Saturday March 23, 2019

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Discussion with education and reason.

“You be the Judge of the Budget”

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, 20 March 2019
in Wisconsin

crowdSen. Jeff Smith will hosting nine budget listening sessions in northwestern Wisconsin in March and April.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Ever since my two daughters were young and able to ice skate, I attended their figure skating practices and competitions. I’ve respected the work and dedication these young women put in for such an incredible sport. I became so interested that I started volunteering as the announcer for the Eau Claire Figure Skating Club competitions.

Competitive figure skating is mostly a solo sport. This changes however on the last day of the competition when many of the athletes get the opportunity to skate as a team. Synchronized skating has become a standalone competitive sport which adds that special team element to the skills they honed as solo artists. It's on that final day that I'm the announcer at the rink and introduce each team.

I’ve learned to appreciate the countless hours these young skaters put in with their coaches to perfect their spins, jumps, speed, and coordinating it all to music. Watching the perfect figure skating routine is the final product of hours of practice and countless falls and mishaps. There’s so much more than the few minutes the judges get to see on the ice including rivalry, high emotions, tears, and clashes in practice or the locker room.

I’ve found that description rings true for politics as well. There’s plenty of competition in the legislature as well as high emotions, disagreements, and tears at times. Certainly, it’s a rivalrous atmosphere with passionate individuals vying over sensitive issues.

At the end of the day, the young figure skaters put aside their craving for individual recognition to create a perfectly synchronized skating routine. I’m always amazed when they come together and create something great.

Just like a skater putting together a routine, Governor Evers put in his time practicing and training to perfect what he called the “People’s Budget.” Throughout this process, the Governor asked the people what he should include in his budget. To get suggestions, he hosted listening sessions in Superior, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Wausau.

As you can imagine, everyone has different ideas to move Wisconsin forward. Governor Evers embraced these diverse opinions and so do I. In the budget development phase, Governor Evers heard Wisconsin residents echo a few common ideas. Much of the suggestions revolved around affordable health care, roads that don’t bust up our cars, fully-funding public schools, and reforming our criminal justice system.

jeff-smithI 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, so please join me at one of the locations below.

Each budget listening session is from 5:30pm - 7:00pm and open to the public. Here are the details of our events:

· Thursday, March 21st: Whitehall - Whitehall Memorial High School

· Friday, March 22nd: Ellsworth - Ellsworth High School

· Monday, March 25th: Eau Claire - Joint Listening Session with Rep. Jodi Emerson - L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

· Thursday, March 28th: Holmen - Joint Listening Session with Sen. Jennifer Shilling and Rep. Steve Doyle - Holmen Public Library

· Thursday, April 11th: Durand - Durand City Hall

· Monday, April 15th: River Falls - Joint Listening Session with Sen. Patty Schachtner - River Falls Public Library

· Thursday, April 18th: Alma - Alma High School

· Tuesday, April 23rd: Menomonie - Joint Listening Session with Sen. Patty Schachtner at the Shirley Doane Senior Center

· Date is TBD: Black River Falls - Location is TBD

For more information, check out my website or Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you at one of these events. If you can’t make it to one of our listening sessions, please call, write or email me with any feedback about the budget.

The synchronized routine of 132 legislators trying to work together on the budget has just begun. It won’t be easy, but we rely on you to be the judge of how we work together.

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Sen. Smith Celebrates Women’s History Month

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, 13 March 2019
in Wisconsin

women-3genAs we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s make a better effort to celebrate the women in our lives says Senator.


MADISON - 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. At an early age, I was most inspired and influenced by the women in my life. I’m fortunate to have these relationships throughout my life. Women have motivated me in so many different ways and have shaped me to be the person I am today.

I met my first best friend, Linda, when my family moved into my childhood home near Eau Claire. As kids, social norms taught us boys were supposed to play with boys and girls with girls. Despite these norms, and the taunts from the other kids in school, Linda and I played together.

Linda’s friendship taught me the importance of questioning social norms. If we had listened to the others in our classroom, I would’ve missed out on many memories, a great friendship, and an even greater lesson. Our friendship taught me to have more trust and faith in women.

Time and time again girls were at the top of our class. I learned to respect the efforts and work of the girls around me, especially the times when I fell short.

