CHIP Still at Risk

While this Republican administration Congress pull us in many different dangerous directions on a daily basis, I’m going to stick with what I know best: healthcare. As you may now, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is set to expire by the end of September 2017. CHIP provides federal healthcare funding for millions of low and middle-income American children, including over 180,000 in Wisconsin alone. Unfortunately, members of Congress have repeatedly provided only short-term extensions. While in the past there has been bipartisan support for CHIP, in the current political environment that may not end up being the case.

From Hurricane Harvey, to Russia, to North Korea, to our President’s approval of neo-nazis and white supremacists, the media has their hands full and I’m concerned that this lack of focus could lead to a lack of awareness.

I strongly encourage all Americans to remain active in contacting their members ofn Congress to ensure continued support for this incredibly important program. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for Congress to pass at least a 5-year funding bill for CHIP.  With recent statements from President Trump threatening to shut down the government because he cannot get funding for his wall, this becomes all that much more important. Lives are at stake if children cannot receive appropriate health insurance.  

On a positive note, it was fantastic to see a number of Senate Republicans stand up for their constituents against President Trump’s desire to take away health insurance from millions. Republican Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and John McCain (Arizona) stood against their party and their President to protect health insurance and for a time avoid forcing the dangerous collapse of ObamaCare. In addition to these individuals, red state Democrats including Senators Joe Manchin III (West Virginia), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Jon Tester (Montana), Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Joe Donnelly (Indiana) stood strong for their constituents against the Senate TrumpCare legislation. I hope in the future Congressional Senators and Representatives will work together to improve our healthcare system, instead of trying to make it harder for individuals to obtain health insurance based upon partisanship fights.

A Late Budget Ain’t a Polished Budget

The Wisconsin Assembly passed a budget over two months late, and the delay hasn’t made it any less of a rush job.

Fill in the Blanks

The budget restricts towns’ ability to regulate gravel mines, with stunningly sloppy language like this:

Create a provision … to prohibit a political subdivision .. from enforcing an ordinance if any of the following applies: (a) a statutory provision expressly prohibits the political subdivision from enforcing the ordinance; (b) the ordinance logically conflicts with a statutory provision; (c) the ordinance defeats the purpose of a statutory provision; or (d) the ordinance violates the spirit of a statutory provision.

Clearly, the Joint Finance Committee couldn’t be bothered to actually write out their legislation. Instead, they expect municipalities to imagine what the committee members would have written.

No Gas Tax, Just a No-Gas Tax

Rather than taxing fossil fuel consumption, which could have addressed the deficit and the environment with one stone, the committee approved a fee for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Don’t get me wrong, there will come a time when non-polluting vehicles need to support more road maintenance. Just like there will come a time when houses with solar panels will need to support the grid. But we aren’t there yet, and we need to incentivize ways that people can use less combustible fuel. Roads right now aren’t buckling under Priuses, they’re buckling under eighteen-wheelers.

Bike Paths Are Not Coming For Your Land

The budget also included prohibitions against towns seizing or condemning land to construct bike trails. Conservative groups touted this as a win for property owners.

But the property right this defends is the right to have your property depreciate. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of municipalities abusing their current options. If they did, the state could have a more direct, contiguous bike network.

For example, the trail that ought to connect Madison to Milwaukee ends abruptly a few miles short in Cottage Grove due to private property in the way. These issues sometimes get solved by routing a path the long way around, at greater expense and inconvenience to the community. Take the Oregon Rotary Trail for instance, which traces three sides of a rectangle around someone’s property.

And whatever your views are on whether cities should have the right to seize land for infrastructure projects, it’s not right to prohibit it when it comes to bike paths while still allowing it for roads. Bike paths can accommodate more people at less cost, with environmental and health benefits. And they take less of your land to build.

Tighten Your Seatbelts – September Legislative Update

If you think the ride has been bumpy so far, take a look at what’s coming up next!

Congress reconvened September 5th.and the State Legislature reconvened September 12th. The following pages detail some of the bills coming up during these floor sessions, and it’s a scary bunch. If you had to choose, what one or two issues are most important to you? What are you willing to do to work on them?


