Monday July 13, 2020

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We Will Bounce Back Together

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, 29 April 2020
in Wisconsin

coronavirusSen. Smith writes about the Badger Bounce Back Plan, introduced last week by Governor Tony Evers, to help Wisconsin move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic.


EAU CLAIRE - 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.

Although the “Safer at Home” order was extended, there are some changes from the original order that became effective on April 24th, which include: public libraries may provide curbside pick-up; golf courses may open again; non-essential businesses can do more things such as deliveries, mailings, and curbside pick-up; arts and craft stores may offer expanded curbside pick-up of materials to make face masks, and residents can take care of aesthetic or optional exterior lawn care or construction.

Throughout this crisis, these policy decisions have been made in the interest of public health and safety in consultation with scientists and medical professionals. Several weeks ago, the Department of Health Services projected that Wisconsin could have 440 to 1,500 deaths statewide if we did not practice social distancing to flatten the curve. The collaborative effort made by Wisconsinites in all corners of the state proved that the “Safer at Home” order works to slow the spread of COVID-19. In just the first three weeks of the “Safer at Home” order, Wisconsin saved at least 300 lives and perhaps as many as 1,400 lives.

This pandemic is far too contagious to eliminate the “Safer at Home” order all at once. As Governor Evers said, we must think of getting through this like turning a dial, rather than just flipping a light switch. The more disciplined we are now, the faster we can turn it. If we simply return to life as normal without taking gradual steps and the necessary precautions, we risk a spike in cases and more severe economic impacts.

Rural communities are not immune to the effects of COVID-19. Although the prevalence of COVID-19 is much higher in urban areas, like Madison or Milwaukee, the virus can easily spread to other counties if these safeguards are not in place. A COVID-19 outbreak in rural Wisconsin could have a detrimental impact on our close-knit communities. Our population in rural communities tends to be older and much more at risk of dying from COVID-19. We have fewer resources and less access to health care options to care for the sick than urban areas.

If one area of our state begins to lift the “Safer at Home” order, there could be a rush to those communities which will create a greater danger of COVID-19 transmission. This statewide plan is in place to protect ALL Wisconsin residents and help our state grow more resilient together.

For Wisconsin to get through this safely and become more resilient, Governor Evers introduced the Badger Bounce Back Plan, which outlines a process to help Wisconsin move forward from this pandemic. It is based on federal guidelines released from the White House on April 16th. It includes certain gating criteria each state should meet before gradually restarting its economy in three phases.

jeff-smithTo move from phase to phase, Wisconsin must have a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses, COVID-19 cases and symptoms, and positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period. Additionally, hospitals will have to treat all patients without crisis care and have robust testing programs in place for at-risk healthcare workers.

The Evers’ administration is working closely with businesses and private partners to reach the gating criteria and re-open Wisconsin. To do this, the Badger Bounce Back Plan has steps in place to expand COVID-19 testing by 85,000 tests per week; increase contact tracing to better understand virus transmission in Wisconsin, and improve tracking systems to keep Wisconsin better informed.

We are all anxious to return to life as we knew it. I fall into that category as well. But, let’s face it, our world is changed forever from this dramatic experience. Getting back too soon or opening up certain regions will not make things better and could only make things worse. Let’s keep up our diligence and consider those who stayed healthy because we stayed safe at home.

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Wis Democracy Campaign - Earth Day/Lethal Protests

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
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on Thursday, 23 April 2020
in Wisconsin

wdc-header-2020-logoMADISON, WI - Happy Earth Day!

Our staff put out a thorough report this week on how, during the Walker Administration, Wisconsin shirked its obligations to combat climate change and to protect the environment. Here’s our press release, with a link to the report:

Wisconsin GOP Leaders Added Fuel to Climate Change Fire, WDC Report Shows

And today, the Wisconsin Examiner printed my op-ed, which summarized the report, showed the progress that Gov. Evers has made on this issue, and briefly discussed the impact of the coronavirus on the environment:

An Earth Day Assessment of Wisconsin's Environmental Progress

Lastly, I wanted to share with you something I just wrote. It’s about the MacIver Institute, here in Wisconsin, ginning up the protests against the governor’s “Safer at Home” order. MacIver’s idolatry of the “free market” extends to flagrantly jeopardizing lives in Wisconsin, as I argue here:

The Lethal Idiocy of the MacIver Institute

I hope you share my outrage about this.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
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P.S. If you like what you're reading, please support us today with a tax-deductible donation. Just click here. Thanks!

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Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary Reminds us to Cherish and Protect Wisconsin’s Environment

Posted by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling lives in La Crosse with her husband and two children. She curr
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on Wednesday, 22 April 2020
in Wisconsin

gaylord-nelson“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.” - Gaylord Nelson


LA CROSSE, WI - Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1970, former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day. A day dedicated to celebrating the nature around us and promoting conservation, it acts as a symbol of progressive ideology championed by one of Wisconsin’s own.

From hunting, fishing and recreation, to our robust agriculture industry, our environment and unique natural features are a major driving force behind the success of our local economies. And that’s why it’s so important we continue to fight for the conservation of our state and our country, just as Governor Nelson did half a century ago.

Despite Wisconsin’s rich history and connection with the outdoors, protecting our environment hasn’t always been a priority for the leaders of our state. But after eight years of an administration focused on rolling back environmental protections, Governor Evers provides a much-needed perspective. Like Nelson, he believes that our environment is something to be treasured, not taken for granted. And he’s pushed many progressive policy changes that would put the future of conservation center-stage.

In fact, in the past year, Evers has created a Task Force on Climate Change to develop strategies that’ll help communities reduce its effects. He also created the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy to oversee Wisconsin’s goal of providing 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, and prioritized water quality and sustainability solutions within his budget proposal. By taking these steps, he’s proven that he can push Wisconsin in the right direction – but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

jennifer-shillingOver the past decade, historic storms and flooding have repeatedly challenged our communities, devastated local businesses and wreaked havoc on Wisconsin’s crops, making it clear that climate change is a real threat to our state. And while my Republican colleagues may see environmental protection policies as trivial and unimportant, Wisconsin Democrats remain committed to setting sustainable, commonsense standards – and you can help.

This Earth Day takes place during a truly unprecedented time. While we all do our part to shelter in place and tackle the COVID-19 pandemic head-on, it’s easy to feel isolated. But at the same time, it reminds us how connected we really are, and how our actions spark consequences for the world around us. So, today I challenge you to think about your impact on the environment. And take this time to implement a few eco-friendly changes in your life. Whether that’s cutting down on plastic, opting to consume less energy or switching most of your shopping to local, environmentally-conscious companies, your changes in behavior, no matter how small, will help to carry out the legacy of Gaylord Nelson. Because, as he 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.”

Let’s all do our part to leave behind a better Wisconsin for tomorrow.

