Iron County Progressive


Weekly News from Your Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair





In an election that never should have taken place in person in the middle of a pandemic, an election in which Donald Trump personally got involved, an election in which a flood of dark money spread lies about our Supreme Court candidate, Jill Karofsky, and the GOP won victories in the Wisconsin and United States Supreme Courts in order to disenfranchise voters…

… WE WON!

There's so much to celebrate. You can read about some of it below. And we have a huge fight on our hands to change our electoral system to make it safe during the time of coronavirus. But it's worth taking a moment to savor the victory—to celebrate what we did together.

This was a people-powered win. The nation, the world, watched what we did—what you did. And people who believe in democracy everywhere are profoundly inspired.

They're feeling an unfamiliar thing in these dark times: Hope.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a part of the massive wave of virtual organizing to put Justice-elect Jill Karofsky on the Supreme Court of our state—and for all of the other critical downballot races last Tuesday. The future looks just a touch brighter. We fought with our values front and center—including, respecting, and empowering voters in every community across the state, 100% focused on helping people cast safe absentee votes. All while fighting for safe voting options in court. 



Stay safe out there.

With gratitude,

Ben 


FIGHT on the Issues & FIGHT to Win

Supreme Court Victory!

In the wake of Justice Jill Karofsy’s win, there was plenty of good news looking forward to November. Karofsky’s decisive 10.6% victory over Dan Kelly, who was backed by President Trump, shows that Wisconsin voters are continuing to move away from the president.

Additionally, Dan Kelly received 692,956 votes while Trump only received 617,116 votes in his primary. 
This means that tens of thousands of conservative voters could not stomach voting for Trump while they voted for the Republican Supreme Court candidate. The fight for the presidency starts now, and our Democratic nominee Joe Biden is already in a strong position to beat Trump in Wisconsin.


School Referenda Across Wisconsin

Across the state, voters overwhelmingly approved referenda to raise property taxes to fund their school districts. More than 80 referenda passed, approving more than $1.7 billion in investments in our schools. These funding referenda will allow schools to make substantial investments in the education of the next generation of Wisconsinites.

Wins in the Judiciary

In other judicial news, the liberal Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Neubauer defended her seat from a conservative challenger. Right-wing special interest groups spent a lot of money this cycle trying to appoint more judges that would give them favorable decisions, and in a win for democracy, they were soundly defeated.

Similarly, three judges that were appointed by Scott Walker -- Judge Dan Gabler, Judge Paul Dedinsky, and last (but not least) Justice Dan Kelly
were all defeated by at least double digits. Governor Walker built up a judicial bench that worked against the interests of Wisconsinites everywhere. The extremely important work of loosening that conservative stranglehold on our democracy is working.


New Mayors in Appleton and Wausau

In Appleton, Jake Woodford defeated James Clemons for mayor after long time Mayor Tim Hanna endorsed his crisis management skills in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In Wausau Katie Rosenberg beat incumbent Robert Mielke in a contentious race, marking an important shift in power across the state. Congratulations to our new generation of progressive leaders!

INCLUDE & RESPECT

Disenfranchisement Disproportionately Affects Voters of Color

When they allowed in-person voting to happen on April 7, Republicans knew that scores of voters of color would have their vote suppressed. The warning signs were there all along -- in Milwaukee where the virus is disproportionately affecting Black residents, the number of polling places went from 180 to 5 in the days leading up to election day, creating long lines to vote during the middle of a deadly, contagious pandemic.

There is no doubt that Republicans weaponized this pandemic to make it harder for people of color to vote. Going forward, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin will be examining legal options to avoid disenfranchisement on May 12 and in November. We have to ensure that this does not happen again and that all voters are protected, especially those who are most vulnerable to voter suppression efforts.

Newly Elected Leaders of Color

Wisconsinites elected leaders of color in all levels of government this cycle. Candidates like David Crowley, the new Milwaukee County Executive, Anthony Gray, the new Dane County supervisor, and William Harris, the new member of the Marathon County Board, are model leaders in our state. Wisconsin communities are better off with strong, representative leaders in charge.









