Saturday November 28, 2020

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Be Thankful for Each Other

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 25 November 2020
in Wisconsin

coronavirus-nurse-tiredSen. Smith writes about the people in our lives we can be thankful for, and shares tips from the Trempealeau County Health Department for Wisconsinites to have a safe Thanksgiving this year.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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. It’s been an incredibly difficult year for so many of us as we deal with the stress, loss and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, you might just wonder what there is to be thankful for in this challenging year we’ve been through. Distractions, including politics, the latest weather event or the increasing threat of COVID-19 make it even harder to find a reason to be thankful.

We can still find something to be thankful for despite all of the obstacles we have faced in an unprecedented year. We’ll realize how this past year has revealed all that we have to be thankful for. By celebrating Thanksgiving safely this year, we can look forward to creating more memories and cherishing future holidays spent with our whole family.

Think back to the spring when COVID-19 first came to our state. We all put aside our differences and stepped up to stop the spread of COVID-19. We stayed home, posted encouraging messages on our windows, opted for drive-thru birthday parties and virtual graduation ceremonies or weddings instead of in-person celebrations.

There’s no doubt about it: Wisconsinites have made a lot of sacrifices this year. We’ve made changes to our lifestyle and our day-to-day routine. We’ve gained perspective and it’s helped us realize how grateful we are for the people supporting our communities through this crisis.

Our farmers continued to work hard to grow and harvest the food necessary to sustain our communities. Grocery store clerks, truckers and delivery drivers also provided an essential service to make sure we’re getting fresh, healthy food to feed our families safely.

schools-reopening-2020Our teachers, school staff and faculty went above and beyond to educate children in these unprecedented times. Teachers were determined to teach and support Wisconsin students despite the challenges of virtual learning or the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in schools.

Poll workers and election officials across our state stepped up and delivered a safe, organized election for voters to participate in even with historic voter turnout.

We are very fortunate to have dedicated public servants to keep us safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 testers, National Guard members and contact tracers have been here to help us better understand the outbreak and control the spread of the disease. We can be very grateful for the scientists responsible for diligently working on a COVID-19 vaccine that we hope to see in the very near future.

In the past several weeks, Wisconsin has seen a dangerous surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Our healthcare workers have been heroes saving lives during this pandemic; they’re still working their hardest to keep more people alive.

jeff-smith-ofcWe can show gratitude to Wisconsin’s healthcare workers by staying home for Thanksgiving. The Trempealeau County Health Department shared great ideas to enjoy your holiday while keeping you and your loved ones safe: Have a classic Thanksgiving dinner with members of your own household. Prepare traditional family recipes and deliver them to your family to avoid contact. Host a virtual dinner and watch the Thanksgiving football games from home.

Generations before us have lived through tumultuous times. They faced starvation, war and complete economic ruin, and yet, Americans still found reasons to be thankful. In those times, folks wondered if they would survive. People came together to feed and look out for each other in those trying times. Now it’s our turn to do the same.

I saw a friend recently post, “This is not the year to get everything you want. This is the year to appreciate everything you have.” As we prepare for Thanksgiving, let’s remember this year has still shown us there is much to be thankful for, even if it’s not obvious at first glance.

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A Safe and Healthy Hunt

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 18 November 2020
in Wisconsin

deer-huntersSen. Jeff Smith (D – Brunswick) and Rep. Katrina Shankland (D – Stevens Point) write a about the precautions Wisconsinites must take to prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) this hunting season.


BRUNSWICK, WI - 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.

Hunting truly instills our attention to planning for the unexpected. This year, we know being prepared is more important than ever. Unlike years past, hunters must take additional precautions to prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). While we eagerly await gun deer season to begin, it’s important to know the steps we can take to preserve Wisconsin’s hunting heritage and keep our communities and loved ones safe.

Although CWD isn’t talked about much in between hunting seasons, it’s still out there and poses a real threat to our deer herd. CWD is a highly contagious disease affecting hoofed animals, including whitetail deer. CWD is caused by abnormal proteins called prions, which lead to brain damage and attack the central nervous system.

CWD testing and the proper disposal of deer carcasses are the most effective actions to slow the spread of CWD. This session, we introduced the Healthy Herd, Healthy Hunt legislative package to advance research and prevention strategies to mitigate the spread of CWD. One bill would invest $1 million annually over a two-year period for CWD testing, management, and research. Another bill would allocate $200,000 to fund CWD testing kiosks and expand the Adopt-a-Kiosk program to make it easier for hunters to have their deer tested.

katrina-shanklandAlong with testing efforts, it’s critical that hunters are able to dispose of deer carcasses properly, since prions from a deer carcass can survive in the soil for years. These prions can uptake in plants, which then act as a carrier of CWD, transmitting it to deer that eat these plants. The third bill in the legislative package would provide $2 million for carcass dumpster sites where hunters can dispose of their carcasses safely and prevent further spread of CWD. This bill would also improve CWD education efforts for hunters.

