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Eat Your (Local) Vegetables!

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 November 2023
in Wisconsin

wisconsin_farm_windmillSen. Smith writes about the “Invest in Agriculture, Grow our Future” package of bills that provide support for farmers while making it easier for Wisconsin consumers to access healthy, local food.

MADISON - Wisconsin’s proud agricultural history has been a part of our identity as a state for centuries, and it will remain an integral part of our state’s future. As a State Senator who represents farmers and agricultural producers across much of western Wisconsin, I’m delighted to join my colleagues in supporting legislation designed to boost our agriculture industry. This bill package – “Invest in Agriculture, Grow our Future” – focuses on harnessing the power of our farms and local agricultural producers to contribute to the ongoing health of our communities.

potato-farmerWhen consumers have affordable access to fresh, local farm products, they are less likely to rely on processed foods for the majority of their diet. Access to healthful food is a key aspect of ongoing physical health and preventative healthcare. What’s more, local production of food reduces how far food needs to travel to get to your kitchen table, meaning fresher food and a reduced carbon footprint.

The best place for our local, fresh foods is our schools. For years, Wisconsin has successfully managed a farm to school program to connect schools with nearby farms to provide children with locally-produced ingredients for their school meals. One of these bills creates a “farm to fork” program to expand to eligible non-school entities that have cafeterias. It also directs grants for expanding farm to school programs, prioritizing school districts with a high percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under federal law.

The best place to go in your community for locally-grown produce is your local farmer’s market. In order to help more people access the nutritious and local food produced within their own communities, another bill we proposed provides credit and debit processing equipment and services to farmer’s markets and farmers who sell directly to consumers.

These programs will include the ability to process EBT transactions so those who receive public assistance have access to healthy food. Research shows that food assistance programs have twice the impact on households in rural communities than they do in urban communities. While it’s hard to gauge the exact dollar amount, state-supported farmer’s market food assistance (EBT) programs infuse at least twice and perhaps as much as ten times more federal dollars into our local economies, based on similar programs in Michigan and Iowa.

In a wealthy country, no one should go hungry. Yet over 38 million people across the nation suffer from food insecurity, including 427,380 Wisconsinites. Another bill in this package provides grants to food banks, food pantries and other nonprofit organizations to purchase Wisconsin food products, benefiting food-insecure Wisconsin families while contributing to our local agricultural economy.

The flip side of food production is food waste. In 2020 to 2021 the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported food waste made up 20% of the trash headed to our landfills, 14.5% of which could have been consumed (this has increased twofold since the last study, conducted in 2009). That’s 294 pounds per Wisconsinite.

To turn this problem into a solution, another one of our bills creates a food waste reduction grant program designed to redirect surplus food to hunger relief organizations and compost the remaining food waste.

jeff-smithFarmers don’t usually get into farming to manage a business – it’s a deep-rooted desire to bring forth products from the land. The business side of the farm can be challenging and often isn’t the primary skill set of hardworking farmers, whose focus is on the land. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) helps farmers manage their businesses, farm succession and mental health support. The demand for assistance from DATCP is outpacing capacity, so one of our bills increases funding to add additional staff.

The future of agriculture is dependent on careful stewardship of our land. To that end, we’ve included a bill in this package to educate and assist farmers who want to transition to organic farming, adopt more efficient grazing practices and invest in new sustainability practices.

By supporting the programs and initiatives in these bills, we can help address hunger, support our local agricultural producers and reduce our overall carbon impact. It’s a win-win-win for all of Wisconsinites.

Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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Ban the Bans

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 November 2023
in Wisconsin

movie-to-kill-a-mockingbirdSen. Smith discusses the dangers of censorship and the vital importance of libraries to the cause of intellectual freedom.

MADISON - “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. All titles you may remember from a high school literature syllabus. Yet each of these books have been banned – and in some cases, burned – in the United States.

In October we commemorated Banned Books Week, amidst an increase in attempts at banning books across the nation. In places like Menomonee Falls, certain books have been challenged as being inappropriate and therefore unworthy of inclusion in the library’s catalog. This year, the American Library Association (ALA) has recorded 26 attempts to ban books in Wisconsin and attempts to censor more than 1,900 titles nationwide. This is the highest number of books since they first started collecting data twenty years ago.