Gov. Evers Extends Safer at Home Order


On Thursday, April 16th, Governor Tony Evers and DHS Secretary Andrea Palm made the difficult but necessary decision to extend the Safer at Home order until May 26th. Public health experts and leading health care providers agree that the most effective thing we can do as a state to keep Wisconsinites healthy and safe is to stay home.

I know this has been painful for so many of us. No one wants to shut down parts of the economy unless it's absolutely necessary, and unfortunately, staying at home is still the best course of action to save lives until we have three things:
  • A massive increase in testing capacity.
  • A sufficient and steady supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • An increase in trained public health personnel to conduct contact tracing activities.
Right now, the Evers administration and a bipartisan coalition of surrounding Midwest states are coming together to make a long term plan for slowly reopening and achieving these three goals.

In the meantime, I want to be clear - we are not making a choice between between public health and the economy. The health of our citizens and the health or our economy are absolutely linked. If we don't manage the outbreak now, we will unnecessarily risk lives and guarantee worse economic outcomes in the long run.

Lifting the Safer at Home order needs to be like turning a dial, not flipping a switch. The more disciplined we are now, the faster we can turn it on down the road. If we do this right, it will feel like we overreacted.

I want to thank my constituents - those on the front lines in hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and more, as well as those who have stayed home. Due to people respecting the Safer at Home order, we have successfully flattened the curve, and so far, we have kept our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. We have saved lives by coming together as a state, and I'm proud of all of you. Let's keep this going.

For more information on why this decision was made and further details on the order, here is the Safer at Home FAQ.

The new Safer at Home order is largely the same with a few changes that go into effect on April 24th. The order will remain in effect until 8:00 a.m. on May 26th, 2020. Here are further details:
  • Schools: Public and private K-12 schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Public libraries: Libraries may provide curb-side pick-up of books and other library materials.
  • Golf courses: Golf courses may open, with restrictions including scheduling and paying for tee times online or by phone only. Clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed. 
  • Local parks and open space: Local health officials may close public parks and open spaces if it becomes too difficult ensure social distancing or the areas are being mistreated.
  • Safe business practices for Essential Businesses and Operations: Essential Businesses and Operations must increase cleaning and disinfection practices, ensure that only necessary works are present, and adopt policies to prevent workers exposed to COVID-19 or symptomatic workers from coming to work.
  • Safe business practices for retailers that are Essential Businesses and Operations: Retail stores that remain open to the public as Essential Businesses and Operations must limit the number of people in the store at one time, must provide proper spacing for people waiting to enter, and large stores must offer at least two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for vulnerable populations.
  • Non-essential businesses: Non-essential businesses can do more things as Minimum Basic Operations, including deliveries, mailings, and curb-side pick-up. Non-essential businesses must notify workers of whether they are necessary for the Minimum Basic Operations. 
  • Arts and craft stores: Arts and craft stores may offer expanded curb-side pick of materials necessary to make face masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Supply chain: Essential Businesses and Operations that are essential because they supply, manufacture, or distribute goods and services to other Essential Businesses and Operations can only continue operations that are necessary to those businesses they supply. All other operations must continue as Minimum Basic Operations.
  • Aesthetic or optional exterior work: Aesthetic or optional exterior lawn care or construction is allowed, so long as it can be done by one person.
  • Travel: People are strongly encouraged to stay close to home, not travel to second homes or cabins, and not travel out of state if it is not necessary.
  • Tribal Nations: Tribal Nations are sovereign over their territory and can impose their own restrictions. Non-tribal members should be respectful of and avoid non-essential travel to Tribal territory. Local government must coordinate, collaborate, and share information with Tribal Nations.
If you need to contact the governor's office: Due to the high volume of phone calls, the governor's office is unable to answer all calls and their voicemail system does not allow for more than 65 messages at once. They have staff dedicated solely to answering the phones and checking the voicemail, however, to ensure you are responded to in a timely manner, I encourage you to fill out their online contact form with any questions or concerns at this link.


