biennial State Budget nearing the end of June and the Governor signed the budget into law, largely in-tact, the following week. I voted in-favor of this budget which is better than the proposed budget introduced earlier this year. While not perfect, I believe this is a good budget for Northeast Wisconsin.


By prioritizing our stateís fiscal health and protecting taxpayers while still making substantial and necessary investments in vital state services like transportation infrastructure, K-12 education, the justice and corrections systems, and our healthcare needs.


Despite some initial concerns I had with the levels of spending in this budget, Republicans provided a balanced budget with a structural deficit $500 million less than the Governor proposed and one of the lowest amounts of nonfiscal policy in decades, all while putting money back in the pockets of middle class families.


In Northeast Wisconsin, weíll see a number of infrastructure projects important for continuing our regionís growth and prosperity moving ahead. This includes the first steps of the I-41 expansion, the State Highway Program funding necessary to move the Highway-15 expansion forward, a new Stockbridge-Munsee Youth Wellness Center, and more.


All Wisconsinites will benefit from our stateís commitment to local roads. Focusing on fixing the roads closest to home, a 10% increase in local transportation aids will help to fix more main streets and neighborhood streets.


Local students and youth throughout the state will see results from an over $500 million increase to K-12 education funding, which increases an additional $604 per student over the next two years. This investment will boost special education aid, rural sparsity aid, and mental health assistance for Wisconsin students.


Focusing on improving our criminal justice system, this budget provides approximately 60 additional very-much needed Assistant District Attorneys (ADA) positions to help clear-up any case backlogs and provide more justice to Northeast Wisconsinites. Furthermore, a pay raise for ADAs and Public Defenders (PD), a rate increase for private bar attorneys taking PD cases, and an increase in funding to the very-successful Treatment and Diversion program will help to provide justice and rehabilitation for those in the criminal justice system. Finally, a well-deserved pay raise for correctional officers will help to reward our dedicated employees and attract new correctional officers to reduce overtime expenses.


While Wisconsin was able to advance our criminal justice system forward, the Governor left an opportunity on the table when he vetoed the required planning and land purchase stages of a replacement for the maximum security Green Bay Correctional Institution. Given the severe overcrowding, maintenance backlog, and security concerns at GBCI, a new facility is in the best interest of our correctionsí staff, incarcerated individuals, and the region.


The state will also be helping to further advance water quality in our state and provide more regulatory certainty to agricultural community thanks to an additional four permitting positions in the wastewater permitting program. These positions will help to further address Audit Report 16-6 which showed unreasonable permit backlogs in the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System.


The Legislature was also able to make real investments in Wisconsinís vulnerable populations without expanding government assistance programs. By focusing on increasing the Medical Assistance reimbursement rates, rewarding our long-term care employees, increasing youth mental health services, and keeping nursing homes and elderly care accessible and affordable, Wisconsin will continue to shine as a top state for health care.


The Republican Legislature was able to prioritize all of these services while still providing a balanced budget and putting money back in the pockets of taxpayers through an income tax cut. In short, I was proud to vote for the accountable and responsible budget, and look forward to seeing the dividends this budget will pay over the next two years.


Shawano Lake is (Finally) Open for the Summer 


Near the end of June, a monthís long process culminated in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issuing a temporary order to raise Shawano Lake back to the historic 30-year lake level starting immediately and running for the duration of this summer.


Iím pleased to learn of FERCís decision to raise the water level again this summer. Shawano Lake is a prime recreation hub, and a fun and relaxing place to live and visit. This order comes just in time to allow residents and visitors to continue enjoying their weeknights, weekends, and vacations like they always have: safely on Shawano Lake.


This order is the latest development in a story dating back to early 2018 when FERC ordered Shawano Lake levels to be drawn down by approximately five inches. This break from historic water levels resulted in concerns from lake-goers for their safety and ability to recreate as even lower lake levels on the already shallow Shawano Lake exposed more structure on the lake bottom resulting in potential hazards that could lead to injury or property damage. Lower water levels also limited access to the lake at public boat launches and on the shorelines and docks for waterfront property owners.


The 2018 order to lower lake levels was reversed by the 4th of July weekend after Representative Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) and I learned about the issue from Shawano Area Waterways Management in early June and helped to expedite the Department of Natural Resources and FERC processes to raise water levels. However, this was only a temporary reprieve for the summer of 2018, and more action was required for lake levels this year and beyond.


This decision is just the latest step in keeping Shawano Lake at historic levels, and now we begin to focus our attention on keeping lake-levels higher long-term. I look forward to the continued effort to receive a permanent order to keep Shawano Lake open for boaters all summer and every summer.


