Policy Paper #1: Move Forward on Clean Energy from the Rural Routes to Wisconsin's Post-Pandemic Recovery Plan

  Clean energy is good for the earth, good for the economy, and really good for rural Wisconsin. Wisconsin utilities already know this and as a result are on track to meet a 40% reduction in aggregate carbon emissions by 2026 (1). Nevertheless, energy costs in Wisconsin remain some of the highest in the nation, largely due to the more than $12 billion sent out of the state each year to import fossil fuels (2). That’s why I support creating and expanding cost-sharing incentives here in Wisconsin for solar, wind, and otherrenewable energy technologies at every farm, small business, and home. Continue reading to see my “Moving Forward on Clean Energy Plan."   Continue reading

Assembly Leaders Make November Predictions

MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Republicans likely won't be getting the veto-proof majority they hoped for come November, according to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). Vos and Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) shared their early predictions for Election Day during a virtual WisPolitics event Wednesday. All 99 seats in the Wisconsin State Assembly are up for re-election at the same time a presidential race dominates the national spotlight. Democrats like Hintz say that's a good thing, while Vos says it's important for candidates to have their own identity. “We certainly think it helps us,” Hintz said. “Every 12 years you have a cycle where there's only one statewide race, neither U.S. Senator is up, no Constitutional offices, and the fact that you have a divisive president where we're seeing traditional Republicans either voting for Joe Biden or having to make a decision on actually turning out.” “We know rural Democrats have a hard time standing next to Joe Biden, some of our suburban seats, people have a more difficult time standing next to Donald Trump,” Vos said. “I mean that's just the challenge we have right now, so I think that's why it's important that we in the legislature have always had the opportunity to have our own brand in addition to running with the top of the ticket.” Running a campaign in 2020 has been unlike any year before. Republican candidates have been more apt to do in-person events and go door-to-door amid the coronavirus pandemic, but it's not a tactic Democrats are ruling out. “Probably more than ever, people want to have a conversation, they want to talk about issues, they've been home by themselves only talking to, perhaps, their relatives or a few close friends so they want to have that political conversation in a way that maybe would not traditionally be the case,” Vos said. “So I feel very strongly, as we've gone across the state I can say less than a dozen times has someone been offended that we knocked on their door.” “I've been doing sort of a hybrid where I do doors depending on the neighborhood and demographics and drop other times,” Hintz said. “Certainly, going to events where you can be outside and socially distance, and I think the speaker is right. If you have a mask on and you can keep distance, you know people don't have to answer the door even if they're home.” Republicans want to flip three seats in each chamber this November to give them a veto-proof majority to pass anything they want, but Vos isn't confident that will happen especially given how much money Democrats have raised. “I don't think it's likely only because of the environment that we're in,” Vos said. “When you have, literally, two or three times the money that Republicans do, Democrats have been trying to buy this election in this cycle in a way that they did last cycle when they spend more money against Governor Walker than he did himself.” “The opportunity is there, obviously the national political environment is volatile,” Hintz said. “I don't try to make predictions in August and September, but if you said a year ago this is the position that you're gonna be in I would say I am happy with that.” Still, leaders on both sides of the aisle are confident they can flip seats across the state. “Kriss Marion, who ran a very competitive race against Howard Marklein in that senate seat, is a great candidate that fits the district that we think is going to offer a contrast that exposes Todd Novak as really being a rubber stamp in the 51st,” Hintz said. “Deb Andraca, who's been engaged as anybody in her suburban community, against Jim Ott offers a real contrast.” “We have four of the best potential pick up opportunities,” Vos said. “I think we're going to beat Robyn Vining. We have an excellent candidate in a woman named Bonnie Lee. She has been working harder than almost any candidate we have. In Northwestern Wisconsin, James Bolen almost beat the Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley by two points in a Democrat year in 2018. He is running really strong.” https://spectrumnews1.com/wi/madison/news/2020/09/17/assembly-leaders-make-november-predictions

