Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
Last Friday afternoon we learned of the 79 bills up for a vote on Tuesday. I spoke with my neighbor shortly after seeing the long list. "How can they possibly know what they are voting on?" she asked me. I replied there is no time to talk with people and learn the effects of these changes. Legislation moving quickly through the process makes changes to protections of our wetlands; specifically, wet areas not connected to a navigable body of water.
In a recent committee hearing, I argued majority lawmakers were moving broadband expansion forward by press release and little else. This week Rep. Don Vuwink (D-Milton) and I are circulating bills to actually move broadband forward for Wisconsin. The Committee on Revenue, Financial Institutions and Rural Issues debated a bill that would allow a local community to pass a resolution saying the community was "Telecommuting Ready." However, nothing in that bill helped communities gain access to broadband.
"With more people working in Wisconsin..., we can't afford to have anyone on the sidelines, we need everyone in the game," Gov. Scott Walker said, calling for a special session to take up bills he nicknamed, "Wisconsin Works for Everyone." The Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations Committee, of which I am a member, took up the special session bills in a recent public hearing. The 10 bills make substantial changes in eligibility for FoodShare (nutrition) or BadgerCare (medical care). Many of the bills limit assistance for families experiencing hard times.
Farmers from several western Wisconsin counties traveled to Madison as part of the annual Ag Day at the Capitol. On the day Gov. Scott Walker delivered his State of the State address, farmers shared with their legislators, the state of things in their world.
The little girl walked home through the snow. She took the longer route. Mom asked her to stop at the store to buy milk. She touched the coupons and note. She couldn't lose them. Mom was so sick with cancer.
"Who put all this policy in the budget?" I whispered to my colleague the night the budget passed. "Groups," he said glumly. "I call it the 'Shadow Legislature.'" These groups are often from outside Wisconsin and often funded by large donors. Behind the scenes, they push for policy, added at the last minute, which is unrelated to the state budget but changed laws. Recently, these groups came out of the shadows to directly ask for what they wanted.
The day was busy. Filled with bills voted on by senators. Bills that, someday, will change people's lives for better or worse. Senators do not often see the faces of those whose lives changed. Bev, Bonnie and Jamie are working to put a face on the lives affected by the actions of lawmakers. The women are showing Wisconsin the faces of those suffering from addiction.
Should it be easier for lobbyists to contribute to campaigns? Should corporations spend more money to ask their employees to make campaign contributions?