The League of Women Voters of the Greater Chippewa Valley has conducted a series of interviews with candidates for Chippewa Valley Assembly Districts. Thanks to the League, we will make these interviews available here. You will notice that all of the interviews are with candidates of one party, which is solely because the opponents of these candidates chose not to respond to requests for interviews. This is the interview with Jodi Emerson, Democratic candidate for the 91st Assembly District.

Disclaimer - our publisher, Steve Hanson, is co-vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the Greater Chippewa Valley.

A quick machine translation of the interview follows:

Thu, Oct 13, 2022 5:20PM • 12:28

Ellen Ochs

Well, good afternoon. I am Ellen Ochs. I'm a co president of League of Women Voters greater Chippewa Valley. And I'm here to interview Jody Emerson, who is running for assembly district 91 here in western Wisconsin. Welcome, Jodi.

Jodi Emerson

Thanks so much for having me, Elllen. Appreciate it.

Ellen Ochs

This is this is a good thing to get candidates out in front of voters so we can see who who you are. And I have several questions to ask you. So I'm going to get right started. Sounds good. Okay. Life expectancy has dropped for Wisconsin citizens in the past year. What steps can the state take to ensure that Wisconsin residents have access to health care that they can afford?

Jodi Emerson

Yeah, that's a great question. And I like the fact that you did it as a true two pronged approach. Because it's not just about having health care, but it's being able to afford it. So if you are making a minimum wage, and you have a $10,000 deductible, you have health insurance, but it's not really accessible for you. So one of the first things that the state can do, that we've been trying to do for several years now is expand Medicaid. In the Affordable Care Act, there was an option for people for states, excuse me, to expand Medicaid. So right now it is up to the federal poverty limit. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I believe it's if we were to expand it, it would be up to 133% of the poverty line. But you know, sometimes those numbers get jumbled in my head. So I apologize if that's a little off. But basically, we're talking about our most vulnerable people on on the socio economic status, having them have access to Medicaid, make sure that they have not only that they have health care, but it's accessible to them from a financial aspect. People who are at 120% of the poverty level, do not have the financial resources to have a $500 deductible, let alone a $5,000 deductible. So this makes sure that people who are maybe working a couple of part time jobs that, you know, add up to more than a full time job, but don't have the health benefits that come with an employer that they are able to get health care. So it covers their prescriptions, maybe it is insulin, we know what a vital product that is for people who have diabetes. So that's first and foremost, what the state can do. I also see that over the past several years, this isn't just a pandemic response. During the pandemic, we've actually increased money into public health. But But putting more money into public health is an important thing. And public health encompasses so many things. It's about mental health, it's about alcohol and drug abuse. It's it's about disease prevention, whether it's COVID, or whether it's measles, making sure that kids still have their, you know, their their vaccinations and that they're available and affordable to young families. That's a big piece. So public health, making sure we've got strong public health departments and making sure that we expand Medicaid, I think those are two real tangible things that the state can do to to help with the life expectancy.

Ellen Ochs

Thank you. Okay, we'll move on to the next question, which is about schools, pre K through 12th grade. Many school districts, both urban and rural, are holding referenda to seek funding directly from taxpayers. How should the state be funding education equitably? For pre pre K through 12/12 grade students?

