Sunday June 16, 2024

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Generational Gaslighting

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, 06 September 2023
in Wisconsin

uwgb-graduatesSen. Smith writes about how Legislative Republicans chose to cut the UW System’s budget by $32 million, leaving universities almost half a billion dollars short.


MADISON - Ever hear the term gaslighting? It’s an odd term, but the practice has become too common in politics these days. It comes from a play written by Patrick Hamilton called “Gaslight.” In the play, a husband manipulates his wife into thinking she is having a mental breakdown by gradually changing the intensity of the gaslamps in their home.

A contemporary example is the rhetoric surrounding our college campuses. Republicans claim college students are being indoctrinated by liberal educators and institutions. It’s the latest futile effort to make our younger generations second-guess their educational experience.

This has been a coordinated effort by the Republican Party in every state across the nation. Republicans have come to realize they have nothing left to offer young voters. Republicans haven’t quite given up yet, but their last chance is to gaslight our next generation, or at the very least discredit their thoughts and opinions. Their hardline opposition to abortion and innate desire to cut government into nothing is too entrenched within their ranks. The philosophical divide between outdated conservative principles doesn’t jive with new and progressive desire for change favored by most in our next generation.

univ-student-voteCollege students have turned out in droves in recent elections, overcoming continual attempts by Republicans to suppress their vote over the past 13 years. Republicans shortened the early voting period, passed a voter ID law that doesn’t allow certain college IDs and gerrymandered campuses to limit students’ ability to elect candidates of their choice.

Republicans aren’t shy about it either. At a recent Republican National Convention event, Cleta Mitchell from the Bradley Foundation said, “What is this young people effort that they do? They basically put the polling place next to the student dorm so they just have to roll out of bed, vote, and go back to bed.”

The Republicans’ next best strategy to prevent college students from voting is to gaslight them into thinking they are being brainwashed by our educators and universities. It’s how they’ve justified their devastating cuts to the UW System and endless attempts to depress voter turnout in college communities.

As a father, I’ve learned to listen to our younger generation. Young people want to shape our society and make their own decisions. After all, they will be the ones who inherit the world we build today. Our job as the current leaders of our society is to give them every best chance to succeed by listening to them now.

Republicans can do better by listening and appealing to young voters. If we choose to listen, there’s so much to learn about how a bright-eyed generation perceives the world our older generations created. These fresh perspectives can help us understand that our society and institutions unfairly favor certain races over others, or that gender identity and sexual orientation are more complex than what many people thought. We will understand how hard it is for young people to flourish in our current economy.

jeff-smithUnderlying all of these ailments to our society, we will understand that our cardinal sin has been ignoring problems until they become crises. It’s not indoctrination that’s driving the conversation in education. It’s a different perspective and a new, clear view of our current problems. We should encourage young people choosing to address rather than ignore the problems in our society.

I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college; I learned my trade as a window cleaner from my dad and developed it into a successful business. It’s ironic that I’m now the only State Senator in Wisconsin to represent two four-year UW schools. Like so many in our state, I have great respect for the “Wisconsin Idea” that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom. I learned by listening to everyone, separating the facts from the BS, making more than my fair share of mistakes and volunteering every bit of my free time to supporting our community’s schools.

I call it like I see it. Right now, I see Republicans giving up on our next generation and telling young people that they can’t think for themselves. It doesn’t take a college education to see through this last-ditch effort to keep a generation down.


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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Labor Protections Must Be Protected

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, 30 August 2023
in Wisconsin

working-women-aflcioSen. Smith celebrates Labor Day in commemoration of the contribution workers and organized labor have made to our society. Going forward, it’s imperative that we continue to safeguard these protections.


BRUNSWICK, WI - For Americans, Labor Day has come to signify the end of summer, but the Labor Day holiday is meant to honor and recognize the essential role workers have played in our nation’s history.

Prior to the 1930s, labor conditions were dire. Muckraking journalists like William B. Hard and Upton Sinclair wrote shocking exposés of workers killed and maimed on the job. The resulting groundswell of outrage led to action, and in 1911 Wisconsin became the first state with a successful workers’ compensation program, with most states soon following suit.

In 1935, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which gave workers the right to form unions and required employers to bargain collectively with those unions on issues of pay, hours and other conditions of employment.

