Uppity Wisconsin

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Two people talking

I would like to today offer you something we see less and less of in the media - two smart informed people having a thought-provoking conversation.  I bring you Amy Goodman and Noam Chomsky talking about the fresh hell being brought upon us by the Republican Party.





On Earth Day - a year to resist like no other

it is once again Earth Day, a day with deep ties to Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, and the Wisconsin Idea. Sadly the last few years have seen massive retrenchment in our commitment to the environment as a country. Our state, under Governor Walker's leadership, seems to have left no stone unturned while looking for ways to lessen our protection of the environment.  

We have recently elected a president who has single-handedly built the most anti-environment cabinet in history, and who has spent most of hiis early presidency signing executive orders destroying the genuine environmental progress of the previous administration.  Today the New York Times makes the argument that the planet cannot afford this administration, and I agree.  

On a happier note, I joined many local Menomonie folks this morning on an Earth Day march for belief in Climate Change, and belief in Science. You would not think that in 2017 it would take an organized effort to convince the country to believe in science, but in the current political climate this is apparently a revolutionary idea.  I urge you all to join the revolution.




Sen. Vinehout - State Budget: Start with What's Real

State Budget: Start with What’s Real

By

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

When it comes to paying the bills you’ve got to deal with what’s real. You can’t spend rhetoric.

 

Lawmakers are doubling down to deal with the state budget. Public hearings and town hall meetings are scheduled across the state. Many civic groups are hosting legislators in a discussion of the state budget. Many are burning the midnight oil to get to the bottom of the state’s financial matters.

 

In all these conversations and the budget votes to come in the Capitol, lawmakers must to deal with what’s real.

 

People know about the state’s transportation fund. More money is leaving the fund than money coming in to pay for roads. Potholes are real.

 





Bert! He's Back!

Though it is often said that everything old is new again, I have to say I was surprised to see that an old childhood friend of mine is once again relevant. Old feelings I have not had since the Cuban Missile Crisis have raised their ugly heads again, but I am pretty sure that Kennedy could tell the differrence between ships heading to Cuba and ships heading away - somehow the fact that the current administration cannot tell where our own ships are heading is disconcerrting. In that spirit - I bring you the re-awakening of my childhood fears in the body of Bert the Turtle.





Meth Addiction: the Growing Epidemic in our Neighborhood

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“We are up to our gills in meth,” the county worker told me. “Four years ago one quarter of our child-protection cases were related to meth. Now, 92% of these cases are related to meth.”
 
“Our system just isn’t equipped to deal with the meth problem,” said another social worker.
 
Recently, more than 400 county supervisors and Health and Human Services staff came to the Capitol. I had visitors from every county in our Senate District.




Vote, for God's sake

Okay, so most of you who read this blog don't need reminding - but on the other hand clearly lots of people do. So ---

VOTE TOMORROW - and if you've already early voted, good on you.

The big state-wide election on which you can really express an opinion is for Superintendent of Schools. Tony Evers has long been the last firewall against total take-over of our school system  by private interests. His opponent? Not so much.  So you have a clear choice between  supporting public schools and standing back and letting the Betsy DeVos/Trump/Koch unholy alliance take over even more of our school system.  Your choice but please go express your opinion on this, whatever it might be. Let's not see everything go south just because nobody could get up the energy to vote.





Health Care - What's Next?

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Obamacare is the law of the land,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told the nation. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”
 
The much-maligned Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010 will stay in place.
 
Self-employed older Americans and state budget directors breathed a sigh of relief. The Republican plan would have raised rates for older people on Healthcare.gov, shifted taxes away from the well-off, and shifted to states more costs for low-income, disabled and elderly (through Medicaid).
 
But the problems of the ACA – rising premiums, customers left with little choice and insurance companies leaving the marketplace in some states – still remain.
 




Cranberry Creek CAFO Hearing

A hearing was held today about the re-issuance of the WPDES permit for Cranberry Creek Farm. Cranberry Creek is asking to expand from approximately 2000 cows to over 7000. May testified at the hearing today, raising various issues with the state of the permit application, while also questioning the wisdom of a farm fo that scale in an area that is already suffering from groundwater degradation.

This is the second application that has been filed for the farm. The first was contentious because it seemed in many areas to be incomplete or inaccurate, including listing other properties for manure spreading for which no agreement had been made.

We went out and videotaped the testimony today - it is long, but you will find that many of the people testifying were well prepared and convincing.





Are Waters in Wisconsin Meeting Water Quality Standards?

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“The bottom line is: Are waters meeting water quality standards?” George Meyer told the Audit Committee at a recent hearing.
 
“[Wisconsin is] adding hundreds of impaired waters every year,” Mr. Meyer added. “It’s because of discharged nitrates and phosphorus.”
 
“Regulations and laws are only as good as enforcement.” Mr. Meyer said. “In the last few years [there has been] a substantial reduction in enforcement actions both in the wildlife area and the environmental area.”
 