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The Wisconsin COVID-19 Response Bill

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, 22 April 2020
in Wisconsin

unemploymentSen. Smith writes about the COVID-19 Response Bill signed last week and explains what steps we still must take to further help Wisconsin.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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. So, last week from a small room on the UW-Eau Claire campus, I joined my senate colleagues through my computer screen for a virtual Senate Floor Session.

During Senate Session, I voted in support of the COVID-19 Response bill, a legislative package to support Wisconsin during this challenging time. Immediately after passing this bill, Governor Tony Evers signed the bipartisan bill into law. I’m proud to have voted for this bill; however, I know there’s more work to do to support Wisconsin families, businesses, farmers and medical professionals.

There are a number of measures included in the bill to help Wisconsin residents. The COVID-19 Response bill:

  • Suspends the one-week waiting period for a claimant to receive unemployment insurance benefits, which leverages an additional $9 million from the federal government for Wisconsin workers.
  • Makes changes to the state’s Medicaid regulations so that Wisconsin could be eligible for additional Medicaid funding, amounting to approximately $150 million for the first quarter of the year.
  • Allows Wisconsin Retirement System participants to be re-hired for critical positions during the public health emergency while receiving their annuity.
  • Allows pharmacists to extend certain prescriptions up to a 30-day supply during the pandemic.
  • Requires insurance plans to cover the costs of COVID-19 testing.
  • Prohibits an insurer or self-insured health plan from denying or cancelling health coverage based on a current, past or suspected diagnoses of COVID-19.
  • Prevents surprise medical billing during public health emergencies.

These are important measures. However, there were key parts from Governor Evers’ proposal that were missing from the legislative proposal, introduced by Republicans, that would do more to help Wisconsinites impacted by COVID-19. The Legislature must meet again and vote to:

  • Provide hazard pay or workers compensation for ALL frontline and critical workers who are risking their lives going to work every day.
  • Provide additional support for local governments that are currently on the frontline working with their communities to address their unique situation in this pandemic.
  • Further invest in Wisconsin’ small businesses and farmers who are struggling to make ends meet.
  • Offer additional resources for public health officials and enhance the ability of state and local public health officials in their effort to flatten the curve.
  • Make telehealth more available to patients with disrupted care.
  • Support hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities that are working hard to increase the capacity of our healthcare system.
  • Provide relief for families in need of assistance with basic needs like food security or emergency assistance with housing or utility payments.

During Senate Session, I joined my Democratic colleagues in introducing three amendments to fill gaps where the legislative proposal fell short. One amendment would have included the aforementioned relief proposals to provide greater support to front-line workers, business owners, public health professionals and Wisconsin families. The other amendments would move future elections to a mail-in process, ensure Wisconsin residents can vote safely in future elections, and extend relief efforts to any future declared public emergencies. Ultimately, Republicans rejected all three amendments; therefore they weren’t included in the bill signed into law by Governor Evers.

jeff-smithLast week, Governor Evers also extended the “Safer at Home” plan. This is a challenging time for us all, but the easing of restrictions indicates that it is working and we are moving in the right direction. Getting the economy working again is our focus, but COVID-19 is far too contagious to just lift the Safer at Home Order – we must do it gradually to limit the strain on our economy and health care system.

I want to thank the front-line workers, medical professionals and all the people helping our communities during this crisis. Thank you for doing your part by staying home. Our work is not done, not by a long shot. The “Safer at Home” plan is working to keep more Wisconsinites safe. As long as we follow social distancing practices, we’re doing what we can to save lives. Keep it up.

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Wisconsin’s Response to Coronavirus

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, 15 April 2020
in Wisconsin

tony-evers-talks-2uSince declaring a public health emergency for the state, Governor Tony Evers has introduced two COVID-19 relief packages and issued numerous emergency orders to slow the spread of COVID-19.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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. Keeping in mind how much pressure the Governor has been under both personally and politically, it seems we ought to commend him for his steadfast leadership and resolve. Governor Evers understands the serious responsibility in issuing the “Safer at Home” order – he understands these measures will protect Wisconsinites, but they’re not helping win friends or votes. These difficult decisions must be made knowing that.

So let’s walk through some steps Governor Evers has taken so far.

March 12 – Governor Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin. As a result, he issued 23 emergency orders, which are intended to streamline responses from state agencies during the public health emergency to help Wisconsinites.

March 21 – Governor Evers shared a COVID-19 policy package with legislative leaders to provide immediate and long-term relief to Wisconsin residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal includes measures to support local public health agencies; expand telehealth coverage; prohibit surprise medical billing and cover the cost of testing and treatment related to COVID-19; reform election laws; repeal the one week waiting period to receive Unemployment benefits; help essential workers cover childcare costs; and more.

coronavirus-ppeMarch 21 – On behalf of Governor Evers’ request, the Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gowns, gloves and face shields. On March 31, Wisconsin received PPE from the Strategic National Stockpile for healthcare workers.

March 26 – Governor Evers launched the PPE Buy-back Program to encourage businesses and organizations to sell PPE to the state in a continued effort to collect more supplies for healthcare workers.

March 24 – Governor Evers issued the “Safer at Home” order in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

March 30 – Governor Evers announced a new public-private partnership with Wisconsin businesses to increase COVID-19 testing capacity in the state.

March 31 – Governor Evers requested a major disaster declaration for Wisconsin. This would help all 72 counties and the state’s federally recognized tribes receive additional resources in response to COVID-19, including Direct and Public Assistance, Hazard Mitigation, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program. Wisconsin was later granted this federal disaster declaration on April 4.

April 1 – Governor Evers introduced a second legislative package. This proposal included additional measures for Wisconsin residents during this difficult time, such as support for small businesses and workers; aid for emergency food banks; broadband expansion efforts; vaccination coverage to SeniorCare members; utility assistance for families; and more.

April 3 – Governor Evers signed Executive Order #73, calling for a special session to take up changes to the spring election to be held on Saturday, April 4. The next day, Republican leaders gaveled in and out within minutes, rejecting changes be made to protect voters and election workers.

April 6 – One day before the spring election, Governor Evers signed Executive Order #74 to suspend in-person voting for the April 7th Election until June 2020. He called on the Legislature to meet in Special Session to address the election date; however, Republican leaders chose not to meet. Later that day, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the April 7 election to go on, as planned, against the guidance of health experts.

jeff-smithTake note of what is missing throughout this process: any action from the Republican-led Legislature. Republicans still haven’t taken action on Governor Evers’ COVID-19 relief proposals, introduced more than 3 weeks ago. While Republican leaders have marked Governor Evers as the “bad cop” they’ve sat on their hands throughout the first month, doing nothing to help Wisconsin during this crisis. Ironic, since they went to so much trouble to take power out of the Governor’s hands during the 2018 Lame Duck Session so they could be the decision makers.