This coincides with state legislatures attempting to restrict access to materials across the country. Right here in Wisconsin, a bill was recently circulated for co-sponsorship to require school libraries and public libraries disclose to parents and guardians within 24 hours a list of the materials their child has checked out from the library.

school-tutor-readingAs it stands, if a parent or guardian is concerned about the material their child is accessing through the library, they can request that information. These are reasonable accommodations so parents can provide guidance if they believe their child needs additional context for the content they are reading or consuming.

But automatic notifications disclosing what books your kid is checking out is not the way. On a very practical level, it would be hard for libraries to develop such systems without funding. Libraries are expected to develop these programs using the financial and personnel resources they already have.

The larger concern is the role of privacy in freedom of speech. Privacy has long been a concern of the American Library Association, and has historically included the privacy of youth. Privacy is included in the “Library Bill of Rights,” drafted in 1939. Article VII states, “All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use.” In their publication “Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights”, the ALA clarifies, “The right to privacy includes the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others …. ALA and its members recognize that children and youth have the same right to privacy as adults.”

school-meeting-crowdBook bans and legislation like this are products of the manufactured culture wars we see erupting around the nation. They create a “chilling effect” on speech where, fearful of consequences, people choose for themselves to self-censor what they access or write, diminishing the quality of public discourse and decreasing intellectual freedom.

This past month, my colleague and friend Representative Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) introduced a bill intending to contribute to the ongoing intellectual freedom of our great state by banning book bans. Freedom of speech is one of the founding principles of America, and we must all get behind efforts to protect it. I think we can agree that not all books are for everyone, but it isn’t up to anyone to tell others what they can or cannot read.

jeff-smithI am in total agreement with Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, when she says, “These attacks on our freedom to read should trouble any person who values liberty and our constitutional rights. To allow a group of people or any individual, no matter how powerful or loud, to become the decision-maker about what books we can read or whether libraries exist, is to place all of our rights and liberties in jeopardy.”

From a favorite and trusted author of so many wise words, Theodor Seuss Geisel: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Let’s not stand in the way of learning and going places we cannot otherwise reach without the wonder of the written word.

Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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Planning For A Bright Financial Future

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 October 2023
in Wisconsin

young-couple-worried-payments October is Financial Planning Month, and a great opportunity to examine how we’re preparing ourselves for a prosperous future.

MADISON - October is “Financial Planning Month,” and last week we recognized “Save for Retirement Week” and “Get Smart about Credit Day”. But every day is a good day to think about how we plan for our financial future. We should be committed to financial wellness year-round, but that also comes with a need to advocate for progressive policies aimed at improving the financial lives of all of our citizens.

The general rule for saving is to have 3 to 6 months of wages saved up for an emergency. The benefits of having an emergency fund alleviates financial stress and provides families with a little bit of breathing room to make important job decisions if laid off or while being unable to work. However, for those of us who live paycheck-to-paycheck that’s easier said than done.

Budgeting is critical. Each hard-earned dollar should have a purpose. Sometimes it’s for rent or the mortgage payment and sometimes it’s for our future retirement. Tracking how much we spend on food, gas, utilities and other essential personal expenses gives us a better understanding of the value of a dollar.

But some elements of our society are keyed towards taking advantage of consumers. During my time in the State Assembly back in 2009, I worked on bills to prevent payday lenders from taking advantage of consumers and introduced legislation to keep credit card companies away from students on campus.

Having personal savings can help us avoid predatory lenders too. Payday lenders, auto title loans and credit cards shouldn’t be part of our “emergency plan.” Students, the elderly and low-wage earners can be susceptible to predatory lenders, scams and fraud. Having a better understanding of our personal finances and creating savings is a good defense against falling prey to these lending practices.

Not everyone has the income security to fall back on and the ability to set aside money for a “rainy day fund.” Wages are stagnant for most Americans, but livable wages for everyone holding a job is a good start. Neither the federal nor state minimum wage has kept up with inflation or the rapid pace of change in the world.

jeff-smithIn a column I wrote 4 years ago, I cited census data that on average, the top 10% of earners make about 9 times more than the bottom 90%.  Now, according to the census, that number has grown to almost 13.5% -- a big step in the wrong direction.