Mr. Meyer knows about enforcing laws to protect our natural resources. For eight years, he served as the DNR Secretary under Governor Thompson. His 30-year DNR career also included ten years as head of the department’s enforcement efforts. He now runs Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, a nonpartisan coalition of nearly 200 conservation groups.
 
The Audit Committee was examining the findings of the Legislative Audit Bureau’s review of ten years of permitting, monitoring and enforcement of wastewater discharge. DNR is responsible for monitoring water discharged from about 350 industrial permittees and 650 municipal permittees and about 250 large farms (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs) – mostly dairies.




Paul Ryan - Granny Killer

In the new age of Trump politics, you can count on a lot of alternate truth. Much of it comes from the "Wisconsin Miracle" wrought by our governor and the likes of Paul Ryan. We are about to find out if we are going to take the somewhat flawed Obamacare and replace it with the totally nonfunctional Trumpcare. If this happens we by and large have Paul Ryan to blame. 

Where to start? The last time I saw the bill it appeared that the projections of taking 24 million people off of health insurance had prompted Ryan and his cohorts to declare "Only 24 million?  We can do better than that. Hold my beer." Attempts to placate the far-right wing of the GOP have resulted in plans to even more severely cut back on Medicaid. The supposed plan to help out seniors from the huge increases in health care costs they will somehow have to survive has amounted to throwing in an inadequate amount of funding, and throwing the whole mess over the wall for the Senate to figure out. 

In the long term of course the whole problem with this bill is that it is unsustainable. By throwing out mandatory insurance, the plan suffers from not forcing young and healthy adults to buy in to the system, therefore making the entire system unstable. Republicans have long warned about an impending "death spiral" from Obamacare. The replacement bill almost guarantees that the death spiral will happen. 





Broadband Expansion: Rural Wisconsin Needs the Real Deal

Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“All we seek is help to get the basic broadband services that you all take for granted,” Justin Fortney from Clifton Township in Pierce County wrote to me.  “It has been frustrating for us families to watch the digital revolution pass us by…We often…pack the family into the car and drive to a relative’s house or commercial business to use their Internet.”
 
According to the federal government’s most recent information, Wisconsin ranks last in the Midwest in both rural and urban broadband access with only 44% of rural folks accessing download speeds of 25 Mbps.
 
Both federal and state governments responded with grant programs to expand broadband but there are problems with assuring that residents actually receive the promised services.
 
With much fanfare, Governor Walker recently announced his plan to add money for broadband to schools and rural areas. Later, Senator Marklein released a different bill. The Senator’s bill was voted out of his rural affairs committee and is headed for final passage soon.




Don’t Get Rid of the Treasurer

by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Early in his term, Treasurer Matt Adamczyk (pronounced eDOMchek), was asked to sign a paper. The paper captured his signature.
 
Mr. Adamczyk recently testified at a Senate committee hearing saying, “My signature and the signature of the Secretary of Administration’s appears on state checks.”
 
But Mr. Adamczyk never sees any of the checks with his signature and never performs any functions overseeing payment of state bills. And he doesn’t want to oversee state funds. Instead, Mr.




Ethics Lawyer Files Complaint Against Reince Priebus

In our email this morning:

On Monday, February 26th, Massachusetts ethics attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee
filed a complaint for misconduct against White House Chief of Staff Reince
Priebus with the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation. 

The complaint states
that it is based on “Priebus’ corrupt attempt to influence investigations
by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) into
criminal activity involving associates of Donald J. Trump (“Trump”) and
Russian government officials.” 





Audit Hearing Highlights Problems and Way Forward with Transportation

by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Deputies are trying to figure out what caused a bridge on a rural road west of Arcadia to collapse.” The WEAU-TV story broke the same morning as a recent Legislative Audit Committee hearing on the State Highways Program.
 
As horrifying as the bridge collapse was, the story highlighted problems locals, others and I warned about for some time. Summer storms and floodwaters weakened older roads and bridges. State funds for local construction and maintenance did not kept pace with costs.
 
The recent audit, conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB), shined a light on long-standing problems with the Department of Transportation (DOT). Many lawmakers, including myself, advocated for this audit because an analysis of DOT programs has not been conducted for many years.




Avery documentary finally getting some pushback

 By now we are all thoroughly familiar with the Steven Avery case, the Mischicot man and worker at a family-owned salvage yard who was convicted in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach just two years after his release from prison on a rape charge for which he was wrongfully convicted.

 The case became a national sensation with the airing of “Making a Murderer” on Netflix which made the compelling case that Manitowoc County, where the murder took place, framed Avery and his impressionable 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, because authorities held a grudge against Avery for his lawsuit against the county. Millions of viewers, whose only knowledge of the case was that series, reacted strongly to what they saw as another miscarriage of justice.