So far the Republican leaders only know how to stand in the way and criticize Governor Evers’ swift response. That is not leadership. I hope by the time you read this, Republicans will have finally joined Governor Evers in making Wisconsin safer.

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My thoughts on the Wisconsin election results

Posted by Tammy Baldwin, Senator from Wisconsin
Tammy Baldwin, Senator from Wisconsin
In 2012, Tammy was elected to the U.S. Senate defeating former Wisconsin Governo
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on Tuesday, 14 April 2020
in Wisconsin

tammy-baldwinThe Wisconsin GOP tried to steal an election, but last night, we found out they lost. Please sign my petition demanding universal vote-by-mail be included in the next coronavirus relief bill.


WASHINGTON, DC - Last week, the Wisconsin GOP tried to steal a seat on the state’s Supreme Court by refusing to move our election or provide safe voting options during this unprecedented pandemic.

Last night, we found out they lost.

vote-47-mbNo one should have been forced to choose between their safety and their right to vote — and far too many Wisconsinites were unable to participate in this election. It was a disgraceful act of voter suppression on the part of Republicans.

jill_karofskyEven in the face of these unprecedented circumstances, Judge Jill Karofsky won a well-deserved seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I have no doubt she will work to make sure everyone can participate in our elections moving forward. But we must join her in that fight.

Republicans will continue their dangerous voter suppression tactics unless we act, and the best way for us to stop them is to demand universal vote-by-mail.

That’s why I’m asking you to sign my petition demanding universal vote-by-mail be included in the next coronavirus relief bill to avoid this sort of disaster from happening again. We must do better in November.

Thank you to the Wisconsinites who showed their resiliency in last week’s election. We won’t forget you.

Stay safe and healthy.

— Tammy

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Why My Radicalness Is Getting More Radical

Posted by Tom Crofton, Richland Center WI
Tom Crofton, Richland Center WI
Tom Crofton’s a social activist, long time progressive Democrat, former 3 term R
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on Tuesday, 14 April 2020
in Wisconsin

executive-pockets-moneyWe cannot fix a broken system with broken tools, bad bosses, inferior materials, co-opted workers and corrupt corporate leaders and federal politicians says Richland Center progressive. We need to think bigger.


RICHLAND CENTER, WI - Setting aside the pain and suffering of the infected for a moment, this pandemic is pulling back the curtain on the fragility, corruption and venality of the economic/political system of Trump’s “greatest country on earth.”

Trump says yah, sure, some of those commies and socialists had better resources and quicker responses - So What? We have better bombers!

We have planes that work half the time and Congress wants to buy more of them! Over 120 Dems and Republicans urge the military buy 24% more F35 fighters than it requested. $80 million each in the midst of the virus crisis! F-35 cost $1 Trillion to develop so far, fly only half the time the rest being sidelined with mechanical problems.

trump-lashesYet America’s leaders have known about the coronavirus for 5 months and they cannot figure out how to make enough $25,000 ventilators for our hospitals!

The fact that the biggest, most capitalized corporations go broke shortly after a natural disaster implies they’ll go bankrupt again after the next disaster. The feds prop them up, instead of allowing those corporations to fail as Trump’s dogma requires weak actors to fail. The failure of this “competitive market economy” proves for everyone to see, that we are living a lie.

The very core of our mythology is that when times get tough we hunker down, or pick up stakes and find a new place, grabbing our bootstraps and jumping into the next opportunity to prosper.

Ha Ha - Not the CEOs. They demand bailouts to maintain stock portfolios. They demand government’s stockpiles of ventilators released to RESELL to hospitals at a profit. That's how it's supposed to work say the kleptomaniacs! “How can we trickle down anything to you little people, if the feds don’t pour the gravy on the top for us important people?”

We know all those lies.

The current crisis really exposes the inability of the “liberal party”, and its supporters, to understand their culpability, or their inability, to find an off-ramp from our trajectory into the abyss down the road.

Shame! The solutions are all around us. We learned from the very beginning that competition is good, cheating is bad, winning is no more important than playing a good game, communities do things together for the common good. If people are hungry you divide the loaves and multiply the fish.

That’s all naive to the CEOs - they advocate monopoly, cheat daily, peddle winning is everything and the heck with communities.

We’re told be “Pragmatic,” accept what is, and work to change it by electing people who want to buy more bombers!

Baloney! We need Medicare for All! Costs half as much as insurance, works better, encourages health over letting problems fester, and covers everyone.

We need renewable energy! America has 250,000 solar installer jobs paying family wages of $40,000 to $70,000 per year and many are union jobs with benefits! They’re healthier jobs, improving air quality, offering sustainable solutions to our energy requirements - versus 50,000 coal miners nationwide, having black lung, who’ve lost their unions, have a hard time getting paid, and their product is wrecking the Eco-system.

If there ever has been a moment in our lifetimes, when we must aspire for great change – it is now.

We cannot fix a broken system with broken tools, bad bosses, inferior materials, co-opted workers and corrupt corporate leaders and federal politicians.

To survive, we all need to think bigger and more radically or our grandkids are going to be in that abyss down the road!

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Wis Democracy Campaign - Outraged about April 7

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
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on Saturday, 11 April 2020
in Wisconsin

vote-47-mb1Well known progressive commentator Matt Rothschild on this week's election.


MADISON - I’ve never been so mad in my life!

The insistence by Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald, aided by the rigged Wisconsin Supreme Court and the reactionary U.S. Supreme Court, to go forward with the election on April 7 in the midst of this pandemic was the most despicable thing I’ve ever witnessed in politics.

Here’s what I wrote about it:

Shame! Wisconsin GOP Scrapes Bottom of the Barrel

Now that I’ve told you how I really feel, please let me share another article we posted on the outside spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race:

Special Interest Group Spending at $4.4M in Supreme Court Race

And here’s the astonishing amount that Marsy’s Law in Wisconsin spent on the constitutional amendment about victim’s rights, which we opposed:

Group Behind Marsy’s Law Referendum Spent $3.3M+ On Media

As you’ve probably already heard, we had to cancel our 25th anniversary celebration that we were going to hold on April 29, which is a drag because we had some good panels and speakers lined up.

Our next Big Money Bulletin is due out soon after election results are announced next week. All members will be receiving a ballot to elect our board of directors. So please watch for that in the mail.

matt-rothschildAnd if you like what we’ve been doing, please send us a tax-deductible gift by clicking here: https://www.wisdc.org/get-involved/donate.

