28 results for author: Senator Kathleen Vinehout


Saying Goodbye

Good Bye,” I said to my friend. “I remember the first time I met you,” she said in reply. “It was at the ‘New Legislator Training’ …I was going through my spiel. You kept asking questions about auditing and program evaluation. I was impressed way back then.”Twelve years – to that day – my Senate career is history. My, how time flies.Cleaning out my desk, I found notes I took on my orientation day. I set my goals as part of the training. Here’s what rookie Senator Vinehout promised herself: vote my conscience; match my votes to my district; be honest; respond to constituents; show respect to everyone in the Capitol; be the ...

SPEED AND SECRECY…THE LAST ACT

If you were a legislative leader in Wisconsin, and had an opportunity to pass new laws before your party’s governor left office, what would you do? What would you fix as your last act in power?As I face my last Senate votes, I am working hard to understand what laws my Republican colleagues choose to pass before the new Democratic Governor takes office.Late last Friday night, after Senate staff went home for the weekend, Republican leaders released their last act. Five bills detailing changes to over 400 sections of state law. I learned late Friday, there would be one public hearing on Monday and the full Legislature will act on Tuesday. By ...

WHAT DOES FOXCONN MEAN TO ME?

“Hard to wrap my head around,” the woman shared as she considered Foxconn. Just what do big budget decisions mean to us?Work has begun on crafting the next state budget. Over the next few months, this work will continue in earnest. One hefty unbudgeted expense added to upcoming budget math is a large taxpayer funded payment to a foreign corporation.Foxconn is the Taiwanese company building a manufacturing plant in southeast Wisconsin. To lure the company to our state, majority lawmakers and the governor created the largest state corporate give-away in American history.The first big Foxconn payment, nearly $470 million, will come out of ...

FARMERS ADVOCATE FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL COMMUNITIES

Farmers from several western Wisconsin counties traveled to Madison as part of the annual Ag Day at the Capitol.On the day the Governor delivered his State of the State address, farmers shared with their legislators the state of things in their world. Safety is always on the mind of farmers. For one farmer, farm safety was a heightened worry when his daughter took drivers education. He told me, folks traveling down rural roads often ignore the turn signals and lights on his tractor. People will make the dangerous decision to pass him when he is turning left into a farm field. There have been instances when drivers hit the farm equipment....

FREE TUITION MEANS FREEDOM TO LEARN

"Every Wisconsinite should have access to education or training past high school… To be pursued at whatever point and pace makes sense for individual workers and industries,” wrote researchers at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) eight years ago.Long before the current shortage of skilled workers, COWS anticipated the need for additional training. In 2009, the Center teamed up with the Workforce Development Board, Skills2Compete and others to study “Wisconsin’s Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs.”Middle skill jobs are those jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. The study I quoted above, ...

SPEED AND ACCURACY LEAVE THE PUBLIC OUT IN THE COLD

In the past eleven years, I wrote 64 times about the problems of speed and secrecy in the legislative process. However, I never saw a calendar as broad and deep in controversy as the most recent one before the State Senate.For weeks, we heard that the Senate would vote a hodge-podge of highly controversial bills. “Horrid,” one staffer called the expected Senate Calendar. None of us, including the public, knew what bills would come up for a vote.The cloak of secrecy raised a bit on Friday when we received the tentative list of bills. But even the day before the vote, we did not have the official bill materials and were scrambling to get ...

WEDC ADMITS THEY ARE NOT FOLLOWING THE LAW

"We have not been able to verify the jobs,” said Secretary Mark Hogan at a recent public hearing of the Joint Committee on Audit.In this statement, the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) confirmed what several years of audits repeatedly found: our state awarded hundreds of millions in tax credits and cash payments to companies to create jobs without ever checking to see if jobs were actually created. WEDC is the state agency overseeing economic development efforts. They hand out tax credits and cash payments to corporations to create and retain jobs. WEDC writes contracts for companies to receive state money. When ...

WISCONSIN’S LONG JOURNEY TOWARD A LIVING WAGE

“For an adult with a family who has to pay for food, clothing, and a place to live, and be able to pay for a car, the minimum wage is clearly not high enough,” wrote Bethany of Eleva-Strum High School. Wisconsin was one of the first states to enact a Living Wage. The law gave authority for determining a living wage to an Industrial Commission made up of a balance of employers, employees and the public. The year was 1913.Two years earlier, people attending a national conference of the National Consumers’ League in Milwaukee called for a minimum wage. Advocates made a minimum wage the top issue. Following the conference, Wisconsinites ...

“LOVING US” POWWOW ENCOURAGES RECOVERY

“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, 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. “Wogixete Wi” was a traditional pow wow. Translated from Ho-Chunk, wogixete wi means “Loving Us.” ...

CONVERSATIONS AT THE COUNTY FAIRS

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 things of importance. 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.Several home bakers spoke with me about a recent court decision that found a group of home bakers could sell cookies ...