Friday January 22, 2021

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Saving our Democracy

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 January 2021
in Wisconsin

trump-insurgents-enterWe can bridge a divided nation by reflecting on our own attitudes and behaviors, but it’s also up to elected officials to be truthful and honest and restore trust in our democratic process.


MADISON - 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. Sadly, other issues have overshadowed the essential work that should be happening because our nation is as divided as it’s ever been.

The shocking attack on our nation’s Capitol earlier this month left Americans with all sorts of questions. How did we get to this point? How were we so unprepared on that day, despite all of the warning signs? What can we do differently to bridge the rift we’re experiencing these days? As Americans, we must reflect on these questions and consider what we, personally, can do to be more empathetic and humble listeners. But it’s also up to our country’s leaders to set the right example through their speech and actions.

jeff-smithI know some may react negatively to my call for civility, truth and compromise because I’m a partisan office holder. It’s no secret I take stands on issues and plead with the Majority Party to act on policies I consider important based on views from people in the 31s Senate District. But, my role in advocating for these policies is drastically different than using fear to drive citizens to hijack our democratic process.

What can elected leaders do to change the political climate? We should start by toning down the political rhetoric and admitting when bad actors are misleading citizens. We’ve seen what happens when people are consumed by conspiracy theories and how passion drives them to act violently. As much as I’d like for our politics to change, it can only happen with the cooperation of the Party in charge.

I appealed to my colleagues on the Senate floor last Tuesday by introducing a Senate Resolution condemning the misinformation and violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The Resolution also recognizes our country has a new President and Vice-President and offers condolences to the family of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick who was killed by the violent mob on January 6th.

The Majority Party failed to take a stand against the violence and conspiracy theories. This same attitude led us to the situation we’re in today. During this dark time in our country’s history, our elected officials must lead rather than shrink away. Elected officials have a responsibility to inform their supporters that the election was fair and legitimate.

There may even be some of my legislative colleagues who, themselves, have become convinced conspiracy claims are true. If that’s so, we have a lot more work to do to rebuild relationships in our country, especially considering many of these elected officials were reelected during the 2020 election.

Democracy is built on the assertion that the person with the most votes wins. I’m old enough to remember that Joe Looby won the Assembly District seat I grew up in by a single vote. He was forever known as “landslide Looby” after that. The obligatory recount after the election did nothing to change the final result. In 2010, I lost a close election that also went through a recount, which only verified the initial result. I know the pain of losing, but also know it’s necessary to accept results and find other ways to peacefully advocate for what I believe in.

As elected leaders, we must understand that our constituents rely on us to be truthful and sometimes painfully honest with them. When a leader is silent about misinformation or repeat it without verification, it can be seen as supporting falsehoods and creating a fictitious reality. We must not abuse our platform as leaders; we’ve seen this happen and how dangerous it can be.

Last Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Senate showed a glimmer of hope by voting on a compromise COVID-19 response bill supported by our Democratic Governor and the Republican Majority leader. I hope we can build on that – it’s the only way this democratic republic will survive.

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Wis Democracy Campaign - 10 Ways to Fend Off the Far Right

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Friday, 15 January 2021
in Wisconsin

trump-insurgency-storm-congressMADISON - Last Saturday, I was invited to speak to the Madison Civics Club. Originally, I was going to talk about how to make democracy work better in Wisconsin. But after the rightwing putsch on Jan. 6, I knew I had to talk about the threat from the far right in our country.

Here’s the video of my talk, which lasts for the first 20 minutes or so. Then there are a few questions and answers, and then Rep. Mark Pocan adds his own insights and his personal experience. The whole thing runs about an hour. I hope you like it:

Madison Civics Club - Rothschild/Pocan

On Monday, I decided to condense my advice, so here’s what I posted:

10 Things You Can Do to Fend Off the Far Right

Please feel free to share these with your friends, who I’m sure are as worried about the fate of our country as you and I are.

matt-rothschild-2018We also posted an item on how the Republican Attorneys General Association, which gets financial support from big Wisconsin companies, urged people to go to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” event. See which companies those were:

Wisconsin Backers of GOP Group That Promoted January 6 Event

I hope you like this week’s offerings.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

****

P.S. You can count on us to stand up for democracy and to expose those who are intent on destroying it. If you appreciate the urgent work we’re doing, please send us a tax-deductible gift today by clicking here.