So Long, Ed

I was very sad to hear this morning that Ed Garvey passed away. Ed had been in a nursing home for the past two weeks, and died this morning after a long battle with health issues including Parkinson's disease. He had a long career in labor, notably working with the NFL teams through two strikes, and had run for public office both as Senator and as Governor of Wisconsin (though he lost both races). For many years he ran the Fighting Bobfest event in Baraboo and Madison, and the fightingbobfest.org web site. His ill health in the past few years demanded that he retire from those endeavors that he loved, and the festival is now carried on by The Progressive.

My main personal involvement with Ed was as one of the organizers of Fighting Bobfest North during the two years that it occurred. Ed was a fighter and a mensch. He will be sorely missed by me and the progressive community in Wisconsin. 





Searching for the “Reform Dividend”

Locals ask is ‘new’ money real?
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Overall, our common-sense reforms brought us here – to the point we have a significantly better budget outlook.” Governor Walker said in his recent Budget Address. “We call this the Reform Dividend. And wow, as the fiscal bureau pointed out, that’s a whole lot of money.”
 
What is the “Reform Dividend” the Governor spoke about in his budget address? Where is it? How much is it? An inquiring mind wanted to know.
 
Rita Brunkow from Mondovi asked me. “Do you know what this “Reform Dividend” is? Who’s reforming what and where is the dividend coming from?”
 
Rita did her homework, and before she emailed me, she wrote to the Governor.
 
“I asked what reform it came from and where the money (dividend) came from…I got back what appeared to be a short press release statement similar to what I had already read in the newspaper.”




For God's Sake, vote tomorrow

Yes, I know - it's a small, primary election. And it's incredibly important. It's your chance to make sure that our schools are supervised by someone who has shown himself to be a responsible adult who actually cares about our schools.  Your choice is between someone who clearly cares about public education in the state, or one of two people who strongly support charters and private education, the policies of Betsy DeVos, and who have been busy calling each other liars for some time now. Your choice, but I am voting for Tony Evers, and I suggest you do the same.





A Few Budget Details that Didn’t Make Headlines

By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Governors are a bit like salesmen,” I recently told a reporter. “They put good news in the headlines and bury bad news in the small print.”
 
Governor Walker recently released his two-year state budget. Amid much fanfare, he touted providing much needed money for schools, roads, and the UW. I went digging through budget documents released by the Governor. I knew there was more to the story.
 
First, I must say Wisconsin has one of the most opaque budgeting processes I have ever seen. For example, there is no clear table comparing actual spending in each fiscal year to budgeted spending.
 
We are still waiting for some details the Governor has not yet released. For example, his capital budget, which includes total proposed borrowing, is not yet available.




Increasing Funding for Voucher and Charter Schools Comes at a Big Cost

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New estimate by LFB shows funding parity price tag is over $100M

ALMA, WI - For many years, voucher and charter school advocates sought funding parity while rural schools struggle to stay open. Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) responded to a new analysis done by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau pegging the parity price tag at over $100M.

 

Senator Kathleen Vinehout commented, “I cannot sit idly by while voucher and charter school advocates ask for more money when my rural public schools can barely afford the basics.”

 

“Taking $100 million away from 867,000 public school students for 42,000 private voucher and charter school students is foolish,” said Senator Vinehout. “For the last three budgets, Republicans have given handouts to private voucher and charter schools at the expense of public schools. Legislators must not continue this trend with the new budget.”





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Yesterday, July 15

  • Steve Hanson
    11:04am

    Changes to Body
     
    Over 1000 people attended the Tammy Baldwin rally today in Eau Claire. The guest of honor at the Rally was Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. There were three guest speakers at the event. Senator Baldwin gave a hearty campaign speech touching on multiple issues, particularly touching on healthcare issues and the threat to civil liberties of the new Supreme Court nominee.
     
    Over 1000 people attended the Tammy Baldwin rally today in Eau Claire. The guest of honor at the Rally was Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. There were three guest speakers at the event. Senator Baldwin gave a hearty campaign speech touching on multiple issues, particularly touching on healthcare issues and the threat to civil liberties of the new Supreme Court nominee.
     
    After some brief ribbing  between  Baldwin and Sanders on the relative merits of Wisconsin and Vermont cheddar cheese, Senator Sanders gave a crowd-pleasing speech about the fragility of our current polical lives and what can be done to preserve healthcare, civil liberties, and the rights of immigrants, among other topics. Sanders remarked that although progressives may feel powerless in the current political environment, the antidote for depression is activism.
     
    After some brief ribbing  between  Baldwin and Sanders on the relative merits of Wisconsin and Vermont cheddar cheese, Senator Sanders gave a crowd-pleasing speech about the fragility of our current polical lives and what can be done to preserve healthcare, civil liberties, and the rights of immigrants, among other topics. Sanders remarked that although progressives may feel powerless in the current political environment, the antidote for depression is activism.
    -
    Music was provided by Eau Claire band Pit Wagon [1]. The music included a small ode to Governor Walker, some of which is included in the video. The video will be available here as soon as it is done processing (approximately 9 PM Saturday).
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    Music was provided by Eau Claire band Pit Wagon [1]. The music included a small ode to Governor Walker, some of...
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