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Who Has Been Watching Spending at DOT?

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Let me see how much you spent,” my mother said when I returned from the store. As the oldest of five children, I was often sent to the store to buy groceries. When I returned home, my mother checked the grocery bag, the receipt and counted the change.
 
I knew I could buy no more than exactly what was on her list. She knew how much everything should cost. I needed to answer for every penny I spent. Everything needed to add up.
 
This simple accountability seems to be completely missing at our Department of transportation (DOT).




Trump Resistance in Wisconsin

I am starting a new Storify article on the Trump resistance in WIscosnin --- this may be a long one.





Audits Raise Cautions about Pension Fund Management

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“GOOD NEWS” read the text with a short article about how our pension funds grew 8.5%. My friend forwarded the article with a cryptic note, “apparently the lies keep working.”
 
In what seems to me to be an effort to get ahead of a bad story, the agency responsible for investing almost $100 billion in pension funds – the largest single pot of money anywhere in state government - issued a press release touting an 8.5% increase in its core fund.
 
As radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.




Alternative to the inauguration

I know a lot of you are looking for something else to do today to avoid watching the coronation of our new president. 

a.  The Esquire Channel, if you happen to be able to get it, is showing a marathon of Parks and Recreation.

b. You can watch coverage of the protests in Washington on Democracy Now! - https://www.democracynow.org/ -- though it looks like their live feed is having a little trouble keeping up with the demand.

c.  Tell your family you love them. Tell your friends you have their back, particularly those who will need to have you stand behind them for the next four years (which means, you know, everybody). Be calm but watchful. It's not a sprint, it's a very very  very long jog ahead of us. We need each other more than ever.

d.  Go out and participate in the arts in some way. No better way to get back at an incoming administration that is considering de-funding the arts to be one of their top prioirities. See a play.  See that independent movie you've been meaning to watch. Read a book, dammit.

e. Turner Classic Movies is showing A Face in the Crowd tonight -- it's apparently totally by accident, but it's completely appropriate and a wonderful film.

f. Be good and kind - someone needs to be.





NO COMMENT

Remember back when we were embarrassed every time we met someone outside of the US because we had elected George W. Bush as president?  Good Times, Good Times. This is from the Scottish Sunday Herald TV listings. Click on the image to make it bigger.





School Visit to the “ARCTIC Zone” Prompts Thinking Anew about Education

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Two six-graders recently showed me around their classrooms. Desks were not in straight rows. Students were not waiting their turn with raised hands. I looked around the room. There actually were no desks at all, but tables and different types of chairs.
 
One student was actually writing on a table with a red marker. I must have looked aghast. The table was designed to be written on, teacher Ali McMahon told me. “We use the table as a way to think out complex ideas,” she said. With a white board tabletop everyone sees the ideas and adds to them.
 
I recently visited Northstar Middle School in Eau Claire.




Healthcare Rally in Eau Claire

More than 200 attended the health care rally this afternoon in Eau Claire. The rally was organized by the Citizen Action Organizing Co-op of Western Wisconsin. Several people spoke on behalf of maintaining the ACA or an equivalent, including Rep. Dana Wachs. The crowd was spirited and strongly in support of strengthening the ACA rather than eliminating it. This rally was one of many across the nation today in support of affordable and accessible health care for all. I think the current administration will find it difficult to tell their constitutents that they are taking away the benefits of the ACA that go to people purchasing insurance on the health care exchanges, people on Medicare, and everyone else in the insurance market. 





DNR scrubs away climate change

I highly recommend following James Rowen's web site, The Political Environment. He has been following the continuing saga of the state DNR's changes to their web site, in which they have scrubbed the site of mentions of humans causing climate change. The DNR has stated that their mission is to manage state "adaptation" to climate change, rather than actually researching the cause, or -- you know, doing anything about  stopping or slowing it. Most recently it turns out that a northern WI newspaper is taking credit for the change, because they pressured the DNR to stop taking an "activist" role on climate change. This is another part of the continuing state standards in which ideology (and campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry) is everything, and science is nothing. The Wisconsin I grew up with is quickly disappearing for no good reason, and I expect that the incoming administration in Washington will make it all too easy to justify even worse encroachments on the environment. Solidarity.





