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 legis.wi.gov 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.