Marion will bring energy to the job -- Joylynn Graham

I am concerned about the political climate of our country right now, with all the division and animosity that has grown between its citizens. In our country’s history, democracy has always worked well despite, and maybe even because, people have always had different opinions and taken different sides on important issues. We have a self-correcting system, where people express their views strongly, but then come together around shared values while showing respect to fellow citizens. But lately, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that differing viewpoints are essential for a bigger picture. With that in mind, I have considered carefully who among our local candidates will help us achieve the ability to work together again. Assembly candidate Kriss Marion has a strong grasp on the issues confronting us today. But more than that, she reaches out to all people regardless of their political positions and she appreciates the average person who is the backbone of the country. I am impressed by her energy and willingness to go anywhere to make an impact by having conversations with people. When talking with her, I understand that she is as deeply passionate about the issues I care about and would be the one to show up every day to get the job done. Joylynn Graham, Dodgeville https://madison.com/opinion/letters/marion-will-bring-energy-to-the-job----joylynn-graham/article_3034f56a-bb6b-5e1c-a212-5bd9bff29635.html

Barbara Voyce: I'm voting for Kriss Marion

Dear Editor: “After the tragic events this past week, the best way forward is not through divisive and partisan politics but through bipartisan cooperation,” per Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. This was quoted after the Kenosha rioting and was given after the governor called for a special session to address the problem Wisconsin has with racism and violence. The governor wanted the Legislature to act. Vos? He refused to hold the special session. Gaveled in and immediately gaveled out. He said they need bipartisan cooperation! Is that not the height of hypocrisy? The governor asked for a bipartisan Legislature to work together for a solution, and the Republican leader in the Assembly said a loud “NO." No wonder there is no respect for our current Legislature. They obviously are hypocrites. Then Vos created ANOTHER “look what Republicans are doing” task force that will tell us… what? Vos is patting himself on the back. He avoided doing anything constructive, and continues, by inaction, to condone racist, violent acts against people of color. But — where are the other Republican representatives? I called my representative, Todd Novak, a Republican who on rare occasions has voted in a bipartisan manner. I asked how he felt about the special session and the task force. His staffer never directly answered the question. I want a representative who is honest, open and empathetic. That is why I will vote for Kriss Marion to represent the 51st Assembly District. Barbara Voyce Lone Rock https://madison.com/ct/opinion/mailbag/barbara-voyce-im-voting-for-kriss-marion/article_fbfa54a8-23f4-56b1-982a-94d3093a5ddb.html

Conservation Voters Scorecard

https://conservationvoters.org/scorecards Todd Novak is literally running on a record of accomplishment on water quality. Yet Wisconsin Conservation Voters gave him his own page in the 2019-2020 "Lip Service File" for leading Speaker Vos' Task Force on Clean Drinking Water and wasting taxpayer money and time to achieve absolutely nothing. "After taking hours of data and testimony, the task force came up with 13 bills, none of which addressed the root causes of pollution or were taken up by the Republican-led Senate. In short, the task force was a PR stunt with no new ideas or plans." 

Kriss Marion Represents Integrity and Rural Values

Dear Editor: An email from a friend recently: “I have a dream that one day Donald J. Trump will be judged not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.” Trump/Pence vs. Biden/Harris will be for the nation to decide in November, but the 51st State Assembly District contest between Todd Novak and Kriss Marion is ours to choose. I have not questioned the character of either of them before, but now I see a major difference. Novak calls himself “an independent voice” on his website but he has voted nearly 100% of the time with Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who is well aligned on important issues with Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and the Trump national Republican agenda. Along with Vos and Fitzgerald, Novak has refused Medicaid dollars, stripped money and local zoning control from rural counties, ignored the increasing farm bankruptcies, battled mail-in voting, championed voucher schools even though we have none in our district. He risked lives with a very weak COVID-19 response. AND Todd Novak has never publicly spoken against Wisconsin Republicans or even Trump. So it’s not surprising that his previous campaigns were largely funded by Republican interests. Kriss Marion stands for Wisconsin rural values — local control of strongly supported education, clean air and water, rural broadband, small farms and small-town values. She supports the Affordable Care Act, wants to expand BadgerCare and demands responsible responses to the COVID-19 crisis. She supports the governor’s Badger Bounce-Back program and is a strong supporter of mail-in voting. It seems that anything Democrats propose or stand for are rejected by Republicans — like a knee-jerk reaction in lockstep with Republicans. It’s a national attitude in this Trump era, and Todd Novak and the Wisconsin Republicans do the same. Where is their integrity in refusing to consider the merits of any issue in open public debates? Kriss Marion represents integrity and solid Wisconsin rural values. Sadly, we have to question Todd Novak’s integrity as an independent and even his character now. Bryan Walton Spring Green https://madison.com/ct/opinion/mailbag/bryan-walton-kriss-marion-represents-integrity-and-rural-values/article_0bfb254d-45c7-5747-8178-bcc9cda302e7.html