Tell Congress to table the Graham-Cassidy bill

We’ve saved the ACA from repeal and replace – or so we thought. Trump still insists on ACA repeal and replace, and this is the last proposal standing. It would take federal funds for the ACA, cut them by 15%, and hand them over to states as block grants to let state legislatures and governors decide how to use the money for healthcare. It sets an insufficient growth rate to meet future ACA costs, resulting in a 34% funding cut by 2026. It also would take current Medicaid expansion spending from the 30 states that participate in the program and divvy it up among all 50 states – a windfall for Wisconsin but at the expense of many low-income patients in other states. An actual bill for the proposal was not written until Sept. 11 and as of this writing (Sept. 13), it awaits a CBO score before the Senate can bring it to the floor for a vote. In order for the bill to qualify for budget resolution (only 50 votes in the Senate), it must pass both houses of Congress by Sept. 30. The House is scheduled for a home district work period from Sept. 15-27, leaving only three days for passage (including Friday and Saturday – days when the House almost never meets).

Tell Congress to put a stop to ACA sabotage

  •         Tell Congress to enact guaranteed CSR payments through 2018. CSRs are payments that the federal government makes to insurance companies which, in turn, are required to reduce co-pays and deductibles for low-income people. Every month since he was inaugurated, Trump has threatened to stop making these payments to force passage of ACA repeal and replace legislation. This uncertainty for insurance companies has made it extremely difficult to accurately set their prices, and has led to them either raising their prices or just leaving marketplaces altogether. Passage is required by Sept. 30 to allow insurance companies to set lower rates before ACA open enrollment in November.
  •         Tell Congress to tie the hands of HHS. Since Tom Price became Secretary of Health & Human Services he has used his administrative prerogative to create barriers to ACA enrollment. Tell Congress to tie HHS funding to its intended use.

o   Require that the ACA open enrollment period must be 92 days. Price cut it back to just 45 days.

o Require HHS to restore funding for the Navigators program which offered assistance to people trying to sign up for the ACA.

o   Tie HHS public outreach funding to supporting ACA enrollment. Price took the money intended to help people learn about and understand their ACA coverage options and used it instead to produce anti-ACA propaganda videos. Fortunately, very few people actually watched them, but Congress should forbid HHS from using them.

Tell Congress to pass bipartisan healthcare legislation through the normal legislative process

Tell Congress that any legislation which affects Americans’ healthcare must go through the regular legislative process: committee referrals, public hearings including expert witnesses, input from members of both parties, and opportunities to amend. Senate passage must require a filibuster-proof vote of 60 members. Any legislation must not result in anyone losing coverage, must not increase premiums, and must not cut Medicaid.

The Senate Health Committee held public hearings during the first two weeks of September to develop bipartisan legislation which will stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual insurance market. If Congress can act by the end of September, it would help keep insurance available at a reasonable cost during 2018.

Tell Congress to pass Tammy Baldwin’s Medicare at 55 Act

This bill provides an option for people between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare. People in this age group often have more health problems and face higher health care costs but aren’t yet eligible for Medicare. Not only will these individuals enjoy lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs but by removing some of the sickest people from the ACA insurance pool, it may result in lower rates for those remaining.

Tell Wisconsin state legislators to pass the BadgerCare public option

Under AB 449, Wisconsin residents and small businesses could purchase BadgerCare, the state’s Medicaid plan, at full price as a “public option.” The bill is backed by Citizen Action of Wisconsin which cited a Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimate that in Dane County, a BadgerCare “buy-in” would cost adults $7,224 per year, while the lowest-cost Silver plan on would cost a 40-year-old applicant $8,350 per year in premiums and deductibles.

Fiscal Year 2018 budget and tax cuts

Tell Congress to oppose any budget resolution which allows cuts to critical programs that help families afford the basics in order to pay for tax cuts.

