Friday December 9, 2022

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Staying Safe in the Summer Sun

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, 03 August 2022
in Wisconsin

water_drinkingJeff Smith shares some tips for readers on how to stay safe in the hot summer weather.


BRUNSWICK, WI - It’s hard to believe summer is more than halfway over. Like so many others, I’ve had a busy summer visiting the local fairs in the region, enjoying the outdoors and spending time with friends and family.

Although back-to-school commercials are starting to appear on our TVs, there are still many ways to enjoy the warm weather and summer fun with your family – just be sure to stay safe!

August is one of the hottest months of the year. Warm temperatures combined with high humidity levels can pose a risk of heat-related illness and death. There are ways to stay cool and avoid serious illness: drink plenty of water and watch your local weather forecast to stay informed about extreme heat events. Community spots, like libraries or malls, have air conditioning, to help you stay cool.

Some populations are more at-risk from serious illness, including young children and people 65 years or older. It’s important to check in on neighbors and loved ones to make sure they are informed and safe. Also, 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, the temperature inside a car can reach 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes.”

If you’re spending extended periods of time outdoors, be sure to know the symptoms indicating serious illness. If you are experiencing dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, weakness, nausea or vomiting, get cool or get help immediately. Call 911 if you have hot, dry skin, chest pains, shortness of breath, confusion or are with someone who is unconscious.

These tips are important to remember and share with others to stay safe and enjoy all that summer has to offer!

We’re fortunate, especially here in western Wisconsin, to have access to so many waterways. Whether you’re boating, fishing or swimming, it’s critical you know how to stay safe. Make sure you have a swimming buddy or a boat float plan so at least one person knows when you plan to be back.

Here are some recommendations to keep in mind if you’re on a boat: ensure each passenger has a personal floatation device that properly fits; check the weather of your route; and bring along a first aid kit in case of emergencies. Also, stay hydrated and avoid alcohol while operating a watercraft.

The Department of Natural Resources has additional guidance on ways to stay safe on the water. You can call DNR Center Staff toll-free at 1-888-936-7463) between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for more information.

During the summer, there are a number of chances to interact with wildlife, animals (and, unfortunately, pests) while you’re on a hike, or visiting a petting zoo or local fair. Always wash your hands after interacting with animals to avoid the spread of disease, like salmonella or rabies.

Insect repellents are useful to protect yourself against biting insects and ticks that transmit disease, such as Lyme Disease. To use repellent safely, apply it sparingly and only to exposed skin or clothing. Do not apply repellents to eyelids, lips or wounded skin; also, do not spray repellents in a confined space, like a car or tent. Visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/environmental/repellents for more information about selecting a repellent and additional precautionary measures.

weather-lightingLastly, always be prepared for severe weather during the summer when we can see thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding. Be alert and take general preparedness measures now so you are ready in the event of a severe weather event.

jeff-smithOne thing you can do today is make a disaster kit with basic items that household members may need in the event of a disaster. Food and water should last for at least three days. Visit ready.gov/kit for steps to create your disaster kit and more information on how to be prepared.

Wisconsin summers are a wonderful time with limitless activities your whole family can enjoy. While you’re outdoors, spending time in the sun before kids are back in school, just remember to stay safe and be prepared. Enjoy the many memories you make during the rest of the summer!

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Supporting Veteran Opportunity

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, 27 July 2022
in Wisconsin

veterans-vietnam-foxJeff Smith writes about the Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity and what he has learned as a member.


BRUNSWICK, WI - United States veterans have made many sacrifices to preserve our freedom as Americans. Our veterans deserve recognition for their commitment of putting one’s country over one’s self. More importantly, our veterans deserve the assurance that the country they served will be there to offer unyielding support if and when they need it.

Veterans often face unique challenges affecting their mental, emotional and physical health after completing their service. These challenges can take a toll on the lives of veterans and their families, contributing to financial insecurity or long-term health issues.

