Iron County Progressive

Weekly News from Your Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair

The news alert comes: a mass shooting is underway. Your heart leaps into your throat. A familiar horror. And this one's in Wisconsin. Please, please, you pray, let the bloodshed spare the people I love.

This has become normal life in the United States. The 45th mass shooting this year. It's numbingly normal in our state—the 11th Wisconsin mass shooting since 2004.  And the toll of gun violence goes far beyond mass shootings—to homicides, many in the context of domestic violence; to suicides; to needless accidents, including those affecting children. And the deaths are the brutal tip of the iceberg—a ceaseless mass of injuries and trauma.

Mere hours before this week's news broke about the shooting in Milwaukee, Governor Evers renewed his call for Republican state legislatures to take simple, obvious steps to curb gun violence—such as Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which create a process to disarm individuals deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

Just an hour before the slaughter, Republican Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald—who is now running for Congress—dug in his heels and announced that no action would be taken.

Human tragedy should not be political. But our state's Republicans keep refusing to taken even the simplest steps, supported by a majority of gun owners of all parties, and most Republican voters—to prevent these tragedies from being repeated. If they flatly refuse to negotiate, to even consider a compromise, then politics—voting them out—is the only tool that's left. So vote them out we will.

Our prayers go to the lost, and to their survivors. Let's commit anew to building a politics that honors the fragile humanity of all.


FIGHT on the Issues & FIGHT to Win:

Yes for MPS!

This Monday, Ben joined community leaders in Milwaukee to announce the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's endorsement for the Vote Yes for MPS! effort to pass a referendum to increase funding for Milwaukee Public Schools by $87 million.

This money would help ensure there’s a certified teacher for each classroom and a librarian for every school—as well as music and art classes, mental health services, and smaller class sizes. The bill for all of that benefit?
Merely $4 per week per Milwaukee household. More than 60 organizations have endorsed the effort—Milwaukee's first attempt to pass a school referendum since 1993.

Meanwhile, in Madison, Governor Evers stood firm in his effort to deliver $250 million in aid to schools statewide—alongside a $130 million property tax reduction, all using surplus revenue from last year's tax collection. But Republicans in the Legislature, seeking to score political points, countered with a tax cut proposal that offered $0 in school funding. Governor Evers vetoed their unbalanced proposal.

Wisconsinites chose a lifelong educator for a governor. If Republicans think they can make him turn his back on Wisconsin students, they've got another think coming.

Jill for Justice!

We’ve now got less than 40 days until the April 7th Spring election—and the crucial Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

It’s hard to overstate how critical the outcome of this race is to the future of our state. The winner will serve for the next 10 years and will be able to rule on issues like gerrymandering and voting rights.

Wisconsin’s democracy is on the ballot.

If you believe in democracy, civil rights, and a justice system that works for regular people instead of just wealthy polluters and special interests, the choice is simple: you've got to vote for Jill Karofsky.

For the last four years, right-wing operative Dan Kelly ruled in favor of special interests whose board members have donated to his campaign. He has sided with Big Oil over Wisconsin communities, allowing them to avoid liability for oil spills they caused. He has upheld the GOP's lame-duck power grab. And many believe Walker appointed him to the state Supreme Court as a thank-you gift for defending gerrymandering in court. (No wonder Trump endorsed him.)
Dan Kelly's business card may say "Justice," but justice seems to be the farthest thing from his mind.

On April 7, Wisconsinites will cast their ballots in the presidential primary. If you're voting for a Democrat, make sure you don't just stop there—it's time to vote for Jill for Justice.

This week in review with Rep. Beth Meyers 

Last week, the Assembly met twice for session, most likely for the last time this year. While I'm disappointed we are ending so early in the year, I'm thrilled with some wonderful bipartisan legislation we passed.

