Tuesday January 18, 2022

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Protect Wisconsin from PFAS

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, 12 January 2022
in Wisconsin

pfas-contamination-testSen. Smith writes about how chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are impacting our groundwater. We know that testing is essential to identify PFAS contamination, understand the extent of the issue and act to limit exposure to these harmful chemicals.


BRUNSWICK, WI - Protecting the quality of food we eat, air we breathe and water we drink should be a top priority. It’s what we need to survive.

We’ve seen over time that inadvertent mistakes have been made that threaten access to these essential resources. In some cases, corporate greed poses short-term profits for some and long-term health impacts for all. Without the proper research and intervention, we can face serious consequences for decades–and generations–to come.

Sometimes neither business nor government leaders are aware of environmental dangers for years until patterns of illness or death appear. An example I often reflect on is the near extinction of the American bald eagle. For decades, environmentalists were puzzled at the eagle populations’ rapid decline. Then researchers discovered the correlation between the widely-used chemical DDT as a mosquito pesticide and eagles’ endangerment.

At the peak of the problem it was rare to even spot an eagle; I know, because I was a child when this was happening and got excited any time I saw one of these majestic birds flying overhead. Since Congress banned DDT in 1972, the resurgence of the eagle is one of the most amazing environmental success stories of the last several decades.

This is what’s currently happening with Wisconsin’s groundwater because of chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). PFAS are also referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down naturally in the environment and can stay in one’s body for long periods of time. These chemicals produced in laboratories are used in products like food wrap, stain resistant carpeting, non-stick pans and water repellant clothing. PFAS are dangerous because they’re in so many products and they’re hazardous to humans, having been linked to certain cancers, liver damage, decrease in vaccine efficacy and more.

One product specifically highlights the widespread threat of PFAS: firefighting foam. As effective as the foam is in controlling a fire, it was found to be just as effective at contaminating our groundwater. After a fire incident, the foam was just washed off a road or airport runway entering into the ground. Eventually it was bound to end up in the groundwater. With approximately 97% of Wisconsin communities (equaling 70% of the state’s population) dependent on groundwater for their water supply, this really is an alarming situation that we cannot ignore. It won’t go away on its own.

Groundwater testing is essential to identify PFAS contamination, understand the extent of the issue and act to limit exposure to these harmful chemicals. Some communities have tested and found their wells to be contaminated; they’ve started taking action.

jeff-smithI had the opportunity to tour the wells in the City of Eau Claire where they found PFAS in seven of their sixteen wells last year. They knew they couldn’t wait for politicians in Madison to fix the problem, so they implemented an impressive solution on their own. Eau Claire acted quickly and efficiently, but it will take serious action at the state and national level for the risk of PFAS to dissipate.

The federal government does not set groundwater standards—this happens at the state level. Wisconsin has fallen behind our neighbors in Minnesota and Michigan; they have already begun widespread testing. In 1983, Wisconsin led the nation in groundwater protection by passing the Comprehensive Groundwater Protection Act, which remains widely supported to this day. Since then it has been used to set groundwater standards for 138 chemicals in Wisconsin—but PFAS isn’t one of them.

Just last week, the Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing about proposed rules to implement groundwater standards for PFAS. Since declaring 2019 the “Year of Clean Drinking Water,” Governor Evers’ Administration has been hard at work to ensure Wisconsinites have safe, clean drinking water now and forever. Although the public hearing passed, continue to pay attention and advocate for stronger water protections. It’s up to us to ensure our children can live in a state where they don’t simply survive, but thrive.

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Wisconsin’s January 6 Collaborators

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, 07 January 2022
in Wisconsin

andre-jacqueMatt Rothschild of the Democracy Campaign exposes Republican activists and elected officials who schemed to subvert the Electoral College vote or who have continued to perpetuate the Big Lie.


MADISON - Here in Wisconsin, we’ve had our own collaborators in the Jan. 6 coup attempt by far right Trumpites.

