Thursday August 11, 2022

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We Can Build Back Better

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 29 September 2021
in Wisconsin

business-small-openSen. Smith writes about the work to help communities across the state recover from the pandemic and build our state up for success. He shares an example from Jackson County to support childcare providers, working parents and local employers.


MADISON - The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in more ways than one. I think many of us, myself included, expected to pick up right where we left off, but it’s now very clear there’s a lot we need to do to help recover from the pandemic and address the challenges that existed long before this crisis.

In March, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law, which directed relief to working families and small businesses. ARPA also included emergency funding for states and local governments to respond to the pandemic.

So, how should this relief be distributed to help our communities recover? How can our local municipalities best allocate these dollars to help Wisconsin move forward? These questions are currently being asked and studied throughout the country. Local leaders have formed committees and created websites in search of ideas that match the needs of their communities. There are opportunities for you, as citizens, to add your input to the mix.

And your input really can make a difference. In Jackson County, right here in western Wisconsin, the County Board listened to the needs of its residents and agreed to direct $105,500 toward improving childcare access. Marianne Torkelson, who leads the Jackson County Childcare Taskforce said, “These dollars will go directly to providers in Jackson County for retention bonuses and for new providers to help with start-up costs.”

The pandemic directly hit the childcare industry which, in turn, negatively affected businesses and the local economy. When parents lack reliable childcare, they’re less likely to be at work, putting a burden on their employer. Like many essential services, childcare access has often been overlooked and providers have been taken for granted. Even before the pandemic, many employers were concerned by the lack of childcare options. The Jackson County Childcare Taskforce was formed without knowing it would have such an important role in pandemic recovery efforts. Now it’s become abundantly clear that if businesses are to be successful, access to affordable and reliable childcare is essential.

Of course, other essential needs must also be met and the ARPA funding is vital in the success of our recovery efforts. Thus, decisions made now by elected officials will have a lasting effect on all aspects of our economic recovery.

If any municipality is going to help the community recover, they must prioritize the projects that have the greatest impact for all of its residents. Maybe it’s partnering with Internet Service Providers to lay fiber to every household and business. It could be using ARPA funds to improve aging and inadequate infrastructure or boost our Main Street businesses. Or, like Jackson County, elected officials can ensure essential workers, like childcare providers are paid properly and parents can hold a family supporting job.

jeff-smithBefore 2020 I’m not sure everyone recognized essential workers’ invaluable role in our lives. I doubt people thought twice of the work performed by a custodian, grocery store clerk, warehouse worker or childcare provider. Only when we missed them or saw that they worked right through the pandemic did it become more obvious how essential essential service workers really are in our lives.

Essential workers’ service was undervalued and unappreciated before the pandemic, and made worse by it. Many workers have been reluctant to return to the same job for the same pay now that they know how much their work is really worth. Some have made life changes like retraining for new jobs they hope will better support their family. Childcare, along with long term care services, are perfect examples of jobs that have become increasingly hard to fill. Employers, working with community stakeholders and local elected officials, have gotten creative to attract and retain workers; the Jackson County childcare initiative is one example, and I hope there’ll be more.

I applaud local elected officials, like the leaders in Jackson County that are making these decisions for the recovery and advancement of the community. That is what real leaders do; they solve problems and look to the future with their solutions. We will recover and build back better with leaders that make wise investments.

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Teach Youngsters About Corporatism’s Harms

Posted by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, formerly of Stoughton, WI now of Tucson, is a long time progressive
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 26 September 2021
in Wisconsin

kids-at-beachProgressives are far behind politicians, racists, religions and corporations, says veteran.


Tucson, AZ - How different the world might be if Nader had won the presidency years ago. (He ran 4 times). Would he have been able to make much change?

Who has the most influence over your child's or grand children's minds?

Nader is about 87 and thinking about what kids get in school in the class and from the airwaves from their electronic gear.

I worked for decades as a "planner" in state government and good number of years as an elected official and union leader. In general terms state and local governments know little about and do little planning.

Corporations do a lot of planning. The Defense Department has Top Secret and higher plans for just about everything. In the military I had safes crammed full of plans (which no one ever read.)

Anyway our children's minds have been the target of corporations, the ad corporations and the entertainment corporations for about 100 years. I guess that's not right. Our minds and our children's minds have been the target.

Throughout history politicians, racists and religions have targeted peoples minds. These new fangled things called corporations started in the mid 1800's have worked very hard and have been very successful to "help" us think right!!!

Progressives are far, far behind in planning and coordinating their efforts. I think there have been more attempts to plan and coord. lately but the impacts are still unknown.

When one guy has all the money to equip his team with machine guns, drones and night vision, progressives (which I count myself one) can coordinate the shooting of our cap pistols and BB guns all we want and we will lose.

Example: Today and the issue of the Senate filibuster.

Peace!
Buzz Davis Vets for Peace in Tucson

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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)
User is currently offline
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
User is currently offline
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)
User is currently offline
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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