April 11, 2023
The March edition of Eggs & Issues featured local state legislators on March 31st, 7:00 am at CTVC. Present were Senators Jesse James (R-Altoona, Dist. 23)and Jeff Smith (D-town of Brunswick, Dist. 31) and Representatives Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek, Dist. 68), Warren Petryk (R-Eleva, Dist. 93), Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer, Dist. 67), and Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire, Dist. 91). The legislators discussed local issues, including the UWEC Science Building and workforce development issues.
Each legislator was asked to talk about their priorities and to provide their perspectives on how the state budget deliberations are progressing. All of the legislators present at Eggs & Issues once again reiterated their support for the UWEC Science Building and expressed the importance of it for the community. The group also spoke about issues important to them.
Representative Summerfield, the majority party caucus chair, said the three main drivers of the budget are “taxes, local government shared revenues, and education.”
He also shared that an issue he has been working a lot on is broadband. He explained that although the Governor put a large amount of broadband money into his budget, it probably will not make it into the final draft as Wisconsin is expecting to get funding from the infrastructure bill coming out of Washington, DC. However, the exact amount of this will not be known until September.
Senator Smith, the assistant minority leader, said one of his priorities is child care. He also said how he feels the split government is a good thing for Wisconsin because it forces balance and for people from each side to sit down and come to an agreement.
The freshman, Representative Hurd talked about the transition of Medicaid and eldercare policies from the pandemic to post-pandemic, specifically how many days of medication patients can pick up at once. She said she will be introducing the 100-day bill which will allow patients to pick up 100 days worth of medication instead of 30.
She also discussed the problem of roads in smaller, rural communities. Representative Hurd said she is working to increase funding for the local road improvement grant which will allow some of these smaller towns to apply and get more funding to aid in maintaining roads.
A priority of Senator James is mental health, especially in children. He talked specifically about reforms in the medical clearance process, policing when it comes to mental health calls, and opioid overdoses.
Representative Emerson is focused on child care. She mentioned how in the state of Wisconsin there are only 56 slots available for every 100 children of preschool age and things need to be done to make more slots available. Rep. Emerson added why these issues are important: “It doesn't matter how many businesses we bring in because people aren't going to be able to work at those businesses.”
Rep. Emerson and Sen. James both talked about the safe harbor law, of which Sen. James is the lead author. They discussed the importance of this bill and what they are doing to see it get passed.
“When Minnesota passed this bill in 2012, the following year in 2013, their arrests of traffickers quadrupled,” Sen. James said of the bill.
Rep. Petryk said one of his priorities is education. “40 to 50% of every dollar that comes in will go toward education and then the devil becomes in the details always,” Petryk said.
He discussed finding ways to fix the formula so rural schools can get more money as well. He also mentioned the importance of CVTC and UW-Eau Claire in getting people hired and helping with the workforce crisis in the area, specifically those in the healthcare industry.
Finally, the legislators discussed the importance of the science building and their optimism that it will be included in the budget.
Posted Mallory Williams, Governmental Affairs Intern