Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

December 8, 2023

Tons of Testimony

The State Capitol feels a bit like a busy shopping mall this week, and it’s not because of the giant Christmas tree in the rotunda! Citizens and legislators alike are buzzing about the building to testify in front of the many committees that are meeting for public hearings and executive sessions in order to keep legislation moving into the new year. In addition, Governor Evers signed legislation and three of my bills were signed into law!
Among the tons of testimony and executive sessions this week, three of my bills received public hearings: Medflight staffing requirements, Campus Community Transition Grants and EMS Board expansion. I sincerely appreciate the chairs of these committees for taking action on my legislation. All three of these bills will have very positive impacts on the 17th Senate District and throughout Wisconsin.  Following is a quick summary of each of these bills:
Medflight Staffing – Senate Bill (SB) 221 changes the law so that a Respiratory Therapist can be counted as a crew member on a Medflight helicopter or any type of air ambulance that is transporting a pediatric patient from hospital to hospital. This simple change will align the laws for helicopters with the laws for airplanes. Current law already allows this type of therapist to be counted for these types of airplane flights. Our hospitals tell us that this change will put Medflights for pediatric patients into the air quicker and more efficiently, which will save lives.
Campus Community Transition Grants – I co-authored SB 518 with Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc), to provide $2 million grants to counties where a two-year, UW branch campus closes to in-person instruction. This is directly related to UW-Platteville Richland, but it now also applies to UW-Oshkosh Fond du Lac and UW-Milwaukee Washington County. These grants will be administered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to help a county plan and redevelop campus buildings and land for economic development, housing or other redevelopment purposes.
EMS Board Expansion – Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) and I authored SB 526 to add two members to the Wisconsin Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Board to ensure that our rural EMS departments are represented by this decision-making board. The new members must be licensed below the paramedic level – an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT). They also must be credentialed with a rural, volunteer department. The bill defines rural as an area for which the population of the largest single municipality in the volunteer department’s service area is less than 10,000. The goal for this bill is to give our rural departments a voice on a board that makes rules and decisions that directly affect them.
Again, three of my bills were also signed into law on Wednesday, December 6, 2023.  These bills include:

Broadband Grant Program Reform – Act 77 – This bill further refines the Rural Broadband Expansion Grant Program to make sure it is focused on unserved communities as we also manage a deluge of Federal funding into the broadband expansion world.

Desert Shield & Desert Storm Memorial Highway – Act 69 – Designates and marks State Highway 80 as the Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial Highway.  State Highway 80 traverses the entire 17th Senate District from Finley in northern Juneau County all of the way to Hazel Green in southern Grant County. I co-authored this bill with Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc).
ATV Communications Funding – Act 67 – Transfers the responsibility for awarding grants for communications equipment from the Off-Road Vehicle Council to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). While the council is knowledgeable and passionate about ATVs and UTVs, it is not meant to be a grant-awarding body. This change will allow the DNR to effectively award grant money to nonprofits or non-governmental organizations for trail development, rehabilitation and maintenance, the production of maps, the placement of signs and the purchase of communications equipment. The Wisconsin ATV/UTV Association supported this change.
I appreciate the Governor’s signature on our bills and look forward to completing the process with my other legislation after the new year.

As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.