Once Congress passes the 2018 budget, they can use reconciliation to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations through the Senate with only 51 votes. Reconciliation requires that any legislation must not increase the deficit over the next ten years, so Congress is likely to cut critical programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and food assistance — either now or in the future – to balance the ledger. The details are appalling:

  • $1 trillion cut from Medicaid over ten years (that’s 20% of Medicaid’s budget)
  • Over $150 billion cut from SNAP (that’s 22% of SNAP’s budget)
  • Nearly $500 billion cut from Medicare—and it’s turned into a voucher system
  • $3.3 billion cut from Pell grants—and they’d be harder for students to use
  • Billions in cuts to education, the environment, housing, and worker training

The budget resolution doesn’t mean that all of these cuts would happen immediately, but it sets them up for action in another reconciliation bill that requires only 50 Senate votes. If Republican tax cuts for the wealthy are allowed to increase deficits, those deficits would give Republicans an excuse to keep cutting these critical programs in the future.

Tell Congress to oppose these tax cut proposals which benefit corporations and the rich.

  •         Reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15%. More than half the benefits from this cut would flow to the top 1 % of households.
  •         Eliminate taxes on the foreign profits of U.S. corporations, giving them a major incentive to move more jobs and profits offshore.
  •         Eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which is intended to ensure that the wealthy pay at least some taxes, no matter how many loopholes they exploit.
  •         Eliminate the estate tax which only applies to estates worth over $5.5 million. Already 99.8% of estates are exempt from the estate tax, so the Republican tax plan would only help the remaining wealthiest 0.2% of estates.
  •         Restrict itemized deductions outside of the charitable and mortgage interest deductions.
  •         Cut the top individual tax rate. Under Trump’s tax plan, the middle class would see a 1.5% tax cut—but the wealthy would get a 14.1% tax cut. The benefits would flow almost entirely to the top 1%, delivering them average annual tax cuts of more than $50,000 apiece.

Tell Congress to refuse action on any tax plan until President Trump releases his tax returns.

The American people want to fully understand how his proposed tax plan will personally benefit him and his businesses.

Hurricane relief, National Flood Insurance, and climate change

Tell Congress to provide an inclusive aid package with adequate funding to help individuals recover and to make sure that the public services communities rely on every day are rebuilt fully and promptly.

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have devastated parts of the southern United States. Congress approved $15 billion in aid, but it really is just a downpayment to meet short term needs like food, water, and shelter, as well as longer-term needs like rebuilding homes and public infrastructure that was destroyed during the storms. Disaster relief must also take into account that communities of color have been the hardest hit.

Tell Congress to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program by September 30.

Privatization would make flood insurance unaffordable to many. Members of Congress must oppose privatization of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Tell Congress to act on climate change

Hurricanes like these should convince doubters that oceans and the atmosphere are warming and that heat is propelling storms into superstorms. Yet EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says it’s insensitive to discuss climate change in the midst of recovery efforts.

Tell Congress to demand EPA enforcement of current laws to preserve the environment.

When the president withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, he said he wanted to negotiate a better deal, but it’s clear that countries which support the accord will never agree to U.S. terms. It’s up to the American people to elect a different president in 2020. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats must demand that the EPA enforce current laws until those laws are changed. Lacking 60 votes in the Senate, it would be difficult for the GOP to change those laws anytime soon.


Tell Congress to save DACA

On Sept. 6, the president sent Jeff Sessions to announce the rescission of DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – in six months (March 6, 2018). DACA beneficiaries were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents when they were age 6 or younger. The United States is the only country they have ever known. Tell your MoCs to co-sponsor the “DREAM Act” (S.1615 / H.R.3440), including Tammy Baldwin who has not signed on. It would give DACA recipients and others who arrived in the United States as children a path to permanent lawful status and eventual citizenship. The national Indivisible Project insists that the provisions of this bill be attached to any must-pass legislation. However, Congress missed the opportunity to tie it to lifting the debt ceiling. No matter how it is passed, it must not be tied to building a border wall.

Tell Congress to oppose the Muslim ban

The fate of the Muslim ban will be decided by the Supreme Court sometime this fall. Meanwhile, H.R.1503 – called the Statue of Liberty Values Act (SOLVE) – would nullify the president’s most recent (second) executive order barring refugees and people from six Muslim-majority countries and would prevent US tax dollars from funding implementation of the executive order. Mark Pocan is one of 176 cosponsors.