Jodi Emerson

Yeah, thanks for that question. One thing that we have learned in the last couple of years, is how vital our schools are not only to the social emotional health of our children, but to our general economy and in general wellbeing of our communities. Moms and dads can't go to work if their kids don't have a school to go to. So the schools, not only are they the lifeblood of especially some of our rural communities. You know, I think my husband grew up in the Mondovi area and it's not a Friday night unless you're going to the football game on a Friday night and that's what so many of our rural schools are. They're not just A place where community has an identity, but it's a gathering place, whether it's the band concert, the choir concert, the football game, the basketball, game, whatever. These are where our neighbors get together. And so, you know, schools are vital. One of the things that we need to look at is is how we are dealing with these private voucher schools. It is something that is coming straight off the top of public school budgets right now. Our state's at the end of the budget, which will end in July of next year, beginning of July of next year, our state is expected to have a $5 billion surplus. So we have the money, we just need to be able to move it around in the ways that we see fit in our state. Something that I don't agree with, but our state has chosen to fund private voucher schools. Unfortunately, right now, the way that it's happening, it is coming right off the top of our public school districts. And so here in Eau Claire, that's over a million dollars every single year, that is going to these private voucher schools, for transportation for special education issues, things like that. If we want to fund the voucher schools, let's have that be a separate line, let's have not have that come out of Eau Claire area schools budget or other school districts, that would be a perfect one. And especially as we're looking at pre K, and some of the early childhood pieces, investing more money into that not only helps parents be able to go to work, but it helps give our kids an even playing field to start their education process with too. And so I think investing in in our pre K programs. But we also need to look at how we're funding voucher schools. I think we could do that separately from our public education. And then another thing is, is how we are funding our special education, kids who are going to public schools. Those public schools are reimbursed at a fraction of what those voucher schools are reimbursed voucher schools are reimbursed about 90 cents on the dollar for special education, that same student could be going to a public school, and they're reimbursed about 25 cents on the dollar. So there's a high inequity as far as the funding gap there. And that same child should get equal funding, no matter which school they're going to.

Ellen Ochs

Thank you, Jody, for explaining that more precisely. Okay, third question. And this is a question dear to the hearts of League of Women Voters.

What will ensure Wisconsin residents confidence in the integrity of our elections in the future?

Jodi Emerson

Yeah, elections that has been. So one of the committees that I serve on is campaigns and elections. We were charged with the overseeing the enablement investigation this last year, which was looking into the 2020 election. First and foremost, I want to commend our poll workers and our county clerk City Clerk's town clerk's anybody who had a hand in our elections, these are our neighbors who are doing this, and they're doing an extraordinary job and doing the best they can, especially in 2020, under some very trying circumstances. And personally, I trust these people. I don't think that there was I know, there was not any sort of organized issue with with fraud. Could could we say that there was some issues, occasionally, here and there in the elections? Yes. But there always are. Anytime you're looking at millions of people voting, you're gonna be able to find some mistakes. But it was not a coordinated attack on our democracy. The coordinated attack on our democracy right now that is happening, is trying to do away with the faith in our democracy and the faith in our elections. You know, in 2020, clerks didn't find phenomenal job of doing the best that they could to keep their Poll Worker safe to keep the community safe. As especially in the spring of 2020 as things were changing very quickly. You know, I think what it comes down to what the 2020 election is, some people did not like the results of it and so they scream foul. As as we are, you know, recording this right now, the January 6 hearing is that actually going on and, and they're talking about how I'll let that go. I don't want to get into the January 6 too much. But, you know, again, I think the coordinated attack is is from people not wanting to believe in our elections, I think people are doing a good job. And I think people need to stop looking at some of the clickbait stop looking at some of these conspiracy theories. And if you think that there's fraud in in the elections, get involved, because once you learn all the steps that people need to go through, to get an absentee ballot, to send an absentee ballot back what the papers like the tracking of it, all this kind of stuff. Or voting in person on election day, if you see the checks and balances that people go through, you will understand that there is no widespread fraud. So I think anything with democracy, if you think there's a problem, the best way to fight that is to get involved. If you don't like what's happening in your schools, get involved volunteer run for school board. You know, what the last thing that we should be doing is, is demonizing these public servants who are doing a really good job with shrinking resources. And so I you know, I think I'll just leave it at that. I could, I could talk for hours about this one element, but I'll try and keep us on task here.

Ellen Ochs

Okay. Well, we have we have run to the end of our time. So I, I'm glad you spoke up for for your local election officials and clerks and so forth. Our township clerk is very good. And I've, I have observed this situation and it our computers, our our voting system is not connected to the internet. Right. So this is something that gives me confidence. But thank you so much for visiting with us today about these issues. Well, thank

Jodi Emerson

you so much for having me, Ellen, thank you for the work that you guys are doing and for raising the level of discussion about candidates that are running for office. We truly appreciate it. Have a good day. You too. Take care all right.

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