Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District
Economic impact from tourism isnít just reserved for
places like Door County and the Wisconsin Dells. Tourism
in the counties comprising the 2nd Senate District
creates over $2 billion in economic activity! In 2018
alone, that includes approximately $1,154,800,000 in
Brown County, $635,700,000 in Outagamie County,
$103,800,000 in Shawano County, and $151,800,000 in
Waupaca County in total tourism-based business sales.
This economic impact results in over 20,000 jobs and
$160 million in state and local taxes that helps to
drive down the tax burden on local residents. Learn more
Department of Tourismís website.
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
County Chamber of Commerce, or the
Area Chamber of Commerce. To find more public
events, visit the community calendars on
News and the
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The days may be getting shorter, but between community
events and legislative hearings, Iíve been getting even
busier. Itís been a few weeks since my last
e-newsletter, and I have a lot of news to share in this
update on progress on legislation Iíve authored or
support, committee work, different events Iíve attended,
and other good things happening around Northeast
Wisconsin. As the fall portion of the 2019-2020
Legislative Session begins to heat up, be on the lookout
on my social media feeds and in these e-newsletters for
even more progress on legislative efforts and more.
In this e-newsletter, I've included information on:
Progress on a number of bills
Recent actions on government accountability
Pay raises for GBCI Correctional Officers
Solar power soaring in Northeast Wisconsin
My continued support for health care innovation
Participation in an organic waste forum at
The number of opioid deaths decreasing
Recent events I've attended around the district
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
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
Progress on a Number of Bills
After nine different committee hearings Iíve been
involved with in recent weeks, some of the efforts Iíve
authored or am supporting are moving forward. This
includes portions of the
Bite Back package Iíve authored with Representatives
Mursau and Milroy and Senator Miller to improve our
stateís approach to Lyme disease. Two of these bills
were both heard and
unanimously recommended for passage by the
Assembly Committee on Environment. These two bills would
post informational signs on Lyme disease and tick bites
on state properties and sell insect repellant in certain
State Parks to help reduce the number of tick bites on
these properties and beyond. Learn more about the public
hearing and importance for one family of addressing Lyme
disease in this
Associated Press story.
Those two bills, along with two other bills from the
Bite Back package were also heard in the Senate
Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. The first of
these would require that information on Lyme disease and
a reminder to check for ticks after spending time
outdoors be posted in informational brochures at State
Parks and on the DNRís digital and print platforms in
May, which is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. The final
bill from the Bite Back package that was heard would
establish a tick-borne disease study committee to
provide further recommendations in our stateís fight
against Lyme disease.
The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, which
I Chair, also recommended a number of other efforts Iíve
co-authored for passage during last weekís hearing. This
Senate Bill (SB) 212 to provide 4th graders and
their parents with a free State Parks pass to expand
upon their outdoors education and preserve Wisconsinís
Senate Bill 264 to update Wisconsinís electronics
recycling program and improve the programís efficiency,
Senate Bill 169 to encourage wetland banking, a type
of mitigation, closer to the site of the original
wetland disturbance. Complimenting this progress, the
Assembly companion bills for SB 264 on E-Cycle Wisconsin
and SB 169 on wetland banking were recommended for
passage by the Assembly Committee on Environment during
a recent hearing.
Some other bills Iím supporting through co-sponsorship
have also been moving through the legislative process,
including two bills that were recently recommended for
passage by the Senate Universities, Technical Colleges,
Children and Families Committee.
Assembly Bill 38 by Senator Feyen and Representative
Murphy will help to promote public-private partnerships
to advance more research in the UW-System.
Assembly Bill 22 by Representative Thiesfeldt and
Senator Johnson and supported by Schneider National, among
others, will ensure truck drivers can spot the warning
signs of human trafficking when they stop at truck stops
in Wisconsin and beyond. Both bills have already passed
the Assembly and now await action by the full Senate.