In the Senate, S.608 would rescind the Muslim ban, and S.549 would declare that the Muslim ban is illegal under the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) and unconstitutional for violating Establishment Clause. Like H.R.1503, it would withhold funding for implementation of the president’s order. Tammy Baldwin is a cosponsor of both bills.


Tell Congress to unite and fight privatization of infrastructure

Rather than invest directly in updating the bridges, roads, airports, water, and school systems that we all depend on, Trump’s plan would sell off America’s infrastructure to Wall Street billionaires, political cronies, and even foreign governments—allowing them to double tolls, create new fees, and put billions of our dollars in their pockets even if they don’t make a single improvement.

He’s also proposing tax breaks to further entice investors – as much as 82 cents of reimbursement for every dollar they spend on infrastructure. However, there’s no requirement that it be spent on new projects.

The package includes rollbacks of environmental protections, prioritizing pipelines over clean energy jobs; repeal of worker safety and wage protections; and failure to direct funds to disenfranchised communities—like Flint—that need it most.

Trump also refuses to invest in 21st century projects like clean-energy jobs, expanding broadband Internet, and high-speed rail.

Trump will need Democratic support to pass an infrastructure bill, especially in the Senate, where Trump needs enough Dem votes to break a filibuster, so Democrats have leverage here. Like they did to fight TrumpCare, Democrats must stay united to hold fast against this bad bill and demand real public investment to rebuild and expand our infrastructure. Few Democrats have staked out a position yet, so our first task is to ask them to endorse the principles that divide a good bill from a bad one.

Wisconsin’s call for Constitutional Convention

Tell state senators to oppose the call for a Constitutional Convention.

On June 14th, the Assembly passed a set of three resolutions which together call for a Constitutional Convention (“Article V Convention of the States”). They say it’s to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but there’s nothing to limit a convention to the balanced budget. There is the potential to take up amendments to alter or eliminate Constitutional protections for citizen rights: voting rights, civil rights, women’s rights. They could even limit or eliminate free speech, freedom of assembly, or freedom of the press. A convention like this has never been called and assembled before in our nation’s history. It could be a very destructive and dangerous event.

It takes two-thirds of state legislatures (34) to call a Constitutional convention. Wisconsin could become number 30. The resolution now awaits scheduling for a vote in the State Senate. We must tell our State Senators to vote NO.

State abortion restrictions

Tell state legislators to oppose these restrictions on access to abortions.

Assembly Bill (AB) 206/Senate Bill (SB) 154 would block University of Wisconsin OB-GYN residents from learning to perform abortions. Passage could jeopardize accreditation of the OB/GYN residency program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, ultimately reducing the number of practicing OB/GYNs in Wisconsin.

AB 128/SB 81 would prevent the state from providing insurance plans that cover abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or to preserve the life of the mother. Democrats argue that the measure is unnecessary because as it stands now, state health plans will pay for an abortion only if a doctor has determined it is medically necessary. The bill’s author said he had written the legislation because he believed that policy needs a tighter definition.

Madison State Representative Chris Taylor said the legislation would make it harder for public workers who are victims of sexual assault to get abortions. They could get their abortions covered under their health plans only if they reported their assaults to police — something many victims choose not to do.

If 3 Billion Dollars Didn’t Scare You…

By now, anyone following Wisconsin politics probably has some opinion about whether the state should be handing out $3,000,000,000 to a Taiwanese corporation for the promise of some jobs. If you support the plan, you’ll probably say “It’s going to be 13,000 jobs!” If you’re not a supporter, you might point out that the number Foxconn promised is closer to 3000.

My take on the hand-out, in brief, is that putting $3 billion on one horse is irresponsible. We could more effectively grow our economy by investing in the university system to draw talent to the state; people who will start businesses or bolster the companies that might create jobs.