Kriss Marion best for the 51st Assembly District

I support Kriss Marion for the 51st Assembly District race in southwestern Wisconsin. Marion, in partnership with her family, has been operating a small farm business in the 51st District producing food for local markets. I saw her citizen leadership in support of what became known as the “Cookie Bill” to make it legal to sell various homemade goods in Wisconsin. Marion and I served on the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program board together. Its mission is to find creative ways, public and private, to serve our region’s most vulnerable populations. I learned how effective Marion can be. She is serving her third term as a Lafayette County supervisor and is now second vice chair. In that capacity, she has been involved with the Southwest Wisconsin Groundwater and Geology study known as SWIGG. Some officials threatened to draft a resolution that sought to restrict information reporters could share about this publicly funded study. Marion took a firm and courageous stance, unwavering in her support of the public’s right to know. In every instance, Marion's work has been dedicated, nonpartisan and effective on behalf of citizens of southwest Wisconsin. She is an engaged citizen and a strong public leader. I have great admiration for her. Please support Marion on Nov. 3. Dick Cates, farmer, town of Wyoming, Iowa County https://madison.com/wsj/opinion/letters/kriss-marion-best-for-the-51st-assembly-district----dick-cates/article_2cb15b1c-03ed-59c8-b683-ede94c86415f.html#utm_source=madison.com&utm_campaign=%2Femail-upd  

