Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
"Hemp is an agricultural commodity and should be treated as such in Wisconsin law," Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, said when commenting on the recent passage of Senate Bill 119 by the Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism.
For 130 years, Wisconsin provided care for our aging veterans. Our state committed resources to build a beautiful campus on the Chain O' Lakes. Known as the Veterans Home at King, the home gives veterans and their families a picturesque retirement. Recently, stories leaked out from King that all was not well. Delayed maintenance, slipping quality of care, and management decisions, in the name of cost cutting, took away amenities central to veterans' quality of life. Impersonal vending machines replaced the coffee shop stocked with home-baked goods.
Farmers in diverse states like Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine and Minnesota are researching a new crop: industrial hemp. Many states are changing laws to allow growing of hemp. Wisconsin is slow to get in the game. Hopefully, this is about to change. Lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism Committee are considering a hemp legalization bill. If Senate Bill 119 becomes law, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection would create an active industrial hemp program and license growers.
Imagine you are with your loved one who is in the hospital. Night comes. You prepare to leave, gently kissing your loved one "good night." As you walk down the corridor and into the hospital parking lot, you might wonder how your loved one will feel in the morning. Will things be better, worse or stay the same? One thing you don't worry about is the quality of care provided to your loved one because the nurses working the night shift are licensed by the state.
"Oh, my gosh," I said to the Senate page. "I need that book." The "book" was a 744-page binder written by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau detailing, in plain language, the decisions in the massive state budget. Knowing what was in the binder was critical to making an informed vote on the state budget. However, there was no time. The binder showed up in my office just as the Senate was about to go into session to debate a $3 billion deal for Foxconn.
"Policy is who pays, who doesn't pay and where the money gets spent," said the president of the NAACP in a recent speech. Policy making was center stage at the State Capitol when the long delayed $76 billion two-year state budget was rushed to passage just days after a majority of lawmakers voted to give a Taiwan billionaire $3 billion in state subsidies. Budgets are about choices. Budget writers this year chose to leave major problems for the next budget writers.
A last-minute budget amendment has folks in western Wisconsin very worried. Locals have spent seven years negotiating with large sand mines to reach agreements that allow neighbors and mines to co-exist. In some cases, locals decided certain sensitive and tourist areas needed protection from mines. All the careful negotiations appear poised to go out the window in a strangely evolving budget deal that seems to affect quarries — or, as we often know them, gravel pits.
"Friends in the Wisconsin Legislature, we beg you: Sign that bad deal with Foxconn," recently wrote the Chicago Sun Times editorial board. "It's the neighborly thing to do." The Wisconsin Assembly obliged the Chicago newspaper and recently voted 50-39 to approve the Gov. Scott Walker's deal with the Taiwanese company, Foxconn.
"I lost my granddaughter to heroin addiction," Anita told me. "We've lost so many people," Tena added. Recently, former Marine Tena Quackenbush and her friends, including Quincy Garvin, Jasime Funmaker, Lori Pettibone and Cindy Ward hosted a gathering to promote and encourage recovery from addiction, especially the scourge of heroin addiction. Ms. Quackenbush started #StoptheStigma, an organization with a mission to stop the stigma of addiction. She was joined by members of "Natives Against Heroin" in hosting the event.
I love county fairs. I love the sights, sounds, smells and the tastes of the fair. Moreover, I love all the people. Adorable little kids wander around with snow cones. Grandparents catch up on family news. Hardworking 4-Hers show cattle, cakes and cookies. I especially love the opportunity for conversations with voters about what's important. The relaxed atmosphere of the fair invites good conversations about what's going on and how our state should help. Cookies, roads and health care took up much of my conversations.