As Steven Verburg points out, once the $3 billion has been paid out and thousands are working there, the state will have that much less leverage when it comes to enforcing air and water quality standards for the 25 years it will take for the state to see a net return on that money.

That’s assuming that we’ll have a DNR inclined to enforce environmental standards. Cathy Stepp recently left her position at the DNR (with a lax record of allowing manure from CAFOs into the water supply) to join the EPA, with the likely goal of making that agency less effective. In the short term, Scott Walker will get to appoint someone even less qualified.

Yet, there’s more to the Foxconn package that makes it even worse.

Before we get to the bizarre things that have been tacked on, we need to be familiar with Wisconsin’s judiciary hierarchy:

Wisconsin State Judiciary
Circuit Court: 249 judges, with jurisdiction by county (mostly)
Court of Appeals: 16 judges, with jurisdiction by district (1/4 of the state)
Supreme Court: 7 justices, with statewide jurisdiction
All publicly elected.

The Right to “Super-Appeal”

A prevision was just added to the Foxconn incentive bill to allow Foxconn to appeal any lawsuit directly to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, skipping the Court of Appeals.
This exclusive right to “super-appeal” also puts a stay on the lower court’s ruling. That means even if the Circuit Court decided against Foxconn, they don’t have to comply unless the Supreme Court takes the case and rules against them. This puts the burden on the Supreme Court to reinforce any Circuit Court rulings against Foxconn.

A specific corporation will be explicitly named in law as having rights above and beyond any other Wisconsin companies or any of Wisconsin’s human beings. This is not normal.

We don’t know yet what the Wisconsin Supreme Court thinks of having their docket be determined by Foxconn. But we do know the Wisconsin Supreme Court no longer make their deliberations public. Nor to the the publicly-elected justices recuse themselves when a case involves a campaign donor.

In other words, the highest court in the state is up for bid. Foxconn has a free pass to skip the lower courts, giving them extraordinary power. If a citizen, another company, or perhaps even the state of Wisconsin itself ends up in court against Foxconn, they’ve probably already lost.

Here’s how it plays out: let’s say Foxconn takes billions of gallons of water from Lake Michigan and dumps it back in with all sorts of chemicals added. Maybe the DNR sues. A circuit court judge tells Foxconn to stop. Foxconn appeals, and gets to keep doing what they want while waiting for the Supreme Court to take the case.

And, maybe this isn’t Foxconn’s first appeal. Maybe they’ve filled up the Supreme Court’s docket for the next several years. Or maybe the justices handle the extra caseload by changing their rules, so that they don’t need to have in-person hearings and deliberation, they can just submit their verdict and move on.
Yup. That’s a broken system.

That’s why we need to make it clear to our representatives and state senators, our neighbors, and our media that this provision threatens the independence of each branch of government.That’s not a partisan concern.

And this underlines the importance of the Supreme Court elections. Tim Burns and Rebecca Dallet have already announced their candidacy for the next election.
We need to pay attention to lower court elections as well — in the Court of Appeals, Dane County is grouped with everything west of Dodge and south of Clark County. And Dane County alone has 17 elected circuit court justices. If you search news for Dane County Circuit Court, you can get a sense of the issues they rule on and how consequential their decisions are.

Graham-Cassidy is Not Dead Yet

Call to save the ACA

We’re not out of the woods yet. Yes, two Senators have pledged to vote against the Graham-Cassidy-(-Heller-Johnson) TrumpCare bill. But we need three. We don’t know for sure who’s on the fence. And there’s still a week for Republican leadership to press them into submission.

We know Tammy Baldwin will vote against the bill, and we know that Ron Johnson is a cosponsor who is beyond persuasion. So you may be wondering what you can do to help defeat the bill.

You can use Indivisible’s TrumpCare Ten peer-to-peer dialing tool. This is the same calling tool used last July when we won the TrumpCare battle. In the final two days before the healthcare votes, 1,000 Indivisibles made 100,000 phone calls to constituents in ten target states with swing Republican Senators who might be persuaded to vote against the bill. It worked then, so let’s do it again.