Whitetail deer hunting is a proud tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation. Hunting is an important aspect of Wisconsin culture, connecting us to each other and our ancestors. Importantly, hunting also contributes significantly to our economy while encouraging tourists worldwide to visit our great state.

In Buffalo County, deer hunting has become a prime economic driver because of the world-record deer that have been harvested there. Across our state, the nine-day gun deer season has a total economic impact of over $1 billion to our state’s economy, and it’s also a healthy and cost-effective way for families to fill up their freezers.

jeff-smithOutdoor recreation has been pivotal to maintaining our physical and mental health during this pandemic. Hunting is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while observing the recommended public health precautions: keep your hunting party to members of your own household, hunt within your local community to limit travel when possible, and avoid large gatherings. While following all the usual hunting safety precautions this season, remember to wear a mask, stay at least six feet apart from people outside of your household, and wash your hands frequently. Also, to avoid in-person deer registration, you can register your deer online or by phone.

If your hunt is successful, please have your deer tested and dispose of your carcass properly to prevent the spread of CWD. Due to COVID-19, in-person CWD sampling is canceled, but you can visit one of the hundreds of self-service sampling kiosks to have your deer tested. Kiosk locations can be found on the DNR website. Test results are expected to take approximately two to three weeks from the time the deer head or tissue sample is received due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together, we can keep Wisconsin’s hunting tradition going strong for future generations. Follow public health guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19. Test your deer for CWD and properly dispose of your deer carcass. All these actions add up to help us stay healthy and preserve our rich hunting heritage.

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Democracy at Work

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 11 November 2020
in Wisconsin

voting-2020-538Although Americans may have different reactions now that the election is over, it’s important that we continue having conversations to move forward together.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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.

As someone who has run multiple campaigns, I can tell you it isn’t easy on candidates when it’s all over. It can be a terrible blow when you lose, but even when you win, there can be a sudden drop in energy. A candidate can feel like they’re racing at 100 miles per hour in the final weeks and, win or lose, the day after the election is like hitting a brick wall. It can feel like everyone and everything has come to a stop and you don’t know what to do with all the energy.

For so many of us, Election Day couldn’t have come soon enough; we want nothing more than to have a respite from politics. Having been hammered for months with ads, mail and calls, election season can be discouraging and exhausting. Receiving election results can be just as stressful. Nobody gets what they wished for 100% of the time – there are both wins and losses among the candidates or ballot initiatives you supported. But what’s important is we have the right to have our voice heard through our vote. This is democracy at work.

wi-fair-mapsWe must keep the momentum going after Election Day by holding our elected officials accountable. We can’t forget why we had an election in the first place. We must continue conversations about how we move our nation, state and communities forward.

It’s important to remind successful candidates of the responsibilities to serve everyone, not just those who voted for them. We should expect civility among our elected officials.

The Wisconsin Legislature still has not met or passed legislation for over 200 days. This record is embarrassing and shameful, especially while so many have struggled to meet their daily needs during this pandemic. But every day is a new day, and we have new opportunities to change this course of inaction into action. It starts with elected officials fulfilling promises they made during a grueling campaign season.

Think about what you heard from candidates while they were on the campaign trail. Did you hear a candidate talk about expanding access to high-speed internet service? Then don’t let your legislators forget, because the need continues to grow. Did you hear a candidate say we should fix the unemployment insurance system, so those who need support can get it quicker? Remind them we can make these fixes right now before things get worse.

jeff-smithDid a candidate campaign on supporting our public schools to weather this pandemic? I’m sure most candidates suggested this was a priority for them. We must remind them these are all still top priorities to move Wisconsin forward. Don’t let your elected officials forget.

As we near the end of 2020, COVID-19 remains a major hurdle.  Lives are being lost, families are isolated and we are all looking for the end of this crisis. It wasn’t until this pandemic did we realize just how difficult life can be and how important public health is to our society.

COVID-19 turned into a political football this election. Public health is no game. It showed us just how dangerous it can be to trivialize a global pandemic for political purposes. Moving forward, our leaders must take COVID-19 seriously and reach across the aisle to find progress.

As winter nears and the holidays are approaching, families will be staying indoors. We will have to get creative to celebrate the holidays we look forward to all year long without risking the lives of our loved ones. Working together as a community to stop the spread is a perfect way for us to heal wounds left over from a vicious campaign. Let’s care for each other. Let’s learn how to earn a living, pursue an education and govern together during this pandemic so the America we are so proud of can unify as one.

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Raising Awareness of Domestic Violence

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 04 November 2020
in Wisconsin

domestic-violenceSen. Jeff Smith writes about our responsibility to show our support and share resources for survivors, while working to find long-term solutions to address this issue.


MADISON - 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 better understand the impact domestic violence has in our communities.

After having this conversation, one of the key takeaways I took from it was that we must continue raising community awareness about domestic violence even past the nationally-recognized Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence can happen every day. In fact, domestic violence affects more than 12 million people every year.