As I grew older, I continued to develop new friendships with the young women in my high school, which I still treasure to this day. In my adult life, that never changed. It was always clear to me that women in my life were motivated and knowledgeable in so many different aspects.

This includes the most important women in my life - my wife, Sue, along with our daughters, Emily and Sarah. They’ve pushed me to be well-rounded and inspired me to be who I am today. Whether it be at home, at the office, or even in the campaign to get elected as Senator, I’ve seen how the women around me stay committed and get things done.

From early on, I learned the importance of working with women and trusting women. Without these relationships I wouldn’t be as aware of the diverse life perspectives in my community or the importance of listening to others while I’m serving as State Senator.

In the first week of Women’s History Month, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Status of Girls” presentation organized by the bipartisan Alverno College Research Center for Women and Girls. This was an eye-opening presentation highlighting disparities between girls and boys in Wisconsin, from increased rates of poverty and abuse to disproportionate cases of cyberbullying and mental health diagnoses. It was concerning to learn how these issues don’t just stop when a girls becomes an adult, but they are issues that continue to impact a woman as she grows older.

jeff-smithI looked around the room at the presentation and realized that I was only one of two men present in a group with more than twenty attendees. I found this rather odd. Shouldn't more of us be concerned about the issues affecting more than fifty percent of our population? Why was there such little representation from men at this presentation on the status of Wisconsin girls – a key demographic that makes up 11% of our state’s population?

I understand that we all have busy schedules and a lot of things going on in our lives; however, we must remember to value the concerns and experiences of others, including the girls and women of our state. I’ve learned so much growing up with strong women all around me. These relationships are a reminder for me to stand up, support others, and advocate for issues that may not personally affect me. As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s make a better effort to celebrate the women in our lives by developing new friendships, connecting with others and strengthening the voices around us.

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First Glance at Governor Evers’ Budget

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, 06 March 2019
in Wisconsin

tony-evers-budget-2019Sen. Smith reviews the policies included in Gov. Tony Evers’ first budget, presented to the Legislature last Thursday, including broadband expansion, nonpartisan redistricting reform, education and transportation funding, and Medicaid expansion.


MADISON - 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.

The Governor’s comments highlighted his goal to present the people’s budget to the Legislature: “It’s about creating a Wisconsin that works for everyone — a Wisconsin for us. This isn’t the Tony Evers’ budget, the Democratic budget, the speaker’s budget, or the Republican budget — this is the people’s budget. And it’s one that we crafted together.”

This was a very unique budget address. During the Governor’s speech, he presented a video about the process he used for developing the people’s budget. The video showed footage of public budget listening sessions throughout December in Green Bay, La Crosse, Wausau and Milwaukee. This was the first time a new Governor hosted listening sessions while crafting his budget for introduction.

Much of the budget was exactly what the Governor laid out in his campaign, but there were many policies he included that were from the feedback he received at the listening sessions. Governor Evers’ budget was specially crafted from a uniquely collaborative process.

Many of the different policies in the budget were encouraging for Wisconsin’s future -- for years we’ve seen devastating cuts to public schools, our universities, unsustainable borrowing and a Wisconsin that has lagged behind while the nation recovered. New ideas are needed if we are going to make Wisconsin a national leader again.

The Governor’s plan to add $78 million for broadband expansion grants is a massive increase from the $16 million adopted in the previous budget. Broadband expansion is arguably one of the most important budget provisions for our rural communities.

The Governor also defines broadband speed as 25 megabytes while downloading and 3 megabytes while uploading. This change will ensure rural communities truly receive “broadband” internet so we can fully participate in the digital age and not be left behind.

Nonpartisan redistricting reform was also included in the Governor’s budget. We need to look toward the future. Voters should choose their elected officials, not the other way around. This proposal is supported by a wide margin of citizens. It was no wonder the Governor included it in the people’s budget.

For years, Republicans have stripped away essential voters’ rights in Wisconsin. The Governor’s inclusion of automatic voter registration is a good first step for reversing the undemocratic policies of the last 8 years and starting a new chapter of voter rights expansion in Wisconsin.

There were additional provisions in the Governor’s budget that are long overdue.

