Fifty Years After Roe, The Struggle Continues For the fiftieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Senator Smith writes about changing policies and attitudes towards reproductive health throughout America’s history. Abortion is healthcare, and the right to an abortion must be protected in Wisconsin and across the nation.
Don’t Take Amending Our Constitution Lightly The Wisconsin Constitution is legislators’ ultimate guide when making law, and constitutional amendments are often difficult to change once they have passed. This week Senator Smith writes about our constitutional amendment process and the dangers of recklessly amending our state Constitution.
Flat Tax Helps Rich Get Richer and Solves Zero Problems Sen. Smith writes about Republican flat tax proposals, the savings from which would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. Instead of providing tax relief for those who need it least, we have an opportunity to invest in targeted programs for our state and put money in the pockets of the middle class.
You Deserve Representation You Can Trust This week those elected to the State Legislature will take the oath of office to begin service. Senator Smith writes about the importance of the deliberative process of democracy and how vital it is that the public’s representatives keep the trust given to them by their constituents.
A New Year Means Renewed Priorities This week, Senator Smith writes about priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Through his conversations with voters throughout the year, he has identified some steps we can take, and looks forward to introducing legislation to improve the quality of life of Wisconsin families.
Your Chance to Improve Broadband Connectivity Is Now Sen. Smith writes about the new FCC internet connectivity maps released by the FCC. The accuracy of these maps will determine where we focus our broadband expansion efforts. You can improve these maps by challenging any incorrect information.
Do You Hear What I Hear This week Senator Smith writes about how the dialogue has changed between candidates, elected officials and constituents. Wisconsin can accomplish widely supported policies if the voices of the voters are heard, in the legislature and via referenda.
It's Time To Move Forward Past Political Division Progress happens when we put away the political scorecards and move forward. This week, Senator Smith discusses the importance of bipartisan effort and cooperation going into the 2023 Legislative Session.
Building Strong Local Economies, One Small Business At A Time This week, Senator Jeff Smith writes about his experience as a business owner and the importance of shopping local for the holiday season. Sen. Smith also highlights Wisconsin’s work to lead the nation for utilizing federal relief funds to support Wisconsin small businesses.
New Energy Efficiency Incentives Abound As the weather gets colder, heating costs are rising. This week I write about the many state and federal programs that are in place to help Wisconsin residents with heating bills and energy efficiency improvements.
Our Enduring Responsibility: To Support and Honor Wisconsin's Veterans Last Friday, November 11, we celebrated Veterans Day. This week, I write about our continuing responsibility to provide support to our veterans and the gratitude we owe them for their honorable service.
With Broadband, Strong Connections Build Strong Communities This week, I write about the opportunities we have to expand broadband infrastructure into Wisconsin's rural areas.
Know Your Rights on Election Day The 2022 General Election is next Tuesday, November 8th. Whether you vote early, by mail-in absentee ballot or on Election Day, it is important to know your rights when it comes to casting your vote.
Continuous care benefits the health of our communities During the federal public health emergency, there has been a freeze on disenrolling patients from Medicaid, but that will end with the health emergency. If you are a BadgerCare patient, it is important that you make sure your contact information is correct to ensure the continuity of your coverage.
Hitting Pay Dirt in the Driftless Region Here in Wisconsin we have a strong history of soil conservation. As we look toward the future Wisconsin has many opportunities to fund innovative approaches to soil health, yielding dividends for our communities while ensuring we can enjoy the bounty of our lands for generations to come.
Justice for Indigenous Communities As we celebrate the pivotal role Indigenous cultures play in our nation, honoring Indigenous heritage is of great importance. The third anniversary of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Wisconsin is an opportunity to celebrate and preserve Indigenous American cultures.
Empowerment Over Shame for Mental Health Awareness We must do our part to reduce the negative effects of mental illness. This week I write about the challenges facing Wisconsinites when it comes to accessing care and the opportunities we have to increase the support we provide to those struggling with mental health challenges.
Celebrate Fall in Western Wisconsin Western Wisconsin has an amazing diversity of activities during the autumn season. This week I write about all the region has to offer this fall and highlight some upcoming chances to take advantage of our abundance of recreational opportunities.
National Voter Registration Day: Our Vote is Our Voice This week we celebrate the tenth anniversary of National Voter Registration Day. I encourage all Wisconsinites to check their voter registration to make sure that they are all set to vote this November.
Protecting Our Watersheds for a Better Future Our rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands can only sustain us if we remain committed to caring for them. In this week’s column I wrote about the importance of retaining our strong connection to our water sources to protect our way of life here in Wisconsin.
Student Loan Forgiveness Can Strengthen Our Communities This week I write about student loan debt forgiveness and what it will mean for all of Wisconsin. Giving students and graduates a break will boost our economy and offer our kids and grandkids new opportunities to thrive.
America is Best When Labor is Strong Growing up on the north side of Eau Claire I saw the way neighborhoods were impacted by strong union wages and benefits. With Labor Day just around the corner I wrote this week’s column about the importance of organized labor and unions for our communities.
Women's Equality Day This upcoming Friday, August 26th, is Women’s Equality Day in the United States. As we celebrate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we also recognize there is more work to be done for equality and women’s rights.
Fix the System with Final-Five Voting In this week’s column, I wrote about Final-Five Voting, how it works and how it can improve our current political system.
Farmers' Market for All to Enjoy This week is National Farmers’ Market Week. In my latest column, I wrote about farmers’ markets happening across Wisconsin and all one can enjoy by visiting a local market. Thank you for sharing!