Although October has passed, we’re responsible to continue the conversation and raise awareness throughout the year. In doing so, we’re working to support survivors and find long-term solutions to address this problem.

Domestic violence isn’t limited to a certain age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, or socioeconomic status. We know anyone can be affected by domestic violence; however, a large majority of victims are women, and offenders are often male. It’s also important to remember it occurs in higher rates among marginalized communities, especially among American Indians and Alaska Natives than other groups.

Importantly, domestic violence doesn’t only appear within marriage; it can appear in all types or stages of a relationship. When discussing domestic violence, many use the term “Intimate Partner Violence” interchangeably to help others better understand the many different facets or signs of domestic violence.

Not all domestic violence leaves a visible mark. Domestic violence can come in the form of physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, cultural, spiritual, or digital abuse. This type of behavior is intended to maintain control or power in the relationship.

jeff-smithFor decades, the cries of victims went unnoticed or ignored. Victims were, and are often still, wrongly blamed for the abusive situation. Blaming victims has resulted in the silence of victims. It was and sometimes still is considered a private matter that shouldn’t be interfered with. Despite continued awareness of this issue, domestic violence is still very prevalent within our local communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives, but it has affected victims of domestic violence even more and in such a complicated way. When schools closed and we began to isolate in our homes, it meant victims were likely trapped with their abuser for longer periods of time with no relief. The aggressor may have even become more agitated under the pressures the pandemic has wrought, such as financial stress or fewer opportunities to find relief from this stress.

In September, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article, calling Intimate Partner Violence “a pandemic within a pandemic,” stating victims were trapped with their abusers and were unable to connect with helplines. According to this article, domestic violence hotline calls dropped by 50% due to the inability of victims to escape the abuser to make a call.

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Please note, this weekly column contains sensitive information regarding domestic violence, which may be triggering for some readers.

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Search for Truth During an Election

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 28 October 2020
in Wisconsin

vote-47-mbFrom the disinformation we read on social media to the “issue ads” we see on TV, it’s important that we do our research and stay vigilant before casting our ballot.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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. Many voters – if they haven’t already – will stop answering the phone to avoid robocalls. Mailboxes will be filled with full-sized glossy cards and TV ads will play one after another, either celebrating or desecrating a candidate. After November 3rd, we’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief that it’s all over, at least until another campaign cycle comes around.

While we may all tire of the incessant campaign calls and mail, we should be mindful of who’s responsible for creating and funding the messages we’re consuming every day. As American citizens, we have the awesome right to vote and participate in our democracy. But, with this right comes the responsibility to do our research and understand the motives of each candidate.

Most of the campaign advertisements you see don’t come from candidates directly. The fact is, many of these advertisements appearing on TV or in the mail are usually paid for by organizations you’ve never heard of before. These advertisements are paid for by donors hiding behind laws that protect them from disclosing who they are.

jeff-smithLike many Americans, I believe that any effort to sway your opinion should be disclosed and open to public scrutiny. After all, if someone is paying for ads disparaging someone – or praising someone for that matter – then they should have to make public who they are and why they believe what’s being said. And, of course, voters shouldn’t automatically believe every word they hear or read just because it’s dramatically presented in a colorful ad. But the laws, as they currently stand, give most special interest groups a pass from disclosing who’s really behind these campaign messages.

If the ad doesn’t say “vote for” or “vote against,” these are considered “issue ads” rather than campaign ads, which means a report doesn’t need to be filed disclosing the ads’ donors. This is different for candidates, who are obligated to file finance reports listing their donors, the donor’s address and even their occupation and employer.

When most people think of campaign finance laws, they think of all the money donated by individuals and how it’s spent. But, by far, the most money spent during an election is from outside groups who use loopholes, like “issue ads” to hide in the shadows. In fact, many of the behind-the-scenes groups are temporary organizations formed only for this one purpose and during one campaign cycle.

All voters should know the purpose of the message and who’s behind the curtain pulling the levers. Creating a non-partisan redistricting commission and public awareness behind “issue ads” are the most needed reforms to keep our democracy strong.

Now, of course, social media has elevated campaign claims to a whole new level of dishonesty with minimal effort to reveal who’s responsible for the spread of misinformation. For the most part, we are very trusting people, which makes it difficult to question claims, even if they’re exaggerated or simply untrue. This all leads to a greater burden on each of us to fact check what appears on our newsfeed or find proof to back up a statement.

Day after day, we’re fed disinformation that can sway our decisions or lead us to misbelieve. On top of the persuasive campaign rhetoric during this time of year, there are efforts to prevent Americans from voting. Some elected leaders even go to great lengths to place hurdles in voters’ way or find ways to throw a ballot out. Despite these efforts, I’m confident that each Wisconsin voter will have their ballot counted. If voting early, remember to have a witness signature, mail your ballot early or turn it into your polling location by November 3rd.

In the final week before Election Day, stay informed and vigilant. You have the power to silence the special interest groups by voting and having your voice heard. Vote early or on Election Day, but VOTE!

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