Here is some of the good work we did on the Assembly Floor:
  • Water quality bills - Everyone in Wisconsin deserves access to safe and clean drinking water. After Governor Evers declared 2019 "The Year of Clean Drinking Water," the Water Quality Task Force was formed and came up with several legislative proposals. The Assembly passed 10 of those bipartisan proposals aimed at fighting water pollution. Here are just a handful:
    • Assembly Bill 799 would create a new Office of Water Policy that would coordinate efforts to manage, conserve, protect and enhance the productivity of the state’s water resources.
    • Assembly Bill 796 would give $1 million to a "nitrogen optimization pilot program" that would award grants to farmers and universities to work on projects that reduce the amount of manure used when growing crops.
    • Assembly Bill 789 would create a grant program for county groundwater and well testing, as well as assessments of water quality, geology and well construction.
    • Many constituents contacted my office about the dangers of PFAS in our drinking water. I'm happy to report I voted for Assembly Bill 792, which passed and would create a program to collect and store or dispose of firefighting foam that contains PFAS, so-called "forever chemicals" that have seeped into some Wisconsin groundwater and are known to cause health problems.
  • Flood mitigation pilot projects - This session, I authored Assembly Bill 266, which would allocate funds to support the design, implementation and evaluation of demonstration projects to test natural flood reduction practices in Ashland County. I'm thrilled to report that it passed unanimously in the Assembly and the Senate, and it's now on its way to the governor's desk. This is a great step forward for Wisconsin to fund more of the innovative work of using natural wetlands to mitigate flood damage and will provide valuable insights to areas across our state as floods have potential to be more severe and frequent in the coming years. 
  • Pharmacy benefit managers - Assembly Bill 114 would allow pharmacists to tell customers about cheaper prescription drug options, including paying cash if that would be cheaper than their insurance co-payment. Pharmacists are currently banned from doing so by a gag rule imposed by pharmacy benefit managers.
  • Smoking age - Assembly Bill 422 will raise the legal age for purchasing any tobacco or nicotine products to 21. This is an important health issue, especially as the rate of teenagers using nicotine products through vaping is becoming a serious concern. 
  • First responder PTSD compensation - Senate Bill 511 will allow police officers and fire fighters to claim worker’s compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Dairy Farming Bills - Governor Evers ordered a special session to address the growing crisis our state's dairy farms are facing, an important tradition and economic sector in Wisconsin. We passed two bills from the special session:
    • Special Session Assembly Bill 6 would require the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to partner with the state Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to promote Wisconsin dairy exports. The partnership would be tasked with increasing dairy product exports so that Wisconsin’s milk exports equal at least 20 percent of the nation’s milk supply by 2026 and increasing Wisconsin’s meat and crop product exports by 2026. 
    • Special Session Assembly Bill 7 would set aside $600,000 per year for dairy processor grants. 
  • Public Defenders Pay - Assembly Bill 501 would increase pay for public defenders in Wisconsin. This will be a major help to Northern Wisconsin where we struggle to retain and recruit public defenders who provide an important public service and are constantly overworked.
Thank you to all my constituents who weighed in on these bills, and I hope to see them become law. 

Unfortunately, there were many missed opportunities this session.

One bill that didn't even get a hearing this year is my proposed bipartisan legislation to create a Murdered Missing Tribal Women and Girls Task Force to address the horrifying rates of violence against Native women and girls.

I had prepared a speech about this issue being ignored for my adjournment on our last day of session, but unfortunately, we were not allowed to adjourn. Here is that speech:

Today I adjourn in honor of the Wisconsin families who are waiting for a loved one to return to them.

Is there anything more awful than not knowing if your daughter will ever come home again? This is the reality for too many Native American families in Wisconsin.

Indigenous women and girls face violence at a far higher rate, up to 10 times the national average. Murder is the third-leading cause of death among Native women. And an estimated 40 percent of women who are victims of sex trafficking identify as Native American.

As a state and as a country, we are failing these women.

This session, I authored a bipartisan bill that would create a Murdered and Missing Tribal Women and Girls task force. The task force would be comprised of representatives from tribal governments, tribal community members, activists, as well as law enforcement. It would be a critical first step toward addressing violence against Indigenous women.

Two days ago, we all heard the call from tribal leaders at the State of the Tribes to address this issue. I represent the 74th District, home to three federally recognized tribes [Bad River, Red Cliff and Lac du Flambeau]. I used to work for the Red Cliff Tribe. My children and grandchild are all Red Cliff tribal members. This issue is deeply personal to me.

But even if this epidemic doesn’t affect you or your family, I implore you to empathize with those who face the ramifications of violence against their loved ones.

It’s heartless that we did not address this issue this session.

Shame on us. 

In the end, I'm disappointed this session was so rushed. As a Northern Wisconsinite, I've never been afraid of hard work. Legislators shouldn't be told to go home so early in the year when there is so much work left to do.