Staying Safe in the Summer Sun It’s hard to believe summer is more than halfway over. Like so many others, I’ve had a busy summer visiting the local fairs in the region, enjoying the outdoors and spending time with friends and family.
Supporting Veteran Opportunity United States veterans have made many sacrifices to preserve our freedom as Americans. Our veterans deserve recognition for their commitment of putting one’s country over one’s self. More importantly, our veterans deserve the assurance that the country they served will be there to offer...
Big Steps Forward for Broadband Expansion I enjoy being out and about in the community and listening to the issues that are on folks’ minds. No matter what corner of the district I’m in, one of the top issues I hear over and over again is broadband access.
Summer Adventure Awaits Summer is the time to get outdoors and travel, and there sure are plenty of opportunities to do so right here in Wisconsin. Wisconsinites know this all too well, but it’s exciting to know out-of-state travelers are getting in on the fun.
The Traditions that Unite Us Celebrations on the 4th of July bring back many fond memories. Whether it’s eating ice cream or having a family barbeque, waving the American flag at a parade or watching the fireworks at night, Americans have treasured traditions to celebrate this holiday.
The Reality of Reproductive Rights in Wisconsin We knew this summer would be a historic one. Friday, June 24th certainly proved this to be true. During the week leading up to this date, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered their decisions for their term, including the highly-anticipated case, Dobbs v. Jackson
The Work for Wisconsin Must Continue When I think about Wisconsin’s future, I can’t help but think about my family’s past. This might sound backwards, but I think many others may feel the same way.
Reflecting on the Positive There are times when it’s a good idea to take a breath and reflect on your accomplishments. Now, that the legislative session has ended I’ve had a chance to do just that. Oftentimes, it’s easy to dwell on the challenges and disappointments we experience, but I know my first term...
Civil Conversations: The Key for Change It’s always been my top priority to be accessible to the people I was elected to serve. In my four years serving in the State Assembly in the 2000’s, I scheduled town hall listening sessions as often as I could. My office arranged listening sessions at town halls, libraries and other public spaces..
National Agriculture Week: Recognize the Farmers Who Feed You The distinction of my hometown as the center of the dairy industry was always a matter of pride for me growing up. While I didn’t understand how milk pricing worked yet, all that mattered was that Eau Claire was the center of the milk industry and played a big role in determining the price of milk.
A Rural Blueprint for Our Future Thirty-six years ago, my wife and I built our home from the ground up in Brunswick, a rural part of Eau Claire County. We both grew up in the area and didn’t think twice about leaving. Before we started laying the foundation of our home, we started with a blueprint showing...
Let’s Draw the Line on Gerrymandering The maps are in! Political redistricting maps, that is. These are not the roadmaps you may be accustomed to. You won’t follow a redistricting map to get to your favorite vacation destination.
Supporting Public Schools is “A Plus” for Our Kids Wisconsin’s K-12 schools are the cornerstone of our communities. The education offered at our neighborhood public schools provides the opportunity for our kids to reach their full potential. It’s our responsibility to ensure this opportunity is available for all Wisconsin students...
The Opportunity to Do What’s Right When the opportunity to do what’s right is in front of us, we must grab it because it may not be there for long. This is something we all learn, even if it’s the hard way. It’s painful when we don’t recognize opportunity, we hesitate and it’s gone. That’s when opportunity becomes regret.
Celebrate 150 Years of Eau Claire History always fascinates me. I grew up on the north side of Eau Claire and was surrounded by history. This year, the City of Eau Claire is celebrating its 150th birthday, which got me thinking about my upbringing in Eau Claire—how my life has been shaped so much by the history and culture...
Trust is Complicated I’ve learned a lot about building and holding one’s trust, especially as an elected official. Trust can be elusive especially when the facts we find don’t align with the rhetoric. When claims are verified with facts, trust is earned.
Biden’s Economic Boom is Strong for Wisconsin Nothing comes easy. I’m sure you’ve heard that before from a parent or teacher when you encountered unexpected obstacles while trying to get something done. I have to remind myself of that with almost every project I take on.
It’s On Us to Invest in Innovation The 20th Century was an amazing time for technological advancements. For instance, people had been trying to fly for centuries, but in 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright made it happen. That was just the beginning. A dozen years later airplanes were being used in World War I.
A Lesson on Equality What does equality mean to you? It’s a question on most Americans’ minds as we come together to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in communities across America, including Eau Claire. For this year’s MLK Day Celebration, we’re asked to reflect on his life’s work and...
Protect Wisconsin from PFAS Protecting the quality of food we eat, air we breathe and water we drink should be a top priority. It’s what we need to survive.
It’s Our Democracy if We Choose to Keep It Abigail Adams once wrote, “May the foundation of our new constitution be Justice, Truth and Righteousness. Like the wise Mans house may it be founded upon those Rocks and then neither storms or tempests will overthrow it.” These words are worth revisiting during times when...
What a New Year Brings I don’t know about you, but as one year comes to a close it’s too easy to think about how it went by too fast. With a new year approaching it’s also nice to think about future possibilities—what can be done. Imagine how much can change.
Reflecting on 2021: A Year of Action The year is coming to a close. Like other years, it seems like I was just getting used to writing “2021,” and soon I will have to start writing “2022.” Time is flying by; it’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years since we’ve been under the weight of a global pandemic.
The Final Five: How Would You Rank Them? Americans are skeptical about our political system, and I can’t blame them. Having been elected to the Wisconsin State Senate eight years after leaving the Assembly in 2010, I personally see how politics have changed. Americans recognize this dysfunction and they’ve grown frustrated from it.
