Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
"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.
"My father-in-law is losing his health insurance," Pam told me. She stopped to chat as we perused the booths at the Stockholm Art Fair. Stockholm, population 66, has one of the best art fairs in western Wisconsin. Judging by the license plates, the fair is high on the list for Minnesotans too.
"Be careful when you fill up," Linda warned me a few months ago. "There's a new scam that captures your credit card information when you pay for your gas at the pump." One more thing to worry about, I thought. However, I discovered Sen. Rob Cowles already put worry into action. He decided to write a bill to end the scam — Senate Bill 133. I joined a bipartisan group of legislators as a cosponsor of this legislation.
"Do you still milk?" I asked Jim at a recent gathering. "No," he told me. "My son tells me the most help I can be is to stay out of the way," he joked. We both agreed that was hard. Dairying gets in your blood. June is dairy month. A time to celebrate all we love about "America's Dairyland" — home to 1.28 million dairy cows, which is more than one cow for every five Wisconsinites.
Progress with the state budget is at a standoff in the Capitol. Behind closed doors, leaders are talking details and trying to find votes. Openly, legislative leaders point to a lack of agreement on public education. They say no progress can happen until they round up necessary votes for the education portion of the budget. Privately, some GOP lawmakers are also angling to spend money on a big change to business personal property taxes. However, changes to taxes could take away money promised to schools.
In the next few weeks, state lawmakers are voting on how Wisconsin spends money over the next two years. The choices legislators make will affect our communities and our lives. Lawmakers are working off a spending plan submitted by Gov. Scott Walker earlier this year. Changes have already been made to his proposal.
"This is the broadest, most dangerous bill you've never heard of." I told my colleagues during a recent Senate debate. "It's an obscure way to shut down government from doing something that the Legislature intended to do." Senate Bill 15, known by the initials REINS, would allow leaders of the Legislature to shut down the implementation of new laws if the leader found the new law too costly to implement. A version of the bill is moving toward passage at both the state and federal levels of government. I expect the state Assembly will soon take up the bill.
Should it be easier for lobbyists to contribute to campaigns? Should corporations spend more money to ask their employees to make campaign contributions? Should Wisconsin limit early voting? Is there...
A focus on solutions could make a special legislative session on health insurance a success. Gov. Walker recently told the Associated Press “We want to make sure nobody falls through...