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Northwoods Political Digest

December 06, 2019

Neubauer releases ‘Forward on Climate’ bill package

State Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) hosted a press conference this week announcing her “Forward on Climate” bill package which she says supports the development of a resilient, sustainable, and equitable economy in Wisconsin.

“Right now, Wisconsinites are picking up the bill for every ton of carbon we burn, while the fossil fuel industry continues to profit,” Neubauer said. “Wisconsinites send over $14 billion each year out of our state to pay for the fossil fuels that power our communities. That’s money that could be kept right here in Wisconsin.”

Neubauer said the bills were designed with input from people across Wisconsin.

“From supporting our farmers to building the clean-energy manufacturing sector to investing in our kids and our schools, these bills build up our communities and bring new opportunities to Wisconsin,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do, but I’m so honored to be able to do it alongside all of these incredible advocates.”

Rep. David Crowley (D-Milwaukee), who co-authored one of the bills, said everyone knows climate change is real, and that it qualifies as an emergency which requires immediate attention.

“Clean energy means new jobs, less pollution, and better outcomes for this generation and the next, especially in communities that need it most,” Crowley said.

Neubauer said people from across Wisconsin are sharing the importance of taking comprehensive, Wisconsin-centered action on climate change.

“We need access to jobs, to health care, to water, to clean air and a healthy environment,” said Stephanie Salgado, a UW-Madison student, climate activist, and Honduran immigrant. “These are basic human rights, for us and for our children and grandchildren. I want all of you to understand that we all matter, workers and farmers and our marginalized communities. I believe Wisconsin has the potential to be a leader in this fight for sustainability, starting with green banking, school efficiency, and carbon sequestration. Because like me, your kids want it.”

The four bills included in the initial “Forward on Climate” package include a bill to create a $1.5 million annual appropriation for a grant program supporting weatherization and energy efficiency updates in public school buildings and to provide funds to support student education surrounding the importance of energy efficiency; a bill to create a study on Green Banks in Wisconsin; a bill to create a $1.5 million annual appropriation for a grant program supporting farmers who use certain sustainable practices, including sustainable farming, growing carbon-sequestering crops, and reducing fossil fuel usage; and a bill to require the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to consider the social cost of carbon emissions in determining the siting of new utility-scale power infrastructure in Wisconsin.

Oldenburg authors legislation to promote natural flood management

State Rep. Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua) has released legislation with Sen. Robert Cowles and Rep. Jim Steineke which aims to promote natural flood management. The bill creates a general permit for hydrologic restoration projects and a hydrologic restoration and management advisory council.

“The Coulee Region is one of the top areas in the state that experiences 100 and even 500 year flooding events,” Oldenburg said. “As we experienced in 2018, and years prior, these flooding events have lasting and harmful effects on our rural communities. The creation of this general permit should make it easier for Wisconsinites to complete hydrologic restoration projects.”

The bill promotes hydrologic restoration projects in Wisconsin by creating a general permit for such projects, and the creation of the Hydrologic Restoration and Management Advisory Council. The advisory council will help with the development of hydrologic restoration projects and with training for management of such projects. 

Hydrologic restoration projects have several positive benefits, Oldenburg said, including helping landscapes manage flooding, reduce runoff, improve water quality, and refresh ground water to improve fish and wildlife habitats.

“Across the state we see an urgent need to restore upper watershed wetlands and reconnect floodplains to help reduce flooding and erosion, replenish groundwater, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat,” said the Wisconsin Wetlands Association’s executive director Tracy Hames. “This bill will help encourage and promote the types of actions needed to restore the health of our land, water, and communities.”

The legislation was created in consultation with the Wisconsin Wetlands Association and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Report: Female circuit court judges among fastest growing elected offices for women

The Wisconsin Women’s Council released a new factsheet this week, Women on the Wisconsin Circuit Court 2019, as part of its research series benchmarking women in state and local government in Wisconsin.

The report finds that the percentage of female judges on the Wisconsin circuit court increased from 19% in 2017 to 26% in 2019. This year-over-year increase puts female circuit court judges among the state’s fastest growing elected offices for women. 

Since the council’s first benchmark report in 2005, the number of female judges has nearly doubled — from 33 (1-in-7 judges) in 2005 to 64 (1-in-4 judges) in 2019. Even so, Wisconsin lags the national average of 33%.

Despite the higher percentage of judicial seats filled by women, 43 Wisconsin county circuit courts (62%), representing 81 judicial seats, have no female judges. It is not until a county circuit court has five or more judges that it is common to have a female judge.

“Wisconsin has long been a national leader for women serving on the Supreme Court, but this has not been reflected in the circuit courts,” said Christine Lidbury, executive director. “Gender diversity on the bench is often cited as an important factor in public confidence, and perceptions of fairness and equality in the justice system. By bringing more qualified women to the bench, across the state, the system becomes more representative of our population and reflective of the goals and values of all of our citizens.”

Tiffany secures spot on ballot for 7th District special election

U.S. congressional candidate Tom Tiffany submitted the maximum number of signatures to the Wisconsin Elections Commission this past Monday, ensuring his name will be on the election for the Feb. 18 primary election.

“Our team is so thankful for the many grassroots supporters across northern and western Wisconsin who helped put my name on the ballot,” Tiffany said. “This campaign is about sending their voices to DC. From Wausau to Superior, Hudson to Antigo, voters know they can count on a proven conservative like me to protect our Wisconsin way of life from radicals like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who want to turn toward socialism.” 

While only 1,000 signatures are required to receive ballot access, Tiffany delivered 2,000 signatures from voters in the 7th Congressional District, the maximum number allowed. 

Republicans Jason Church, an aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, also qualified for the ballot. On the Democratic side, Tricia Zunker, president of the Wausau School Board, filed papers, as did businessman Lawrence Dale.

Kaul wants hearing on bill to prevent backlog of untested sexual assault kits

Attorney general Josh Kaul this week urged Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis), chairman of the Assembly Committee on Health, to immediately hold a public hearing on legislation designed to prevent a future backlog of untested sexual assault kits.

“This legislation will help prevent another backlog of untested sexual assault kits,” Kaul said. “It has the support of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, Wisconsin Nurses Association, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, and YWCA Madison. It was approved by the state Senate on a voice vote and is supported by a majority of the members of the Assembly. I’m calling on Rep. Joe Sanfelippo to hold a public hearing and to schedule a vote on this legislation.”

The legislation was introduced by a group of bipartisan legislators in May 2019, including Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), Sen. Patty Schachtner (D-Somerset), Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), and Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay).

Since May, Kaul said the support for the legislation has increased. The bill is co-sponsored by 71 senators and representatives (46 Democrats, 25 Republicans), including a majority of members of the Assembly (55). The legislation was also approved 5-0 in the Senate Committee on Insurance, Financial Services, Government Oversight and Court.

The legislation was passed by the State Senate in October. The Assembly Committee on Health received the legislation on May 15, and has taken no action.

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