I’m not even referring to the six Wisconsinites who were charged with crimes in the U.S. Capitol that day.

matt-rothschild-2018I’m referring, instead, to Republican activists and elected officials who schemed to subvert the Electoral College vote or who have continued to perpetuate the Big Lie and thereby sabotage the people’s faith in our elections to this day.

First, in December of 2020, a group of 10 Republicans took it upon themselves to “certify” that Trump had won the election here and they pretended to be Wisconsin’s electors to the Electoral College. Here is the list of these false and fraudulent “electors”: Carol Brunner, Mary Buestrin, Darryl Carson, Bill Feehan, Scott Grabins, Andrew Hitt, Kathy Kiernen, Kelly Ruh, Robert Spindell, and Pam Travis. (One of these, Robert Spindell, is actually on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which received a legal complaint last February from Law Forward to investigate all of these false electors, including Spindell.)

Then on Jan. 5, 2021, of all days, 15 Republican state legislators from Wisconsin (along with Republican legislators from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) signed a letter to Vice President Pence urging him to delay the counting of electoral votes for at least 10 days and allow the legislatures in these state time to decertify the electors who were sent to the Electoral College and to certify their own slates. (This was part of the plot that the Eastman memo had outlined for Trump.)

The Wisconsin legislators who signed this letter were:

Sen. André Jacque (R-DePere) and Reps. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger), Robert Brooks (R-Saukville), Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser), Dave Murphy (R-Greenville), Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz) Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Berlin), Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), Tim Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers), Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego). (Note that Rep. Brandtjen is the chair of the Assembly Committee on Elections, where she has been holding one biased hearing after another to air her conspiracy theories.)

None of these elected officials, nor any of the false electors, has had to account for their disgraceful role in this sinister plot.

Since Jan. 6, 2021, we’ve continued to see denialism about Biden’s legitimacy (Rep. Ramthun introduced a resolution in November to retroactively decertify Wisconsin’s electors to the Electoral College), denialism about the subversion on Jan. 6 (see Ron Johnson), the introduction of anti-voter bills, and an all-out assault on the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Here are the goals of these anti-American efforts.

First, to keep feeding rancid red meat to the enraged Trumpite base so they will turn out in huge numbers in 2022 and 2024.

Second, to enact laws that will make it harder for people to vote, especially people who lean Democratic.

And third, to sully the reputation of the Wisconsin Elections Commission so badly that partisan Republican officials in the Legislature can destroy it and hand over the administration – and more dangerous still, the certification – of our elections to the Legislature itself or to a particular partisan official the Legislature appoints. In this way, Republican partisans could overturn the will of the people and decide, by fiat, who won the election, regardless of the actual vote count.

That’s what the Gableman fishing expedition is all about.

That’s what the wild accusations from the sheriff of Racine County, Christopher Schmaling (who was the featured speaker at a Women for Trump rally during the 2020 campaign here), are all about. Schmaling got into the act by saying that five of the six commissioners of the Wisconsin Elections Commission should be prosecuted for sending absentee ballots to people in nursing homes when Special Voting Deputies weren’t able to get in there.

This constant drumbeat of propaganda, amplified on rightwing talk radio, has infected much of the Republican Party, with 64% of Republicans in Wisconsin doubting the validity of last November’s election, according to a Marquette Law School poll late last year.

Many Republican officials, with the notable exception of Sen. Kathy Bernier, have been afraid to speak up and tell the truth, for fear that their base – or their party leaders – will punish them for it.

So they’ve created a monster here, and the monster is out of control, and it’s threatening to gobble up the Wisconsin Elections Commission and trample all over our precious ideal of fair elections in Wisconsin.

This is the legacy of Jan. 6 in Wisconsin. And it’s not pretty.

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Wis Republican Floats Way to Nullify Elections

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 Wednesday, 05 January 2022
in Wisconsin

trump-jan6-attackDemocracy Campaign's Matt Rothschild comments on the current anti-democracy madness in Wisconsin.