Many people feel uncomfortable making calls to strangers. But these strangers are our friends. You’ll be talking with people like you who attended the Women’s March, who are standing up to defend DACA, and/or who fight for progressive causes.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up at to make phone calls from Indivisible’s peer-to-peer dialing tool. Once you’re signed in, you can start making calls immediately.
  2. You’ll get a script to make it as easy as possible. You’ll be reminding these voters why the continued fight against TrumpCare is so important—and why they have particular power in this moment to affect the outcome.
  3. Next, you’ll call a voter in a key state with a swing Republican Senator. You’ll ask them to call their senator and to share their own reasons for opposing the bill.
  4. The tool connects them directly to their Senator’s office. The call tool will allow you to automatically patch them through to the Senators’ district offices.

Here are some phone banking tips from Indivisible Madison’s May 30th newsletter to help you get past any stage fright.

  • Set a goal for how long you’ll make calls. This helps you make a commitment to the task, but it also sets a limit—I can make it until then.
  • Read the script out loud a couple of times before you start. You want to sound like you’re talking rather than reading.
  • The script is a baseline. Your goal is to convince the voter to talk to their Senator’s office. Exactly how you get there is up to you. Be friendly; make it a conversation. If your script feels natural to you, you’ll feel and sound more at ease.
  • Don’t give people easy outs when you start the conversation. The answer to “Can I ask you a few questions?” or “Do you have a few minutes?” is almost always “NO.”
  • Smile and dial. People can hear smiles. That’s because your facial expression changes both the way you feel and the way you sound. If you’re smiling, you’re going to feel better and sound more enthusiastic on the phone. That will have a big effect on the conversations you have. Set up a small mirror to check yourself. (No, you’re not being vain.)
  • Allow five rings before you hang up. The script may provide a voice mail message for you to leave.
  • If the voter says no, say thank you and hang up. There’s no point in trying to convince that voter to change, and they’re just wasting your time.
  • Don’t badmouth the Republican party or specific Senators unless they do first.
  • Don’t stress over a call you think went badly. The good news is that that person doesn’t know you and you’ll never talk to them again. Think about what went wrong and how to do it better next time, but don’t dwell on it or beat yourself up. There are always other voters.
  • Make a game out of it. Put candy (jelly beans?) in a bowl, and ration out one piece for every five calls. That might be enough to keep you going for a bit longer.
  • Share your results on the Indivisible Madison group Facebook page – click here – so you can inspire others to call.

RTT Update: 09-12-17 (notes)

Sen Erpenbach Office Visit 9-12-17

Sen Erpenbach was on the Senate floor during the meeting. The group met with Kelly, who is a legislative assistant in his office.


  • The Senator will be voting no on the bill.
  • Some amendments have been proposed by the majority, but the office did not have information about what those amendments were.
  • The bill is Special Session SB1, and the special session was called just to pass the bill.
  • The minority has also proposed amendments, but these amendments have no chance of passing.


Kelly recommended using the notification service at to keep track of bills and topics.


Health Care:

  • There is no expectation that any of Sen. Erpenbach’s healthcare bills will see any movement as long as the Republicans hold the majority.
  • Kelly declined to discuss any possibility of flipping the legislature because campaigning is not appropriate to the Senate office.
  • The ACA is in limbo and money for navigators has been cut. Is there any chance to restore that funding through state channels?
    • Sen. Erpenbach consistently advocates for Medicaid expansion.
    • The office has been trying to promote the open enrollment period through social media.
    • The senator is additionally seeking a legal opinion about whether it would be feasible to introduce a bill that would allow a state on the federal exchange to opt-out of the open enrollment period.
  • For people on long-term, necessary medications, is anyone working on “pill banks” in the case of ACA repeal?
    • Not that the office is aware of.
  • Which companies provide health insurance in Wisconsin?
    • The office is not certain. Some companies have entered the market while others have left.
  • Is there any motion on the BadgerCare for all bill?
    • No.


Minority parties do not set the agenda. The majority may not give much notice on a hearing or other action.


Does Jon Erpenbach plan to join the Progressive Caucus?

  • There is no information on his plans, but he would likely be interested in the work of the Progressive Caucus.

