Iron County Progressive

From State Senator Janet Bewley
Northern Wisconsin Lights Up the Capitol

MADISON – Despite being hundreds of miles from the capital city and enduring another winter of snow and cold, the people of Northern Wisconsin continue to demonstrate the hardiness and determination that underlies so much of what makes the part of the state we call home so special.

Over the last few weeks, my colleagues in Madison have been visited by an incredible assortment of business owners and employees, local elected officials, concerned citizens and students from northern Wisconsin. Earlier this month, I was pleased to spend time with the people who made the trip from Barron, Rusk, Sawyer, and Washburn counties to participate in the Heart of the North Legislative Day.  Legislators from across Wisconsin heard from articulate advocates on issues such as increased funding for public schools and transportation aid.

I was especially impressed with the students who spoke about the importance of special education and mental health services in their schools, as well as the workforce housing shortage across northern Wisconsin. Their enthusiasm is contagious and a promising sign for the future. They were prepared, passionate, and well-spoken and did a great job!

Another group of students who did a great job representing northern Wisconsin were the young people who participated in the annual Superior Days.  This grassroots lobbying effort is an often copied, but rarely equaled effort to increase awareness and build support for issues important to people in areas that often don’t get the attention they deserve.  In addition to the students, there are delegates representing an incredible cross section of the people and businesses that make Wisconsin’s Lake Superior region such a great place to live. 

My thanks to all the participants and supporters of Superior Days, particularly those that came down for the “Best of the Northwest” product parade to share their stories and products - Earth Rider Brewery and White Winter Winery, Essentia Health, WITC Superior, University of Wisconsin Superior,  Dairyland Power, LHB - to name a few.

Across northern Wisconsin, I see students engaging with community members, sharing their interests and perspectives, and voicing their informed opinions at every level of government. A great example of this is Hayden Suske-Funk, who was in Madison this week as part of the Senate Scholar Program. This week long program provides juniors and seniors in high schools with an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of how the legislature really works. 

Haydn wrote to me, asking me to sponsor him for the program. I was able to spend some time with him during the week, and found him to be an eager and bright student with a sincere passion for environmental ecology. I am sure that Hayden’s family and friends are incredibly proud of him, just like I am proud of all the people from northern Wisconsin who have taken the time out of their busy schedules to come to the Capitol and advocate for our communities.  

This week in review with Rep. Beth Meyers 

This week, we had residents from all Wisconsin counties bordering Lake Superior come to Madison to advocate for issues that are near and dear to their communities. Among the issues we discussed were:
  • Expanding mental health services, particularly in rural areas. 
  • Raising the Medicaid reimbursement rate for behavioral health services, substance abuse treatment, services for nursing home care and for personal care workers.
  • Allowing Superior to raise tax revenue for invest in a better, thriving city. While Superior is not in my district, more economic activity in Superior is good for the whole region. 
Thank you to all who spoke to legislators and championed for the people of Northern Wisconsin!

Assembly Session

This week, the Assembly was in session. We voted on and passed several good bipartisan bills, including: 
  • - Assembly Bill 531 would require that student identification cards include contact information for suicide prevention hotlines. This bill is a product of the Suicide Prevention Task Force I served on. As our young people are suffering from mental health with fewer resources, especially in rural areas, we must give them all the tools we can to combat rising suicide rates. 
  • - Assembly Bill 147 is a bill to fight "spoofing," where telemarketers conceal their identity by blocking the receiver's caller ID or displaying the wrong phone number. Telemarketers can use this technology to scam and defraud. Across Wisconsin, people have reported experiencing a high and increasing number of telemarketing calls. Unsolicited telemarketing being the number one consumer complaint received annually by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), with 4,860 complaints registered in 2018 alone. 
  • - Assembly Bill 222 and Assembly Bill 379 would increase penalties for individuals who have multiple convictions of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). 
Thank you to all my constituents who weighed in on these bills, and I hope to see them become law. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news.

Wisconsin has a backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits, known as rape kits. In 2014, we had as many as 7,000 untested kits, which took emergency federal funding to tackle. What we needed was a plan for this to never happen again.

Republicans, Democrats, the Attorney General, sexual assault groups, law enforcement and medical professionals came together to write a bill to standardize procedures, roles and a timeline to ensure there is never another backlog of thousands of sexual-assault evidence kits sitting on shelves while rapists remain free to re-offend. That bill was Assembly Bill 214, and it passed in the state Senate and was supported by a majority of Assembly members.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the Assembly decided to write an entirely new bill, Assembly Bill 844. and they didn't consult any advocates, survivors, law enforcement or medical professionals in the process. This version of the bill:
  • Adds unrelated provisions about school choice and reporting to ICE (the bill required someone arrested and charged with rape to be reported to ICE if they are here illegally, which law enforcement is already required to do). 
  • Mandates that the Department of Justice do additional work and storage, but removes the funding needed to perform that work.
  • Has several small new requirements that could make it extremely hard on rural clinics with strained resources by requiring services for victims that several locations do not have the funding or capability to provide. 
  • Other new provisions that could create confusion for law enforcement or victims, with a clear misunderstanding of how current systems work (something that could have been avoided if they spoke with law enforcement or the DOJ). 
Everyone who attended the public hearing testified against the bill (see list of organizations against the bill here). No one except the Republican authors were in favor of the bill.

Throughout my career, my best accomplishments have been reaching across the aisle and getting things done in a bipartisan manner. We had an opportunity to do that with AB 214. We could have passed a bill to get justice for rape victims, and it would have been signed into law immediately.

Instead, these victims are being used as political pawns. I hope the majority party decides to do the right thing and pass a bill that everyone can support. Let's do what we were elected to do - get things done and stop playing games.

Flood Insurance

We have several feet of snow on the ground. When it starts to warm up, it all has to go somewhere. That's why this week Governor Tony Evers declared this week Flood Insurance Awareness Week. Here is a link to the National Flood Insurance Program.

“Just one inch of water in a home can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Last year was the wettest on record in Wisconsin," said WI Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable. “This week, we are encouraging Wisconsin consumers to learn more about the importance and benefits of flood insurance so they can be sure that they have the financial protection they need before the snow starts melting and the rain starts falling."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipates an increased likelihood of spring flooding throughout the state in 2020 due to melting snowpack sitting upon already saturated soil. Typical business and homeowner's insurance policies do not cover damage from floods, while federal disaster assistance is only available to flood victims if an official declaration has been issued. Even then, that federal aid is available only to those who qualify.

Here are some other things to keep in mind as the snow melts and floods threaten our communities:
  • Elevate your furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home, if you live in a high flood risk area.
  • Install "check valves" to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Seal walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds.
  • Don't drive in standing water. The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water, and roads covered by water are prone to collapse.
  • Make a Plan B - do you have somewhere you can stay temporarily if you're forced to leave your home?

Above all, use your common sense and stay safe!

National Wear Red Day

February is American Heart Month, and the first Friday in February is Wear Red Day. Pictured above are advocates, Capitol employees, and elected officials wearing red to show their support.

Wear Red Day is a special day designed to raise awareness of women and heart disease. Approximately every 80 seconds a woman dies from cardiovascular disease in the United States, but we can change that because 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.

Contact Information

If there is an issue that is important to you, even if you are sure I agree or disagree with you, please contact my office. Hearing from my constituents gives me the perspectives I need when researching, discussing and voting on any given bill. Please call, email, write or contact me on social media:

Phone Number: (608) 266-7690
Address: P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708
Twitter: @beth_rep
Facebook: @RepBethMeyers

Thank you for your interest, and again, feel free to reach out to my office if you have any additional questions or concerns. Thank you!