Celebrating all Traditions this Holiday Season For most of us, this time of year is for celebrating. Once we hit the final week of November, we’re in the holiday season—Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas before the New Year celebrations.
The Time is Now for Affordable Health Insurance Staying on top of your health is key to a good quality of life. Although, it can be cost prohibitive if you have to pay out-of-pocket for routine checkups or visits to a clinic. That’s where health insurance comes in...
Support Small Businesses this Holiday Season Over the last ten to fifteen years, we’ve seen an amazing resurgence of entrepreneurs and small home-grown businesses...
CWD’s Unchecked Spread to Western Wisconsin It’s pretty common to read about something that happens somewhere else and assume that it doesn’t affect you. Something could happen hundreds of miles away, and you think it could never happen to you. That’s what it was like when Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first recognized...
Voters Win with Fair Maps Politicians have made it awfully hard to be trusted. I’ve heard it myself; citizens assume that politicians are corrupt and are “all the same.” From Congress to the state legislature, the will of the people seems to be ignored, and those elected to office haven’t seemed to change their ways.
The Future of Wisconsin is Now Wisconsinites deserve fair maps. I’m sure you’ve heard me say this once, twice or maybe a hundred times over the last few years. The redistricting process is well underway, and I hope you’re paying attention because what’s happening now will determine the direction of our state for decades to come.
Restore the Voice of Wisconsin Conservation Congress The best policies come from citizens themselves. Subject matter experts, hobbyists or trained professionals are the best advisors lawmakers have when proposing new bills.
Stop and Talk For many, a favorite thing to do this time of year is taking a drive to enjoy the natural beauty of our state. I often mention how fortunate we are in Wisconsin to have such a beautiful landscape all year-round, particularly now when the fall colors really draw attention and attract driving tours.
What Does It Take to Fix a Problem? Constituents expect their legislators to solve problems. I know that’s what is expected of me and it’s what I enjoy doing. It’s truly satisfying coming up with new ideas that make a positive impact on people’s lives.
Helping Students Reach their Dreams If you ever asked a kid what they want to be when they grow up, I’m sure you heard a good answer. Kids dream of being an astronaut, firefighter, teacher or doctor. With all the confidence in the world, a kid can assert they want to grow up to be the President of the United States...
We Can Build Back Better The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in more ways than one. I think many of us, myself included, expected to pick up right where we left off, but it’s now very clear there’s a lot we need to do to help recover from the pandemic and...
Enough Talk, Let’s Act I find that participating in a task force or study group can be an eye opening and enriching experience that helps me grow as a person. Without better understanding an issue, state leaders can be flailing in the dark, but...
Redistricting: The Responsibility of a Lifetime Imagine what it must be like to have a job that carries with it a lifetime guarantee. No matter what you do, no matter how you behave, your job can’t be taken from you until you decide to give it up...
Team Smith is Here to Serve “What can you help with?” It’s a question I get a lot, but I was asked this most recently while visiting folks in an Arcadia neighborhood. You see, I’ve been getting out in other communities around the 31st Senate District, meeting others and dropping off contact cards...
Homework to Start the School Year We’ve reached that point of year again when kids are excited to return to the classroom, see their friends and begin a new school year. As adults, we can understand their excitement, but it’s up to us to make sure kids can have a safe and successful school year.
Less for Rx Affects Us All Nobody should have to choose between paying for groceries or lifesaving drugs. Many people even ration their drug to save money and end up putting themselves at greater risk. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation...
Honoring American War Heroes In the horrific wars of the early twentieth century (World Wars I and II) members of Native Tribal Nations were just as willing as their non-native neighbors to enlist and defend our shared values.
It’s Your Vote – Not Money – that Should Count Last week I joined a number of other legislators to introduce the Campaign Integrity Package, legislation to help restore faith in the electoral process. We know there isn’t one quick fix to get money out of our political process, but it will take a number of changes...
Family Fun at the Fair Summer is all about family fun. It’s the season with plenty to do outdoors. Family vacations are planned around national parks and monuments. Campgrounds fill up and lakes are busy with boats, kayakers, anglers and swimmers.
The Facts About the Birds and the Bees Where does our food come from? It’s a question we think of a lot while grocery shopping or sitting down for a meal with our family. Of course, the answer is our farmers. Farming is hard, but satisfying work...
A Workforce for Everyone Long before I entered politics, I worked in the private sector. From an early age, I was needed for my father’s business to mop floors, empty trash and eventually clean windows. As high school graduation approached...
The Budget is Just the Beginning Like many households and businesses, the state operates on a budget. We have a biennial budget in Wisconsin, meaning it begins July 1st of each odd numbered year and ends June 30th of the following odd numbered year.
This is Our Shot to End the Pandemic Independence Day is a holiday always filled with many treasured traditions and memorable events. Unfortunately, last year we missed out on many of our favorite ways to celebrate America’s founding...
Celebrate Immigrant Stories Many Americans are interested in genealogy and learning how their personal heritage has evolved over generations. New technology makes it even easier to trace one’s genealogy, simply by sending in a sample of DNA.
We Need to Better Connect While the weather has warmed up, I’ve been able to hold more Stop N’ Talks and meet people throughout the district. During these visits, the question I’m asked most often is “Can’t you just get along?”
How a Surplus Can Help Us Bounce Back Let’s face it, political philosophies often prevent elected officials from actually getting done what is expected of them. No news there.