MADISON - In the waning hours of 2021, a Republican legislator in Wisconsin named Timothy Ramthun wasn’t chilling champagne or relaxing with his family.

No, he was still scheming to subvert our democracy.

Ramthun, who in November introduced a resolution to rescind Wisconsin’s Electoral Colleges votes that were certified on Jan. 6, introduced a bill on Dec. 30 that would permit the nullification of an election and the mandating of a do-over 30 days later in some circumstances.

Those circumstances include where the total number of absentee ballots exceeds the margin of victory, which, under his bill, would necessitate a forensic audit. (In the November 2020 elections, almost 2 million Wisconsinites voted by absentee ballot, and Biden won by about 21,000 votes.)

After such an audit, if the Wisconsin Elections Commission or the Attorney General or a district attorney “having jurisdiction over the matter determines that a violation of the laws relating to election threats, bribery, or fraud occurred,” then the election is null and void.

This is way off the charts. There’s no precedent for nullifying elections in Wisconsin.

And note that Ramthun has totally aced out the judiciary, which up to now has had the authority to resolve election disputes.

Ramthun sidelines the judges and would conveniently hand power over to partisan officials.

This is an assault not only on our right to vote but on the separation of powers and our very system of checks and balances.

The anti-democracy madness in Wisconsin has got to stop!

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It’s Our Democracy if We Choose to Keep It

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, 05 January 2022
in Wisconsin

trump-insurrectionSen. Jeff Smith writes about challenges that have arisen threatening our rights as citizens in a democratic republic. As Americans, participation by the people is key to holding onto our democracy.


BRUNSWICK, WI - Abigail Adams once wrote, “May the foundation of our new constitution be Justice, Truth and Righteousness. Like the wise Mans house may it be founded upon those Rocks and then neither storms or tempests will overthrow it.” These words are worth revisiting during times when the core idea of democracy is challenged. In her letter, Adams expressed concern that outside forces or forces from within could challenge our country’s founding principles that were granted by the U.S. Constitution. Sadly, we’ve experienced this concern in recent times.

trump-insurgentsOne year ago this week, on January 6, 2021, the nation was rocked by the vicious attack on the U.S. Capitol. American citizens, angered by the election result, decided democracy wasn’t working for them, so they chose violence in an attempt to overthrow our government. It seemed as if we were heading toward an autocratic government–a system in which one person or group holds all the power, without the participation, or sometimes even the consent, of the people. The 2020 Election results shook our fragile democratic republic to the core.

Participation by the people is key to holding onto our democracy. There are plenty of examples throughout history showing the value and importance of voting. As Susan B. Anthony famously said, “Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” Participation by casting your vote is the most powerful tool to a civilized society that rules itself. Participation by force of violence is not, in any reasonable thinking, how we achieve liberty and equality for all citizens.

Maybe democracy is just misunderstood by some. It’s really a simple premise: the majority of votes cast by its citizens determines who wins, like scoring points to win a game. When the all votes are counted, the person with the most wins. No question, no debate. No matter how disappointed someone may be that their favorite lost, we move on and prepare for the next contest. It may mean reconsidering our positions, the leader we trusted to deliver for us or it may even mean questioning our own beliefs. However losing affects you, be grateful we live where we’re free to have a voice and can have open debate that can change minds and hearts including our own. Then the next opportunity we have at the ballot box, we can learn and grow from the last election—because we still have free elections.

voter-us-electionsThe 2020 election was conducted fairly, safely and securely thanks to the hard work of Wisconsin’s election officials, National Guard members and poll workers. As a former town official myself, I learned how elections work. Each polling place is managed by clerks, election officials and trained volunteers who are serious about their election responsibilities. Even after the 2020 election, votes were recounted and audits conducted and the results were still the same.