1935 was also the year John L. Lewis founded the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO), which later became the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The CIO became the umbrella organization for the United Auto Workers and United Steelworkers of America and eventually merged with the American Federation of Labor to become the AFL-CIO.

Three years later, labor unions succeeded in advocating for the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), which set the first federal minimum wage, banned child labor, required overtime pay and set the eight-hour work day.

During World War II, labor unions pledged not to strike for the duration of the war. With wages frozen during the war effort, workers were instead afforded other benefits such as paid vacation, cost-of-living allowances, employer-paid health plans and grievance arbitration.

union-workersAfter the war, when employers attempted to turn the clock back on these benefits, unions organized strikes to protect their hard-won gains. Once new benefits became a staple of union contracts, even nonunion employers were obliged to include them to stay competitive in recruiting workers.

Through the decades, labor unions continued to fight. In 1964, labor unions pushed to add Title VII to the Civil Rights Act, banning employees and applicants from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

In January of 1968, President Lyndon Johnson called it the “shame of a modern industrial nation” that despite these hard-fought protections, each year over 14,000 workers were killed and 2.2 million injured on the job. The patchwork of state law was not enough – federal action was needed.

While Johnson did not get this proposal through during his presidency, President Richard Nixon (not the biggest fan of unions himself) nevertheless helped pass the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970. OSHA set safety and health standards and provided training and enforcement to back up those standards.

Child labor protections, safety standards and collective bargaining are all important protections that have helped ensure the well-being of workers. But to this day, there are forces that work against these protections in the guise of free market capitalism.

boys_girls_clubs_gbThis session, Republican legislators introduced a bill to allow children as young as 14 to serve alcohol in bars and restaurants (current law says you have to be 18). If passed, Wisconsin would have the lowest such limit nationwide. Underage access to alcohol is nothing to be cavalier about, and I question the safety of such a proposal.

Republican legislators have also circulated a bill to remove the requirement that 14- and 15-year-olds get work permits – a measure put in place to ensure students remember their first job is to excel in the classroom.

jeff-smithThey couch these provisions as ways to address workplace staffing issues, but in reality it’s part of Republicans’ long fight to peel back protections for workers and allow businesses to pay their employees less.

Our children are the future of our economy. We should be encouraging them to apply themselves in the classroom before entering the workforce so that they can build the skills they need to be prepared for their careers.

The long road to a safer workplace is an inspiring story, but we’re not done yet. Labor Day reminds us there are still victories to win. We can’t let worker protections fall by the wayside, especially when it comes to our children.


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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A Shot at Leveling the Playing Field

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, 23 August 2023
in Wisconsin

bar-patronsSenator Smith outlines legislation that would standardize Wisconsin’s laws on alcoholic beverages and explains the importance of bringing alcohol regulation up to date.


MADISON - Rules and regulations often get a bad rap. They can be onerous, outdated, or both. But at their best, regulations are put into place to ensure the safety of our communities, often in response to new technologies or evolving economies.

Occasionally regulations are implemented with foresight, but it’s not easy to predict how our society will change in advance. Regulations are oftentimes put in place because accidents occurred, or unscrupulous people cheated others.

I have the honor of serving on the Senate Committee on Universities and Revenue. At a public hearing last week, my colleagues and I heard from the public on two bills which propose changes to the way our state regulates alcoholic beverages and related industries.

milw-miller-brewingWisconsin’s system for regulating alcoholic beverages is called the three-tier system. It governs how manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of alcoholic beverages can relate to each other. The three-tier system prevents members of one category from having business interests related to the other categories, as well as preventing monopolistic practices.

This system evolved in the wake of Prohibition, when states were charged with developing alcohol regulations from scratch. As the industry has evolved since then, many exceptions have been made to the system, such as tap rooms and distilleries.

Because of the patchwork nature of this system, the three-tier system needs updates. Some of these changes are an effort to keep up with evolving technologies, while some are closing loopholes people have found to skirt the law.

We heard about new machines that turn alcohol into mist that is then inhaled. Ingesting alcohol in this way introduces it to the bloodstream faster, leading to concerns that consumers will inadvertently give themselves alcohol poisoning.

Another very different technology allows businesses to evade taxes. This software, referred to as an automated sales suppression device, or “zapper,” falsifies records of transactions in order to misrepresent sales.

