Tuesday October 19, 2021

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Enough Talk, Let’s Act

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 22 September 2021
in Wisconsin

jeff-smith-31Sen. Smith discusses his role on various task forces and how the legislature must be prepared to work as we move forward this legislative session.


MADISON - I find that participating in a task force or study group can be an eye opening and enriching experience that helps me grow as a person. Without better understanding an issue, state leaders can be flailing in the dark, but hearing from experts and reading about solutions that have worked in other states can help guide our work.

I serve on a couple of task forces. I think it’s important that I learn as much as possible so I can find possible ideas to fix some of the greatest challenges we face as a state. Also, I love to learn.

A task force first studies an issue, then formulates policy solutions to share with the legislature to pass into law. That process should work, but it seems like we’ve reached a point where an issue has been identified and potential solutions continue to be shared over and over again. The legislature is slow to act on solutions, if they’re introduced at all. We shouldn’t continue revisiting the same issues we’ve studied before without taking meaningful action first.

Let’s look at broadband, for example. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became even clearer that every household needed to be connected to high-speed internet. Running fiber to every home and business would better situate us for times like this. Legislators, including myself, have studied this issue inside and out, up and down. Thanks also to the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access, we know what needs to be done. We know that private providers aren’t able to reach rural Americans without assistance from state and federal partners, like during the period of rural electrification in America. But here we are, still talking about it and delaying work that needs to get done.

The Dairy Task Force is the poster child for what can be wrong in Madison. Not only was there a task force that strategized how to save the industry in the 1980s, but in 2018 state leaders introduced Dairy Task Force 2.0. Although ideas came from both dairy task forces, the legislature has fallen far short of addressing the desperation that dairy farmers are feeling. It’s a shame; our family farmers needed action yesterday. While the dairy industry is full of hands-on problem solvers, their hands are tied by political inaction.

While the creation of a task force is promising, they get mired down by politics. There are plenty of theories I could suggest as to why that’s the case. First and foremost is political maneuvering. Some politicians get caught up in who get credit for solving the problem, and they prevent good ideas from moving forward.

Take the Water Quality Task Force, for example. In 2019 members toured the state, hearing from hundreds of experts and citizens. They introduced a package of bills that worked its way through the legislature, but didn’t even “come close to wholly addressing prevention or help people gain access to the clean, safe water they deserve,” according to Clean Wisconsin. To make matters worse, these proposals died on the floor when legislative leaders failed to schedule them for a vote. Once again, a task force was stifled by politics.

Similarly, the Climate Change Task Force presented a number of policy ideas to address what may be the most consequential challenge we, and our future generations, face. The governor included many of their recommendations in his 2021-23 budget proposal. Unfortunately, the Joint Finance Committee stripped them out and ignored the Task Force. Once again, no action.

We all want to be the person championing an issue, but we can’t let that get in the way of doing our job serving Wisconsinites.

I’m currently serving on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. We’re hearing stories, understanding the issue and learning how to address this crisis. But once the task force ends its work, the legislature must act on our recommendations.

As legislators we’re expected to do our jobs, and we should be prepared to work as we move forward this legislative session. Sure, being informed before taking any action is important. But taking no action at all is inexcusable.

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Wis Democracy Campaign - Sign up for Fair Maps Lobby Day

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
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on Friday, 17 September 2021
in Wisconsin

wi-fair-mapsMADISON - I hope you can join us, and the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition, on Sept. 27 for our Fair Maps Lobby Day.

Our two legislative priorities for the day are for legislators to take up the new district maps produced by the People’s Maps Commission and to pass legislation (AB395/SB389) that would give us independent, nonpartisan redistricting from now on.

And don’t worry: It’s not in person. Because of COVID, the Lobby Day will be a virtual event.

To get more information and to register, just click here: https://www.fairmapswi.com/events/legislative-lobby-day

The people are with us on this issue, as a recent poll shows:

Support for Banning Gerrymandering in Wisconsin Rises to 87%!

Another issue we’re working really hard on is voting rights. With the Wisconsin Voting Rights Coalition, we’re countering the bogus narrative that the election was stolen, and we’re campaigning against the anti-voting bills introduced in the Legislature.

Here’s a post I wrote about former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman warning about the dangers that Wisconsin will turn into Arizona:

Christine Todd Whitman Denounces Wisconsin’s “CyberNinjas 2.0”

And here’s a profile we put up of Representative Janel Brandtjen, the leader of what I call the Whack Caucus in the State Assembly:

Here’s a Quick Snapshot of “Big Lie” Backer Rep. Janel Brandtjen

matt-rothschild-2018I hope you enjoy these postings, and I look forward to seeing you on Sept. 27.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

****

P.S. Please support our urgent work with a tax-deductible gift today. Just click here. Thanks!