When Governor Evers served as the Superintendent of Public Schools, he offered his Fair Funding for Our Future plan time and time again. Each time, Republicans punted on fixing the inequalities in our school funding formula. Republicans put politics first and kids last. Our children have suffered far too long from inaction. Now is the time to finally fulfill our constitutional duty to provide equal public education across Wisconsin by accepting the Governor’s plan.

jeff-smithFour budgets in a row, the Republicans kicked the can down the road by irresponsibly borrowing our way into a transportation crisis. Although I have reservations about some aspects of the Governor’s transportation plan, I do give him credit for finally offering ideas to fix the problem.

Since 2014, Republican ideology prevented Wisconsin from joining 37 other states to expand Medicaid, costing Wisconsin $1.1 billion in additional health care funding. It’s a no-brainer to finally accept the Medicaid expansion money for Wisconsin.

This is just the start -- we have a long way to go before the budget bill becomes law. The Governor’s unique way of crafting his budget deserves praise. His forward-looking budget is a sight for sore eyes. It’s great to finally see a budget include many of the things we’ve been waiting far too long see.

Republicans plan to dismiss the people’s budget outright. As we continue this process, Republicans and Democrats will need to look past old ways of saying “no” to each other and find new ways to say “yes” for Wisconsin.

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Part Three: Water is Precious

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, 20 February 2019
in Wisconsin

hicap-residentsThird of three columns describing the importance of water in Wisconsin. Conserving water by limiting high capacity wells, preventing the destruction of wetlands and reinvesting in science at the DNR are easy ways we can keep drinking water clean.


MADISON, WI - 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 science are easy ways to show how an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In the last two columns, I discussed how water sustains our lives and how important it is for our economic prosperity. This week I will offer simple, but critical ways we can invest in water, our most precious resource.

Most of Wisconsin is lucky to have immediate access to clean water whether it’s from our private wells or from our municipal water utilities. Because water is cheap, most people don’t think about conserving it. Think about that. Something must be done differently to motivate people to conserve water even when capacity is not threatened. Where there are private wells there is more awareness of conserving simply because the owner is the manager.

hicap-wellPrivately owned high capacity wells play a big role for Wisconsin’s water conservation. Each high capacity well can pump up to 70 gallons of water per minute, or up to 100,000 gallons per day. High concentrations of high capacity wells in a single aquifer can cause serious problems for our drinking water. As water levels drop from overuse, oxygen can breakdown sulfides and expose arsenic to be leached into the water table. Unassuming landowners with private wells are at risk of polluted drinking water if we don’t take a hard look at conservation when considering new high capacity well permits.

We can invest in nature as our defender against contaminated water. Wetlands are nature’s best water filters. In 1985 Wisconsin completed a wetland inventory and found 5.3 million acres of wetlands left in Wisconsin. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, based on an evaluation of wet soils, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimated Wisconsin was home to approximately 10 million acres of wetlands at one time. As of 1985, we lost 47% of our wetlands.

Properties with wetlands tend to be priced below market value and have always been an easy target for farmers and developers. Farmers learned quickly that wetlands were essential to preserving productive soils. Business developers have been slower to learn.

Wetland mitigation allows developers to create new wetlands or rehabilitate existing wetlands if damage to naturally-occurring wetlands is “unavoidable.” Wetlands form from necessity. They are nature’s way of storing water and preventing flooding.

In recent years, floodwaters have ripped through our western Wisconsin coulees causing incredible damage to homes, businesses, roads and bridges. Floods churn up contaminated sediments and sweep them into our surface waters and eventually into our groundwater too. Protecting and enhancing wetlands is one of the easiest things we can do today to keep our water clean and lesson the damage from powerful floods.

jeff-smithWe need to reinvest in science too. Wisconsin’s DNR scientists have been under attack for the last 8 years. In 2011, Act 10 forced a mass exodus of scientists and other dedicated public servants from state government. Former Governor Scott Walker sent 57 pink slips to DNR employees on Earth Day 2015, of all days. In the 2017-19 budget, Republicans cut 43 more positions and eliminated the Division of Science Services during a “reorganization” of the agency. All mentions of climate change were scrubbed from DNR publications.