Finally, I recently introduced legislation with
Representatives Vorpagel and Duchow and Senator
Wanggaard that would line-up the penalties for knowingly
false swatting calls with other false reporting
incidents like bomb threats. Swatting is when a person
knowingly falsely reports to any public safety entity
that an emergency exists with the intent to elicit a
response from any public safety entity's emergency
response team (i.e. a SWAT team). Ultimately, the goal of
this legislation is deterrence over punishment.
Senate Bill 363 has already gained bipartisan
co-sponsorship and support from law enforcement and
first responders. Learn more about how swatting impacted
a quiet suburban community and hear some support for
this bill from a police chief on
CBS 58ís website.
I look forward to sharing more news about progress on
these bills and more in future e-newsletters.
Recent Actions on Government
As Co-Chair of the Audit Committee, ensuring
accountability and transparency in state government
is always one of the items on the top of my agenda.
In recent weeks, the Audit Committee has held a
hearing on a recent audit, Iíve introduced
legislation regarding some past audit
recommendations, and a new audit has been released.
First, the Audit Committee held a hearing on
Report 19-6 which evaluated the Wisconsin
Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) on August
20th. This audit
showed, among other things, that recipients of 68
tax credit and loan awards created just 2,084 of
5,970 contractually required jobs (34.9%) and that
60 such recipients retained just 7,806 of 13,272
contractually required jobs (58.8%). It was
important to have WEDC CEO Mark Hogan before the
Committee one last time in his role to learn what
steps they are taking to address these issues.
I have also recently introduced
Assembly Bill 370 with Representative Dave
Murphy that follows-up on a 2018 audit to ensure
accountability and transparency in the relationships
between the UW-System and independent UW
foundations. Read Audit Report 18-4 on relationships
between the UW and certain affiliated organizations
like foundations on the
Audit Bureauís website.
new report from the nonpartisan Legislative
Audit Bureau found 90 investigations of incident
reports and complaints over a five-year span
involving the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King. 41.4%
of investigations were related to resident abuse,
and 32.2% were related to quality of care. The state
Department of Health Services substantiated
allegations in 40 of the 90 investigations and
issued 22 citations to address deficient King
practices or policies.
The release of report 19-14 along with an earlier
report concludes what has been
a long effort to audit the Veterans Home at King. I
hope to follow-up soon with the state Department of
Veterans Affairs to get an update on the status of
recommendations made in these audits.
Pay Raises for GBCI Correctional Officers
Correctional officers at the Green Bay Correctional
Institution (GBCI) may have recently noticed a little
more money in their pockets. Thereís no doubt that
correctional officers have a tough job, but too often
their pay failed to reflect the difficulty and
importance of their work.
As a result, many of the maximum security facilities
have been faced with worker shortages, forcing existing
staff to stay for open shifts. This takes a physical
toll on the correctional officers and may lead to
eventual burnout and resignations. According to
Audit Report 19-4, it also takes an economic toll on
the state as weíre paying significantly more to force
this overtime than we likely would to close the vacancy
The 2019-2021 State Budget
provides a $5 an hour pay increase to correctional
officers which takes effect on the first of next year.
Building on this Legislative effort, the state
Department of Corrections (DOC) took a more immediate
step to try and reduce the staff vacancy rates at
maximum security facilities. Initial reports of this
raise have shown some success at helping to lower the
vacancy rate, but more long-term work is needed to
address this issue.
The Legislature and DOC believes that by providing these
pay increases, weíre not only rewarding our dedicated
and professional correctionís staff, but we will also be
better stewards of the tax dollar by decreasing required
overtime and increasing retention. Further, by having
correctional officers who stay on the job longer and who
arenít as overworked, we can help to improve the
conditions in GBCI and at other correctional facilities for
the staff, inmates, and broader community.
Solar Power Shines in Northeast Wisconsin
Two recent actions in Northeast Wisconsin will help our
region and our state to advance towards a cleaner and
more renewable energy future.
On August 22nd, the first utility scale solar project in
broke ground in Two Rivers. With commitments already
in place from multiple utilities including Wisconsin
Public Service to purchase solar power generated right
here in Wisconsin, Two Creeks Solar will not only help
to shift the narrative on solar energy in Wisconsin, but
throughout our region.