A Wisconsin Summer Adventure Awaits We love our beer and cheese in Wisconsin. But Wisconsin is more than beer and cheese. A whole lot more. Over the last century, Wisconsin has been an escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city life. In the 1920s, the state was literally an escape for gangsters, like John Dillinger...
Raise Your Glass (of Milk) and Celebrate Dairy Month There has always been an attachment to agriculture for Wisconsinites. From the earliest days, the hilly landscape and fertile soils of the Driftless region provided perfect conditions for producing food. It helps, too, that Wisconsin has so much fresh water nearby.
Wisconsin Workers Deserve Results, Not Rhetoric When a friend or neighbor is struggling, what’s your first instinct? Most of us would likely ask if there’s any way to help. The alternative would be to ignore them or suggest they try harder and buck up.
Fair Maps are the Will of the People There seems to be only one thing people of both political parties can agree on -- our legislative process is broken. Compromise is rare, most elections have pre-ordained winners, and incumbents feel free to ignore constituents who disagree with them.
You Are Not Alone: Recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month You are not alone – you may hear this often, but especially during May and Mental Health Awareness Month. Historically, there have been stigmas attached to mental illness, preventing people from talking about it or even considering what it really is.
Community Immunity At every stage of the pandemic, we’ve done what’s best to keep our communities safe. We stayed home, socially-distanced and started wearing masks all to protect our neighbors and families. The pandemic isn’t over just yet – we still need to work together to put the pandemic behind us.
Every Worker Deserves a Safe Workplace It has always fascinated me that American workers accomplished so much even when the technology and machinery that we take for granted now wasn’t yet available back then. Consider the New York skyscrapers, for instance.
How the Budget Connects Our Community I had an amazing conversation with a number of constituents who attended my budget listening session last week. The attendees, who were strangers to each other, shared personal and heartfelt stories.
Schools, Children and their Future You may have heard politicians and the media use the line that schools should “open” or schools have a plan to “re-open.” This has caused a lot of confusion because schools never stopped providing support and instruction to their students.
Imagine the Possibilities during the Year of Broadband Access What year is this? You might quickly answer that it’s 2021 and you’d be right. But Governor Tony Evers also declared this as the Year of Broadband Access in Wisconsin. This declaration is exciting and important in more ways than one.
Expand BadgerCare and Bring our Dollars Back Home On March 23rd, we commemorated the eleventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being signed into law. Since its passage, 2.6 million Wisconsinites with preexisting conditions have benefited from enhanced healthcare protections.
Wisconsin Women to Remember March is Women’s History Month, an opportunity to remind ourselves of the contributions of women that history books may often overlook.
Climate Change Solutions We’re all familiar with Isaac Newton’s well-known law of physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Although specific to the science of physics, we can still apply the law’s same concept to many other aspects of our lives. We know our daily actions impact others.
The Climate Change Problem Governor Tony Evers recently appointed me to the Climate Change Task Force to replace recently-retired Sen. Mark Miller (D – Monona). The Task Force is made up of farmers, business leaders, conservationists, tribal leaders and a bipartisan group of state legislators.
Building Momentum to Vaccinate More Wisconsinites The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in one way or another now for almost a year. It’s been a tough year for so many reasons; we’ve been disconnected from people in our lives, and sadly many Americans are burdened with grief over the loss of a loved one.
Proven “Pot-ential” for Rural Communities Governor Evers’ 2021-23 budget will enable Wisconsinites to bounce back from the pandemic stronger than ever. His budget includes initiatives, like marijuana legalization, that will get our economy back on track and create new opportunities for our rural communities.
What the Budget Says About Us Budgets are necessary to keep us on track, lay out our priorities and work toward what we want to accomplish. Every two years, the Governor introduces a budget that reflects the values of our state. The state budget is a moral document just as much as it’s a financial map for the years ahead.
Honoring Hank Aaron's Legacy during Black History Month Our country has been shaped by remarkable, outspoken leaders. Historical figures called for action when they observed widespread hardship or were confronted with inequality. America truly would not be the country it is today without the courageous leaders of our past.
Correct a Cheating System with Fair Maps I can always appreciate a good game of cribbage; sure, there’s some friendly competition, but more importantly, it’s a chance to catch up with someone and make some memories. But, imagine someone beat you to the end of the board...
What You Need to Know about the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout It’s been so long since most of us have been in a crowd, but I’m sure we’re all eager for the chance to once again go to a theater, shake hands when meeting someone or dine at our favorite restaurant.
Saving Our Democracy Now is the time when our government should be focusing on our COVID-19 recovery. Wisconsin leaders should be fixing the unemployment insurance crisis, working on the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out and expanding broadband access for every rural household. This is what I’d rather spend my time on.
New Session, Same Story Last Monday, on January 4th, the Wisconsin State Legislature began the 2021-22 legislative session. New members were sworn in and all elected officials looked ahead to the new session.
Foxconn: Breaking Up is Hard to Do Over time, relationships can go sour. When it happens in one’s private life, the breakup can be agonizing; so much of two people’s lives can be intertwined in a short time. When it’s a public or business relationship, the breakup can be painful and even more complicated.
Out of the Long Shadow of 2020 During this time of year, we take time to reflect on the previous year and try to focus on the good things that happened. Even in 2020 there must have been some good things, right?
Winter in Wisconsin Winter is a season to celebrate, although some lifelong Wisconsinites may disagree because of the snow and freezing temperatures. The change of season and anticipation of the first snowfall can be joyous.
