Updates from the State Senate - October 2, 2019

The photo above was taken of a few deer posing for a picture in Brown County.


Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Quick Fact


Did you know that about 90% of Wisconsinís fish and wildlife management is funded though fees paid by hunters, anglers, and shooting sports enthusiasts? Sportsmen and women play a pivotal role in conservation, and as Saturday was National Hunting and Fishing Day, itís a great time to recognize their financial contribution and general dedication towards conserving our stateís robust natural resources.


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,


Itís been a busy few weeks in the Capitol and around the district, but not too busy to enjoy a great start to the season for the Badgers and Packers and a phenomenal September by the Brewers!


Looking ahead, on Tuesday, October 8th, the full Senate will be in session to consider a number of resolutions, appointments, and bills. You can watch that live on WisconsinEye.


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

  1. The Audit Committee in full swing

  2. Kaukauna bridge gets a lift from the state

  3. A number of bills moving forward

  4. Support from the State Journal on a bill Iíve authored

  5. The Senate Scholar program accepting applications

  6. Appearance on WPRís The Morning Show

  7. Recent events I've attended around the district

  8. 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


Audit Committee in Full Swing


A few September hearings of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which I Co-Chair, has provided some crucial follow-up to some important recent audits while setting the wheels in motion on some other important state programs that deserve a critical evaluation.


An audit of the stateís recycling programs were included among two newly approved audits. Recycling is at a critical juncture in Wisconsin. Itís been nearly two decades since the last audit of state recycling programs, and given monumental shifts in recycling markets, changes in the products being recycled, and fluctuations in state assistance for recycling, itís time for a fresh look. As Co-Chair, we recently approved a program evaluation that will help to create a path for the Legislature to best ensure our state recycling programs are promoting financially responsible product stewardship. Watch my opening statement on the newly approved audit on WisconsinEye.


Also recently approved is a program evaluation of the stateís information technology (IT) procurement process. IT has become a crucial part of the function of our state government in the past quarter-of-a-century. Today, we continue to rely more and more on IT as state government becomes more accessible to those it serves and becomes more efficient for those who serve in it. However, as we continue further into the digital age, we must ensure that our IT system procurement is fair and that the taxpayers arenít left on the hook for excessive project costs. On September 10th we approved an evaluation of IT procurement in Wisconsin.


We also heard Audit Report 19-4 that was completed earlier this year and evaluated expenditures at the Department of Corrections. One finding from the audit was that DOC, up until just this year, utilized physical paper medical records to track healthcare data for over 20,000 inmates. From this, the audit recommended that DOC not only develop a plan to more comprehensively compile its medical records electronically, but thoroughly analyze the data to identify medical needs and trends to create future cost savings. I look forward to continued dialog to ensure that cost saving measures result from this effort.



Another topic of discussion on Audit Report 19-4 was regarding correctional staff vacancy rates to reduce overtime to help protect the taxpayer and lessen officer burnout. Thanks to a $5 pay bump at maximum security facilities and new local training programs, Green Bay Correctional Institution has reduced the vacancy rate from 19.4% to 10.3%! Thereís still work to be done, but this is great news for correctional officers, facility safety, and taxpayers! Watch an exchange between Secretary Carr and I on these efforts on WisconsinEye.


Kaukauna Bridge Gets a Lift from the State


September 6th was a good day for Kaukauna property taxpayers! The Department of Transportation announced the approval of the stateís 80% share of the funding for the replacement of the lift on the Veterans Memorial Bridge. This is similar to the share in the Departmentís existing local bridge assistance program which this bridge didnít qualify for because the bridge itself worked, but the lift portion of the bridge didnít.


The replacement of the lift, required by a federal mandate, should not rest solely on the backs of Kaukauna property taxpayers. Thanks to the leadership of local officials including Mayor Tony Penterman, Representative Jim Steineke, and the Administration, it wonít.