Again, I want to thank all my constituents who have advocated for yourselves and your communities. I'm proud to represent you in the Wisconsin State Legislature. 

Weekly News from Your Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair


This year is framed by five fights: 
Win the spring. Inspire, recruit, and train volunteers and at the national convention. Stop the GOP supermajority. Cancel Trump's second inaugural. And Organize for the future. That's the WISCO plan.

This Tuesday, our spring primaries took place—and fight #1, the 
W, officially began. 2020 is here.

We're ready. In every corner of the state, we've never had a stronger grassroots organizing operation this early. We've never been stronger financially. And we've never been more deeply aligned, in every community and in every part of our coalition, on the vision that unites us—the commitment to fight on our issues, include and respect everyone, and empower the grassroots. 

FIGHT on the Issues & FIGHT to Win:

On to Victory in April!

The results are in from Tuesday night and we now have our nominee for Wisconsin’s 2020 Supreme Court race -- Judge Jill Karofsky!

This race is going to shape the future of our state for a generation, not to mention the presidential election in the fall -- with a conservative majority on the court, Republicans could very well make voting in the November election more difficult by tilting the playing field towards Trump and the GOP.

In January, Donald Trump endorsed Dan Kelly,
a GOP operative who just so happens to also be a Supreme Court judge. So from now until the polls close at 8:00 PM on April 7, we’re going to be all hands on deck for Jill Karofsky.

We’ve only got seven weeks until the general election and Dan Kelly has out-raised Jill Karofsky as of this writing, which means over the next two months, we’ve got to do everything we can to protect Wisconsin’s future from gerrymandering and threats to voting rights and elect Judge Jill Karofsky to the Supreme Court.

Congratulations, Tricia!

And for the 7th District -- the seat vacated by Sean Duffy -- we now have an official nominee as well: Tricia Zunker! She’s been working for northern Wisconsin her entire life. She’s served as an Associate Justice of the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court since 2013 and on the Wausau School Board since 2018, and now she’ll go on to compete in the May 13 special election for this seat. Watch her launch video here.

Meanwhile, Tricia's opponent is none other than Toxic Tom Tiffany, a Koch-backed politician who sides with corporate polluters over communities and people every chance he gets. He has a well-established record of siding with those who cut the biggest checks, regardless of how many people are hurt by their products and practices. Read more about Tom Tiffany's toxic record here and share the site so people can learn more:

Wisconsin Paying for Trump's Border Wall

This week, we also learned that the Trump administration is shifting millions of dollars away from Oshkosh Corps, a Wisconsin company that builds military equipment vital for our national defense, and towards his border wall.

This is funding that would have been spent supporting Wisconsin jobs and Wisconsin communities. Let's be clear about one thing -- 
Trump is stealing money away from Wisconsin manufacturers to build his vanity project. 

The president’s broken promises hurt us all. If he continues down this path, our economic and national security will be in jeopardy.

 Pieces and a Smidgen More  -- Jack Altschuler  

I was struck by the juxtaposition of a couple of pieces I reviewed this past week. Nick Kristoff wrote a disturbing piece in the Sunday Times about a customer with a problem which U.S. Bank had created for him and its shoddy treatment of an employee who helped that customer. Near the end of the piece Kristoff wrote,

“I’ve often noted that companies have enormous capacity to help their communities. But too often they act like American tobacco companies, which killed more people than Stalin did [over 20 million], or pharma companies peddling opioids, or McKinsey & Company advising a business to ‘get more patients on higher doses of opioids,’ or Boeing mocking regulators.”

If you want to know why Millennials aren’t exactly in love with capitalism, those are some good data points. Be clear, though, that this post isn’t about advocating socialism. It is about advocating caring.

Before anyone starts vilifying Kristoff or me as tree hugging, lily-liver, crocodile tears, whining liberals, consider that we all care. Some care about their families.

Some care about people who have suffered, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Never Again and more. Some care about our country. Some, of course, care only about themselves, which brings us to the other (juxtaposed) piece I reviewed this morning.

The local hospice organization publishes a monthly bulletin and this month it included a couple of quotes.

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”  Albert Schweitzer

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”  George Bernard Shaw

Each of us can be clear regarding what we care about by doing a simple inventory of how we use our time. Where and how we invest our time tells us what we care about.