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Redistricting: The Responsibility of a Lifetime

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 15 September 2021
in Wisconsin

wi-fair-mapsSen. Jeff Smith provides an update on where Wisconsin’s redistricting process currently stands and shares information about how people can stay engaged.


MADISON - Imagine what it must be like to have a job that carries with it a lifetime guarantee. No matter what you do, no matter how you behave, your job can’t be taken from you until you decide to give it up. Make terrible choices that hurt the clients you’re supposed to serve? Ignore calls from customers? Don’t bother showing up to your job for nearly a year? You face no consequences and you keep your job.

This is what happens with gerrymandered maps. Ten years ago, Republican politicians hired private attorneys to draw legislative districts in secret, with no public input. These gerrymandered maps essentially preserved the Majority Party’s political advantage for the last decade, giving them a free pass to ignore their constituents.

Since the gerrymandered maps were drawn ten years ago, you’ve heard me advocate for a nonpartisan redistricting process. Well, the time is finally here. The redistricting process is now underway and it’s crucial that we are paying close attention to make sure we have fair maps that truly represent the will of the people.

So, what’s the latest with Wisconsin’s redistricting efforts? In the spring, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing an increase in the state population. This census data is used to show where population shifts occurred over the last ten years, which will determine how districts are drawn. Once the census data was made available in August, the redistricting process could officially begin in Wisconsin.

There are three phases that make up the local redistricting process. Currently, counties are preparing a county supervisory district plan with the census data. Once this phase is completed, municipalities are required to adjust the ward boundaries by complying with traditional redistricting principles that preserve geographic compactness, district contiguity, communities of interest and unity of political subdivisions. In the third phase of local redistricting, counties and cities will adopt their district plans.

While the local redistricting process is happening, state legislators are preparing to draw legislative and congressional districts. State lawmakers must adhere to the same traditional redistricting principles that local elected officials use when creating maps.

The redistricting process is complex. The process we currently have in place was shaped by U.S. Supreme Court decisions, landmark legislation and a fascinating history dating back to our state’s founding. Current redistricting efforts will have its share of political arguments and lawsuits—but this is why it’s more important than ever for you to be involved.

vote-47-mbWhile your local and state elected officials begin sketching district boundaries, they need to hear from you to take into account the identity and values you share with other members of your community. We want to ensure the public has ample opportunity to participate in this historic process, but we need to fulfill our constitutional duty of passing new maps before the next election. So, don’t delay—contact your elected officials today to share your support for fair maps and submit your districting ideas.

jeff-smithYou’ve probably heard from me and others that the state budget is a moral document; it defines our values and priorities. Well, redistricting falls into that same moral category. It’s a huge responsibility that must be taken seriously and done fairly if we are to be honest with ourselves and with you, the constituency we serve.

For years, policies supported by a majority of Wisconsinites have been ignored because of the gerrymandered Majority Party. We still haven’t expanded BadgerCare, closed the dark store loophole or legalized marijuana. It’s immoral to ignore the will of the people, and it ends now by participating in the redistricting process to ensure Wisconsinites’ voices are restored.

For a moral and just future we can’t allow legislators to give themselves a guaranteed job for another decade. We should–and must–answer to you on each issue we decide. Pay attention to this process and discuss with friends, neighbors and your legislators.

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Team Smith is Here to Serve

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 September 2021
in Wisconsin

wi-senate-swearing-inState Senator Jeff Smith writes about everything that he, and his office, can do to serve residents of the 31st Senate District.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - “What can you help with?” It’s a question I get a lot, but I was asked this most recently while visiting folks in an Arcadia neighborhood. You see, I’ve been getting out in other communities around the 31st Senate District, meeting others and dropping off contact cards to make sure folks know how to get ahold of me. I look for any opportunity to be out where people can talk to me in person. So what is it that I (and my office) can do for you?

A legislator, and his or her office, is meant to serve the constituents of the district they’re elected to represent. From listening to your ideas and answering your questions to navigating government agencies or supporting local government needs, we sure can do a lot to help.

The 31st Senate District office is a busy place. Team Smith includes me and my staff, and we’re here to hear from you. We respond to your phone calls and emails to share helpful resources. Team Smith also researches policy issues or potential legislation. Bill ideas often come from constituents who are facing difficult situations that need law changes to fix their problems.

