Written by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Saturday, 25 March 2017 09:42
MILWAUKEE - It was one of the greatest victories for American democracy in years when Donald Trump and Paul Ryan were forced to pull their dangerous health care replacement bill just minutes before the scheduled vote.
Against all odds, and without power in Washington, average citizens stopped Trump and Ryan dead in their tracks!
A few short months ago, pundits thought that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was a foregone conclusion. If it was not for the unprecedented democratic resistance in Wisconsin and across the country, they would have been right.
Right-wing talk show hosts are already spinning that the crash and burn of Trump-Ryan Care had nothing to do with grassroots protests. But it is well known the Republican leadership was trying to rush the bill through because they were afraid of coming home to face their own constituents during the next Congressional recess.
While this victory should renew our faith in the potential of American democracy, we need to understand that we won a major battle, but have not yet won the war.
I am proud to say that Citizen Action of Wisconsin is leading the charge against the unthinkably cruel attack on health care rights. We turned up the pressure on House Republicans this week by holding 10 major organizing actions across Wisconsin.
This is far from over. We must gather our energies for the next stage of the fight. We need to keep on fighting until we have established health care as a fundamental right in America--once and for all.
Wisconsin sits on the greatest natural resource left in the world, clean fresh water, but the lawmakers who currently control the Capitol allow a privileged few to take as much water as they want and pollute as much as they want, even if it makes us sick.
ALTOONA, WI - Water is the new oil. Plenty of old skirmishes — both political and military — broke out around the world over oil. Water will be the cause of more and more new ones.
Pressure to divert water from the Great Lakes is intensifying. The mighty Colorado River is being siphoned to irrigate cropland and supply thirsty cities from Denver to Phoenix to the point where it now runs dry at its end, no longer reaching the ocean at the Gulf of California as it did for millions of years.
Toxic tap water produced human tragedy and a white-hot media spotlight in Flint, Michigan. Far less attention has been paid to the fact that excessive lead levels are found in almost 2,000 water systems across America, including more than 80 communities in Wisconsin. Not many people know that the incidence of lead poisoning of children in Wisconsin is almost exactly the same as the rate found in Flint. Milwaukee’s lead poisoning rate is nearly double Flint’s.
Wisconsin is one of the most water-rich states in the nation. Yet the state’s groundwater is imperiled. Lakes and streams are drying up because of an unchecked proliferation of high-capacity wells for massive animal feedlots and large-scale crop irrigation. Water quality protections have been stripped away due to politicized resource management, resulting in indiscriminate manure spreading by factory farming operations that produces contaminated drinking water in places like Kewaunee County.
It boggles the mind that lawmakers who currently control the Capitol are responding to all of this with efforts to further weaken water protections and make it even easier to get permission to drill high-capacity wells. And it’s hard not to notice that the wealthy interests who want to do all the drilling have been showering large political donations on the governor and state legislators.
Here we have a privileged few being allowed to take as much water as they want, even if it makes lakes and streams and neighbors’ wells dry up. We have a politically connected few being allowed to pollute as much as they want, even if it makes others sick.
That our government is no longer adequately protecting everyone’s right to clean drinking water is a telltale sign of how government has been captured by powerful interests. That politicians are allowing a few big industries to hog all the water or to poison it for others is a measure of how sick our democracy has become.
Oil and water don’t mix, but they do have a lot in common. Both are precious natural resources and both have a way of bringing out the worst in us. Both inspire greed, and both can corrupt. As the water wars escalate, the question is whether greed will govern us or will we summon the wisdom and resolve to make sure what government does when it comes to water is done for the good of the whole of society.
Written by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Friday, 17 March 2017 16:20
Funds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first.
MADISON - Caring for our veterans is one of the most sacred duties we work to achieve as a state. We have been entrusted by the Federal government to care for elderly and disabled veterans and their spouses at our veteran nursing homes. These facilities should have the gold standard of care. Unfortunately, like many other operations of the state, infrastructure and maintenance delays and failures have affected the lives of those in our nursing homes, most notable at the Veterans Home at King. This is NOT a money problem. Even when state finances were tight just after the recession, the veteran nursing homes have been building surplus of funds.