Budgeting to Reflect the Will of the People It’s often said that a budget is more than just a fiscal document, it’s a moral document. While Wisconsin leaders work on creating and approving a new budget, we must make sure our state budget reflects the values we share as a state.
Fend for Yourself Unless Republicans Do Their Jobs The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives significantly, killing nearly 4,000 Wisconsinites, devastating our economy and leaving us in a hard place to recover. After more than 230 days since the State Legislature met, Governor Tony Evers stepped up...
Now is Not the Time to Get Sick We’re finally reaching the point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In recent weeks, scientists released encouraging updates regarding effective COVID-19 vaccines.
Be Thankful for Each Other Every year, we gather around our dining room table with our loved ones for Thanksgiving dinner and reflect on the past year. We think about all that we’re thankful for: our family and friends, our job and an excitement for what’s yet to come. This year is different...
A Safe and Healthy Hunt As we approach another gun deer hunting season in Wisconsin, hunters are getting ready – sighting-in their rifles, remembering a sharp knife, and preparing their gear. Of course, anyone set to hunt should always be prepared, even for Wisconsin’s unpredictable weather.
Democracy at Work And, just like that, Election Day has passed! What a relief for all of us. At the end of an election season, you may feel overwhelmed with emotion; we feel excited, relieved and disappointed all at the same time.
Raising Awareness of Domestic Violence A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet virtually with two community leaders representing domestic violence awareness organizations in Wisconsin. Every October, we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month to bring attention to this issue and...
Search for Truth During an Election As we approach another Election Day, we all feel the heat from both major political parties as they do all they can to get their voters to show up for their candidates...
A Real Halloween Threat Halloween is typically a time we enjoy spooky things. We find ways to get scared, whether it’s a haunted corn maze or horror flick. This year, however, it seems like we’re living in a scary movie with no clear happy ending in sight.
Who Will Care for You? We live our lives with much uncertainty. We can never be sure our plans will work out perfectly, and we may have to adjust due to unforeseen events. It could be weather changes, mechanical problems, an illness or accident that may change our entire life.
Safe and Secure Absentee Voting If you’re like me, you’re probably experiencing whiplash from all the voting changes and the political ads airing on TV, radio and at the mailbox. It’s hard not to visualize yourself at your polling location casting a ballot on Election Day.
Every Day, Every Farmer Counts Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in America. In 2018, the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety reported 23.4 accidental deaths per 100,000 farm-workers.
How “Doing Nothing” Works for Politicians While scrolling through social media recently, I saw someone ask, “Why hasn’t Governor Evers distributed funds from the Heroes Act?” Others jumped all over this comment, claiming the Governor failed because the Heroes Act wasn’t being implemented when it could be.
Housing Crisis in a Pandemic Six months into a global pandemic, we’ve become familiar with language we’ve never expected to use before COVID-19. “Quarantine” was a word most likely associated with popular sci-fi movies, and “safer at home” was a phrase we probably only heard when we were expecting a big snowstorm.
Frances Perkins' New Deal Annually, our country honors the contributions of American workers on Labor Day, but perhaps it wasn’t until this year, while living through a pandemic, when many really appreciated the essential role many workers have in our day-to-day lives.
Repair Trust in Pursuit of Racial Equality This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of Americans came together at the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C to commemorate the anniversary of the March on Washington. Activists stood on the same steps, delivering remarks reminiscent to the same call to action shared 57 years ago...
It's Time to Act on Student Debt Over the last four months, I was honored to participate in the Governor’s Task Force on Student Debt, established by Governor Tony Evers to address the student debt crisis impacting more than 700,000 Wisconsinites.
Big Agenda for Small Farms When it comes to farming, one thing is certain – it connects us all. Many of us in western Wisconsin can trace our roots to farming. But even if we’ve personally lost a physical connection to the family farm, all Wisconsin residents have an obvious connection to Wisconsin’s agricultural heritage.
Pass the Healthcare Heroes Act Back in April, I participated in a virtual roundtable discussion with Wisconsin’s frontline healthcare workers. Amidst the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic in Wisconsin, this group of healthcare workers shared deeply unsettling safety concerns related to...
Legislature Must Act for Unemployed “I’ve been working my whole life, and was doing fine before COVID-19, and now suddenly, I can’t work, and can’t get unemployment. I’m scared of what life will be like in a few weeks when I run out of money for food, let alone bills,” said a man whose unemployment benefits were delayed 10 weeks.
Questions Remain Unanswered for Schools In this week’s column, I wrote about the questions school districts are wrestling with to safely bring students back this fall. Schools need answers fast for educating students, supporting teachers and helping parents stay employed during this public health pandemic.
The People’s Maps Commission: By the People and For the People When representatives of the original colonies gathered to determine the formation of the United States they took the bold step of putting the trust in the hands of its citizens, establishing the United States as a Democratic Republic.
A Trip Worth Taking Right Here Sometimes it seems like we forget what a beautiful state we live in. It’s easy to do when we’re so accustomed to the beautiful, great outdoors surrounding us. Thousands of years ago glaciers carved our northern region and left behind rich soils and minerals and an iconic landscape.
Student Debt and Our Future Most of us have to take on some debt at some point in our lives, whether we take out loans to purchase a car or to help us become homeowners. Oftentimes, people borrow with clear expectations, understanding the whole process. Student loans are different and for many reasons.
Patriotism: Protecting the Health of Americans As we move through a year that has already been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we think ahead to when we can resume normal activities, be part of community gatherings and celebrate holidays, like Independence Day.