I can walk through a good example of how you and I can work together to solve a problem. Back at the farmer’s market in 2009, a constituent told me how she was looking into getting a dog. She discovered that many ads led to unhealthy and unethical puppy mills and she wondered if I’d be interested in looking into it. Together we visited some dealers and went to a dog auction in Thorp to learn more. My staff and I connected with other groups that were concerned about this practice and we began piecing together language to prohibit dangerous dog breeding and selling practices. Without getting into all the details, our efforts led to successfully passing legislation that was signed by the governor to become Act 90 in 2009.

This story highlights just one aspect of a legislative office, although it may be what many folks expect we put most of our efforts into. However, there’s so much more to what we do in a legislative office that doesn’t make the headlines the same way that political disagreements and new bills do. We work with agencies if residents are experiencing a problem, like missing unemployment insurance benefits, for example. We connect to organizations and resources to assist individuals if they’re struggling to pay rent or take care of a loved one who is aging or has a disability. If my office can’t help directly, we’ll know someone who may be able to.

jeff-smithAs a legislator, I can’t step in to help with a constituent’s court case or legal proceeding. And realistically, a bill I introduce can’t become law at the snap of my fingers (no matter how hard I’ve tried). It takes time for an idea to work its way through the legislative process, but it’s my job to work with my colleagues – on both sides of the aisle – to have your ideas heard in the Capitol.

Of course, for the past 18 months, we’ve had to get creative in finding ways to connect safely. Just because you might have spent more time at home with your family doesn’t change the fact that you may need some help or may have an idea to share with my office.

Many times, it’s simply connecting with constituents at the farmer’s market or at one of my Stop & Talks that will lead me to an issue I had no knowledge of before. Whether you see me at a Stop & Talk, have a contact card on your doorstep, or prefer to give my office a call, I want to hear from you.

Send us an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call us at (608)266-8546. Certainly, don’t shy from approaching me in person when you see me around. I have a personal belief that I’m here to serve whenever you see me, no matter where it might be.

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Homework to Start the School Year

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, 01 September 2021
in Wisconsin

school-bus-kidsSen. Smith writes about the things we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our children as they begin their new school year.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - We’ve reached that point of year again when kids are excited to return to the classroom, see their friends and begin a new school year. As adults, we can understand their excitement, but it’s up to us to make sure kids can have a safe and successful school year.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a drastic turn of events in our fight against COVID-19. Like many other states, Wisconsin is experiencing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. This is ramping up just as schools are preparing to welcome back our children. This should alarm all of us. The good news is we have tools at-hand to reverse this trend and help our schools stay open.

With all that we’ve learned since the beginning of the pandemic, we know how to stop the spread if we do certain things. The easiest is getting vaccinated. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer vaccine. Prior to this announcement, the COVID-19 vaccines met the FDA’s “rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization,” and now we can be even more confident knowing the safety and efficacy of the vaccine is confirmed.

covid-19-teacher-back-to-schoolThe COVID-19 vaccine can prevent you from getting COVID-19 or becoming seriously ill or dying of COVID-19, according to Mayo Clinic. Additionally, the vaccine can prevent you from spreading the virus to others and get us closer to reaching herd immunity. Fifty-one percent of Wisconsinites are now fully vaccinated, but we still have work to do to protect kids who are too young to get the vaccine.

When polio raged across the country, people celebrated the discovery of a vaccine and eagerly lined up to get vaccinated. The same goes with chicken pox and other communicable diseases. Of course, the first reason folks get vaccinated is to protect themselves and their family, but also to protect others in their community.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free for Wisconsinites. If you haven’t received your vaccine yet, you can receive $100 for doing your part to protect your community. If you get your first vaccine dose by September 6, you’ll be eligible to receive $100 just by visiting 100.wisconsin.gov.

We have to move forward. We are at a pivotal time in getting through the pandemic. We owe it to our loved ones, our frontline healthcare workers, our local businesses and our children’s future to get vaccinated so Wisconsin can flourish during this critical time.

jeff-smithWe don’t have to look back this year if we get vaccinated and wear a mask when we’re indoors and around others to stop the spread. The reason to wear a mask is no different than staying home when you’re sick or keeping children home from school if they have symptoms: so they don’t infect others.

With school open now it’s even more important to stop the spread. Next to long term care facilities, schools are probably the most vulnerable to the spread of communicable disease. Anyone could be carrying the virus without knowing it before they infect others. That includes children who can spread it to other children and the adults in their school. We must all do our part to keep kids at school, teachers teaching and support staff working by limiting the spread and preventing schools from being short-staffed.

Before our kids head back to school, we adults have some homework to do. Talk to your doctor or head to Vaccines.gov to learn more about how you can protect yourself and your loved ones. We all want to see our kids have a good year and it’s our job to set them up for success.

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