News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope that your week is off to a productive start, and that you're finding a bit of relief from the weekend's massive heatwave seen across much of the state. Between the storms and the heat, it seems like everybody saw some extreme weather. This week, we'll go over the state's most recent jobs numbers, talk a bit about the state's response to the massive floods and damage in Northwestern Wisconsin, introduce you to Governor Walker's new appointment to the State Supreme Court, and share our recent interview with Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Steven Point.) Because of summer travels and scheduling conflicts, we will bring you a new lawmaker interview next week. We hope you find this week's Capitol Report to be interesting and informative, and as always, if you have something you would like to see featured in a future edition, please reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best for a great week ahead,
Two weeks later, Northwestern Wisconsin still recovering from floods
It's been two weeks to the day, and most communities in Northwestern Wisconsin are still dealing with the aftermath of torrential rainfall, followed by devastating floods that impacted families, homes, businesses, and roads. State and federal officials will today be meeting in Madison to discuss the damages, and dispatch regional field teams across the different areas impacted by the floods. The Federal and Wisconsin Emergency Management teams will then compile the information they gather, and give it to Governor Walker, who will decide whether or not to request a federal disaster declaration. The damages are estimated at almost $50 million across the region, including some parts of Minnesota as well. This cost has left many of the impacted areas wondering when or if state aid will be provided. About $34 million of the damage estimates are fro public infrastructure across 10 counties, and 2.4 million for homes affected by the storms. Of the counties impacted, Iron County was hit the hardest in financial terms. It's reported that nearly $13 million in damage to public infrastructure in that region, including crippling damage to Saxon Harbor marina and campground.
High cap wells and your responses
Last week, we brought you the news that state lawmakers are planning on revisiting the issue of high capacity wells. Last session, Rep. Scott Krug introduced a bill that would allow the DNR to study various areas with high cap wells, and their impacts on local bodies of water, and then decide whether an area should be deemed "sensitive," and have a different set of rules based on the impacts of natural resources in the area. If you aren't familiar, these wells can draw up to 100,000 gallons of water per day, and can be the cause of river beds and other local bodies of water drying up. This leaves environmental and conservation groups fighting against the wells, but with many in the agriculture industries stuck trying to explain to the public how important these wells are to their operations, and the industry as a whole. Some lawmakers, like Krug, are stuck in the middle and see the need for a balance between the beautiful natural resources of the area, and the industries that keep local economies moving, and countless residents employed. So, let's go through some of your responses. Are there high cap wells in your area?
About 40 percent say there are high cap wells in their areas, about 30 percent saying no, and another 30 not really sure. Do you think the state should do more to regulate these wells?
By a hair, 52 percent believe the state should do more to regulate these wells, and 47 percent believe the state does enough. "Putting the DNR in charge of anything is insane." "Government needs to stay out of it." "[Yes] just to be sure what their impact is on ground water flow rates." "Delicate balance, but should be more local." Do you think Rep. Krug's proposal is reasonable? In other words; do you think it's reasonable to allow for certain areas to be designated as more sensitive due to natural resources in the area?
65 percent feel this is a good compromise. 35 percent don't. "Let us educate farmers on how to use water more efficiently." "We should put this into the UWEX system." Between industry and resources, do you think one is more important than the other?
92 percent feel there need to be a balance between industry and resources. Interestingly enough, Rep. Krug said the same thing when speaking about the need to address the high capacity well issue in Wisconsin. Here's some of your responses: "We can't stop farmers from watering the plants that feed everyone and then tell them there will be a food shortage in 2050." "You need both. But no water means no life." "Farms get blamed for everything." "It's not just pulling water from our aquifers, it's also the quality of water going into the aquifers. CAFOs, manure, and drain tile are a SERIOUS ISSUE." It certainly will be interesting to see if the state legislature decides to do something about this statewide issue, or if they will continue to kick the can down the unfunded road. Finally, if somebody came up do you right now, would you choose a high quality chocolate, or a high quality cheese? And what do you snack on at work?
Whoa! Nearly 70 percent said they want some cheese! And what do you usually snack on at work? "Cheese, apples and veggies." "Fruit, yogurt, and cheese!" "Chocolate if I have it." "Cheese curds with dried cranberries is the best!" "String cheese!!! From Burnett Dairy! Yummy!"
Gov. Walker appoints Daniel Kelly to Wisconsin Supreme Court
Governor Walker on Friday appointed private attorney Daniel Kelly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice David Prosser. Governor Walker said, "Daniel Kelly is an exceptionally accomplished trial and appellate attorney who has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Wisconsin Supreme Court." "His extensive real world experience, combined with his intellect and integrity, make him well-suited to be an influential member of the Court." This appointment keeps in place a 5-2 conservative majority on the court. Kelly served on the legal team that defended legislative and congressional maps that Republican lawmakers redrew in 2011. He has also been closely involved with conservative legal groups such as the Federalist Society, for which he serves as president, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. The new appointee is already taking some heat for having likened affirmative action to slavery, and for having vocally bashed same sex marriage. When asked about his past remarks, he allowed Governor Walker to responded on his behalf. The governor assured the people of Wisconsin that Kelly would not inject his personal beliefs into his work for the court.
