Senator Kathleen Vinehout's blog

Speed and Secrecy Kill Democracy

Kathleen Vinehout

Speed and Secrecy Kill Democracy

by

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

“How can we digest all your work in this short amount of time?” Senator Bewley asked the Chair of the housing committee and author of the bill before her. An amendment replacing the bill was released just before the hearing on that bill.

“How can we have a thoughtful and intelligent discussion...we just got this stinking thing a few hours ago.”

The bill, SB 464 (which has an Assembly companion - AB 582) was complex. The bill’s author said he wanted to avoid “moving the goal post” on a development project. Among other things, the bill froze in place laws on an industrial development once a minor approval (like a driveway permit) was granted even if the project would not be completed for years.

The Towns Association called the legislation, “One of the most damaging bills to local control in recent memory.”

Whose Property Rights Are Most Important?

Kathleen Vinehout
 
Whose Property Rights Are Most Important?
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“My neighbor likes to expand his lot,” Kelly told me. “First he put up a stone fence on our property and then he built a jungle gym for his kids on his other neighbor’s property.” The fence stayed but the jungle gym came down.
 
Laws and fences help make good neighbors.
 
Often these “laws” are ordinances passed by local communities. We decide collectively what works for our neighborhood, and what works in some areas will not work in other areas. You can’t have roosters in most cities. But in some cities, you can keep a few hens.

Looking Forward to the Challenges of 2016

Kathleen Vinehout

Looking Forward to the Challenges of 2016

By

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

“I spent all day trying to get an ID for my mother,” Joe from Union Township told me. His mother, age 84, recently gave up her driver’s license because of a vision problem. She’d moved into an apartment in Eau Claire.

 

By changing her address and surrendering her drivers’ license, Joe’s mom was without the necessary current “government ID” she needed to legally vote in 2016.

 

Happy New Year! And welcome to Wisconsin, a state that now has some of the strictest voter identification laws in the nation.

Looking Back on 2015

Kathleen Vinehout
Looking Back on 2015
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Happy Holidays! While Santa is making a list of who is naughty and nice, I spent time making a list of what folks cared about enough to call or write.
 
I am always impressed by how many people take the time to become engaged in their government. “Democracy” is truly a verb for the 7,007 individual people who communicated with me in 2015. Many offered their opinion not once but several times. My office recorded a total of 15,811 contacts with citizens.
 
This year was a budget year. It was also the year the Governor ran for President. Both had an influence on the amount and type of communication I received.

Seniors React: Don’t Take My Home Phone Away!

Kathleen Vinehout
Seniors React: Don’t Take My Home Phone Away!
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“I was furious,” said Cindy from Chippewa Falls. “I wouldn’t have stayed on the phone this long with this dinky cell phone.” She just found out state law allowed phone companies to dump their landline customers.
 
Cindy waited 40 minutes on her “dinky cell phone” to join a telephone town hall meeting with 7,373 other seniors.
 
AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) hosted the town hall. I was the guest senator. We joined forces to promote my “Home Phone” bill – Senate Bill 240. The bill would return state law to pre-2011 language and protect phone customers from losing landlines.

Enjoying Thanksgiving on the Farm

Kathleen Vinehout
                             Enjoying Thanksgiving on the Farm
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Tundra Swans arrived Friday.
 
These magnificent birds spend a brief time in Buffalo County on their way from the tundra of Canada and Alaska to their wintering grounds on the East Coast.
 
The brilliant, white birds with a 6 1/2’ wingspan are migrants through our valley. They love the swamps and back waters. And when they gather they are very social.
 
The swans love to converse. I listened to their excited chatter sitting in my deer blind in the early dawn hours. They sounded like enthusiastic teenagers.
 

Wisconsin Report Card Provides Info on Progress, Problems

Kathleen Vinehout

Wisconsin Report Card Provides Info on Progress, Problems

By

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

“My son’s grades improved at report card time,” Mari told me. Her son struggled in school for many years. “We had a great teacher conference. He got mostly Bs and Cs – which was an improvement.”

 

Wisconsin recently got its own report card. Our state also got mostly Bs and Cs. Although in several cases, these scores represent benchmarks that are not improving.

 

The report published by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) tracks statistics reflecting the economy, education and quality of life in Wisconsin.

 

Our focus on education has historically been a great strength of our state. The report card reviewed education through “workforce readiness” and assigned Bs for all benchmarks measured – the only category to receive this consistent high mark.

Friday Night in Madison

Kathleen Vinehout
Friday Night in Madison
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
It was Friday night at 5:00 pm.
 
Most people were leaving work and looking forward to the weekend. Maybe they headed to see friends and family at the fish fry or watch the prep football playoffs.
 
At that same hour, Senators received details on two very important bills. Legislation that rewrote laws related to elections, campaign finance, lobbying and the ethics of elected officials.
 
Leaders kept details about changes to the bills secret until the last minute. Details we had not seen; the press had not read; no member of the public had an opportunity to provide comment. 
 
By 7:00 pm, the Senate debate on the two bills began. Final Senate passage happened before the sun came up on Saturday morning. Most Wisconsinites did not hear the debate or see the vote. No TV news cameras observed the Senate. Most reporters had gone home. Senate galleries were mostly empty.   

Canada and Wisconsin: Friends and Partners

Kathleen Vinehout
Canada and Wisconsin: Friends and Partners
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Did you know a third of everything Wisconsin sells to the world we sell to Canada? And more visitors come to Wisconsin from Canada than any other country?
 
Wisconsin recently celebrated Canada Day at the Capitol. We welcomed Canadian Consul General Roy Norton. He brought along a host of facts about Wisconsin’s relationship with Canada.
 
Many of us think the ideal summer vacation is going north – this summer my husband and son enjoyed a canoe trip in Canada. Fortunately, Canadians like to head south. Wisconsin welcomed over 300,000 Canadian visitors who spent $65 million last year.
 

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