New DNR Report: Who Should Pay to Protect and Encourage Fish and Wildlife?

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Wisconsin is number one in hunting! Don’t take it from me. The Department of Natural Resources has studies to back it up.
 
A new DNR report noted Wisconsin had the number one Boone and Crockett Trophy whitetail entries from 2005-2010 and the number one black beer harvest of all states.
 
Wisconsinites hunt deer at nearly three times the US rate and fist at twice the US rate. We lead the nation in world record musky caught and are the reigning world record holder of brown trout.
 
According to the DNR report, which included options to fund wildlife management, Wisconsin is number one in annual revenue from hunting - $2,833 per hunter or $2.5 billion.




What it is like to be a new legislator

What it is Like to be a New Legislator
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Good morning, Senator,” said a Capitol staffer. It took me a moment to realize the man was talking to me. That was ten years ago.
 
This week fifteen new lawmakers raised their right hand and swore to uphold the Constitution. They celebrated with a day of family, photos and receptions.
 
I recall how exciting the day was and how that excitement quickly turned to the daunting challenge of adjusting to my new role of Senator.
 
Following Election Day, the new legislators-elect attend orientation sessions, which provide vital information relating to all aspects of the Legislature. I remember thinking there was too much information packed into a few days. I realized, as my new colleagues will, the orientation is simply a glimpse of what they will need to learn over the course of the coming months.
 
Most new legislators come into office with ideas about changes they want to see in state government. Fresh ideas can be a good thing. Wisconsin does face difficult problems that require innovation. However, it’s hard to innovate when, as a rookie legislator, you are just learning the language. There are new acronyms, new processes, and new agencies.
 




Looking forward to the challenges of 2017

by

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

The turn of the calendar to 2017 brings us hope for better prospects in our public affairs. I am particularly inspired this season for the many who wrote with solutions to problems facing our state.

 

The many letters from readers gives me optimism for a coming bloom of civic mindedness. Certainly your notes and letters bring a fresh approach to lingering problems.

 

I do see signs on the horizon that our state may be stumbling.





Scotty Walker sends Santa a letter

Apparently Scott Walker has gotten word that the old Obama Grinch is about ready to be replaced by a new, happy, Jolly Old St. Nick - and he's written a letter asking for presents. Lots of presents. Presents for Wisconsin. 

Lots of drug tests for people who need a hand because -- well, okay, I have to admit I just don't understand that one at all, but maybe the new Santa in town does. 

Higher costs for people on Medicaid who "Purposely increase their health risks" - but only if they're really poor. New Santa probably will like this - rich kids are the only ones to get the good presents. It's the modern equivalent of getting a lump of coal because you live in the wrong neighborhood.





Looking Back on 2016

by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
We settled into a deep freeze this past weekend. After a long glorious autumn, the third week of December brought frigid temperatures not usually felt until mid-January.
 
So I took time out from normal senator and farmer duties to reflect on 2016.
 
This past year was one of upset and strife in the political world.




Wauwatosa Parents Respond to Leah Vukmir

This video is a parental response to Leah Vukmir's column in the Journal Sentinel about public schools.





Ethics Commissioner Kinney resigns

Only a few months after the creation of the state Ethics Commission, one of the commisioners has resigned, expressing serious concerns about transparency in the behavior of the commission and the ability of the commission to actually enforce ethics on state politicians.

Commissioner Rober Kinney resigned, apparenlty partly due to the inabilit of the commission to take action on an ethics complaint filed by the Democrats against the Republican Assembly Campaing Committee for not filing proper accounting of their fundraising and expenditures. Kinney was also unhappy the the commission could not vote to keep themselves from making political contributions. Many have felt that the splitting of the former GAB into two commissions was a mistake, particularly since it was structured to make it difficult for either of the two new bodies to make decisions. More on this story later.