Bankruptcies are too high, and not because families don’t plan well. The leading cause of bankruptcy is an unexpected health crisis. Health insurance, if a family can afford it, doesn’t always cover everything. Not only do health care costs affect our finances, but our ability to work is also affected with health-related problems. Too often, an unexpected health crisis can set a family back so far they never recover financially.

It’s well-documented our healthcare system is broken and we are behind the rest of the developed world. We desperately need to convert our healthcare model to a national health system that doesn’t leave people behind. Even Medicare needs improvement, but Medicare for ALL is the answer.

Each of us are stewards of our personal financial future. The unexpected should always be expected and our personal savings should reflect it. Policymakers are responsible for making an economy that works for us – decreasing health care costs, increasing living wages and curbing predatory lenders is what each of should expect from our leaders in Madison and Washington.

We all need to work together to help everyone become financially independent. We can’t overlook those among us who are far too often forgotten. Maybe part of our planning as society should include advocating for a system that works for everyone so nobody gets left behind. As Paul Wellstone used to say, “We all do better when we all do better.”

Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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Listening with an Open Heart

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, 18 October 2023
in Wisconsin

eauclairebridgeSen. Smith is embarking on his “Stop & Talks” tour of District 31 and announces his mobile office hours and schedule.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - Fall is here – one of the most beautiful times of year in Wisconsin. If you choose the right day and take a drive through western Wisconsin, the colors are spectacular. Beautiful as they are, they don’t last long while days grow shorter and the temperature gets colder.

Sadly for me, fall is also a sign that my “Stop and Talk” season is coming to a close. My “Stop and Talks,” or my mobile office hours, is the time when I park my old red truck near busy roads so people can stop by and share their thoughts quickly while they are on the go.

There is nothing about my job I enjoy more than having these personal one-on-one discussions. I learn so much from these talks. I am humbled by the willingness of my constituents to share their stories and concerns with me.

Some conversations may be considered bland, dry or just plain unimportant by some folks. Sometimes the smallest details are the ones that affect your life the most. The importance of collecting experiences and comparing notes cannot be downplayed, no matter how small the issue seems.

Never assume that your story, or how a policy affects you, is obvious to me or anyone else. We all walk our own path and cannot ever fully understand someone else’s. I have numerous examples of times a constituent has stopped to share their story with me and given me a new understanding of how a law has or may affect them and their neighbors. I rely on that information to inform my position on all the issues we address in the State Senate. I depend on these conversations in order to advocate for you effectively in the Wisconsin Legislature.

I wish all my constituents had the same opportunity I have to hear their neighbors’ experiences and stories. These conversations are a constant reminder to me that nothing is as simple as it may seem from only one perspective. These conversations also allow me to share my experiences in state government and keep you informed of information I have access to that might not be as readily available to your average citizens.

Not every effort to understand another’s viewpoint is easy, successful or changes hearts and minds. But we live in a democracy, and uniformity isn’t our goal. The strength of our system of government relies on civil engagement as the first step to resolving inevitable conflicts.

wi-senate-swearing-inI have spent many years in roles where I’ve represented my neighbors and their communities in local and state government. That’s taught me that sometimes, listening does not come naturally. Listening is a learned skill that we have to work on and engage in with intention.

jeff-smithIt’s also something I constantly strive to improve on in myself. When we’re very passionate about what we’re talking about, it’s natural to state one’s own position before listening to others. But as a state legislator, I’ve worked hard to keep my ears open and my mouth shut to listen more, and have often been surprised at what I learned.

In some cases, we may even reverse our own stance based on what we learn. It isn’t a sign of weakness to re-evaluate your own positions. Quite the opposite – keeping an open mind is a strength, showing others you’re someone who takes their point of view seriously. False assumptions can be swept away when we truly listen to and evaluate others’ experiences, or facts we were not aware of before.

I’m not writing this with any particular issue in mind today. Instead, I want you to know that as long as the weather cooperates, I’ll be out there having mobile office hours in my red truck, to hear about your priorities and concerns.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to pull over and chat for a second when you see me in your community. Even if we disagree, I look forward to having conversations which help me better represent you in the state Senate. We can find agreement even in the most unlikely situations if we keep our ears and hearts open to others.