Assistant Assembly Leader, Katrina Shankland, working towards transparency, stronger workforce
If there is one indication that she's working hard, it's that she was elected to Assistant Assembly Minority Leader in only her second term as a lawmaker. WPT reached out to Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) to get some thoughts on her time in the legislature, and her plans moving forward, in our ongoing weekly nonpartisan interviews with your lawmakers. The Central Wisconsin lawmaker wasted no time in sharing her pride for Assembly District 71, and the Central Wisconsin region. I asked her what inspired her to get into public service, and she immediately gave all the credit to her community. "After graduating from UW-Madison I started working at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, and became active in the Stevens Point area community. I love Central Wisconsin and am so proud of the community I live in. That's why I ran for office -- to build upon the great work that so many are doing locally, and represent them on the state level."
It's no secret that Central Wisconsin is truly one of the most beautiful areas in the state, but there was even a ton that I didn't know, and Rep. Shankland was quick to share more about her region. "Portage County has many parks and trails that I like to get out there with my dog, Stitch. I also love to bike and hike the Green Circle Trail, a 26-mile trail that goes through many municipalities in Portage County. Sunset Lake is a favorite place of mine. If you golf, check out Sentry World! It's beautiful and the perfect place for events." Good thing summer vacation is quickly approaching- I almost started booking accommodation as she was listing these must-see attractions. I asked her to share with WPT's members one place in her district that everybody in Wisconsin should visit. She couldn't do it. "The 71st Assembly District is home to so many places that everybody should visit, it's impossible to pick just one. We are home to a winery, distillery, and four breweries-- The Central Wisconsin Craft Collective! Anyone visiting Portage County should check out the great drinks and fantastic food -- from artisanal Christian's Bistro, Father Fat's or El Jefe, to the traditional PJ's or Hilltop, we've got you covered." After getting full just hearing about the vast foodie scene in the area, we switched focus to her role as Assistant Minority Leader in the State Assembly. Are there longer hours? More work? Rep. Shankland said it's a wonderful opportunity to help spread her caucus' message around the state, and work with stakeholders and people across the state to develop new ideas and build consensus. "It's important to me to engage with people and hear from them about their greatest challenges and opportunities and how we can help them build on their successes. The Assembly Democratic caucus has done a lot of outreach around the state." That's very true. From hardhat tours to round table discussions on business, education, veterans issues, agriculture, and more, Rep. Shankland has been hitting the road with her colleagues to hear from businesses and community groups directly. "About 60% of new jobs come from small business. It's critical that [the legislature] support startups and small business growth. We also need to invest more in our infrastructure, broadband, public transit, and affordable housing." As the Vice-Chair of the Speaker's Taskforce on Youth Workforce Readiness, Rep. Shankland heard from countless business owners about their workforce needs. "As baby boomers age out of the workforce, Wisconsin will face a significant worker shortage," she said. "As a result, we not only need to invest more in current workforce training and public education to build the pipeline, we also need to nurture our talent in Wisconsin to keep people here." I asked her what keeping people here looks like. "We should strengthen work opportunities for young people and build on existing programs that work. Whether it's expanding transit options or making new investments in communities, we need to send a strong message to current and future workers that we value them and want them to stay, work, and raise their families here. When we keep talent in Wisconsin, we all win." Look no further than her bipartisan efforts to keep area tech employer Skyward in Wisconsin when they were looking to relocate to a new state. Reaching across the aisle, and working with everybody involved, a deal was struck, and the state and region averted a large-scale job loss. Rep. Shankland went on to share with WPT some of her priorities moving into the next legislative session, and having worked hard to achieve leadership status, her agenda has some big issues. "My main priorities moving into the next session are to invest in our most basic needs as a state; roads and bridges, public schools, technical colleges, and universities, and broadband." WPT's members last year loved the idea of a law that doesn't allow non-fiscal policy items in the budget. That would effectively make sure that our budget only deals with budgets, and can't sneak any last minute items into the budget to be passed along with the rest of the massive two-year fiscal bill. You guessed it, that was a bill introduced by Rep. Katrina Shankland. "Assembly Bill 329 is an example of one of the many bills that I introduced related to clean, open, and accountable government," she said. "The public deserves the right to weigh in on any policy that will affect them. We need to make sure our government is accountable at all times." We appreciate Assistant Democratic Leader Shankland for taking the time to share a bit about her work, goals, and vision for the future. We look forward to working with her on opportunities that strengthen our local economies, small businesses, and provide open and transparent government for Wisconsin's citizens.
Unemployment remains at 4.2%
Wisconsin's unemployment rate for June remained unchanged at 4.2%, according to the Department of Workforce Development. It should also be noted that Wisconsin's unemployment rate is at it's lowest level since March 2001. In other good news, our unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national average, which sits at 4.9%.
WPT meets with countless members at 2016 Farm Tech Days
Both farm and small business owners wandered over to the WPT tent during 2016 Farm Tech Days at Snudden Farms in Lake Geneva, Walworth County last week Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. It was a scorcher on all three days, but the heat was at its worst on Thursday.
"I had a really incredible time talking with our members," Legislative Director John Jacobson said.
"People are concerned right now. They're concerned that with revenues falling, and budget gaps growing, government is going to turn to property taxpayers yet again to fill the gap. We are already on the hook for about 8% of the state's share of public school funding, in addition to our own obligation. Give somebody else their turn," John said.
WPT's booth was in Agribusiness Tent C, situated perfectly in the center, between both the Republican and Democrats of Walworth County booths. We had great conversations with representatives from both local parties, and even saw some local elected officials from the region.
Also on hand were WPT President Mike Marsch, Agriculture Member Representative Manager Bert Vosters, Agriculture Member Rep. Doyle Spurgeon, and Business Member Rep. Roxanne Bouland.
WPT would like to thank Snudden Farms and the Farm Tech Days leadership for another great year! See you in Kewaunee County in 2017!