Jan. 7, 2019, will be an important day for me as I will begin my third term representing the fine folks of the 70th Assembly District.
I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to continue to represent the district. I’m thankful for the exceptional amount of support I received on the campaign trail and the robust discussions I was able to have with many of you as this year’s campaign progressed.
Jan. 7th will be an important day for Wisconsin as well. Gov.-elect Tony Evers will be sworn into office and for the first time in eight years, Wisconsin will have a new governor. I wish Gov.-elect Evers well because his success is Wisconsin’s success. The governor-elect will assume office next year with the full constitutional authority provided to the governor of Wisconsin and arguably the most powerful veto authority in the country.
For me, a nice aspect of running for my third term is that I’ve had the opportunity to develop friendships and relationships with a large number of individuals throughout the district. With that comes the opportunity for frank discussions and candor not necessarily found elsewhere. Please allow me to be frank with you here relating to what happened in the recent extraordinary session of the Legislature.
A number of measures were put forward and passed that ensure equal balance among the co-equal legislative, executive and judicial branches of state government; provide oversight and accountability to the Legislature over unelected bureaucrats within our state government; and safeguard important legislative initiatives and provide for a smooth transition to new leadership.
- Legislative oversight of the Department of Health Services waiver process was enacted, meaning that legislation must specifically direct a waiver, renewal, modification, withdrawal, suspension or termination of a waiver or pilot program. This prevents the executive branch from shifting course with the stroke of a pen and prevents unelected bureaucrats from creating or altering health policy programs passed and approved by the legislative branch.
- The ability of a government agency to make-up guidance documents was reduced. Guidance documents are created by unelected bureaucrats at state agencies without any legislative oversight and sometimes utilized as holding merit in courts of law. This reduces citizen input through the legislative process and it isn’t right.
- The Healthcare Stability Act will continue. The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has announced that premiums are expected to decrease 3 percent statewide on the exchanges as a result of this re-insurance program. It’s an important aspect of attempting to keep the cost of individual health plan premiums low, encouraging choice and affordability in the market, and maintaining some of the steps we’ve taken as a state to increase health-care coverage for some of our most vulnerable citizens.
- The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee must now be notified about any transfer of funds from state veterans homes to the Veterans Trust Fund or Veterans Mortgage Loan Repayment Fund, increasing transparency.
- Voter ID measures that were previously implemented through administrative rules were put into statute, including the ability to get a free identification card to vote and the use of technical college identification cards. In addition, parity was provided for early voting across the state, allowing for uniform early voting, 24 hours a day for two weeks before an election at more than one location. I don’t think it’s fair that many of my constituents in rural areas should have less opportunity to early vote than others that live in the more populous parts of our state.
It’s also important to note that the Legislature will be able to obtain legal representation to defend legislation. This will allow the Legislature to adequately fight to make sure laws passed by the body are implemented. I think that this is something that may not be realized at the moment, but will be appreciated moving forward.
The spring election dates were not changed. I heard from all of the county clerks in the district and several municipal clerks on this issue, including several constituents. While a case can be made for separating partisan and non-partisan elections on the spring ballot, at this point, it seems to be a logistical and fiscal challenge.
I understand why people voiced concern over the extraordinary session. I think that as more of the substance of what passed the Legislature in extraordinary session is brought to light, the proposals will be given adequate analysis and furthermore, a positive reception from taxpayers.
A full summary of legislation passed during the extraordinary session, composed by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, can be found on the Fiscal Bureau’s website.