The temporary order to raise the Shawano Lake levels was necessary to let lake-goers enjoy recreating in the water early this summer while a permanent order is working its way through a more tedious FERC process. Itís anticipated that a decision on a permanent order will be available before the next boating season.




Supporting the Residents of Hortonia


Recently, two efforts Iíve lead to ensure that the residents of Hortonia are heard by the Governor and the Department of Corrections (DOC) on the decision to put a Type 1 Juvenile Correctional Facility in the Town of Hortonia moved ahead. First, I submitted comments on DOCís draft Environmental Assessment on this proposed site, and I canít think of a worse spot to put this facility from an environmental standpoint.


Anyone whoís driven down Highway 15 in spring has seen the severity of the flooding on the Wolf River. This facility is being proposed to be built right in the floodplain. Additionally, with several endangered or threatened species and a host of ecological diversity nearby, potential wetlands on the site creating an unstable natural foundation for building, and a manure pit next door, this placement was not thought through well. Any conservationist should have serious concerns over this proposal to pave and build on this property. Itís my hope that the Administration doesnít show continued indifference to these concerns.


Also recently, I provided amendment language for 2019 Assembly Bill 188 which was adopted during the Assembly Floor Session. This bill makes necessary changes to 2017 Wisconsin Act 185 that was passed to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools and replace them with regional facilities, including the proposed Type 1 Facilities in Hortonia and Milwaukee. The amendment, which I worked on with Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Representative Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel), will, among other things, help to ensure proper local input by requiring approval by the local government for significant changes to the juvenile correctional facility and providing extended timelines for DOC notices of local hearings on these facilities.


As we continue to contest this location, the unfortunate reality is that despite the Administrationís fumble of this announcement and failure to properly assess this decision, a juvenile correctional facility could still be built in Hortonia. Wherever these Type 1 Facilities are built, local leaders need to be included in discussions about these facilities moving forward. DOC claims these facilities will look like a school or an office building. This amendment will ensure that residents near Type 1 Facilities will have their voices heard if the Administration tries to back-track and make these facilities look like a prison or unilaterally expand the facility. While the Governorís office has said he doesnít support this amendment to include local government in these decisions, I urge him to reconsider this stance and change course to work with, not against local elected leaders.


More Bills Signed into Law


A series of recent bill signings by the Governor has allowed some good legislation that passed through the Legislature with bipartisan support to become law.


Among these bills was 2019 Senate Bill 239 to prepare Wisconsin for the next mobile network advancement. This new law levels the playing field with dozens of other states who have passed similar laws by creating the framework to ensure Wisconsin doesnít miss out on millions of dollars of 5G mobile infrastructure investments and the resulting consumer and business advancements. Iím proud to be an early supporter of this bipartisan legislation authored by Senator Devin LeMahieu and Representative Mike Kuglitsch. Learn more about 5G in the State Journal.


Some of the other bills recently signed into law include:

  • Senate Bill 26, authored by Senator Alberta Darling and Representative John Nygren, to keep patients connected with the medicines their doctor prescribed for them by reforming step therapy protocols for those who switch doctors or insurances

  • Assembly Bill 10, authored by Representative Adam Neylon and Senator Dan Feyen, to eliminate tax deductions for businessesí moving expenses when the company is leaving the state

  • Assembly Bill 251, authored by Representative Jessie Rodriguez and Senator Dale Kooyenga, reduces income tax rates to offset sales tax on online purchases as allowed by a recent United States Supreme Court decision


Area Athletes Excel in High School Spring Sports


With schools out for summer, the spring high school sports season has come to a close. In the last e-newsletter, I recognized local graduates. In this e-newsletter, I want to recognize athletic excellence from area high school student-athletes. While every student who takes time out of their day to join a sports team or other extra-curricular activity should be proud of their dedication and achievements, I wanted to take the time to congratulate those from the 2nd Senate District who excelled in the spring sports season and qualified for the State Championships in their respective sports.


Ashwaubenon School District

  • Boys Track and Field Individual Qualifier: Luke Schroeder

  • Girls Track and Field Individual Qualifier: Sage Wagner


Bonduel School District

  • Clay Target League: Sidney Rusch and Brooke Kelly


Clintonville School District

  • Girls Track and Field Individual Qualifier: Allysin Booth

  • Clay Target League: Erika Oreskovich


Freedom Area School District

  • Boys Track and Field Team (STATE CHAMPIONS)

  • Boys Track and Field Individual Qualifiers: Luke Pingel, Jon Verhasselt, and three relay teams (with the 4x200 Meter and 4x400 Meter Relays becoming STATE CHAMPIONS)

  • Girls Track and Field Individual Qualifiers: Grace Hambel, Gabby Johnson, Amber Tomazevic, and a relay team