Thanks for your support.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
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LWV of Wisconsin Outlines April 7 Spring Election Issues

Posted by League of Women Voters WI, Debra Cronmiller
League of Women Voters WI, Debra Cronmiller
League of Women Voters WI, Debra Cronmiller has not set their biography yet
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on Thursday, 09 April 2020
in Wisconsin

gb-vote-47-linesVoters experienced difficulty requesting and receiving absentee ballots, poll worker shortages resulted in long wait times, mixed messages left persons quarantining at home confused on how to vote, and many other discrepancies.


WISCONSIN - Following Tuesday’s Spring election, in which hundreds of thousands of voters experienced ballot shortages, long lines, confusion, and the choice between their health and their constitutional right to vote, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Executive Director Debra Cronmiller issued the following statement:

“As we wait for ballots to be processed and tallied from yesterday’s election, we take stock of this spring election season and all that Wisconsin voters have been through these past weeks. It’s no secret that this election has been plagued with serious—and even dangerous—issues.

robin-vos-is-safe-to-vote“Voters experienced difficulty requesting and receiving absentee ballots, poll worker shortages resulted in long wait times to cast in-person votes despite guidance by WEC to minimize one’s time in the polling place, irregular application of curbside voting practices, mixed messages to persons quarantining at home for their safety regarding how to vote, and many other discrepancies. State election officials’ response to the global pandemic effectively disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters, most acutely people of color, people with disabilities, elderly people, students, and people who are transient.

“This is not how democracy is supposed to work. Our system depends on ensured, unabridged access to the ballot, but that is far from the treatment that Wisconsin voters experienced yesterday. In this unprecedented time of pandemic, the advice to voters to use the absentee ballot option was critically important to minimize the demand for in-person polling sites.

“Over two weeks ago, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin called on the Wisconsin Election Commission to provide every registered voter with an absentee ballot, including the pre-paid return envelope. Throughout the weeks leading up to the election, we continually asked for clarity around the rules for things like the witness signature certification process and the ability to count the unprecedented number of absentee ballots. We asked that additional time be granted to hold the in-person election to ensure that the largest number of people possible could vote via mailed ballot during this public health emergency. Still, voters were not provided the tools they needed so they could cast their ballots safely and confidently. Too many were driven to show up in person at the polls, despite public health recommendations against gathering in large groups.

“It was either show up and risk your health or lose your right to vote. That is the burden that our state’s leaders put on us as constituents. This is unconscionable—a violation of voters’ constitutional rights and the simple humanity that binds us all.

“Wisconsin has more elections in the coming months. Our leaders cannot fail voters like this again. We must begin preparing now so that every voter can safely cast their ballot. We implore our leaders to do better.”

###

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is a grassroots, nonpartisan political organization that advocates for informed and active participation in government. There are 20 local Leagues in Wisconsin. More information at lwvwi.org.

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Pandemic Paycheck Protection

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, 08 April 2020
in Wisconsin

small-business-owners-mfSen. Smith writes about state and federal government resources available to support small business owners and Wisconsin workers during this public health crisis and includes links to them and additional information on COVID-19 relief for readers.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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. On March 27th, the federal government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide immediate and long-term relief for Americans. At the state level, Governor Evers’ administration is working to ensure every household is able to overcome the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The CARES Act includes $2 trillion in funding, which will be allocated to American taxpayers, public health programming, state and local governments, and other areas to provide economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, the CARES Act directs approximately $377 billion to support small business owners.

There’s a lot to learn about the CARES Act and the programs available to support American workers and business owners during this challenging time.

One of the most well-known pieces of the CARES Act includes direct payments back to taxpayers. Most individuals with a gross income of up to $75,000 will receive $1,200. The direct payment amount is reduced for individuals making more than $75,000. The Internal Revenue Service announced that these direct payments will begin in the next couple of weeks and will be distributed automatically, for most people.

The CARES Act also expands Unemployment benefits, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to provide additional relief to individuals. According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), PUE will likely help many people, including people who typically don't qualify for unemployment benefits or self-employed people. This program may provide an additional $600 per week to individuals receiving unemployment benefits.

The CARES Act includes several relief measures administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that will have a major impact on small businesses.

electrical-workersFirst, the Paycheck Protection Program is a loan for small businesses with less than 500 employees, to encourage employers to retain their workforce and apply the loan towards payroll, rent, mortgage or utilities. The application period for small businesses and sole proprietors began April 3rd; independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply beginning April 10th. There are funding caps, so don’t hesitate – apply quickly.

Second, the SBA oversees the Small Business Debt Relief Program, another tool available to provide further financial assistance for small businesses.

Third, the SBA manages the Economic Injury Disaster Loans Program (EIDL), which can provide small businesses loans of up to $2 million “to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing, according to the SBA.

These are all great programs administered by the federal government; but, the state also has a role to play to support small businesses and Wisconsin’s workforce. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) established the Small Business 20/20 Program to award grants to businesses up to $20 thousand through community development financial institutions.

For more information on the aforementioned small business resources, please visit the SBA website at SBA.gov and the WEDC website at WEDC.org.

During this crisis, there’s more we must do. Governor Evers is limited in what he can do, alone – the legislature must do its part to help. Governor Evers has asked the legislature to act on a number of measures to support families, including the proposal to remove the one week waiting period for individuals to receive Unemployment Insurance benefits.

jeff-smithThere’s been an unprecedented number of unemployment claims in the past couple of weeks. Just last week, there were 1.5 million calls into the DWD – this represents a 6,000% increase in typical call volume. This shows that Wisconsinites are reaching out for support; therefore, we must pass legislation to repeal the one week waiting period to ensure everyone is covered immediately.

If you need to apply for Unemployment benefits or require assistance, please visit DWD.wisconsin.gov.

I hope, that when you read this the legislature has already repealed the one week waiting period. If not, call your legislator, and ask your friends and family to do the same, and tell Republican leaders to do the right thing for Wisconsinites. This is an all hands on deck situation – we need everyone to step up to support Wisconsin families.

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Group Behind Marsy’s Law Referendum Spent $3.3M+ On Media

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
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on Monday, 06 April 2020
in Wisconsin

marcys-law-ad-wiWisconsin Democracy Campaign's Matt Rothschild gives you the rest of the story behind the proposed amendment to protect victim rights in the constitution.


MADISON - A group behind a proposed amendment to enshrine victim’s rights in the Wisconsin Constitution spent more than $3.3 million on media advertising in the first three months of the year.

Wisconsin residents will vote yeah or nay on the amendment via a referendum in Tuesday’s spring elections.

A campaign finance report filed last week by the group, Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin LLC, showed it spent a total of nearly $3.5 million on its operations since the beginning of the year. The bulk of its spending, $3.33 million, was for TV ads, radio, online advertising, and media consulting. The group’s television ad features television actor Kelsey Grammer.

In addition to the $3.5 million the referendum group spent on media ads, earlier, a lobbying group of the same name doled out $1.6 million between late 2016 through June 2019 to get the referendum passed by two different sessions of the legislature and placed on Tuesday’s ballot.

Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin LLC was funded entirely by Marsy’s Law for All Foundation in Aliso Viejo, Calif. Mary's Law for All was launched by  Henry Nicholas, the billionaire co-founder of Broadcom, whose sister, Marsy, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983 in California.

Across the country, the group has spent about $102 million in the 12 states where Marsy’s law ballot measures were approved between 2008 and 2018, according to Ballotpedia. Nicholas shelled out about $99 million of those contributions.

matt-rothschild-2018The amendment generally duplicates existing victim protections found in state law, but goes further in several areas. If approved by voters, victims would have the right to be heard at court proceedings, to refuse defense attorneys' requests for interviews, depositions or discovery, and to attend all proceedings in their cases.

Supporters of the amendment, which include law enforcement organizations, say it's important to protect victim rights in the constitution and not just in state statutes.

But opponents claim Marsy’s Law is dangerous because it could reduce the rights of accused people before they have been convicted of a crime, and that Wisconsin already protects victim rights in the state’s laws and constitution.

For the record, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign opposed the proposed amendment and testified against it.

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What COVID-19 has revealed

Posted by Mandela Barnes, Lt. Governor
Mandela Barnes, Lt. Governor
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on Saturday, 04 April 2020
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coronavirus-ventilatorLt. Governor Mandela Barnes shares his thoughts on the pandemic.


MADISON - As we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications, I would like to share my thoughts on what this crisis has revealed about our state and nation.

First, this crisis has exposed a glaring inequality that exists in our society. It begs the question: What does it really mean to live in the richest country on earth if we're unable to adequately care for people in need during an emergency?

While wealth continues to concentrate at the very top, working class people are struggling to get by, much less save for an emergency. And until healthcare is a universal right, people will die because of how expensive it can be to live when you're poor and facing a medical crisis.

This is why we must continue the fight for structural change - so that the needs of the many are prioritized above the interests of the few. Let's take this opportunity to reimagine society, our communities, and what quality of life actually means.

President Trump’s absence of leadership and racist rhetoric - referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese-virus" - has hurt our ability to mitigate COVID-19 and unite as a nation.

The best response to a pandemic is prevention, and our failure to act decisively is the result of failed presidential leadership. President Trump's decision to dismantle a National Security Council directorate at the White House in 2018 charged with preparing for when another pandemic would hit the nation - and his cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) budget has seriously hampered our ability to respond to this pandemic.

We must also reject referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese-virus." At a time when we should be setting aside differences and coming together, President Trump seeks to divide. Here in Wisconsin, we have already seen the harmful effects of this racist language: Milwaukee’s own Lucky Lui’s chinese restaurant has announced they will be closed indefinitely after workers received xenophobic and verbal attacks from customers. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate based on race, and neither should we.

Despite everything, Wisconsinites are sacrificing for their fellow neighbor and displaying heartwarming generosity each and every day. Here are just a few examples of ways local businesses are helping out during these difficult times:

  • Central Standard Distillery, based out of Walkers Point in Milwaukee, has pledged to turn their focus to producing free disinfectant and sanitizing products with their supply of distilled alcohol
  • The Machinist Union (IAM) Local 1406, at GE Datex-Ohmeda in Madison, is fighting to produce much needed ventilators
  • Monterey Mills, a Janesville-based textile mill and supplier of fabrics, and Oak Creek-based Eder Flag, have teamed up to take on the demand for respirator masks

Our greatest opportunities exist in our greatest challenges. We are going to come out of this stronger and together.

Thank you for doing everything you can to keep Wisconsin safe and healthy.

-- Mandela

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State Treasurer Provides COVID-19 Updates & Resources

Posted by Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer
Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer
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on Thursday, 02 April 2020
in Wisconsin

utility-shut-offSarah Godlewski outlines emergency orders and actions taken to protect the economic security during this public health crisis. Also resources available through the US Small Business Administration.


MADISON - We know a healthy economy is dependent on the health of its people. As we adapt to the Governor’s essential #SaferAtHome order, my office is working hard to provide the resources and information Wisconsinites and our small business community need.

sarah-godlewskiSince my last email, there have been a number of emergency orders and actions to protect the economic security of individuals and small businesses during this public health crisis. A few notable updates are:

  • Protection from Eviction/Foreclosure. In order to help ensure people are able to stay home and slow the spread of COVID-19, Governor Evers announced a temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures for 60 days. This includes both residential properties, as well as businesses. To read the full document, click here.
  • Insurance for Restaurant Delivery Drivers. As many restaurants are adjusting to carry-out and delivery only, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OCI) directed the insurance industry to cover delivery services on personal auto insurance policies. They must also offer coverage, if requested, for hired drivers and non-owned vehicles on a restaurant’s general liability service – both at no extra cost to policyholders. More information on this order here.
  • Prevention of Utility Shut-offs. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) has directed regulated utilities to stop disconnection for nonpayment for all customers, including commercial, industrial, and farm accounts. They have also halted late fees and eased a number of administrative rules to keep homes and businesses supplied with light, heat, and water. For help with utility disconnections, reach out to the PSC directly here.
  • Sales and Use Tax Extensions. Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) announced that small businesses can immediately request an extension to file sales and use tax returns. This comes along with extending the income tax payment and return due date to July 15th.  DOR has announced a series of steps to ease payment guidelines and postpone audit actions, more information can be found here.

In addition, there have been updates to resources available through the US Small Business Administration (SBA):

  • SBA Express Bridge Loans. This program allows small businesses who have a current relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 with less paperwork. These loans can help small businesses access capital quickly and can be used to bridge the gap while applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan. For a list of Wisconsin SBA Express Lenders, click here.
  • Paycheck Protection Program. This program was rolled out under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and authorizes $349 billion toward job retention loans. They are specifically designed to help small business keep their workforce employed. If you maintain your workforce, the SBA may forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first 8 weeks of payroll and certain other expenses following loan origination.

The most current information on eligibility and the application process for all of SBA’s loans can be found at www.sba.gov/coronavirus.

We know that COVID-19 will continue to impact our lives and our community. We are working with our partners to provide the tools and information Wisconsinites need to help navigate this uncertainty. Please feel free to reach out to my office via email at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with questions.

We are in this together.

Stay safe,

Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin State Treasurer

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Stay Safer at Home

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, 01 April 2020
in Wisconsin

work-from-homeSen. Smith writes about public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including the 'Safer at Home' order, and outlines other steps being taken by Governor Evers to address the short-term and long-term impacts of COVID-19.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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. I’ve heard so many of my friends ask, “What can I do to help?”

The best way to help right now is by staying home. We all have a role to play to slow the spread of COVID-19. Our collective efforts will only make our communities safer and more resilient. As a state, we’ll get through this public health crisis by staying safer at home.