It’s critical that we address the immediate needs of our veterans and consider new solutions to fix the root causes of the issues facing our veterans. I’m very proud to be a part of a team focusing on this exact mission.

tony-eversEarlier this year, Governor Evers established the Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity. With more than 20 members, most of whom have military experience, the commission is charged with developing comprehensive, long-term efforts to support Wisconsin's more than 300,000 veterans and address challenges they may face. I’m honored to work with such a qualified group to better understand the issues at-hand and deliver recommendations to reduce barriers to employment, healthcare, housing and more.

The commission has already met five times since May. In each of these meetings there are four key goals we are to accomplish: examine current issues facing veterans, hear from the public, discuss policy ideas and prepare proposals for the governor. There are different themes addressed in each meeting, but we’ve remained focused on these goals to best understand how we can help our veterans.

During our first meeting we learned about how we can further sustain the Veterans Trust Fund, an important program that provides support for veteran museums, outreach and recovery programs, county veteran service offices and more.

In our second meeting, the commission discussed long-term nursing quality and accessibility, including in our state’s veterans homes. This is an issue of great concern to many, especially as we all know, we have an aging population with a shrinking caregiver workforce. We discussed how COVID-19 affected access to quality care and the effectiveness of the vaccine to protect residents. We looked forward to consider how new technology and specialized care can benefit veterans in care facilities.

vets-gi-billPost-service education, job training and employment were the main topics of conversation at our third meeting. I was interested to learn about the systems currently available to support veterans’ career paths and help them leverage their unique skills and specialties to new roles in the civilian workforce. We spent time thinking of ways we can improve ADA accommodations for veterans and develop employment on-boarding processes specific to veterans.

We held a public hearing during the fourth commission meeting. In all of the past meetings, we had experts and invited members of the public speak on each topic; this meeting was insightful to learn from Wisconsinites about the challenges and solutions they’ve identified to support fellow veterans. We heard from residents in areas of the state including Fond du Lac, Ashland and Dunn County—I am grateful for their valued participation in this meeting.

Last week we had our latest meeting, which focused on housing accessibility and mental health. We learned about mental health support programs and the barriers experienced by veterans that affect their housing stability. These issues are top priorities for the commission, and I’m hopeful our work will prompt action and results to support our veterans.

jeff-smithThe commission will continue to meet through the rest of the summer. Based on the presentations we’ve joined and in-depth conversations we’ve had, we will develop a report with recommendations for Governor Evers to be included in the 2023-25 biennial budget proposal.

As the son of a World War II Navy veteran, I am incredibly honored to serve on the Blue Ribbon Commission and do my part to support Wisconsin’s veterans. My father’s uniform hangs in my office to this day to remind myself of Americans’ service to their country. Now it’s our responsibility to support our brave veterans who truly exemplified the meaning of public service.

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Big Steps Forward for Broadband Expansion

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 20 July 2022
in Wisconsin

internet-in-rural-areasSen Smith writes about Governor Evers’ visit to the Town of Cross in Buffalo County last week and the efforts his administration has taken to expand broadband in Wisconsin.


Town of Cross, WI - I enjoy being out and about in the community and listening to the issues that are on folks’ minds. No matter what corner of the district I’m in, one of the top issues I hear over and over again is broadband access.

We’ve long known the importance of broadband expansion, but the COVID-19 pandemic certainly stressed the urgency of connecting all homes and businesses to reliable, high-speed internet.

This was the main topic of conversation during a community meeting held last week in the Town of Cross near Fountain City. Governor Tony Evers came to this meeting to hear firsthand from residents the importance of expanding broadband, specifically in Wisconsin’s rural areas.

The location of this meeting wasn’t chosen at random. Governor Evers’ Administration recently awarded the Town of Cross $2.1 million through the Broadband Expansion Grant Program. This grant award will help to connect nearly 230 addresses in the Town of Cross by the fall.

broadband-town-mtg-crossThanks to the hard work of local residents and broadband stakeholders and Governor Evers’ efforts, a town of less than 400 people will now have faster access to internet services. We had a lot to talk about and celebrate during last week’s meeting with Governor Evers, local officials and residents.

Communities in every region of the state have benefited from the historic investments delivered by Governor Evers since he took office in 2019. More than 387,000 homes and businesses now have new or improved access to these services because of state and federal funds allocated by the governor.