Kaukauna Area School District

  • Girls Track and Field Individual Qualifiers: Anna Fauske and Olivia Vanzeeland (with Olivia becoming a STATE CHAMPION in the High Jump)

  • Boys Golf Team


Little Chute Area School District

  • Girls Track and Field Individual Qualifier: Alyssa Hutcherson (STATE CHAMPION in the 100 Meter Dash)


Seymour Community School District

  • Girls Softball (STATE CHAMPIONS)


Shawano Community School District

  • Clay Target League: McKenzie Trinko


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:

  • With it being June Dairy Month, itís also Breakfast on the Farm season across Wisconsin. These are always some of my favorite events to attend every year as I not only get to enjoy a delicious meal, but I also get the chance to meet hundreds of community members looking to enjoy some summer weather and fresh food.

  • I went to the House of Hope Open House in Green Bay and learned more about their incredible efforts to help the areaís homeless population. They serve hundreds every year including many families and most of which are able to exit the House of Hope into safe and stable housing.

  • A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with some FFA members from Clintonville. As the average age of Wisconsinís producers has been increasing, interest from the next generation in farming is pivotal in our nationís future. After talking with these future farmers, Iím confident that our ag industry is in good hands.


  • I enjoyed riding the ĎBig Wheel.í This new Ferris wheel at Bay Beach provides one of the best scenic views in Northeast Wisconsin. When you get a chance, Iíd recommend taking a ride on the Big Wheel. To learn more, check out this WLUK article. With the addition of the Big Wheel, Bay Beach continues to solidify its position as a regional destination for all day family fun for all ages.

  • Last weekend, I went to a Green Bay Booyah baseball game at the new Capital Credit Union Park in Ashwaubenon. At the game, I spoke with local advocates, including the young lady below, from the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.


  • Our local elected officials are some of the best partners a State Legislator can have when looking at how to best serve the people of Northeast Wisconsin. I recently attended a HALO meeting with local officials from Hobart, Howard, Ashwaubenon, Lawrence, and Oneida to discuss some of the things for local governments to like in the 2019-21 State Budget.

  • The Brown County Drug Treatment Court has shown a lot of success in promoting treatment before penance and ensuring rehabilitation to stop offenders from getting back into the system. The Drug Treatment Court recently celebrated their 10th anniversary, and I was pleased to join them in celebrating.


In Other News...


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

  • For those of you that live in and around Shawano, you can attest (as can I) to just how rough East Green Bay Street is, but not for long. The Administration just approved a repaving project on portions of Highway 22 through Shawano, including a section of South Main Street and most of East Green Bay Street. This short-term inconvenience will be a long-term gain for area commuters. Work should have begun on July 15th and should finish by yearís end. Learn more on DOTís website.

  • Thanks to the rebound of the Fox River and lower Green Bay through years of remediation efforts, Northeast Wisconsin is now home to a booming fishery. Not only are some of the fish big, but according to a study done by UW-Whitewater, recreational sport fishing in Green Bay contributes $264 million annually to the regional economy. Further, fishing-related economic activity in turn generates $14.8 million annually in state and local tax revenue and provides 2,711 full-time equivalent jobs. To learn more, check out this Journal Sentinel article.

  • Congratulations to the City of Green Bay on receiving a Coastal Management Grant from the state Department of Administration for Bay Beach. Itís no surprise that the planned swimming beach and other developments at Bay Beach in Green Bay are among the most exciting coastal projects in the state. Read more about the grant on the Press-Timesí website.

  • As the champion of the Focus on Energy program, I always love to see headlines about the great returns this program has provided to our state. In this latest analysis, Focus on Energy is found to have $3.66 in direct economic benefits for every dollar spent! Some of these returns have been felt right here in Northeast Wisconsin. Read more about the program and this recent report in the Wisconsin State Journal.

  • A Wisconsin Historical Society travel exhibit titled ĎGreat Lakes, Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsiní is being displayed at the Little Chute Windmill until July 28th. For more information on how to check this exhibit out, visit WLUKís website.

  • Federal tax law changes in recent years created ĎOpportunity Zonesí where redevelopment prospects are abundant. Along with other colleagues from the region, we wrote a letter to Governor Walker in 2018 advocating for a number of locations in Green Bay and throughout Northeast Wisconsin. Itís great to see one of these Opportunity Zones taking shape and impacting economic development in our region. Read more about this development and Opportunity Zones in this WPR article.

  • According to this recent analysis, Green Bay is one of the top cities in the nation for creative professionals! Thanks to an economy that has evolved to create a wide array of employment opportunities to fit everyoneís skillset, Northeast Wisconsin continues emerging as a hub for innovation.




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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