Since Governor Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin on March 13th, his administration has implemented 16 emergency orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while responding to repercussions of the public health crisis. On March 24th, Governor Evers issued the “Safer at Home” order, directing Wisconsinites to stay at home as much as possible, in order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 virus can spread between people who are in close contact to one another or through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes and another person in close proximity inhales, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As stated by the World Health Organization, most individuals infected with COVID-19 experience symptoms similar to the common cold; however COVID-19 can cause severe respiratory illness and may lead to death, especially for older adults or individuals with underlying health conditions.

jeff-smithProtective public health measures and policies, like the “Safer at Home” order are imperative to slow the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, these preventative measures are in place to ensure healthcare providers have the capacity to care for the number of individuals infected with COVID-19 and others that are in-need of emergency medical care.

After having conversations with public health experts, business leaders and local elected officials, Governor Evers understood it was in the state’s best interest to implement the “Safer at Home” order.  The “Safer at Home” order requires individuals to stay home, with limited exceptions, and requires non-essential businesses and operations to cease while the order is effective from March 25th to April 24th. The order is enforceable by local law enforcement and county sheriffs.

The “Safer at Home” order clarifies which businesses and operations are deemed essential, which includes, but is not limited to, farming and agricultural production, food banks and shelters, grocery stores and pharmacies, and manufactory industries. The “Safer at Home” order also provides mandatory guidelines on all forms of travel to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 community spread.

The Department of Health Services encourages Wisconsinites to get fresh air and exercise to stay healthy physically and mentally. You can still go out to walk your dog, visit a state park or go for a bike ride, but you should still maintain social distancing of six feet between others in public. Remember to continue following other public health practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by regularly washing hands with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning high-touch surfaces.

The other emergency orders issued by Governor Evers are intended to address other consequences stemming from COVID-19. During the public health emergency, the orders will help expedite food delivery to grocery stores; extend unemployment insurance eligibility and remove the work search requirement; halt admissions to state prisons and juvenile facilities; suspend utility disconnections and waive late fees; and ban evictions and foreclosures.

Most recently, on Saturday March 28th, Governor Evers introduced a comprehensive legislative proposal to alleviate short-term and long-term challenges connected to COVID-19. I’m hopeful that all of my legislative colleagues can get behind these common-sense initiatives to protect our healthcare workers, help citizens practice their civic duty to vote, support Wisconsin workers and assist our local governments during this pandemic.

Every day, there are new updates about COVID-19. Be sure to stay up-to-date on ways to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and learn about available resources by visiting: govstatus.egov.com/wi-covid-19.

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Senator Jeff Smith Says Take COVID-19 Seriously

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 March 2020
in Wisconsin

door-county-peopleSenator writes about ways we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, self-isolation and other precautionary measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - We must take COVID-19 seriously. On March 13th, showing tremendous leadership, Governor Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin and has since strengthened precautions. Now it’s our turn to do our part by following the guidance from leaders and medical professionals to slow the spread of COVID-19. Undoubtedly, this is a challenging time for us all as we learn to navigate the changes in our daily routine impacted by this global pandemic. It’s our responsibility as neighbors to keep our communities healthy and safe for all.

We have learned so much since we first heard about coronavirus and this particular strain, known as COVID-19. Seven other coronavirus strains exist, including one which leads to the common cold. Some skeptics use this fact as reason to scoff at the precautions taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, COVID-19 is a new strain and there’s still a lot scientists are trying to learn about it. To say that COVID-19 is no more than “a cold on steroids” is like saying a tiger is no more than an overgrown house cat. Yes, they are members of the same species but one is dangerous and vicious while the other is mild and tame.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), the COVID-19 virus is found in droplets from the throat and nose and can be spread when someone coughs or sneezes. DHS also reports that the virus can also spread when someone touches an object with the virus on it; if that person touches their mouth, face, or eyes the virus can make them sick. There are a range of symptoms associated with a COVID-19 infection, but symptoms can include fever, cough or shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 can cause severe respiratory illnesses, pneumonia and death.

In recent weeks, Wisconsin has seen community spread of COVID-19, which means there are people who have tested positive who have no exposure to a known case nor did they travel to a location where there is community spread. Now it’s even more important, while scientists and medical professionals research and provide care, that we all do our part to slow the spread.

jeff-smithI have to admit that in the past, I haven’t taken the strongest precautions for my own health, like I should. Then I realized that the public health precautions against COVID-19 are not only carried out to protect my personal well-being, but also to protect the health and safety of my loved ones. I’m self-isolating at my home to reduce the risk of community spread to vulnerable populations, like my 95-year-old father or others with compromised immune systems.

Sacrifices need to be made. We all need to follow CDC recommendations and practice social distancing and self-isolation. The CDC also recommends these practices to keep us and others around us healthy: wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; stay home when you’re sick; avoid touching your face; cover your cough or sneeze; and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

It’s times like this when the greater good of society is more important than going on with business as usual. Although it hurts that schools, restaurants and bars are shut down while social gatherings are limited to 10 people and we practice social distancing, it is a temporary pain that will slow the spread of COVID-19. We are taking these precautions now to prevent a spike in cases, which would overwhelm our healthcare system. Together, we must practice these measures to protect our family and community and support our hardworking healthcare professionals.

Wisconsin is taking COVID-19 very seriously and we all need to take necessary precautions to keep everyone safe. My next column will have more information about the measures being taken by the Legislature to slow the spread and support families affected by COVID-19.

Every day, there are new updates about COVID-19. Be sure to stay up-to-date on ways to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and learn about ways to cope during this pandemic by visiting: govstatus.egov.com/wi-covid-19.

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COVID-19 resources for Wisconsinites

Posted by Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer
Sarah Godlewski, State Treasurer
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on Tuesday, 24 March 2020
in Wisconsin

coronavirus-hand-sanState Treasurer offers helpful information in dealing with the crisis.


MADISON - I know we are facing trying times. COVID-19 is impacting not only the health of our loved ones but people’s livelihood. Yet despite it all, the people of Wisconsin continue to amaze me with their acts of kindness and generosity to those around them.

We are grateful to the health care professionals, the public safety officers, the day care providers and everyone else who are making sacrifices to help others. I know that together, we can make it through this.

sarah-godlewskiI’ve heard from a number of small business leaders from across the state who have shared their personal stories of having to shut down or lay off workers. I’m working with key government partners to provide support for our state businesses and have shared a few of those resources available below.

Beyond businesses, I also want to share some community resources for those in need.

I understand these resources will not help everyone, but they are an important start. I will continue to work to provide additional resources and information for workers and businesses who are navigating this time of uncertainty.