The legislation considered even touched on eliminating loopholes in lottery regulation. Some lottery winners have attempted to transfer their winnings to someone else, sometimes for altruistic reasons. But we’ve also seen winners transfer their earnings in an effort to avoid paying back taxes or child support. The passage of this legislation would make this kind of evasion a felony.

But the largest piece of legislation brought to the committee would overhaul the regulations overseeing the three-tier system. These changes are meant to create clarity by standardizing the hodgepodge of alcohol regulations put in place over the last century.

New innovations within the industry such as wineries and tap rooms spurred these changes. The current three-tier system does not easily accommodate these types of businesses.

Wedding or event barns are another type of establishment where regulation has lacked standardization and predictability. Currently these seasonal event venues are not licensed to sell alcohol and don’t fit easily into the laws as written.

drunk-driving-crashWe heard from many event barn proprietors who are already doing the right thing by contracting with licensed alcoholic beverage suppliers and servers. This legislation is aimed at the bad actors who do not already abide by industry standards of safe serving and age restrictions on alcohol consumption.

jeff-smithThere are a lot of stakeholders interested in the outcome of this legislation, intended to level the playing field. It has been very difficult to bring everyone to the table and get them on board. Between the taverns, wineries, craft brewers, distillers and wholesalers, there has been a lot of give and take involved in these negotiations.

These solutions are not perfect, and nobody is completely satisfied. The commonality among all these groups is their recognition that alcohol should be regulated to protect the consumer, and these regulations should be clear enough for manufacturers, distributors and retailers to abide by the rules.

Creating new and accurate definitions and fitting them into a comprehensive and comprehendible set of rules without unduly burdening Wisconsin businesses should be the goal. The process of negotiating this bill is an example of what can be accomplished when we come together and compromise. As a legislature, we should continue to push for solutions that work for and advance the safety of all 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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Collaboration Is Not A Dirty Word

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, 16 August 2023
in Wisconsin

assembly-wi-robin-vosSenator Smith writes about Governor Evers’ latest call for the Legislature to convene in special session to address Wisconsin’s childcare crisis and workforce shortage.


MADISON - A call for a special session is a constitutional privilege of the Governor, invoked when the legislature fails to address an urgent priority. Last week, Governor Tony Evers called a special session for September 20th, a response to the gigantic holes Republicans left when they gutted the Governor’s budget this summer.

When partisan politics cloud the judgment of the legislature, calling a special session is often the Governor’s only available option. This power allows the Governor to do something when the legislature fails to act and give the legislature one more chance to do the right thing.

The current leaders of our legislature have time and again ignored the needs and the will of the people of Wisconsin. Legislative Republicans have pursued an oppositional strategy against the Governor who is from the opposite party, regardless of his decisive statewide win. If an idea comes from a Democrat, no matter the potential it has, Republicans won’t consider it. This is what has happened as a result of gerrymandering legislators into safe districts, where they don’t have to worry about significant opposition.

farmer-wicornGovernor Evers has tried to get Republicans to consider solutions such as farm relief, school aids, gun violence, reproductive rights and direct referenda, in which voters can make their voices heard directly on the issues that matter to them.

While ignoring all of these needs and more, Republicans chose to stay home for 300 days during the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the people they supposedly serve were struggling to pay their bills, and the unemployment system could not keep up.

The Governor called a special session to modernize our unemployment system to speed up responses and support the workers who could not safely and responsibly leave their homes for their jobs.

What was the Republican response? Those in charge of our legislature continually chose politics while the public suffers..

This special session is an opportunity to do what we came to Madison for – work for solutions.

When calling this special session, Governor Evers focused on what is probably the most pressing issue of all: workforce development. The pandemic illustrated the need to address a worker shortage that has been looming for years. With baby boomers aging out of the workforce and the impossibility of finding affordable child care, businesses have struggled to staff up.

business-small-openWisconsin’s record-low unemployment rate of 2.4% leave businesses struggling to fully staff up. This isn’t just a Wisconsin problem – businesses nationally have adjusted their hours and how they operate. Other states are coming up with innovative solutions, and in order to stay competitive, Wisconsin’s solutions to this issue must be creative and aggressive.