While the federal government has decided not to limit how states can spend surplus revenues, we can still make the right choices here in Wisconsin and invest in our veteran care with money that was paid to care for veterans. The first step in that process is taking back control of transfers out of the veteran nursing home surplus fund. Currently about $35 million of revenue sits in this surplus fund. This money can be transferred out of the fund at any time not by the Legislature, but by a political appointee, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The only way the Legislature even knows about the transfers are because of a statutory required annual report to the Legislature on the Veterans Fund.
Why does the veteran’s nursing Home fund have a surplus? These revenues are derived from an exemption from the nursing home bed tax, the federal per diem paid to facilities for the care of veterans, federal service related disability payments made for the care of disabled veterans, the higher state rate for reimbursement for Medicaid, and private payment from veterans and their families.
The 2013 budget included language that allowed for unlimited transfers from the veterans nursing home fund into the Veterans Fund without Legislative approval. The Legislature added JFC passive review, but the Governor vetoed it. DVA can now transfer, at any time, surplus from our state veteran’s nursing homes facilities. Unfortunately, turning back the clock and granting facility upgrade requests is not an option. $18.5 million in facility improvements in the last state budget were zero funded by Governor Walker. Our only choice as a Legislature is to move forward. That is why I am proposing a bill to reestablish Legislative oversight of all funding for the veterans homes. The DVA will transfer a total of $21 million away from the Veterans Nursing Homes just this biennium. Passing the buck on financial oversight is wrong.
A state that supports their veterans spends state money for programs for veterans and does not use money meant for the care and comfort in nursing homes for agency administration and rent. Funds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first.
For more information on the Veterans Fund please contact my office at
or 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027.
ASHLAND, WI - One of the things I enjoy most about being a State Senator is visiting local schools to talk with fourth graders about state government. I always try and include time for questions and answers. Fourth graders can be very curious. I get lots of questions about my family – do I have children, did I have brothers and sisters – and my preferences – what’s my favorite color, do I like dogs, cats, or lizards? (I like turtles.)
Sometimes you get a question you’re not expecting, a question that throws you for a loop. Earlier this month, after fielding questions about how old I am and if I know any famous people, a student raised her hand and asked “why do you do it?”
I must have paused long enough for her to realize I wasn’t sure what she meant, so she added “why did you want to be a Senator?” And the answer that immediately came to mind was to help. So that’s what I told her. “Like the Girl Scouts,” she replied. I didn’t have lots of time to think about it at the time, as other students had more questions for me to answer. But she was right.
This week offered me another opportunity to both think and talk about what it means to help. On Wednesday, Representative Mary Felzkowski and I hosted a “Troop Meeting” at the State Capitol in honor of 105th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts of America. Over those 105 years, Girl Scouting has helped millions of girls and women build the courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place.
The continued influence of Girl Scouting is evident by the strength of the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Alliance, which represents 56,000 girl members and 17,000 adult volunteers. Girls from every part of the state came to Madison to celebrate and receive awards for their accomplishments. I was proud to join with Representative Felzkowski and other colleagues to welcome these young women to the Capitol.
As I was thinking about what I would say, I remembered the words of the Girl Scout motto that I recited as a young girl back in Cleveland. “Be Prepared. A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency."
Ready to help out wherever needed. Those are good words to live by. Words that are just as important today as they were in 1947 when the Girl Scouts adopted the motto. I have often talked about my admiration for the men and women who got us through the Second World War and rebuilt our country after the Depression.
I learned this week that the Girls Scouts also helped the war effort. Instead of selling cookies, they sold special calendars and war bonds, tended victory gardens, and scrapped metals and fat to be reused.
We are lucky we live in much safer times. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the Girl Scouts in some way on March 12th – support a local troop by buying an extra box of cookies, take a moment and encourage a young girl you know, find a way to help someone who needs it.