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New Session, Same Story

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 January 2021
in Wisconsin

wi-senate-swearing-inSen. Smith writes about the beginning of the 2021-22 legislative session and the lack of compromise we’ve seen from Republican leaders thus far on COVID-19 relief.


MADISON - 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.

Inauguration Day is an important reminder that the Legislature includes elected representatives from many walks of life. Our job is to listen to professionals and ensure they have what they need to do their jobs the best they can.

Every session, elected officials bring their unique experience and expertise forward to introduce new policy proposals. Although we may not always immediately agree, our collective differences can help us change and improve a proposal. When there are two proposals to address one problem, it’s logical to compare the differences. We can identify some points of agreement for compromise even if the differences are vast. In some negotiations, both parties look for agreement and accept certain parts they might otherwise not have put in their own plan.

jeff-smithNearly everyone I hear from would be pleased if their elected officials compromised more. Compromise can be the difference between making real progress and doing nothing. That’s exactly where we find ourselves today with leaders spoiled by unchallenged power through Wisconsin’s gerrymandered maps. Unfortunately this unwillingness to compromise and leave behind political ambitions for the greater good couldn’t be more evident than it is right now.

Just once, most people would think petty politics could be set aside for all the hardships families are facing during this pandemic. But it doesn’t seem to be possible in this political environment we live in. Initially, we passed a bipartisan COVID-19 Response Bill in April with the expectation we’d meet again soon. However, once it passed, the Republican Majority Party opted for a 270 day vacation instead of holding another extraordinary session to pass additional COVID-19 relief, fix the unemployment crisis and help schools continue educating students.

Governor Evers introduced two bills–including a compromise proposal–to the Legislature on December 22nd after waiting months for Republican legislative leaders to act. Governor Evers held meetings with Republican leaders, listened to their ideas and even stripped out parts of his initial proposal before settling on provisions they agreed on. The Governor’s COVID-19 compromise bill includes measures to clear the unemployment insurance backlog; covers COVID-19 testing; makes infrastructure available to improve broadband access and more.

robin-vos-is-safe-to-voteAssembly Speaker Vos (R – Rochester) introduced a radically different bill despite the Governor’s plea for sensible compromise. Assembly Bill 1 makes it more difficult for schools to move to virtual classes; protects negligent employers if employees contract COVID-19 in the workplace, takes away the Governor’s oversight of federal COVID-19 funds; and inhibits local health officers from effectively responding to public health emergencies. Assembly Bill 1 allows more people to get sick, limits our state’s response to COVID-19 and fails to protect employees.

Assembly Bill 1 is now on the fast track through the Legislature, despite much public opposition. It’s beyond the pale to take advantage of a public health crisis to advance radical changes in our state. It’s also truly outrageous to distrust the judgement of local elected school boards and the professional training of local public health officials.

To top it off, the Republican Majority passed a Joint Resolution–after returning from a 270-day vacation–to open the state Capitol to the public without masks, social distancing or other health protocols. It’s shameful to play politics while we try to find consensus for COVID-19 relief.

A COVID-19 relief package should include the input of all elected officials and the constituencies they represent, not just the Republican leaders. More importantly, COVID-19 relief legislation should address the unemployment crisis and the lack of internet access, while providing support to our frontline healthcare workers. Demand better from us.

I want to report we opened a new session with renewed hope for a working legislature, but the first week did not instill that confidence. As session continues, I hope there’ll be more opportunities to compromise and work together on behalf of Wisconsinites.

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Wis Democracy Campaign - We Were Warned!

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 09 January 2021
in Wisconsin

trump-insurgents-enterMADISON - Like you, I’m outraged about the mob that ransacked the Capitol yesterday, and I wanted to share with you my thoughts on what happened, so here they are:

I Was Not Surprised by the Mob Assault on the Capitol

As you may know, we’ve been chronicling the threat that Trump has posed to our democracy since he went down that escalator five years ago. When you’ve got the time, you might want to peruse our handy guide on Trump and fascism here:

https://www.wisdc.org/news/trump-and-fascism

Today, I’ve got a couple worries.

First, I’m still very concerned about what Trump might pull in the last 13 days of his term in office if the Cabinet doesn’t remove him via the 25th Amendment, which they should do right now.