Using federal funds from the pandemic, Governor Evers has been able to keep childcare centers afloat these past three years through Child Care Counts program. This has helped child care centers keep costs lower and pay their workers a competitive wage. Unfortunately for parents and child care providers, that money is slated to expire in January with no relief in sight. Similarly, paid family and medical leave was included in the Governor’s budget proposal, but was slashed by Republicans from the final product of deliberations.

jeff-smithContinuing Child Care Counts and initiating a paid family and medical leave program are just two parts of the workforce development plan called for by the Governor. It also calls for investments in higher education and incentives for workers in teaching and healthcare, measures that will bolster our workforce for years to come and prepare us for a prosperous future.

We still have a $4 billion surplus. This proposal calls for a quarter of that surplus to be invested in the growth of Wisconsin’s economy. We can afford to do this, and the opportunity is now.

Governor Evers’ call for the special session on September 20th gives the legislature one more chance to address the issues neglected due to partisanship.

Legislation introduced on the floor can be amended, and the strength of the legislative body is its collaborative approach to lawmaking.

So the question is: why does debate and compromise scare Republican leadership?

You’ll have to ask them.


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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Staying Cool and Healthy in the Summer Heat

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, 09 August 2023
in Wisconsin

tourism_lake-genevaWisconsin summers are a wonderful time with activities your whole family can enjoy. Remember to stay safe and prepared as you make summer memories that will last a lifetime.


MADISON - Summer has flown by this year, and it’s been a scorcher. We’ve had a record-breaking hot summer, with temperatures setting records across the nation, and August promises to be no exception.

It’s important to stay vigilant and safe when enjoying the end of your summer. Warm temperatures combined with high humidity levels can pose a risk of heat-related illness and even death.

When planning to venture outside, be sure to watch the local weather forecast and drink plenty of water. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a UV index search that measures the intensity of harmful UV rays to let you know when it’s especially important to wear sun protection, like sunscreen or hats.

Community spots, like public libraries and malls, have air conditioning and can be a good place to cool down when out and about. It’s important to check on neighbors and loved ones to make sure they are safe. Young children and older adults are more at risk from serious heat illness.

Beware of hot cars. Never leave a person or pet in a parked car, even for a short time. According to the Department of Health Services, on an 80 degree day, temperatures in a parked car can reach 100 degrees in just ten minutes.

water_drinkingHeat sickness can come on suddenly and quickly become fatal. If you are experiencing dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, weakness, nausea or vomiting, cool down your body right away. Get to a cool place and cool your skin with cold water, like a cold shower or an ice bath. Rehydrate with a cool water or sports drink.

A good way to beat the late summer heat can be found at your nearest waterway. Western Wisconsin is blessed with so many rivers and lakes, great opportunities to go boating, fishing and swimming.

Anytime you are enjoying yourself on the water, make sure to keep your safety in mind. Wear personal flotation devices when boating in deep water, check the local weather before embarking on a trip and bring a first aid kit in case of emergencies.

The Department of Natural Resources has additional guidance on ways to stay safe on the water. You can call DNR staff toll-free at (888) 936-7463 for more information.

Your local health department is your resource about potentially harmful conditions in your area. Always check the conditions of water before you get in, and refrain from bathing in the water if there is a posted health warning. Some communities, including Eau Claire, have implemented water testing at public beaches to detect unsafe levels of bacteria or toxic algae blooms that make beaches unsafe for swimmers.

wisconsinriverpicBlue-green algae poses an especially high health risk. Algae blooms can produce toxins that can make people and animals sick or even sustain chemical burns after they swallow, breathe in or have contact with affected water.

Algae can be other colors besides blue-green, including turquoise, tan, purple or white. Blooms can resemble spilled latex paint, green pea soup or streaky and discolored water.

The Department of Health Services has a fact sheet that explains how to identify and protect yourself from algae blooms. Call the Wisconsin Poison Center immediately if you suspect that you or your companions have been poisoned by an algae bloom, and take injured pets to your veterinarian right away.

door-county_bikingDuring the summer, there are many chances to interact with wildlife, pets, livestock and insects, whether on a hike or at a local fair. Wash your hands after interacting with animals to avoid spreading disease or bacteria, such as salmonella and rabies.

Insect repellant is effective in protecting yourself against biting insects and ticks, which can transmit Lyme Disease. To use repellant safely, apply sparingly and only to exposed skin or clothing. Avoid eyes, lips and any wounded skin.

Wisconsin summers are a wonderful time with limitless activities your whole family can enjoy. While you’re outdoors spending time in the sun, remember to stay safe and prepared as you make summer memories that will last a lifetime.


jeff-smithSenator 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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