Aging in Rural Wisconsin Growing old is an inevitable part of life. When it comes to aging, we can’t help but wonder where we’ll live when we retire, the quality of life we’ll have and how we’ll stay healthy.
The Movement America Has Been Waiting For This Friday, on June 19th, our country celebrates Juneteenth, an important holiday commemorating the emancipation of slaves dating back to 1865.
June: What We Can Learn From Dairy Month Last Friday, I had the chance to connect virtually with some good friends in western Wisconsin to celebrate June Dairy Month. We had a conversation about the ways dairy has made an impression on our own lives and the impact the dairy industry has on the State of Wisconsin.
Be the Change We Need In the months since Wisconsin has been impacted by COVID-19, we’ve all thought about the day that our lives will begin to return to normal. It’s an understandable thought to have. After all, the pandemic has forced us to make changes in nearly every aspect of our lives.
Restoring Trust in Trying Times At times, there is a real disconnect between science and politics in our country. But, in the case of how we handle a pandemic, it can be dangerous.
Disappointment and Opportunity Disappointment and opportunity may not always belong in the same sentence, but when addressing conflicts they often work together. We can be disappointed, but we have to consider the opportunity before us to move forward and be better.
The Importance of Being Prepared As we become responsible adults we are faced with many decisions that can affect our future and the future of our families. We choose a career, decide where we work and how to prepare for retirement.
Connecting During Crisis Think about it – thanks to technology it’s possible to do so much from the nearest Wi-Fi location during this global pandemic. Some people can work from home or have a video call with their loved ones, and children can get their lessons from their teacher.
We Will Bounce Back Together During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Wisconsinites have had to make incredibly challenging decisions, including Governor Evers. On April 17th, Governor Evers’ administration made the difficult, yet responsible, decision to extend the “Safer at Home” order.
The Wisconsin COVID-19 Response Bill The COVID-19 public health emergency has forced us to quickly adapt and adjust our daily routines for this unprecedented time. Like so many families in rural Wisconsin, my bandwidth isn’t capable of allowing me to always work from home...
Wisconsin's Response to Coronavirus As we near the end of a month while under the COVID-19 public health emergency, I thought of the steps Governor Tony Evers has taken to keep Wisconsinites safe.
Pandemic Paycheck Protection During this unprecedented public health emergency, we have a lot to think about. While keeping ourselves and our loved ones healthy, we’re also thinking of ways to maintain our livelihoods and pay the bills.
Stay Safer at Home Every day, as we learn more about COVID-19 and adjust to the disruptions in our daily routine, we’re being tested on how we, as a community, step up to a challenge and work toward a solution. Throughout the state, people are coming together to help others.
Take COVID-19 Seriously We must take COVID-19 seriously. On March 12th, showing tremendous leadership, Governor Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin and has since strengthened precautions.
Emergency Preparedness to Build Resilient Communities Emergencies hit communities without notice and threaten our local economies. We are facing an unprecedented public health emergency right now, but we have faced emergencies before and we’ve become stronger from it.
Logic Behind Healthcare We’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about our health. Just last week, I found myself in many conversations with healthcare professionals talking about ways to improve the health of our community...
I'm Here, Ready to Listen I’ve always said that one of the best parts of my job is listening to others, whether it’s their stories, suggestions or questions. During this time of year, I regularly hear many of the same questions.
Policymaking by the People, for the People Before a bill becomes a law, a process exists to ensure policymakers develop the most effective policy proposal, and with good reason. Decisions made on the state level influence the way folks work and live in all corners of the state.
Cutting Taxes by Supporting Schools Every other January the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), a nonpartisan agency, reviews Wisconsin’s general fund and projects an economic forecast for the state. Recently the LFB reported an expected $450 million surplus by the end of this biennium, on June 30, 2021.
Pay Attention Before Your Car is Towed Every day, we consume so much new information. While watching TV, reading the local paper or scrolling through social media, we may even feel overwhelmed by all the news available to us.
Connect Wisconsin with Better Broadband Governor Tony Evers shined a bright light on the urgency of strengthening our rural communities by calling a special session to take up agriculture bills, creating the Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity and establishing the Office of Rural Prosperity.
It's Time to Prioritize Rural Prosperity During the State of the State, Governor Tony Evers reflected on the accomplishments made in 2019 and the priorities we must carry out in the year ahead. As we draw closer to the end of this legislative session, we have a stronger sense of urgency to get things done.
Ranking Democrats on Agriculture Call for Action on Special Session Madison – Today, Senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) and Representative Dave Considine (D-Baraboo) joined their colleagues at a press conference on the January 2020 Special Session on Agriculture.
Surprise! It's a Bill! Last week, Governor Tony Evers assigned homework for the Legislature to accomplish in the new year. Governor Evers urged bipartisan cooperation to tackle some of the most pressing issues in our state and create solutions Wisconsinites support...
Good Government Demands Redistricting Reform Every new year is an opportunity to reflect on what we can do better moving forward. When the New Year is the first of a new decade we think even bigger. What can we do in this new decade to become the sibling, parent, neighbor, colleague or citizen we’re expected to be?
Let's Finish What We Started During this time of year, we’re surrounded by reminders to set goals for the next twelve months and fulfill our New Year’s resolutions. As the weeks pass by, we typically find ourselves falling back into our old habits and routines. Once we slip up, it may seem like our resolutions are hopeless and
Every Conversations Sparks a New Idea The past year pushed me to learn and grow as a leader. As I spent time with my family over the holiday season, I reflected on the value of collaboration, a lesson learned in 2019.