Upcoming dates and times available on my web site. If you are unable to connect with me that way, you should always feel free to contact my office at (608) 266-8546 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

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Jim Jordan's Controversial Path: From Capitol Hill to Global Implications

Posted by Laura Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Laura Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Laura Kiefert lives in Howard and is a Partner in the Green Bay Progressive. Mem
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on Wednesday, 11 October 2023
in Wisconsin

jim-jordan-2023As he runs for Speaker, a Green Bay progressive discusses Jim Jordan and his dubious qualifications.

GREEN BAY - I've spent a considerable amount of time diving into the world of politics, observing individuals and their actions. Jim Jordan, a Congressman from Ohio, has caught my attention on numerous occasions, but for all the wrong reasons. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the actions and behavior of Jim Jordan raise serious concerns about his integrity, both as an individual and as a representative of the American people.

1. The Ohio State Scandal

First, let's talk about the Ohio State scandal. During his tenure as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, there were allegations of sexual misconduct by the team doctor, Richard Strauss. Multiple wrestlers have come forward, claiming that they reported the abuse to Jordan, and he did nothing. It's deeply concerning that someone in a position of power and responsibility could overlook or ignore such grave allegations. If these claims are true, it reflects a lack of moral responsibility on his part.

2. The Freedom Caucus and Ideological Extremism

Jim Jordan is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, a group that has often been criticized for its hardline stance and resistance to compromise. While it's essential to hold onto one's beliefs, it's equally important to understand the necessity of collaboration in a democratic system. Jordan's approach with the Freedom Caucus has been about digging in heels, often at the cost of progress and to the detriment of the American people.

3. The "Big Lie" and January 6

trump-insurgents3One of the most concerning aspects of Jordan's political career is his support for the "Big Lie" – the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. By perpetuating this unfounded claim, he contributed to the events that led up to the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. This wasn't just about a differing opinion or political strategy; this was about undermining the very foundation of our democracy: the belief in free and fair elections.

4. Boehner's "Terrorist" Remark

John Boehner, a fellow Republican and former Speaker of the House, referred to Jordan as a "legislative terrorist." This strong descriptor from someone within his own party highlights the divisive and confrontational tactics Jordan employs. It's alarming when a colleague feels compelled to use such language.

5. Liz Cheney's Perspective

Liz Cheney, another Republican representative, has been vocal about the importance of truth and integrity within the GOP. While she didn't call out Jordan by name, her insistence on holding members accountable for perpetuating the "Big Lie" and for their roles in the events leading up to January 6 speaks volumes. When individuals within the same party voice concerns, it's essential to sit up and take note.

6. Opposition to Bipartisanship

One of the pillars of a successful democracy is the ability of politicians from opposing sides to come together for the greater good. However, Jordan has frequently shown a lack of interest in bipartisanship. For instance, he voted against the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. This was a deal crafted by both parties to prevent another government shutdown and increase spending caps. Voting against such a measure demonstrates an unwillingness to work across the aisle for the nation's benefit.

7. Disregard for Health Care

In 2017, Jordan was at the forefront of pushing for a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a clear replacement. The ACA, for all its controversies, provided millions of Americans with health coverage. Advocating for its repeal without a comprehensive replacement plan shows a disregard for the well-being of many citizens.

8. Skepticism on Climate Change

In a time when the majority of scientists worldwide are raising alarm bells about climate change, Jordan's position remains skeptical. He's made statements questioning the human role in global warming and has consistently voted against environmental regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions. At a time when urgent action is needed, such a stance is both radical and dangerous.

9. Contempt for Congressional Oversight

Jordan has often been in the spotlight for his combative stance during Congressional hearings, especially those aiming to hold individuals accountable. Whether it was during the impeachment hearings for former President Donald Trump or questioning witnesses during the Benghazi hearings, Jordan's aggressive approach often seemed more about creating a spectacle than genuine oversight.

10. Stance on Gun Control

In the wake of numerous tragic mass shootings in the U.S., there have been widespread calls for tighter gun control to prevent further loss of life. However, Jordan remains an ardent defender of expansive gun rights. He has consistently opposed measures such as universal background checks, which have broad public support.