Senator Cowles along with representatives from Focus
on Energy, Eland Electric in Ashwaubenon, and Secretary
Caleb Frostman during a visit to the Sisters of St.
Francis of the Holy Cross solar array in July.
The following week, I
attended an event to recognize the
installation of a solar array at Sisters of St. Francis
of the Holy Cross. To truly promote diversity and
security in our stateís energy production, larger
projects like the one in Two Rivers and smaller projects
like the one on Nicolet Drive are both necessary for a
cleaner and more robust energy portfolio with a larger
energy generation workforce than we previously thought
Continued Support for Health Care Innovation
Innovation in the health care industry can help to
drive down costs for all Wisconsinites. This
session, Iíve supported legislation that advances
innovation in health care, including the
refunding of the Wisconsin Healthcare Stability Plan
(discussed in the
last e-newsletter) and
step therapy reform on prescription medications.
Continuing my support for these efforts, Iíve
recently co-sponsored legislation that expands
telehealth services to Medicaid recipients.
Telehealth is the delivery of health care services
remotely by means of telecommunications like video
conferencing. By expanding these services to low
income individuals and families, we can both
increase convenience for Medicaid recipients and
decrease costs to taxpayers. Learn more about the
bill by reading this
press release release by co-authors Senator
Kooyenga and Representative Loudenbeck.
Organic Waste Forum at UW-Madison
Organic waste (i.e. manure, food waste, fecal
matter) can be one of the largest challenges for
wastewater treatment plants, farms and factories,
but this waste can also present huge opportunities.
Last month, my staff presented on my P3: Wisconsinís
Trading Marketplace legislation at an event focused
around a more economical and forward-thinking
management of organic waste streams at the UWís
Wisconsin Energy Institute.
If passed, the Pollution Prevention Partnerships
created by this bill could help to provide the
economic flexibility necessary to implement
technologies that create energy and provide a more
environmentally friendly outcome for organic wastes.
While I wasnít able to attend myself, Iím told there
was a lot of positive reactions from the organic
waste industry stakeholders that attended this
event. Iím happy to have crack staff like Toni (who
presented at the event) to help me craft these
policies, spread information about their merits, and
shepherd it through the Legislative process.
Number of Opioid Deaths Decreases
Itís about time that we see some good news related
to the stateís opioid crisis. According to
new data by the state Department of Health Services,
opioid deaths have dropped 10% from 2017 to 2018 and are
at their lowest level since 2015.
Last session, the Legislature implemented a
number of bills as part of the Heroin, Opioid
Prevention and Education (HOPE) Agenda. I supported
all of these efforts on the floor of the Senate and
many of them with my co-sponsorship.
Spending by state government to address addiction
issues has grown as part of the HOPE Agenda from
$5.1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016-2017 to $24.7
million in FY 2019-2020. This additional investment
is accompanied other efforts, including guidelines
for physicians on opioid prescriptions, a crackdown
on illicit opioid sales, more options for
responsible disposal of unused medications (find a
drug takeback location near you
here), and the implementation of the Wisconsin
Addiction Recovery Helpline (call 2-1-1 to reach the
Over the last 20 years, more than 8,500
Wisconsinites have died from opioid overdoses. Too
many of us know someone whoís been addicted to
opioids, and too few of these cases have the happy ending we
want. While no overdose deaths can be seen as
acceptable, this reduction in opioid deaths is a
step in the right direction for Wisconsin.
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:
1,000 Island Nature Center in Kaukauna has offered
local residents a place for peace and relaxation
that can only be provided by nature for fifty years.
Last month, I attended a celebration for the 50th
anniversary of 1,000 Island and learned more about
the different ways they serve the community.
When a child is diagnosed with Downs Syndrome, it
can put a toll on a family despite the rewards of
raising a child. Through the ups and downs, these
families often find comfort in meeting other
families and community members who understand both
the pleasures and challenges of raising a child with
Downs Syndrome. I met some of these families at a
recent walk to support Downs Syndrome efforts in the
Green Bay area.