Christmas Eve Music and Fun from Our Valley to Your Radio

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Looking for a homegrown Holiday treat for Christmas Eve? Look no further than your radio for a special holiday performance from Wisconsin’s beautiful west coast.
 
Big River Radio Wave’s Christmas Show airs on Wisconsin Public Radio across Wisconsin on Christmas Eve. The show comes straight from our valley to your radio.
 
The show originates at the renovated Big River Theater in Alma, Wisconsin. In fact, the creator and host, Mac Cherry, is my neighbor.




Happy Holidays

We're quickly falling into that time of year when people start to think about the holidays and stop thinking so much about politics.  Maybe not this year. 

Anyway - I'd like to invite you all to spend a little more time over the next few weeks thinking about your families and those things in life that make you happiest, and to stop thinking about the past election and the upcoming  coronation  err --- inauguration. It's coming no matter what, so you might as well try to have a little peace and joy for a while. The recount in Wisconsin is supposed to end tomorrow and be reported on Tuesday, so that will be one more thing that will be over with. I'm working on relaxing a little and getting caught up on the rest of my life. I'm sure you'll hear more from us before New Years, but it may be a little less than normal.  That Turkey ain't gonna eat itself.





New Transportation Ideas Needed to Handle More Intense Storms

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Winter came to Buffalo County. The weather turned to snow and then to ice.
 
In our hilly part of the world, rural people are used to finding new ways out of the valleys during bad weather. However, for residents living in Schoepps Valley (pronounced “Sheps”) the usual way out is not an option.
 
The story began early August 11, 2016 when torrential rains dumped up to 11 ½ inches in our area. Small creeks became raging rivers.




Army denies easement for Dakota Access Pipeline - construction halted

People at the Oceti Sakowin Camp are rejoicing this afternoon as the Army has announced that the Corps of Engineers is denying the easement for the pipeline under Lake Oahe. This essentially halts construction for the time being, and the Army Corps of Engineers is planning for an Environmental Impact Study with public input.

This will put the construction project seriously behind schedule and will almost certainly become a huge expense for the pipeline owners, since they face punitive contract damages if the pipeline is not finished by Dec. 31. The pipeline construction should remain halted until a re-routing of the line is established.





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Today, October 19

  • Steve Hanson
    2:07pm

    Nineteen states have called for a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision. Representative Scott Allen won't even allow a public hearing on a resolution that would let Wisconsinites vote on this core issue of our timeWhile many politicians may like unlimited and often undisclosed campaign contributions, the rest of America is disgusted by it.

    Last week, Allen refused a request to have AJR 53 placed on the public hearing agenda, calling the advisory referendum, “politics at its worst”. Wisconsin law provides for advisory referendums. There was a statewide referendum in 2006 pertaining to the death penalty.

    "Politics at its worst"...really?? This is a cross-partisan issue. There are plenty of billionaires on both sides of the aisle. Both parties are raking in campaign cash. Money talks and the rest of us have no say.

    It’s outrageous that Chairman Allen won’t even allow this to be put on the agenda. This is the Constitution and Ethics Committee, after all. And Citizens United has torn a hole into our Constitution, drowning out our free speech rights as citizens, and ushering in all sorts of ethical problems.

    These resolutions (AJR 53 / SJR 54) were introduced by Representative Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). Polls show a vast majority of Americans view our election system as corrupt. Special interest money has enormous political influence and everyday citizens feel they are getting no representation.

    “It is stunning that Republican Representative Scott Allen considers giving the average Wisconsinite the opportunity to have their say at the ballot box to be ‘politics at its worst,’” said Rep. Subeck. “Wisconsinites are fed up with the massive corporate and special interest spending Citizens United has ushered into our elections, and it is time to let them be heard.”

    Matt Rothschild, executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, summed it up succinctly: “People across the ideological spectrum get it: All of our voices are being drowned out by those with big money.”

    Please contact ...

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