A Number of Bills Moving Forward


After a series of recent committee hearings, Iím pleased to share some good news about a few bills Iíve authored that are moving forward.


First, a bipartisan proposal Iíve authored to prevent future testing backlogs of sexual assault kits and to provide options and assurances to the survivors of these terrible crimes was heard in a Senate committee. Iím working with Representatives Steffen and Sargent, Senator Schachtner, the Attorney General and others on this important effort. The testimony and support was emotional, and has encouraged committee members to schedule a vote on this bill Thursday. To learn more, check out this article about Senate Bill 200 from earlier this year.


The same week, after some actions in the State Capitol, weíre attempting to help relocate the coal piles along the river in Green Bay! Senate Bill 295, which Iíve authored with Representative Steffen to provide state funding through the Harbor Assistance Program to support the planning and relocation of these coal piles, was heard in a Senate committee and was recommended for passage by an Assembly committee.



Finally, in the last e-newsletter, I noted a public hearing on four bills from the ĎBite Backí package that Iíve authored with Representatives Mursau and Milroy and Senator Miller to combat Lyme disease in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. After that hearing, the Committee convened recently to unanimously recommend these four bills, Senate Bills 296, 297, 298 and 300, for passage.


Support from the State Journal on a Bill I've Authored


Legislation Iíve authored with Representative John Nygren to address a significant source of an emerging water contaminate known as PFAS, firefighting foam, is now supported by the Wisconsin State Journalís Editorial Board. Senate Bill 310 is an important step forward in Wisconsinís water quality efforts.




Senate Scholar Program Accepting Applications


The 2019 Senate Scholar Program is now accepting applications. This program provides students with an advanced week-long crash course in the legislative process by hearing from state leaders and through hands-on experiences. Open to high school juniors and seniors, the student chosen will represent the 2nd Senate District during this unique educational experience. Learn more about the Senate Scholar program on the Legislature's website.


Apperance on WPR's The Morning Show


I joined WPRís The Morning Show earlier this month to discuss a range of topics including the Supporting Childrenís Health by Ousting Outdated Lead (SCHOOL) Acts, government accountability and transparency, legislation to ensure sexual assault evidence is handled and tested properly, and more. Check out the interview on WPRís website.


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:

  • When some people think of Bay Beach, they think of the Zippiní Pippiní or the new ĎBig Wheelí amusement park rides. But we cannot overlook the family fun that can be had at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. Last month, I attended a ribbon cutting and open house for the Dick Resch and Family Learning and Conservation Center at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary to expand learning opportunities for young children.

  • The football played at Lambeau isnít the only football worth watching this fall. Iíve had the pleasure of rooting on a number of local high school teams this season, including attending a recent game at Notre Dame, Pulaski, and Southwest High Schools.

  • I joined Senator Feyen and plant manager Arend Gibson for a tour of Fox River Valley Ethanol this month. Maybe Iím just being ďcornyĒ, but ethanol is a very important and underappreciated part of Northeast Wisconsinís agricultural and manufacturing industries.


  • Farmers across Northeast Wisconsin are implementing new practices and technologies that promote soil strength and healthy waterways. On September 6th, I learned more about some of these local efforts in Shawano County at a Farm Field Day hosted by Congressman Mike Gallagher.

  • Thankfully we have a lot of great opportunities for outdoor fitness in Northeast Wisconsin, because thereís also a lot of great food to eat. I met a number of local entrepreneurs and chefs putting their talents to work at the Taste on Broadway in Green Bay this month to see (and taste) perhaps just a bit too much of this great food.

  • Wisconsinís National Guard includes thousands of dedicated members of our communities who are always ready to assist at home or abroad. Two weeks ago, I joined Senator Roger Roth, a National Guard member himself, and Representative Joel Kitchens to tour Madisonís Truax Field, the location of Wisconsin Air National Guardís 115th Fighter Wing, and talk with some of these devoted service members. I also chatted with the airport fire department oh how they handle emergencies and training for those emergencies with firefighting foam.