Lessons Learned in 2019 This time of year offers an important opportunity to reflect and be grateful for the experiences we’ve earned. It’s been an honor serving as your state senator this year.
It's Cold Outside for Our Furry Friends While it’s not officially here yet, the winter season has come to western Wisconsin. Snow has fallen and temperatures have dropped close to zero. During these winter months, my family’s two dogs enjoy exploring the outdoors.
What Will It Take to Close Lincoln Hills? Within the last decade, Lincoln Hills has reached a state of crisis. New reports emerged this fall, citing the violence taking place at this youth detention facility. This revelation reminds us that nothing yet has happened to resolve the serious issues in Wisconsin’s youth prisons.
The Ho-Chunk Code Talkers: Honoring Native American History Since 1990, our country has recognized November as Native American Heritage Month. This commemorative month provides an opportunity to remember Native Americans’ roles in our country’s history and appreciate their cultural contributions.
What Are You Thankful For? We’re nearing the end of another year and already getting ready for Thanksgiving. Everything seems to speed up during these last weeks as we prepare for the holiday season and the New Year.
Stop the Spread of CWD We’re only three days away from gun hunting season in Wisconsin. Hunters are prepared and eagerly anticipating the time to look out from their deer stand. It would seem Wisconsin is prepared for the upcoming hunting season.
Playing the Blame Game President Harry Truman followed the mantra, ‘the buck stops here.’ These are honorable, and even courageous words to lead by. His motto, was displayed on his White House desk and was proudly expressed in his speeches. He reminded us not to pass blame on to others.
Broadband Expansion: Broadband for Those Who Need It Most We’re facing one of the largest infrastructure challenges in Wisconsin history. The decisions we make today on broadband expansion can either make Wisconsin a leader or allow us to fall behind in the digital age.
Broadband Expansion: Better Broadband After spending three days in Denver for a Broadband Summit with legislators from across the country, I came away with even more of an urgency to help Wisconsin catch up to other states on broadband internet expansion.
Our Financial Future October is “Financial Planning Month,” so we should all think about how we plan for our financial future, especially this week as we recognize “Save for Retirement Week” and “Get Smart about Credit Day” on Thursday.
Recognizing Indigenous People’s Day There’s quite an interest in genealogy these days. We can now order a kit to learn what ethnicities make up our DNA to better understand our heritage and ancestry. Even beyond this initial discovery, we can connect to unknown relatives.
Believe in America's Dairyland Take a moment to imagine living on a small family farm. Waking at dawn to a rooster crowing and cows mooing. You head down to the barn to get the cows milked, collect chicken eggs, clean out stalls and feed all the animals before going back into the kitchen to grab breakfast for yourself.
Raising Awareness About Domestic Violence We often focus on highly visible forms of violence in our society, like mass shootings. However, domestic violence happens every day in every town and neighborhood, and it often goes unreported or even unnoticed.
Listen Up to Save Lives Recently I joined 700 community members at Carson Park for the Sharing Hope Walk, a fundraiser to promote awareness for suicide prevention. Before the walk began, I read a board describing the walk’s importance. Right below the board, there were hundreds of shoes lined up neatly along the course.
Have a Conversation for Democracy’s Sake Politics is everywhere around us – when you turn on the television, open a newspaper or scroll through Facebook. It’s hard to get away from it all. When we see the divisiveness all around us, it’s easy to think our system is broken.
Test Your Deer for CWD With the start of fall, hunters are heading to the woods and fields. There’s so much more to hunting than simply grabbing a bow or gun and marching out into the woods to shoot. Hunters take pride in preparing a strategy to be in the right place at the right time.
America is Best When Labor is Strong Another Labor Day has come and gone. Summer is beginning to wind down and we’re taking our last chance to fish or camp for the season. Children are reflecting on their summer and eagerly anticipating the new school year.
Kiddos and Mental Health We always want what’s best for our children. We want our children to be happy, comfortable and safe. If we could provide all the tools for our children to succeed, why wouldn’t we?
Politics Behind Gun Inaction I can’t imagine the horror victims go through when face to face with an active shooter while in a place of worship, school, shopping center or night club. How do families cope with the news of a loved one being murdered by a domestic terrorist, coworker or significant other?
Legislators Gather for Nonpartisan Conference Last week I joined over 7,000 legislators and staff from other states and around the world in Nashville at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) annual Legislative Summit.
Questioning Our Economy Do you ever wonder how our economy stopped working for all of us? How have we arrived at stagnant wages, mega-rich corporations buying elections and people lacking essential access to healthcare?
Transit For Our Future Summer travel season is in full swing. During this busy time, families are crisscrossing through Wisconsin squeezing in those final summer vacations before kids go back to school. Summer is also construction season, causing headaches for everyone trying to get to and from our summer fun.
Enough of Divide and Conquer Politics When politicians have no answers, they find a way to distract constituents. Politicians have a knack for finding a scapegoat to blame when a plan is failing. It’s been the game played by politicians for decades.
This is No Time for Legislators to Rest Students are floating down the river while friends and families are enjoying outdoor fairs and festivals. It’s finally summer; time for a break, right? Many assume legislators are on summer break after passing the budget, and I can’t help but wonder why.
Trust the Voters Redistricting is right around the corner in 2021. New legislative and congressional district maps will be drawn up after the census by the political party in charge. Gerrymandered maps will give the party in charge a secure advantage for the next 10 years.
Independence and Freedom for All When we think of the 4th of July, we often think of parades, fireworks and gatherings throughout our community. It’s a day of remembrance and pride for our country. It’s the day we officially recognize that our forefathers declared our independence as a separate nation.