There were some great turnouts at the Speakerís Task
Force on Water Quality hearings in Green Bay and
Marinette near the end of August! As a Task Force
member, it was exceptional to hear some local water
quality success stories and learn more about the
water quality challenges we face now and in the
future from the experts, the boots on the ground,
and lifelong residents of Northeast Wisconsin.
I recently joined my colleagues in welcoming the
expansion of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in the
Fox Valley! While their business model isnít aimed
at most of us, the impact Gulfstream has and will
continue to have in Northeast Wisconsin will benefit
all of us through direct and indirect job creation
and an increase in tourism spending.
The gameday experience at Lambeau Field is unmatched
by any other stadium throughout the country. Behind the scenes, a lot of work goes in to ensuring
a safe gameday experience. I attended a tour by the
Packers showing $5.5 million in security
improvements that were made in the offseason. Learn
I spent some time last month helping out at Habitat
builds in Green Bay and Appleton for their Elected
Officials Week. The impact Habitat for Humanity has
in our communities is incredible! It was a pleasure
to have the chance to support their work and learn
more about their efforts.
As a member of the Green Bay Stadium District, I
have the privilege of being part of a team that helps to
promote community events in areas surrounding
Lambeau Field. At a recent meeting, we approved
funding to bring events to our area hosted by the
Forest Lakes District Convention of the Evangelical
Free Church of America in 2020, 2021 and 2022 and
the WIAA Girls Basketball and Boys and Girls
Volleyball in 2020 and 2021.
Skilled trades are some of the best career paths for
local youth and those between jobs. Not only do
these jobs offer good pay and stable employment, but
they can offer a sense of community. It was a
pleasure to be able to attend the Annual Summer
Picnic of the Carpenters Local 1146 in Green Bay
In Other News...
Here are some other stories I wanted to share with
Some amazing and inspiring work by some St. Norbert
students and future service members to help raise
awareness and funding to help tackle the issue
of veteran suicide. Learn more about their long trek
Building on the Legislatureís continued investment
in the delivery of rural broadband, the Federal
Communications Commission is investing $160 million
into getting Wisconsin closer to high-speed internet
access for all Wisconsin residents and businesses.
Learn more about this investment on
Driving south? Watch for the brand-new signs that
have been posted at the 41-441-10 interchange in
Winnebago County to commemorate the late Senator
Mike Ellisí life. I was part of the effort earlier
this year with Senator Roger Roth and other
Outagamie County legislators to pass
Senate Bill 1 to designate this interchange that
Mike fought so hard to get enumerated and funded.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is
offering no-interest microloans of up to $20,000 for
businesses affected Julyís severe weather. Learn
Also following-up on Julyís severe weather, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved
a disaster declaration for portions of Wisconsin.
This declaration means that local governments,
including those in Outagamie, Shawano and Waupaca
Counties, will be eligible to apply for federal
assistance to help cover costs related to the storm
response and cleanup. Learn more on
What amazing neighbors we all have in Northeast
Wisconsin! The Kaukauna Fire Departmentís Assistant
Chief Chad Gerritsí wife, Jennifer, was recently
diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and has
undergone chemotherapy. In a show of solidarity,
Kaukauna FD shaved their heads. My prayers go
out to Jennifer for strength and healing, and itís
nice to see that she has a strong support system by her
side during this tough time.
Labor Day weekend may be here and gone, but as we
finish out the 2019 boating season, check out these
safe boating tips from the Department of Natural
Reinhart Foodservice in Shawano
recently announced that they will be expanding
and adding jobs in the city. This is awesome news!
Some excellent work being done in Pulaski to build
the boats of which dreams are made! This is just one
of many examples in Northeast Wisconsin that
demonstrate the global impact of our regionís
manufacturing industry. Learn more about the newest
boat off the line on
There are about 350 barn quilts scattered throughout
Shawano County making the areaís rural roads a
top-notch place to take a scenic weekend drive.
Learn more about how this unique attraction comes
I think the news that
Wisconsin leads the nation in cranberry production
is pretty sweet, but some people tend to think itís
deliciously bitter. In fact, this is now the 20th
straight year that Wisconsin holds the title of the
nationís leading cranberry producer.