Food Security

  • Stores across the state are starting Senior Shopping Hours, so that those most at risk can shop safely.
  • Hunger Task Force is offering Stock Boxes, featuring cereal, milk, canned veggies and fruits, pasta or rice, protein, fruit juice, canned meats and 2 pounds of cheese, to low income Wisconsinites. If you want to help, donate here.


Resources for Small Businesses

  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is creating solutions for businesses. WEDC is working to provide $5 million in grants for small businesses of fewer than twenty people. Learn more about it here.
  • The Small Business Administration has approved Governor Evers’ request for loans for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Apply here.


Mental Health

  • If you are struggling with mental health, support is available. Call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746


Childcare and Resources for Students

  • The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has information for child care, including requests for assistance.


Volunteer Opportunities

  • No matter where you live in Wisconsin, there are opportunities for people looking to help out. Check out Volunteer Wisconsin for ways to support your community.


I was living near the Pentagon on 9/11. I remember in those hours and days after, that I didn’t know how we would possibly recover as a nation. But then I saw neighbors and friends giving blood, volunteering and helping each other get by, one day at a time.

This pandemic is unlike any crisis we have ever faced as a nation, but I know that, if we follow the safety precautions and continue to work together, we will be successful.

-Sarah

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Vote NO on Marsy’s Law

Posted by Fred Risser, State Senator District 26
Fred Risser, State Senator District 26
Fred Risser, State Senator District 26 has not set their biography yet
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on Friday, 20 March 2020
in Wisconsin

marcys-law-ad-wiQuestion on Apr 7 ballot, innocuously seeking expansion of crime victims’ rights, masks an amendment twice as long as the Bill of Rights that will alter protections at the foundation of our criminal justice system, says Senator Fred Risser.


MADISON - Wisconsin’s April ballot contains a so called victims’ rights question that merits a resounding “NO” answer.

The question, innocuously seeking expansion of crime victims’ rights, masks an amendment twice as long as the Bill of Rights that will alter protections at the foundation of our criminal justice system.

Don’t let the question’s statement that the amendment leaves federal rights intact fool you. The proposed amendment will eliminate rights under the state constitution and statutes.

If passed, the amendment would diminish the rights of those accused of crime and chip away at the presumption of innocence. “Victims” are determined prior to any crime even being proved. Those alleged victims could be allowed to withhold evidence that may prove a defendant’s innocence, which could encourage and protect false accusers. Alleged victims could demand attendance at proceedings even when fairness to the defendant requires separation of witnesses. Alleged victims may interfere with the role of the public prosecutor with unlimited conferences and input.

fred-risserIf passed, the amendment could hinder crime-solving and reduce public safety. Under the amendment, an alleged victim may claim a right to privacy that prevents police from disclosing the location of a crime or particular facts that could generate public tips leading to the perpetrators.

If passed, the amendment’s notice provisions will likely increase court administrative costs and delay court proceedings. Courts will need to track down potential victims, provide them with notice, and probably halt proceedings (even trials) if an alleged victim enforces the right to attend but the schedule doesn’t work for him or her. In South Dakota, a similar amendment swamped court staff with paperwork and delayed proceedings.

Not only is this drastic amendment unwise, but it is completely unnecessary in Wisconsin. The language is not tailored to our state. Our state constitution and statutes already provide numerous victims’ rights, including the right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect for privacy.

While helping victims is laudable, this amendment is not the way to do it. Victims are better served by provision of additional resources for victims than by altering the balance between an accused and the state.

Fred Risser, State Senator
MADISON

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Fellow Seniors - How is America treating your grandkids?

Posted by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, formerly of Stoughton, WI now of Tucson, is a long time progressive
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on Thursday, 19 March 2020
in Wisconsin

student-on-sidewalkLong time progressive activist supports Sen. Bernie Sanders.


TUCSON, AZ - Seniors pay attention to politics and we VOTE. Our votes count heavily. There will be many close races this year.

We’re old and have survived wars, recessions, layoffs, strikes, good times and bad, poor health and deaths of family and friends. We’ve worked with many people and judge good character a bit better than when we were teens.

Our present president has a character problem. Leading government and foreign affairs is very complex. It’s critical to our grandchildren’s’ future to have leaders we can trust - not people who lead us into being killed or trapped.

We seniors know when we’re in trouble.

Because of past failures, we face climate disaster, nuclear war disaster, run-a-way greed and corruption that has led to the greatest wealth inequality in decades and the disaster of ”forever wars” costing trillions and killing millions. When we find 1% of the people controlling twice the wealth of the next 6.9 billion people, we know we’re in trouble and ripe for civil wars.

We seniors are dumping all these disasters on our kids. Corporations, our economy and federal and state governments have created an educational and work world for our kids and grandkids that results in LESS economic security than our parents left us. People can educate themselves, work hard all their lives, play by the rules and still end up in retirement barely living above poverty.

With inflation factored in, the average annual wage for workers has NOT improved much since the 1970’s. Jobs have gone from offering health care and pensions to NOT offering pensions and forcing workers to pay thousands for healthcare – if they get healthcare.

Many have no sick leave so they cannot properly care for ill children.

Many of our parents were in unions and nearly 30% of us were unionists. But unions are now busted. Only 8% of private sector workers are in good paying, union jobs with benefits and pensions.

How can we get out of this fix? Senators Warren and Sanders advocate strong structural “change” in America. Biden fears change’s impacts on special interests.

It’s like America is on the ship Titanic.

The watchman seeing icebergs yells, “Danger Ahead!” The Titanic captain is steering toward that iceberg knowing the Titanic will never sink. Biden says calmly to passengers, with the orchestra playing in the background, “Trust me - just a few policy tweaks, we’ll be OK!” Sanders is racing to the Captain yelling, “Change course Now – damn it!”

Meanwhile Trump is handling your grandkids’ futures between golf games saying, “All that crisis talk is fake news.”

We must vote to build a better world for our grandkids.

If we Don’t change our ways, the America we know Won’t be there for our grandkids.

Until we stop polluting our atmosphere, rising oceans, flooding rivers, violent storms, droughts, fires, high winds, super high temperatures, heavy snows will get worse killing the planet for human habitation.

Scientists tell us nuclear war will create a “nuclear winter” with clouds blocking sunlight prohibiting most crop growth for years - starving hundreds of millions who have lived through the nuclear blasts and months of worldwide fires and radiation.

These existential threats, will destroy our way of life, democracy and earth.

Syrian woman and child

Seniors, the world’s children deserve a chance to live life. They must not pay for our failures with their deaths.

We must vote for massive, progressive change to pull America back from the brink looming disaster.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is the one who provides us with the best plans to solve our problems.

Vote Sanders to give little kids a fighting chance!

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Emergency Preparedness to Build Resilient Communities

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 March 2020
in Wisconsin

flood-wi-fieldSen. Smith talks about the importance of emergency preparedness to protect communities from natural disasters or public health emergencies, specifically, the Flood Prevention & Resilience Plan targeted toward flood prevention and relief.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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.