11. Obsession with Impeaching Joe Biden

Since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Jim Jordan has been vociferously vocal about impeaching him. This isn't based on clear evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors – the Constitutional requirement for impeachment – but appears to be more of a political vendetta. It's important to understand that impeachment is a grave and consequential process that shouldn't be used as a tool for political retribution. Using such a critical constitutional tool in this manner undermines its gravity and can erode the public's trust in our democratic processes.

12. Relentless Pursuit of Hunter Biden

Jim Jordan's interest in Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, has also raised eyebrows. While it's essential for politicians to be held accountable, there's a thin line between legitimate inquiry and political witch-hunting. The relentless focus on Hunter Biden, especially in the absence of concrete evidence of wrongdoing tied to Joe Biden, has often been viewed as a retaliatory move, especially in light of the investigations into former President Donald Trump and his associates. This pattern of "tit for tat" politics isn't what our nation needs. Instead of focusing on genuine issues affecting everyday Americans, such distractions serve to further polarize and divide.

13. The Prospect of Jordan as Speaker of the House

The role of the Speaker of the House is one of great significance. As the leader of the House of Representatives, the Speaker wields considerable influence over the legislative agenda, and they play a pivotal role in guiding the nation's policies. With Jim Jordan's track record, his ascension to this role could be problematic for several reasons.

Given his history of deeply partisan behavior and confrontational tactics, Jordan as Speaker might further deepen the divide in an already polarized political landscape. Instead of fostering an environment of collaboration and bipartisanship, there's a genuine concern that under his leadership, the House could become even more fractious.

Moreover, his penchant for pursuing personal vendettas and retaliatory politics, as seen in his obsession with impeaching Joe Biden and investigating Hunter Biden, raises questions about his ability to prioritize the nation's needs over personal or partisan grudges.

The Speaker's role is also to represent the House on the national and international stage. Given Jordan's controversial stances on various issues, from climate change skepticism to his association with the "Big Lie" about the 2020 election, having him as a representative voice could send the wrong message about where America stands on critical global issues.

14. Jordan's Stance on Ukraine: A Dangerous Path

Last, but certainly not least, is Jim Jordan’s vow to not to fund Ukraine. In the complex web of international relations, Ukraine holds a crucial position, particularly given its ongoing conflict with Russia and its strategic importance to Europe and NATO allies.

By vowing not to fund Ukraine, Jordan not only undermines a key ally in a volatile region but also sends a message that the U.S. might be wavering in its commitments to its allies. This could embolden adversaries, such as Russia, to take more aggressive stances, knowing that Ukraine might lack the support it needs from powerful allies like the U.S.

The repercussions of such a decision could be manifold:

Increased Instability in Eastern Europe: A less-supported Ukraine might be more vulnerable to external pressures and aggressions, leading to increased instability in the region.

Strain on NATO: U.S. commitment to its allies is a cornerstone of NATO. By not supporting Ukraine, it could strain relations within the alliance and raise questions about the U.S.'s commitment to collective defense.

Loss of U.S. Credibility: Other allies around the world, seeing the U.S. not stand firmly by Ukraine, might begin to doubt America's reliability. This could weaken diplomatic ties and make international collaborations more challenging.

Potential Humanitarian Crisis: A less secure Ukraine could face intensified conflict, leading to potential humanitarian crises, with increased displacements of people and civilian casualties.

Strengthening of Adversaries: A weakened alliance between the U.S. and Ukraine might embolden not only Russia but other global powers looking to challenge U.S. dominance in various regions.

Wrapping Up

laura-kiefert-2018In the intricate dance of international diplomacy, every decision, every stance taken, sends ripples across the global stage. Jordan's vow against funding Ukraine isn't just about one country; it's about upholding the values, commitments, and strategic interests of the U.S. on the global front. It's a dangerous path, one that could have repercussions far beyond the borders of Ukraine, affecting the very fabric of global geopolitics and America's place within it. We need leaders who understand these nuances and act with foresight, ensuring that the U.S. remains a strong, reliable force for good in the world.Leadership positions, especially one as crucial as the Speaker of the House, require individuals who can rise above party lines, unify differing factions, and work towards the collective good of the nation. Based on Jim Jordan's past actions and stances, there's a genuine concern that his leadership might steer the House, and by extension, the nation, in a direction that amplifies division rather than healing it. The American people deserve leadership that is balanced, thoughtful, and prioritizes the well-being of its citizens above all else.

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