What is the outlook on the Mining Bill?

  • 10 hours of public testimony were given last week.
  • There may be a vote this week, but if amendments to the bill are offered, the vote may be delayed to next week.
  • At the hearing, there was a lot of local opposition, but also many who were brought in to support mining.
  • One example: An Inuit woman was invited to speak from Canada about how mining can be positive for Native American communities. However, many local tribes pointed out that in the Canadian examples that she provided, Native American groups were brought to the table to work with mining companies regarding benefits and environmental protections, which is not what is happening in this case.
  • The Back 40 mine owners are financially struggling, and they need to signal to investors that they’re a going concern. The support of Wisconsin for their projects would accomplish that.
  • The mining bill would repeal the “Prove It” law which required mine owners/operators to demonstrate that they could run a mine safely for ten years and also close a mine safely for ten years.. The bill would further remove existing legislation that would require mine owners/operators to take responsibility for negative outcomes that result from mining after the mine has closed.
  • In general the public and their objections were given time at the hearing.
  • Mining companies claim that technology has advanced to improve safety for people and the environment. However, there is no evidence of this as the proposed bill would remove the regulations that would allow monitoring.
  • What works to stop legislation like this?
    • Local opposition has stopped mines in the past.
    • Contacting bill co-sponsors has worked in the past. Talk to your friends and family up North to ask them to call as well.
    • Contacting investors and making your opposition known can also be effective.
    • Working with counties downriver is key


Is there any way Democratic elected officials could connect to grassroots groups on issues like this?

  • That’s hard because there are a lot of groups
  • Information goes out through the Erpenbach newsletter, facebook, and twitter.


Regarding the Budget…

  • Will this take away local control on mining?
    • The budget deals with a different type of mining, not that involved in the Back 40.
    • The budget also includes a provision to void any local regulation that is more stringent than state regulations
    • There are also changes to professional licensing to eliminate licensing requirements. It would eliminate professional boards to consolidate oversight. This is separate from the desire to get rid of all licensing for teachers.

The current bill for mining (SB 395) would apply statewide.


There is no number of promised mining jobs– The Ladysmith mine created 25 jobs that lasted for 4 years.


Regarding Gerrymandering….

  • What if the Supreme court rules against the state?
    • The legislature is starting at zero for re-drawing the maps.
  • Concern that a Republican-drawn map would likely have to go back to the court.
  • The governor’s race might be key in Wisconsin because it’s not subject to gerrymandering.


What about the Wisconsin job shortage?

  • There’s a skill gap and no funding for technical schools.
  • And then there are transportation issues.


Do you see corporations investing in training?

  • It’s what Foxconn plans to do (with Wisconsin government funding)
  • Job obsolescence is a problem.


When is the Democratic party going to articulate a vision?

  • Take that up with the party.

Funding Obamacare Exchange Subsidies

by Paul Martorell

It’s time for President Trump to commit to making the Obamacare cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) through 2017. These payments reimburse insurance companies for making premiums affordable for millions enrolled in Obamacare exchanges. So far his administration has only committed to the CSR subsidy payments on a month-to-month basis. Insurance companies are leaving markets because of this uncertainty, such as in Wisconsin (“Molina to drop out of Wisconsin’s Obamacare marketplace,” Aug 2).

After the Obamacare repeal failed, Trump threatened to stop funding the CSR subsidies altogether, which are not “bailouts to insurance companies” but a way for low to middle-income Americans – including a member of my family – to get health care.

This is why, as long as Obamacare is still running, leaders from both parties are imploring the administration to fund these CSR subsidies. A bipartisan group of 40 House lawmakers called the “Problem Solver’s Caucus” released a plan that, among other pieces, mandates sufficient CSR funding. The National Governor’s Association issued a statement reading “It is critically important to provide insurers and states with certainty that CSRs will be funded.” By threatening CSR funding, President Trump is jeopardizing the lives of millions of his fellow Americans.


