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.