So much has happened since January 6th to help our country move forward, but feelings of bitterness and resentment still remain. The misinformation out there has only intensified these feelings. This is hurting Americans’ faith in our democratic process, and our country as a whole.

jeff-smithThe Senate Committee on Elections I serve on is chaired by someone who spent twelve years as a county clerk overseeing Wisconsin elections. Senator Kathy Bernier (R–Chippewa Falls) has pushed back on the conspiracy theories that have been perpetuated by those who think they may benefit from doubting elections. Senator Bernier said recently, "We have a great system here, and no one should falsely accuse election officials of cheating."

The danger of sowing distrust in elections was demonstrated on January 6, 2021. I fear for the future of our government—one that is by the people and for the people—if something doesn’t change, especially in the important year ahead. Our republic was founded on the premise it will only continue as long as the people keep democracy alive. Benjamin Franklin was asked "What kind of a government have you given us?" he replied, "A democracy, if you can keep it." It’s our job as Americans to do just that.

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What a New Year Brings

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, 29 December 2021
in Wisconsin

new-year-happySen, Jeff Smith writes about what he's looking forward to accomplishing in the upcoming New Year.


BRUNSWICK, WI - I don’t know about you, but as one year comes to a close it’s too easy to think about how it went by too fast. With a new year approaching it’s also nice to think about future possibilities—what can be done. Imagine how much can change.

In reality, the last day of one year just becomes the first day of the New Year, just as any day dawns. But a new year gives us a mental charge, and can be so much more than any other day. Many people set new goals and resolutions thinking how they can do better and be better.

Wouldn’t it be great if the world of politics would do the same? Typically, there isn’t much happening the last couple weeks of the year in the Capitol. A new year brings us back together for hearings and floor sessions and a chance to accomplish what needs to be done. In an odd numbered year, the start of the New Year initiates a new session; we develop a budget and establish priorities for the next two years. When an even numbered year begins, the session is coming to an end and we must consider what needs to be done before the campaign season takes over.

Looking ahead to 2022, the top issue for most of us is likely COVID-19. While we’ve learned to cope with the virus, we’re ready to put this pandemic behind us. 2022 should be the year we can set aside differences and agree that ending the pandemic is more important than politics. Find the mask that makes you comfortable, or even fashionable. Make sure you and your loved ones get vaccinated. By making our communities safer, we can set more of our attention on other policy priorities.

There’s always more we can do in Madison as policymakers: strengthen Wisconsin’s infrastructure, improve healthcare access, invest in our public schools. Times change and we know that we must change with it.

One thing we must prioritize this year is broadband expansion. Nearly every aspect of our lives requires a reliable internet connection. We must expand broadband in Wisconsin through good public policy—it starts by investing in fiber to every home and business in Wisconsin. Access to the Internet is essential. Students need it to learn and communicate; businesses need it to connect to customers and vendors; families need it to access their health clinic, relatives, entertainment and everyday needs like groceries and medicine. The pandemic highlighted our need to be connected so we can access the world even when we’re confined to our home.

Climate change is accelerating and impacting our communities as we witnessed recently with tornadoes, flooding and other extreme weather events. We can, as legislators, step it up with policies and investments to move us toward a more resilient and energy-efficient state. We must act today to give our future generations a productive life.

jeff-smithPolitics certainly can be ugly and seems to have taken a turn for the worse in our country. When that happens nothing good gets done. Being at a standstill is unacceptable.

Access to healthcare is a prime example of how politics gets in the way. Nobody should be in a position of choosing whether to pay rent or see a doctor. Accessing insulin isn’t an option for many Americans, it’s an absolute necessity. We introduced legislation this past year to make medication more affordable; in 2022, let’s pass these bills. Let’s make sure insulin, life-saving medication and health care are affordable and accessible. We can do that.

Public education is another priority that politics has interfered with. We’ve known for a long time that access to a quality education is key to a strong economy and strong nation. Making public education a pawn of politics is only hurting our state. Let’s make 2022 the year we invest in our schools and uplift teachers and students.

The New Year is the best time to make these goals to do better. Let’s make 2022 the year we all listen and come to a consensus that we want a better and more compassionate world.

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