Governor Evers is a leader on this issue and has been for years, prioritizing broadband expansion efforts in new ways. In addition to the $300 million investment the governor made toward improving broadband access, he’s brought experts, stakeholders and community leaders together to consider new approaches in closing Wisconsin’s digital divide.

In 2020, the governor created the Task Force on Broadband Access and followed this up by declaring 2021 the Year of Broadband Access. These announcements set the stage for productive conversations and deliverable results.

After the work accomplished by the Task Force in 2021, they released a report focusing on key areas to reach the shared mission of improving broadband accessibility, affordability and adaptability in Wisconsin.

Last week, there was more exciting broadband news: the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access released their second annual report, providing an update on the Administration’s most recent progress.

Building off last year’s work, the Task Force focused more specifically on “the structural network advancements necessary for local and regional planning work to be conducted, as well as a tool kit or resources that would benefit the work,” according to the 2022 report. The Task Force plans to meet these objectives through active network building, community alignment and available resources, including support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.

The 2022 annual report included great examples of how the Task Force saw these objectives already met in communities within Wisconsin, including in Buffalo County’s Town of Cross. They included the Town of Cross as a case study to demonstrate the extraordinary potential of strong public-private partnerships, like the one established between the town and the local internet service provider, Cochrane Cooperative Telephone Company.

jeff-smithThe case study detailed the process, which in the end, proved successful for the Town of Cross and its residents. Before the Town of Cross even applied for the grant through the American Rescue Plan Act Broadband Access grant cycle in July 2021, they surveyed residents to assess the needs for improved broadband access and received a 70% response rate.

With this level of support, they applied for grant funding and received $2.1 million, which will help to construct a 51 mile fiber network across 37.7 square mile area.

This story goes to show all that can be done with strong partnerships, key investments and dependable leaders. I am proud to represent the Town of Cross and the many other communities in the district who have developed innovative approaches to improve broadband access.

These are strong steps forward, but I can tell it’s only the beginning.

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Summer Adventure Awaits

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 13 July 2022
in Wisconsin

door-county_bikingSen. Smith writes about the many opportunities Wisconsinites have to explore the state this summer.


BRUNSWICK, WI - Summer is the time to get outdoors and travel, and there sure are plenty of opportunities to do so right here in Wisconsin. Wisconsinites know this all too well, but it’s exciting to know out-of-state travelers are getting in on the fun.

Last year, there were 102.3 million visitor trips to Wisconsin, according to the Department of Tourism. Like nearly all other industries, Wisconsin’s tourism industry was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in 2020; fortunately last year’s tourism numbers show a positive step forward.

The total economic impact of Wisconsin tourism in 2021 was $20.9 billion – this is a 21% increase from 2020! Tourism surged in all 72 counties, helping small businesses and local communities across the state. I have a feeling 2022 is going to be even better for Wisconsin tourism and there are ways you can help make that happen.

Here’s how you can help: start planning a trip of your own in our beautiful state. Whether you want to stay close to home or travel to the opposite side of the state, there are plenty of exciting adventures awaiting.

We’re fortunate to live in western Wisconsin, which I regard as one of the most beautiful areas of the state – if not the whole country. In the 31st Senate District, we have multiple state parks to go hiking and camping, including Merrick, Perrot and Kinnickinnic. If you enjoy fishing, this area is the right spot for you; trout streams can be found throughout the Driftless Region or you’ll find anglers along the Mississippi River. Canoeing, birding and biking are some more activities you can take advantage of in this region.

If you’d rather not spend all of your time outdoors, you’re still in luck in western Wisconsin. Our region has a plethora of things to do, such as visiting historic landmarks, stopping at a local brewery or winery or attending a local festival. The options are endless!

As an Eau Claire County resident my whole life, it’s been exciting to see the arts community develop in this area thanks to investments made by our community. In Eau Claire and surrounding communities, you’ll find beautiful handmade artwork or be able to hear incredible work by local musicians.