Legislative Update



Earlier this week, the Assembly convened in extraordinary session to take up legislation that addresses the public health issues and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 in Wisconsin. The bill passed the Assembly and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, and Governor Evers signed the bill into law on Wednesday.

I've highlighted a few of the provisions below: 
  • Temporarily waives the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits. 
  • Permits the Department of Health Services (DHS) to apply for federal Medicaid waivers, which will provide Wisconsin with emergency healthcare funding. 
  • Requires health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing without charging a co-pay.
  • Allows former and out-of-state healthcare providers to get temporary credentials to practice in Wisconsin. 
  • Enables households to apply for heating assistance through the Department of Administration's (DOA) low-income home energy assistance program anytime during 2020. 
I believe this bipartisan legislation takes important initial steps toward responding to the immediate needs of individuals, families and businesses. However, I believe there is still more work to be done.



While I'm glad we took action, there were some disappointments. Democrats offered a few amendments, including hazard pay to health care workers, changes to make voting safer and direct relief to our hard-hit tourism industry.

I've heard from so many constituents who don't want a repeat of the April election, choosing between their health and their vote. I've also heard from business owners and employees across the 74th Assembly District who are worried about the future of one of Northern Wisconsin's biggest industries. I will not stop pushing for these issues to be addressed in a future session.

At the same time, Republicans offered their own amendment, which I voted against. Much of it was technical fixes, but I was disheartened that they including changes to workers compensation for first responders. If a first responder wants to qualify for workers compensation, they now have to prove they came in contact with COVID-19 on the job (you can read more about that in this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article). We must do more for those on the front line of this outbreak.

In the end, I voted for the bill. We needed to get something passed this week or else our state would have lost out on hundreds of millions of federal dollars, and many of the changes will ensure that many people get help sooner.

I know you're all looking for answers to help alleviate the suffering so many Wisconsinites are experiencing, from staff in our hospitals, to those working in essential businesses, to folks worried about their livelihoods, to teachers and parents who are doing the best they can to help our kids through this frightening time. Please know, you are on my mind every day, and I will not stop working for you. 


Unemployment and the Federal CARES Act


The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has been working hard to update their systems to adjust for the unemployment changes in the federal CARES Act. This week, they announced: 
  • The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (additional $600 per week) will be available beginning the week of April 26. This benefit will be automatically added to your weekly claims. 
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (new unemployment insurance for those not covered under the regular insurance - self-employed, independent contractors, etc.) will begin accepting applications the week of April 21. Your first payable week will be retroactive to the first week you were out of work due to COVID-19 (as long as that was not before the week ending on February 8). 
  • The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (additional 13 weeks of regular unemployment insurance) will be available soon. 
For more detailed information, visit the DWD CARES Act web page here.

Are you having trouble getting your unemployment benefits? If it has been at least three weeks since you submitted your application and you have not received your benefits, my office may be able to help you. Email rep.meyers@legis.wisconsin.gov with the following information: 
  • Full name 
  • Phone number
  • Issue you want to be resolved (i.e. When will I receive my benefits?)
  • Status of your application
    • Did you apply online?
    • What date did you submit it? 
    • Are you awaiting a decision on something that had to be investigated? 
My staff will send this information to the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and request that they promptly look into your case. I understand that this is a difficult financial time for many, and I am committed to helping you receive your benefits in a timely manner.



As always, the best information on COVID-19 can be found at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. There is also great information to be found for all of the state of Wisconsin agencies at the governors website, govstatus.egov.com. For local updates, here are the county health departments in the 74th Assembly District:
Important note: The information in this update is relevant as of April 17th at 10:30 am. Things are moving quickly and bound to change. 

Again, please reach out to my office with any questions or concerns. Email me at rep.meyers@legis.wisconsin.gov or call at (608) 266-7690.

We are all in this together, and I have great confidence that the people of Wisconsin will rise and meet this challenge.

Be well, and thank you,