And second, I’m worried about his followers. They are fueled not just by a cult of personality but also by appeals to racism, red-baiting, anti-Semitism, irrationalism, and ultra-nationalism. We’ll need to combat those appeals long after Trump has left 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Here at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, we’ll be doing all we can to highlight the risk that this authoritarian movement still poses. And we’ll call out those elected officials in Wisconsin who coddle it, among them Ron Johnson, Tom Tiffany, and Scott Fitzgerald.

matt-rothschildAt a time like this, it’s important that all of us join groups that are defending our democracy. If you’ve not yet become a member of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, please do so now by clicking here.

Or join other groups like the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, Stacey Abrams’s group Fair Fight, or any number of organizations that are doing great work.

Get involved. You can’t combat the anti-democracy forces alone, but together we can preserve, defend, and expand our democracy so that everyone has an equal voice and so that no one has to see a day like yesterday ever again.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Foxconn: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

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 January 2021
in Wisconsin

foxconn-walker-ryan-johnsonYears after Republican leaders and Foxconn executives made a one-sided deal, there’s still nothing to show for it, forcing taxpayers to cover the cost. We must negotiate a new deal to properly invest in Wisconsin’s future.


MADISON - 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. Most likely, there are legal contracts or properties linking the two parties.

Take the relationship between Wisconsin and Foxconn, for example.

foxconn-groundbreakIt started in 2017 with so much promise, glamour and, of course, a captivating courtship. Terry Gou, CEO of Foxconn, and then Governor Walker had to get to know each other and discover what one could do for the other. Foxconn promised to invest $10 billion into a massive 20 million square foot factory built in Southeastern Wisconsin and to create 13,000 jobs. Republican leaders, at the time, courted Foxconn with billions of dollars’ worth of tax credits. With dollar signs in their eyes, Foxconn was in love.

Scott Walker saw the plan as politically advantageous: he could take credit for finally making a dent in his campaign promise made 8 years earlier of bringing in 250,000 jobs to Wisconsin. The shiny object was a potential win for a third term if the citizens of Wisconsin fell in love with Foxconn, like he did.

Foxconn even topped the promise off by announcing they would open smaller, regional offices around the state, giving the impression they’d create jobs in places like the Fox Valley and the Chippewa Valley. Even President Trump jumped on this opportunity for a photo-op and to take credit for drawing a Taiwanese tech giant to the Midwest. It seemed like such a beautiful marriage. The arrangement was sweet, but so naive.

There certainly was a honeymoon period when Republican legislators bragged continuously that this deal was the greatest thing since sliced bread. We even heard that it’d be the “8th wonder of the world” and the greatest thing to ever happen in the western hemisphere.

At first, it appeared they had reason to be optimistic. Developers razed land quickly, clearing the way for the thousands of jobs and high-tech manufacturing space Foxconn promised. Republican leaders diverted transportation funds to expand the interstate so Illinois residents could have a nice drive to their new workplace. Over $400 million spent on land and infrastructure surely gave the impression this agreement really would be fulfilled. The new offices rented in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Eau Claire made a lasting relationship seem even more certain.

Sadly, reality quickly came to roost. Investigations show Foxconn left a confusing mess for many of the stakeholders involved. Initially, Wisconsin business owners, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, local government officials and even prospective employees had high hopes for what was to come. These hopeful expectations were squandered after stakeholders were left with no direction or explanation from Foxconn.

The Foxconn fall-out got worse, showing Foxconn fell far short of the hiring goals needed to be eligible for additional state tax credits. Once again, Wisconsin taxpayers were burdened by this disastrous deal. To make matters worse, we’re now learning the anticipated “eighth wonder of the world” may become a storage warehouse.

jeff-smithOver the last three years, it’s become all too clear the romance has been lost. Loyal defenders of this project have continued to remind us that payments would only be made based on performance. Unfortunately, it’s unclear when this will happen.

Most recently, on December 2nd, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) reported they didn’t expect Foxconn to reach the requirements to make them eligible to receive tax credits during the next three fiscal years. Hopefully, like a prenuptial agreement, we’re protected from further loss caused by this terrible match made in their imaginations.

With a new session on the horizon, we have an opportunity to right a wrong. It’s time to negotiate a new deal that saves our state from the initial one-sided $4.5 billion dollar deal. Let’s make the investment Wisconsin needs rather than falling for another flashy romance.

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