As much as we love western Wisconsin, I understand the urge to explore new parts of the state. Unlike many of our Midwestern neighbors, all Wisconsinites have a little something to brag about. Each region of Wisconsin is unique and has something different to offer.

jeff-smithOne of my favorite areas to visit with my family is the Lake Superior region and communities in Northern Wisconsin. Similar to western Wisconsin, the Northwoods is truly breathtaking with its forests, rivers and trails. If you visit Northeastern Wisconsin, you’ll be close to Lake Michigan and you could even visit historic Lambeau Field where we’ll cheer our state’s team on in the fall.

If you choose to visit Southeast Wisconsin, you’re probably thinking of stopping in Milwaukee, our state’s biggest city. With its many fests, restaurants and sports teams, I’m sure you will find enough to stay busy.

Southcentral Wisconsin is another picturesque area of our state, including our state Capitol and the beginning of the Driftless region. Located near many farms, this region offers delicious, fresh food that all can enjoy.

Each county in Wisconsin has something very special to offer. Even if you’re able to visit all regions this summer, I guarantee you’ll be returning soon to finish your adventure checklist and try out different fall and winter activities.

Now that you’re thinking of all of the fun places to travel next, you’re probably wondering how to plan your trip. Well, you’re in luck. Travel Wisconsin is our state’s one-stop shop for all information to create your itinerary. They have countless ideas on what to do and where to stay in areas all over the state. Visit TravelWisconsin.com to get started.

Make memories with your friends and family this summer. Be safe and enjoy the many adventures Wisconsin has waiting for you.

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The Traditions that Unite Us

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 06 July 2022
in Wisconsin

4th-cedarburgSen. Jeff Smith is back, writing about Independence Day and the celebratory traditions we share that unite us as a nation.


BRUNSWICK, WI - Celebrations on the 4th of July bring back many fond memories. Whether it’s eating ice cream or having a family barbeque, waving the American flag at a parade or watching the fireworks at night, Americans have treasured traditions to celebrate this holiday.

Many of us can reflect on our own childhoods and think about the many different ways we celebrated Independence Day with our friends and family. As we got older, we made sure to share these traditions with our own children.

Tradition is important for any culture or nationality because it helps people better understand their past and preserve their customs. In the United States, we celebrate Independence Day to remember the history of our country and honor the meaning of independence for all Americans, which provides unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This week, especially, I am thinking a lot about what it means to be an American. As Americans, we’re fortunate to live in an incredibly diverse country where we can celebrate our commonalities and differences. This is a strength of ours and helps us consider our country’s past, present and future.

It may not seem so now, but the Continental Congress’ decision to vote in favor of independence was radical at the time. Following this decision, the Constitution was created and our democratic republic, the form of government that exists today, was established. Despite these revolutionary changes, many groups, including Native people, enslaved persons, and women, were excluded from the decision-making process and subjugated.

Our country’s history is uncomfortable, yet it’s something we must learn and grow from. Generations of Americans before us have done just that and our country has improved because of it. One example to think of is the expansion of voter rights in our country. At a time early in our country’s founding, only white, male landowners were able to vote. Through persistent advocacy, more groups gradually gained the right to vote.

When we think about the United States’ future, we must think of our past. To this day, one’s right to vote and access to the polls are still issues debated on and subject to change by politicians. And that’s not the only right at this time that’s at risk. Americans will protect the rights we have because we remember the time in our country’s past when these rights didn’t exist.

Americans have overcome a lot – together. We can think back to the challenges and sacrifice that generations before us experienced, but we know the United States is the country we are today because of citizens’ shared commitment to be better. We know it’s possible to create new opportunity and preserve our freedoms because we’ve seen Americans before us do just that.

While we have fun traditions that we participate in to celebrate our country’s independence, like family barbecues or fireworks, there’s a lot to be said about the traditions that we observe year-round that are unique to us as Americans.

We carry on the American tradition of civil dialogue over our disagreements. We continue the tradition of inclusivity and working to make this country one where all succeed, not the privileged few. We stay focused on the great American experiment founded on the principles of a democracy.

jeff-smithI understand it often feels like there is more that divides us, as Americans, than what unites us. Independence Day is an important reminder of the values we do share as Americans, but it’s critical we remember this throughout the year.

Think back to a memory or your favorite 4th of July tradition. Share this with a neighbor or stranger in your community. Once we start having more of these conversations, it will be easier to see what our country means to us all.

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