It’s Not About the Money

It’s easy to call the current Foxconn agreement a ‘bad deal’ because, most certainly, it is. The bill that passed the Wisconsin Assembly sets up over $2.85 billion in state tax credits over the next 15 years, exemptions from sales taxes, and environmental waivers.

The deal’s proponents have pointed out that if it were to fall through, it would make whichever state that does manage to make an agreement with Foxconn very happy. This is undeniable but it’s indicative of the real problem. When elected officials treat our state government as just another player in the market rather than the voice of the people, we end up with an economy without safeguards. Such an economy quickly becomes a race to the bottom, with states fighting over how much of their tax revenue and how many of their environmental protections they can give away just for the privilege of housing an employer. The problem with races to the bottom? You might win.

The temptation is to continue calling this a “bad deal,” but I don’t think that tells the whole story. For me, the issue is bigger than the money saved, or not saved, by taxpayers. It’s not about a good or bad deal, but the role of government in general. More than a government that is simply efficient or that saves me money, I want a government that protects the people and environment of Wisconsin. To call it a deal suggests that the Wisconsin state government is just another business out to make a profit or cut costs. But that is not what our government is (or, at least, that’s not what our government should be).

The Wisconsin State Assembly (who passed the agreement) and the office of the governor (who constructed the agreement) were built to enact the will of the people of our state. And, in that regard, it is not they who make deals, but we who make rules – rules to protect the safety and interests of Wisconsin citizens. In terms of a deal between two financial entities, sure, the deal is ‘bad’. But in terms of an agreement designed to protect Wisconsin, this bill is a colossal failure and a complete perversion of the role of government.

Further, to call it a ‘bad deal’ assumes that the agreement’s proponents didn’t get what they wanted. It’s tempting to criticize Governor Walker, and his allies in the Assembly, on their own terms: to say that if they ‘were really a conservative’ they wouldn’t have resorted to ‘corporate welfare’ or ‘tried to pick winners and losers in the market.’ But, again, I’m not so sure that’s the whole story. Maybe the ‘bad deal’ they’ve made serves their ends perfectly well: By waiving environmental regulations and providing Foxconn with a massive tax cut, the agreement increases the burden on the state’s infrastructure while removing the tax revenue necessary to maintain it. This guarantees further budget shortfalls and other financial dysfunction and makes it easier for ideologues to justify a weaker government, one incapable of meeting the needs of its citizens.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve called it a deal in the past and you’ll probably catch me calling it a deal in the future; it’s an intuitive way to understand and talk about what’s happening. But it’s important to remember that, as progressives, we do have a broader vision for our society, one that includes building a robust and responsive government accountable to its constituents, capable of protecting the people and their interests, and that ensures prosperity for all.

History Lives

It’s my last week of work as a Senior Care Resident Coordinator, and with recent national events I’ve found myself doing a lot of reflecting on my 9 year journey in senior living. We need only turn to our seniors to know that history is still alive and to learn the real stories of what the past was like. Working in Chicago and the surrounding area, I’ve had a wide range of people I’ve cared for and bonded with.

I remember the man with the number tattooed on his forearm who, 70 years later, still had night terrors from the Holocaust. One of my favorite residents would tell us about her time in a Japanese internment camp when she was a child. I had another resident who grew up Black in rural Indiana in the 40’s. Her family lived in constant fear of the KKK. She would sometimes hallucinate from her condition that they were still coming for her. The threat was illusory, but her terror was so real. I wonder what they would think to see these groups that terrorized their families on TV, having rallies, spewing their hate. It breaks my heart knowing some of my residents worked their whole lives for a better world.

That is why I feel the urge to pick up where they left off and continue doing what I can. Sometimes that can be as simple as being nice to someone who frustrates me, assuming the best intentions, or having conversations I don’t want to have. That’s why you’ll see pictures of me at rallies, doing voter registration, and just being a general nerdy weirdo (my residents have also taught me to enjoy life and be myself). History isn’t an abstract page in a book; it’s people I’ve cared for with my own two hands. It’s real people’s lives, and it cannot be allowed to repeat. So do something, do anything. Just know that what you do (or don’t do) matters.

Featured image by Ingrid Laas