  • With all of the outstanding community members in Northeast Wisconsin, itís no surprise that so many residents want to give back, but donít know how. At the 2nd Annual Community-Wide Volunteer Expo at the KI Convention Center, there were over sixty opportunities showcased to fit everyoneís interest and schedule. Missed the event? Check out volunteergb.org to find the perfect way that you can give back.

  • The Fox River cleanup has truly been a tremendous success, but these improvements didnít happen overnight. On September 9th, I learned more about this cleanup effort and the next steps for the Fox River at an annual event hosted by the Clean Bay Backers. Learn more about the tour and see my comments on the Fox River on WBAYís website.

  • Asian Carp and other invasive species are some of the largest threats to water quality and abundant fisheries in the Great Lakes. In August, I joined a Congressional Delegation in Kaukauna to learn about a pilot project by USGS and the DNR that tested and monitored a CO2 barrier as a potential solution to restrict the movement of Asian Carp. Itís my hopes that their conclusions can lead to the next big development in Asian Carp management.

  • Empowering women. Inspiring Girls. Thatís the motto of the Greater Green Bay Womenís Fund, and itís a mission that promotes a better community and a stronger future. On September 19th, I attended the annual Power of the Purse event to support their mission.

  • The Navarino Nature Center is a treasure for our region. The education and family-friendly entertainment they provide is top-notch, which is why I supported their continued efforts during the 30th Annual Fundraising Banquet at The Gathering in Shawano.


In Other News...


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

  • Earlier this month was National Suicide Prevention Week. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, donít be afraid to ask for help. The HOPELINE provides free and confidential help, hope and support to get you back on your feet. For help, call 1-800-273-8255 or text HOPELINE to 741741.

  • A recent WLUK story highlighted a monumental shift in the justice system in Brown County. Iíve attended graduations from the Brown County drug courts, and Iíve quickly become a supporter of the treatment and diversion model for nonviolent drug offenders. By using rehabilitation over punishment, weíre reducing recidivism and improving our communities while saving taxpayer funds in the long-run.

  • A recent version of WBAYís newest platform for content, the Get 2 the Point podcast featured Ron and Debbie Ross as they remember their son Corporal Justin Ross and discuss how theyíre keeping his memory alive in the community. Iíve had the pleasure of meeting the Rossís several times, and they are two of the best examples of citizen leaders in our community. Check out the podcast on WBAYís website.

  • Congratulations to Dr. Darlene Konkle, a native of Freedom in the 2nd Senate District, on her appointment as the Wisconsin State Veterinarian at state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection!

  • Oh snap! A product made by GLK Foods in Bear Creek, their OH SNAP Dilly Bites, made the top sixteen in Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerceís ĎCoolest Thing Made in Wisconsiní competition. GLK Foods was beat by Sturgeon Bayís Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding for their ĎMadonnaí Washington Island Ferry. To see all of the nominees and to vote in the remainder of the contest, visit Made in Wisconsinís website.

  • Bay View Middle School, part of the Howard Suamico School District, is one of the healthiest schools in America! Good student health not only sets future habits, but also keeps students focused in the classroom. Congratulations to the leadership and students at Bay View, and keep up the good work!

  • Another recent swatting event in Greenfield gave one family quite a scare and wasted valuable police resources. These more serious and knowingly false reporting events deserve more serious penalties. Iím proud to be an author of Senate Bill 363 to do just that.

  • Great to see two local staples, UW-Green Bay and the Packers, teaming up to perform some potentially groundbreaking research! Learn more about on WFRVís website.

  • Awesome news for Appleton International Airport as theyíve learned that theyíll receive a $4.7 million federal grant to expand a runway! Easier transit in our region expands economic opportunities for businesses, residents, and visitors.




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




If you would like to unsubscribe from Senator Cowles' E-Newsletter, please Click Here