Local legislators discuss workforce, elections, and plans for the future
December 17 Eggs & Issues at the Pablo Center for the Confluence
The Chamber’s December 17 Eggs and Issues featured 5 of Wisconsin’s state representatives, Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire), David Armstrong (R-Rice Lake), Donna Rozar (R-Marshfield), Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer), and Jesse James (R-Altoona), and 2 state senators, Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) and Kathy Bernier ((R-Chippewa Falls). The event was hybrid, with Rep. Emerson and Sen. Smith attending in person and the remainder of the state legislatures attending virtually. They discussed many issues, including workforce, elections, and plans for the future. This event was streamed remotely via Perigon and in-person at the Pablo Center at the Confluence.
The Lawmakers each touched on the workforce issues Wisconsin has been facing recently. They all agreed that it is a large issue that needs to be addressed. However, Rep. Summerfield argued that it is not a one-step process as many pieces of legislation are needed to deal with this issue. He commended Rep. Armstrong on his recent idea to help municipalities reinvest in development and emphasized his work with Sen. Bernier on a workforce housing tax credit.
Sen. Smith and Rep. Summerfield both emphasized the need to increase broadband in Wisconsin, especially in rural communities. They stated this is one of the ways Wisconsin can entice more people to move here and make it a better place to live, which may help the workforce issues Wisconsin has been facing. Rep Summerfield also mentioned that increased access to broadband in rural areas would be beneficial to schools as well, allowing more students access to course materials online from home and at school.
The lawmakers discussed Sen. Smith’s proposed legislation, Final Five Rank Choice Voting. Sen. Smith endorsed his bipartisan Final Five legislation, which had its hearing in the Senate last week, saying that it will increase the number of candidates, change politicians behavior in office and out of office for the better, and give the voters more of a say in what happens in government. However, Sen. Bernier was wary of the Final Five voting system, stating that there are questions she would like answers to in order for Wisconsin to not be the Guinea Pig for this voting system.
Sen. Bernier also discussed her recent statements regarding the validity of the 2020 election. She questioned the necessity of the 2020 election investigation in Wisconsin and its motives. However, she also stated that she would like to see the Election Committee uphold the laws regarding elections so everything is done in the proper manner. Rep. Emerson later commended Bernier on her bravery to go against her own party to fight for her beliefs.
Rep Summerfield also discussed the package of housing bills that have been passed by the Assembly and are awaiting Senate action. These bills aim to enact a variety of measures to increase affordable housing. Rep Summerfield spoke on Rep Skowronski’s (R-Franklin) bill exempting sales tax on construction materials to reduce the cost of construction by 5% saying that is one of the best short term solutions for the housing crisis in Wisconsin. He emphasized that the continued conversations on both sides of the aisle are crucial to make progress on this issue.
Almost all of the lawmakers are currently planning on running for reelection in 2022, save Sen. Bernier who stated that she is still debating this decision and may choose to retire following this term. Rep. Emerson also discussed her decision to run for the Assistant Minority Leader, with the vote to occur on Dec 20. According to Wispolitics.com, Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, is unopposed to replace outgoing Minority Leader Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh. Current Assistant Minority Leader Diane Hesselbein of Middleton is leaving that post to run for the State Senate. Assembly Democrats running for Assistant Minority Leader include Emerson, along with Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg, Kalan Haywood of Milwaukee, Shelia Stubbs of Madison, and Supreme Moore Omokunde of Milwaukee.
Flak over election probe criticism gives Bernier second thoughts on retiring (Leader-Telegram $)
Kathy Bernier on 2020 election investigation (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Final Five Rank Choice Voting (Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce)
Final-Five Voting in Wisconsin (WXOW)
Assembly Republicans look to tackle worker shortage through bills aimed at increasing workforce housing in Wisconsin (Journal-Sentinel £)
Racine area legislators differ on solutions to labor, child care shortages (Journal-Times)
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Posted by Brianna Franke, Governmental Affairs Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.