Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
"The state fair is greatly loved by people all over the state," Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said at a recent Audit Committee hearing. "But the back-office operations need to be improved." Most certainly, improvement must be made to resolve problems revealed by an audit conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.
Is the state of Wisconsin at risk for a cyber-attack? A new audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau shed light on what may be vulnerabilities in the state's information technology system that could affect every business, taxpayer, student or recipient of state services. In some cases, problems are so serious that LAB auditors could not reveal details in fear of creating additional vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit.
Linda Brown recently died in Topeka, Kan. She was the student at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education that struck down school segregation. Brown's father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll his 9-year-old daughter in the all-white Sumner School. The day after Linda's death, I joined other members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding to explore inequities in Wisconsin's public schools at a public hearing in De Pere. The stories we heard wove a tale of struggle, innovation, inequity and challenge.
"Many people with disabilities depend on public programs so they can stay healthy and live, work and participate in the community," Jason Endres wrote to me in favor of a bill I recently introduced. My bill, Senate Bill 870, would create a Public Assistance Advisory Committee. I drafted this legislation in response to special session bills recently passed by the Legislature that modified public assistance programs.
"The quality of interpreters is so important. I need someone who has the fluent skills to work with me," Leah Simmons explained. "Their lack of knowledge reflects negatively on me." Professor Simmons uses specific jargon and language. Her colleagues and students judge her by the language she uses. She cannot communicate directly to hearing students. Simmons is deaf. She is part of a community of deaf and hard of hearing people working to upgrade skill levels and regulation of sign language interpreters.
"Public assistance should be a trampoline not a hammock," read the title of Gov. Scott Walker's press release touting work on a package of bills introduced in a legislative special session. The bills made changes to certain programs targeted at helping those living in poverty. During the recent Senate debate, proponents of the bills declared the best road out of poverty was a job. No one in the Senate disagreed. However, what these bills really do is keep people in poverty and make a few companies richer while providing little accountability.
Last Friday afternoon we learned of the 79 bills up for a vote on Tuesday. I spoke with my neighbor shortly after seeing the long list. "How can they possibly know what they are voting on?" she asked me. I replied there is no time to talk with people and learn the effects of these changes. Legislation moving quickly through the process makes changes to protections of our wetlands; specifically, wet areas not connected to a navigable body of water.
In a recent committee hearing, I argued majority lawmakers were moving broadband expansion forward by press release and little else. This week Rep. Don Vuwink (D-Milton) and I are circulating bills to actually move broadband forward for Wisconsin. The Committee on Revenue, Financial Institutions and Rural Issues debated a bill that would allow a local community to pass a resolution saying the community was "Telecommuting Ready." However, nothing in that bill helped communities gain access to broadband.
"With more people working in Wisconsin..., we can't afford to have anyone on the sidelines, we need everyone in the game," Gov. Scott Walker said, calling for a special session to take up bills he nicknamed, "Wisconsin Works for Everyone." The Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations Committee, of which I am a member, took up the special session bills in a recent public hearing. The 10 bills make substantial changes in eligibility for FoodShare (nutrition) or BadgerCare (medical care). Many of the bills limit assistance for families experiencing hard times.
Farmers from several western Wisconsin counties traveled to Madison as part of the annual Ag Day at the Capitol. On the day Gov. Scott Walker delivered his State of the State address, farmers shared with their legislators, the state of things in their world.