Thankfully, Governor Tony Evers and his new pick for DNR, Secretary Preston Cole are choosing science over ignorance. Sec. Preston Cole’s comment that the DNR will “double down on science in natural resources management” should be a refreshing assurance for Wisconsin. Governor Evers’ recent announcement to help local governments with $40 million to replace lead services lines is another example of his new approach to protecting the public’s water.

As we start to reinvest in our state’s ability to keep water clean, I’ll need your help. It’ll take all of us to educate our neighbors, family and friends about new efforts to keep Wisconsin’s water clean. Water may be cheap, but if we lose sight of how precious it is, we will pay far more in the long run.

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Part Two: Water is Prosperity

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, 13 February 2019
in Wisconsin

door-countyIn the 2nd of 3 columns about clean water, Sen. Smith discusses how water is our key to prosperity and encourages us to think about future generations when considering the next big company coming to Wisconsin for our natural resources.


MADISON - 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.

In my Capitol office hangs an old re-election poster for former Governor Gaylord Nelson. The founder of Earth Day, Governor Nelson was one of Wisconsin’s fiercest advocates for our environment. He was also a pragmatist – he understood not only how important clean water was, but he also acknowledged its importance for our economy.

Milk, cheese, beer, and paper -- these are quintessential Wisconsin products. Each of these water-dependent products requires large amounts of clean water.

great-river-road-wiWater is abundant in Wisconsin. Our 1,017 miles of Great Lakes shoreland offer our state excellent access to the world’s largest supply of freshwater. Wisconsin’s “west coast,” is mostly lined by the Mississippi River, which is the 2nd largest watershed in the world. We even have more lakes than Minnesota! Wisconsin is so watery that 17% of our state is covered by water.

Every decision about water we make as representatives and senators in the State Capitol has a globally significant impact. We know how important water is, but so do companies hoping to gain access to our water.

In 2003, Wisconsin limited the ability of local governments to oppose Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). CAFOs are defined as operations with more than 1,000 animals on the farm. Here in the counties within the 31st Senate District, we have 24 of the 272 dairy CAFOs in Wisconsin.

High capacity wells on CAFOs pump vast quantities of water in a very small area, and the massive volume of animal waste generated at these facilities is too much for the surrounding cropland to handle as fertilizer. America’s Dairyland has always looked to small family farms to supply our country with high-quality milk and cheese. Low milk prices are driving smaller dairy farms out of business and CAFOs are taking their place. Without relief, more family farms will continue to struggle and large CAFOs will continue to expand.

In 2010, our 31st Senate District became the epicenter of the frac sand industry in Wisconsin and across the nation. The rush for high quality sand to support our U.S. and Canadian oil and natural gas hydrofracturing operations created a demand far exceeding our expectations in Wisconsin. Cleaning the tons of sand going across North America requires a lot of water and the chemicals used during the process leave serious concerns about water quality.

metallic-sulfide-mining-runoffIn 2011, the massive iron mine proposed by Gogebic Taconite created a frenzy of changes to water and air protections for the iron mining permit process. In 2017, the “Prove it First Law” was repealed for sulfide mining companies looking to come to Wisconsin. These changes lower the bar for potential mining companies to come to Wisconsin and pollute our water.

foxconn-groundbreakMost recently, in 2017, the state carved Foxconn out of environmental protections. Foxconn will also be able to pump up to 7 million gallons of water per day to manufacture liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. Only 4 million of the 7 million gallons will return to Lake Michigan daily. The harsh chemicals used in the manufacturing process leaves serious questions about water quality surrounding the facility and what pollutants will return back to the Great Lakes.

As you can see, there’s no shortage of companies lining up for Wisconsin’s water and natural resources. The million dollar question we need to ask ourselves is: are the long term consequences worth short term economic gain?

Next week, I’ll be writing about how water is our most precious resource and how we can preserve it for our lives and our prosperity. Former Governor Gaylord Nelson once said, “the ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”

Our water is the key to our state’s prosperity. It will be our children’s and our grandchildren’s prosperity too. The next time a big company or industry asks Wisconsin to roll back water protections for their profits, we need to ask ourselves how this decision before us contributes, rather than harms our water. If we make the right choices today, the words of thanks will be said.

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