Budget Vote This Week: Rhetoric or What's Right Two weeks ago, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) passed their version of the state budget 12 to 4, along party lines. The full Senate scheduled a vote this week on the budget, a vote that may demonstrate the true callousness of politics in our state.
Looking Inward for Juneteenth Day Wisconsin is filled with beauty. Sometimes we take our state’s beauty for granted because it’s very apparent all around us. It’s always the less apparent beauty that surprises us and compels us to look deeper in ourselves and appreciate everything around us.
Where's the Compassion for Dairy Farmers? You rarely hear complaints from farmers about their job because they love what they do, but you will hear an earful about the weather, milk prices and the occasional tractor breakdown. June is dairy month and there’s no better time to recognize the work dairy farmers do and the challenges they face.
Health, Science and Wisconsin Dr. Tim Nelson of Mayo Clinic walked the halls of the Wisconsin State Capitol along with UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt. They visited 11 offices in a marathon day of lobbying for UWEC’s new science and health sciences building project in the current budget.
Politics or the People's Priorities? My role representing the 31st Senate District didn’t just start when I was sworn into office on January 7th this year. It began last year when I started talking to voters in the 31st Senate District.
We Are All One Wisconsin This past week, I met with several healthcare leaders from around the state. Dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, nurses, social workers and others discussed a whole gamut of healthcare topics.
Knowledge is Power How many times have you heard the expression, “Knowledge is Power?” I heard it from an unexpected source last week during one of our public hearings in the Senate Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection Committee.
Valuing Our Voices I joined Governor Evers at listening sessions in Eau Claire, Oshkosh, Kenosha, Superior and sat alongside Joint Finance Committee (JFC) members in River Falls for a public hearing. These were opportunities to listen to the comments and reactions from hundreds of Wisconsinites.
Mental Health is Real Health So much can be said about mental health and yet so little has been done. We all know someone struggling with mental illness. So few receive the help they need.
Earth Day Should Be Every Day It’s been eight years since anyone in our executive branch of government uttered the words “climate change.” Thankfully, Governor Tony Evers brought science, common sense and the term climate change back to Wisconsin...
Passing the Baton The number of times I’ve heard people say, “We need to help young people engage in our community,” or “We need more young people in politics” is so common I won’t even venture to guess. It’s almost inevitable someone will say something like that at every meeting I attend.
Paying Again Through Referendum Last Tuesday was a big election day for Wisconsin. It was an even bigger election day for public education. Many Wisconsin school districts were able to pass crucial referenda to keep operating, some weren’t so lucky.
Leaders or Followers? As leaders and policy makers in Wisconsin it is our job to ensure that our state government and operations run smoothly. Our agencies must be funded properly, people must be paid and projects should be moving forward in a timely fashion...
The Budget Mosaic Governor Tony Evers listened to the experiences and values from many different people and put together a budget that represents a large mosaic - tiny little pictures that make up a larger picture...
You be the Judge of the Budget at Our Listening Sessions I will be hosting nine budget listening sessions to discuss Governor Evers’ biennial state budget proposal. I need you to be the judge for the Governor’s work on the People’s Budget...
Celebrating Women's History Month Last week we welcomed the beginning of Women’s History Month – a time for us to celebrate women's achievements, honor women's history and reflect on the work that still needs to be done...
First Glance at Governor Evers’ Budget Governor Tony Evers presented his first budget to the Legislature on Thursday evening last week. It was a uniquely crafted budget. It contained encouraging policy for Wisconsin’s future. And many of the Governor’s budget provisions were long overdue.
Statement Regarding Gov. Evers’ First Budget Address The Governor’s budget is a mirror image of his campaign that reflected the people’s priorities. We’re long overdue for a Wisconsin that works for everyone...
Walking in Someone Else's Shoes One of my favorite parts of serving as State Senator is listening to stories. Each of us has a story. I feel so grateful every time someone shares his or her story with me. Sometimes the best stories are the ones from people who think no one will listen.
Part Three: Water is Precious Water is cheap. Fixing water quality problems is expensive. Protecting our water before polluting it is less expensive. We can take steps now to preserve our cheapest most precious resource. Changing our perceptions about water use, using nature to help us preserve water and reinvesting in...
Part Two: Water is Prosperity Last week I wrote about how water is life. This week I hope to show how important water is for all of us to not only survive, but also to thrive.
Part One: Water is Life We take a lot of things for granted in life. Our car will always start, our dogs will always love us and the water we drink will always be clean. Like all these assumptions, nothing is guaranteed. Much...
Walk the Talk for Bipartisanship I’ve said it. Governor Evers said it. Republican leaders said it - “We need to work together.” A number of clichés come to mind as we talk about working together. “It’s easier said than done” or “Talk is cheap.” I prefer “walk the talk.”
Rushing to Fix One Part While Destroying the Whole Remember the high-gloss campaign mailings? The non-stop TV and radio campaign ads from last year about protecting people with pre-existing conditions? I bet you heard more than you ever wanted about pre-existing conditions, right? Well...
Marsy’s Law: Do It Quick or Do It Right? Our first week of the legislative session is off to a fast start. It appears my first legislative vote will be changing our State Constitution with a resolution called, “Marsy’s Law.”
Committees, Collaboration and Compromise Senate committees aren’t exactly the hottest topic to write about in state government, but it’s incredibly important for our work as legislators. Most Senate committee names seem like someone pulled the topics out of a hat and randomly strung them together to create a committee.