Applying that reasoning to the political world I cover, it’s clear that many thousands of staffers and volunteers and caucusers in Iowa care deeply about the direction of our country and the nation they will be handing off to their children and grandchildren. That’s true even in the face of the counting mess that was made.

In contrast, with their votes to acquit our cheating, criminal, Constitution flaunting President, our Republican senators made their own statement. They made it plain for all to see that they care about themselves and their short term political future far more than they do about our country and the kind of place their grandchildren will inherit.

If our goal is to produce the most cynical citizens we can, then the likes of U.S. Bank, the American tobacco companies, McKinsey and Boeing are leading the way in exemplary fashion. Yet it’s far more ominous that our own government is America’s best cynicism generator and the most flagrant offender of what we care about.

Here’s the Smidgen More

Do you like horror films? Many do, so to get your freak-out fix, you have to read McKay Coppins’ piece in the March edition of The Atlantic. Actually, it’s a must-read even if you’re not a terror lover, because you care – about democracy. The piece is entitled,

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election It is frightening in the extreme how easy it is for political operatives and creeps with a laptop to manipulate people and elections. You need to know about this, so settle in with your favorite mug o’ joe and dig into Coppin’s reporting.

Note that I’m reading Rick Wilson’s new book  Running Against the Devil.  It’s tough love in the extreme for Democrats and for all who want to evict the present occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Report to follow.

Cutting Taxes by Supporting Schools 
Every other January the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), a nonpartisan agency, reviews Wisconsin’s general fund and projects an economic forecast for the state. Recently the LFB reported an expected $450 million surplus by the end of this biennium, on June 30, 2021. The question now is what do we do with that surplus? 
Governor Tony Evers has a plan. Two weeks after the LFB released their findings, the Governor called for a special session to invest in our public schools and reduce property taxes. He did this because he knows that what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state. However, Republican leaders rejected Governor Evers’ plan and touted a one-time tax break to property owners in Wisconsin.
Governor Evers’ plan would restore the state’s commitment to fund two-thirds of public education costs, invest more in special education and increase mental health services available for school children. Additionally, it would prioritize funding rural schools through sparsity aid.
Schools in the 31st Senate District would see new investments over $3.9 million in general school aid, $880 thousand in sparsity aid and $2.1 million in special education aid. And these are just part of Governor Evers’ recommendations.
The complete package would also fund special education readiness grants, aid for mental health programs and service grants and tribal language revitalization grants. Altogether, the schools in the 31st Senate District would receive more than $12 million.
Properly supporting our public schools at the state level would decrease the burden on homeowners by not requiring school districts to pass referenda just to keep operating. These much needed, overdue contributions would ensure all students have access to a quality education while fulfilling shared goals to provide tax relief. Residents of the 31st Senate District would see more than $7 million in property tax relief under Governor Evers’ proposal.
If there is a way to satisfy both sides, shouldn’t we at least be open to discussing it? We should lay all ideas out on the table and figure out how to use the best ideas of both sides to work for the better good of Wisconsin. I know it can be done and I know there are legislators on BOTH sides who want to work together.
We need long-term solutions to address the challenges our public schools and rural communities are facing. I don’t think tax credits are a long term answer to any subject we try to tackle, especially not critical issues like education. The other side of the aisle is saying the opposite and adds that the governor’s proposal is not the answer either.
And just like the call to work together on other fundamental issues from helping our farmers to gun safety; why does it have to be one or the other? The Governor has one package of bills he would like passed and the Republicans have their own. Once again I ask, “Why does it have to be one or the other?” After all, the most common questions I hear from our constituents is “Why can’t you get along and work together?”
I want to believe there is room to agree because we all care about these issues and can collaborate to find a solution. If government worked as it should, we would lay all proposals down side by side and hash it out. This is a great opportunity to prove to citizens that we can work as a shared governance.
This place in history is the perfect opportunity to restore shared governance as it once was. No, we don’t need to bring back the practice of making decisions in “smoke-filled rooms.” However we may benefit from adapting a collaborative spirit and restoring faith and trust in our elected officials. Now is the time to work for everyone and cut taxes by prioritizing Wisconsin’s future.
The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo and Pepin counties and portions of Trempealeau, Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire and Jackson counties and very small portions of Chippewa and St. Croix counties.