Flooding in western Wisconsin has tested our communities’ responses to emergencies. Public health emergencies and flooding are dramatically different emergencies, but both require us to work together to keep our communities healthy and safe.

We’ve seen political leaders show up for photo opportunities when something dramatic happens, especially after a natural disaster. It’s not bad when leaders show up; it’s important they see firsthand what happened and be an advocate, but there’s more to do.  We need to know how we can prevent disasters in the future and how to support those affected by these events.

jeff-smithThat’s why, just last week, I joined Governor Tony Evers for a visit to the Town of Dodge and the City of Arcadia. Last year, Governor Evers made the same visit when both places were flooded in Trempealeau County. Flooding has become an annual occurrence in these places. What we once called 100-year floods are now considered normal.

Flooding has not occurred yet this season and this was no photo opportunity with any press in Dodge. This visit occurred because Governor Evers hasn’t forgotten last year’s floods. Rather than wait until the next flood happens, the Governor and I want to continue the conversations we had last year with local government officials and introduce planning measures to address conditions that make flooding more frequent and severe in western Wisconsin.

Between 1950 and 2006, communities in every region of Wisconsin, have experienced an increase of average annual rainfall by more than 7 inches, according to the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. The increase in rainfall, along with destruction of our wetlands and failing infrastructure, directly correlate to the escalating frequency of floods in Wisconsin. Together, these factors threaten our community’s public safety, health and economic security.

In the meetings, residents and local officials voiced concerns that flood prevention measures cost too much. Local town, city and county budgets are already stretched and cannot handle the expensive fixes needed to protect residents from flooding. That’s where the state needs to step up to the plate.

After the tour of Trempealeau County, Governor Evers, myself and several of my legislative colleagues introduced the Flood Prevention & Resilience Plan, a package of 6 bills directly targeted toward flood prevention and relief. This package of bills will:

·         Invest $10 million into the Municipal Flood Control grant program to help municipalities fund flood prevention projects, including flood proofing, riparian restoration, acquisition of vacant land, construction of flood control structures and flood mapping projects.

·         Create a flood mitigation program to proactively address infrastructure that is identified as at-risk and provide local units of government with grant reimbursements to cover 50% of the cost of modifying, replacing, or relocating culverts or bridges.

·         Increase funding for the Soil and Water Resource Management grant program to promote the installation of structural pollution-abatement and conservation practices.

·         Require all emergency work, designated by Federal Emergency Management Agency, be eligible for disaster assistance payments, including debris removal, protective measures for roads and bridges, water control facilities, utilities, and parks. Legislation will also reduce the amount recipients of disaster assistance payments are required to make.

·         Allow individuals to deduct amounts of premiums paid for flood insurance from their taxes.

·         Incentivize local governments to rebuild infrastructure at a higher capacity to withstand flooding by increasing the reimbursement rate paid to local governments.

These flood prevention investments will help local governments rebuild and prepare when the next flood emergency happens. I’m impressed by Governor Evers’ commitment to take proactive steps to help communities susceptible to flooding. Governor Evers didn’t show up for a photo opportunity in a disaster area. He came back when the cameras weren’t rolling to talk with people about how to make their lives better and communities stronger.

Now, it’s up to the Legislature to move forward on these proposals. In the meantime, remember to do everything you can to prepare yourself by getting flood insurance and staying educated by visiting FloodSmart.gov.

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Logic behind Healthcare

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, 11 March 2020
in Wisconsin

medicaid_checkupOver the past thirty years, Wisconsin has fallen 16 spots in national healthcare outcomes to 23rd. It’s beyond time to give Wisconsinites the care they deserve by expanding Medicaid.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - 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 – and no, I’m not only talking about keeping our communities safe by preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Throughout my conversations with caregivers, nurses, health professionals and researchers, we identified prominent issues affecting the state of public health in Wisconsin. While discussing issues, from surprise medical bills to the nursing shortage to the opioid epidemic, I started to think about how we’re all connected to these issues in one way or another.

Although we may not be directly impacted by these health challenges in our personal lives, they affect our community in significant ways. Collectively, our state has a role to play for addressing public health challenges and making our communities healthier for all. Our capacity to empathize with others has the ability to save lives.

medicaid-coverage-wiscLast week, I attended the UW Robert La Follette School of Public Affairs Health Policy Forum. The forum highlighted public health challenges facing Wisconsin including the long-term care workforce shortage, patient protections and housing affordability. I had the opportunity to participate as a panelist with three rural health experts to discuss strategies that can help solve the unique healthcare struggles facing rural Wisconsin.

The real value of the panel was listening to the health professionals who live within the communities they serve. Being around incredibly smart people in the medical field could be intimidating, but I found their concerns and potential solutions were similar to what I’ve heard from residents of rural western Wisconsin.

For example, we agreed Wisconsin must join other neighboring states by investing in broadband expansion to advance access to rural clinics and health professionals. This idea is also something I’ve heard many times from residents of western Wisconsin. Broadband expansion has been a boon to our neighboring states’ rural communities in sustaining a strong economy and improving telehealth availability for the elderly or patients who may face difficulties in traveling. It only makes sense.

jeff-smithAfter the panel, I met a physician with years of experience in improving healthcare delivery, continuing his mission to help health systems provide the best care to their patients. During our conversation, he reminded me about Wisconsin’s significant drop in healthcare outcomes. According to the 2019 United Health Foundation’s Annual Report, Wisconsin ranked 7th nationally for healthcare outcomes in 1990. In 2019, we’ve fallen 16 spots to 23rd. By comparison, Minnesota only dropped from 2nd to 7th and Illinois increased their rank from 24th to 29th in the same time period. Republicans have not found the political will to expand Medicaid, while neighboring states have, it’s not a coincidence this has been the result.

We have a responsibility to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin. For each month that Republicans refuse to act, Wisconsin wastes approximately $13 million in state funding to pay for other states’ Medicaid programs. Over the next two years, Wisconsin would save $320 million, while lowering premiums for private insurance holders by 7 to 11 percent.

I’ve noticed lawmakers or individuals in positions of power don’t take action unless they are directly or severely affected. During the public health forum, many healthcare professionals pointed out, more than once, that Wisconsin has a serious opioid addiction problem.

The opioid epidemic, affecting individuals, families and communities across the country, is not new to Wisconsin, but it has become considerably worse in recent years. It wasn’t until legislators personally knew someone or knew a family affected by the opioid epidemic that action was taken. We should never wish such pain on any family, but we ought to develop empathy for others and collaborate to address public health challenges, before we may have to experience it for ourselves.

Let’s think ahead and think about others. We should use our empathy for decision making so we can find our way out of this black hole of inaction. It’s lifesaving.

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