Kriss Marion on German News


What the Future of Rural America Could Look Like After Trump

https://upnorthnewswi.com/2020/08/19/what-the-future-of-rural-america-could-look-like-after-trump/ Convention group outlines what hasn’t worked and what’s needed before it’s too late. Already struggling rural regions in Wisconsin have been further put at risk during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but policy changes at the state and federal level that would boost investments could revitalize those communities, a panel of Democrats said Tuesday. Participants in a virtual event titled the Wisconsin Rural Issues Roundtable said the policies of Republican President Donald Trump’s administration have left farmers and many others living in the state’s less-populated locations behind as federal and state policies have failed to address their needs. The session was held in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention, which began Monday and concludes Thursday.  Event speakers were particularly critical of Trump’s policies that favor corporate agriculture, his trade tariffs that have curtailed many agriculture sales, and his mismanagement of the pandemic. They have devastated rural areas, widening the gap between them and urban areas with greater access to resources, the participants said. Trump “has no idea what it takes to support rural communities,” said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, a longtime incumbent Democrat from La Crosse who served as panel moderator.  Rather than continue current policies under which rural locations continue to lag their urban and suburban counterparts, panelists said government must embrace new approaches, such as creating new jobs and opportunities for farmers and others while making food systems more local, and harnessing green energy opportunities.  Investments in broadband internet access, transportation, education, and lock-and-dam upgrades called for in Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s rural plan would help revitalize rural areas, as would incentivizing farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices.  “It’s a bold plan, a big plan, and it has the opportunity to improve rural areas,” said panelist Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council who served as agriculture secretary under former President Barack Obama and was Iowa governor before that.   In stark contrast to Trump’s failed actions toward rural regions, Kind said Biden’s proposal to address rural needs lays out specific measures to bolster the small communities that make up much of the nation. “We need a plan now more than ever to address the challenges our rural areas face. Only one (presidential) ticket has a plan to attack this virus and take America forward,” Kind said in reference to Biden.  Kind and other panel speakers were critical of what they termed Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic. They said his downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19, his failure to adequately boost production of much-needed personal protection equipment, his flouting of the need to wear protective face coverings in public, and his lack of a cohesive national plan to slow the spread of the virus has led to unnecessary illnesses and deaths.  Nearly 67,000 people have contracted the virus in Wisconsin, and more than 1,000 have died from it. The number of cases has surged this summer as people have come back together after safer-at-home rules intended to slow the virus’ spread were overturned in May by the state Supreme Court. That mismanagement, in turn, adversely impacted the economies of rural communities, panelists said. For instance, COVID-19 outbreaks at food-processing plants forced some to shut down, meaning farmers had nowhere to sell their cattle, hogs, and poultry. Dairy farmers were forced to dump milk when prices dairies had no room to take their products.  Farmers have experienced additional struggles in the wake of Trump’s imposing tariffs as part of trade wars with China and other nations. Those tariffs have shrunk markets for farmers to sell their goods, making it harder for many to stay in business. During the Obama administration, Vilsack said, the U.S. trade surplus typically was about $25 billion annually. During Trump’s time as president, that figure has shrunk to about $3 billion, he said, and this year might be a deficit.  State Sen. Patty Schachtner, a Democrat seeking re-election to the 10th Senate district, remembers her family being forced from their farm in the 1980s when they couldn’t make a go of it any longer. Farming for small- and mid-size producers has only gotten more difficult since then, she said, noting that last year more than 800 Wisconsin farmers lost their farms.   “Rural communities are really struggling,” Schachtner said. “We need a president who cares about the people living in rural areas.” Schachtner and other panelists discussed the need for significant investment to boost broadband internet access. Many rural parts of Wisconsin lack that access, leaving them further behind in a world in which business increasingly is conducted online. Kriss Marion, a Lafayette County Board supervisor who is running as a Democrat for the 51st Assembly District seat against incumbent Republican Todd Novak, said some school-age children must sit in school parking lots to do homework because they lack internet access at home.  “We are crying out for real investment in our communities,” she said. “But we’re just not seeing that.”      Without such investment, Marion said, more farmers will be forced out of business, leaving Wisconsin’s rural regions and small communities without the resources they need to thrive. But it doesn’t have to be that way, she and other panelists said. The investments called for in Biden’s rural plan could help farmers and others, reversing the migration from rural to urban areas and creating stable jobs while improving the environment. “That plan casts a vision,” Marion said. “Farmers can be the heroes of the rural renaissance that we need.” Julian Emerson A fixture in west central Wisconsin journalism for over a quarter-century, Julian specializes in investigative work, politics, and social justice issues.

Late Medicine and Food Gone Bad as Trump’s USPS Delays Hurt Wisconsin Families and Shops

https://upnorthnewswi.com/2020/08/18/late-medicine-and-food-gone-bad-as-trumps-usps-delays-hurt-wisconsin-families-and-shops/ ‘How many ways can they try and ruin a small business?’ Jackie Gennett says the coronavirus pandemic didn’t kill her Bushel & Peck’s specialty food business, but the Trump administration’s throttling of the U.S. Postal Service just might. As her Beloit restaurant all but shut down during the pandemic, her specialty food mail-order business ramped up and she began shipping chive vinegar and dilly beans all over the country. She bought special boxes to be compliant with the USPS, her most affordable option for shipping. “Our online sales grew by 250 percent, a massive number in such a short time,’’ she said.  But about three weeks ago, her customers began inquiring about delayed orders. She checked tracking information and noticed “that is it has been just sitting at the post office for five days.” The delays are results of President Donald Trump and his administration’s attacks on the Postal Service. Trump openly admitted last week to denying needed funds to the USPS to cripple its ability to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots in November as Americans choose to vote absentee at record rates due to the pandemic. The president opposes mass mail-in voting, even though he and other top administration officials vote using that method, apparently because he fears a potential flood of Democratic absentee ballots will be cast in the Nov. 3 presidential election. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, an ardent Trump supporter who holds between a $30 million and $75 million stake in a private shipping company, had been overseeing a nationwide removal of mail sorting machines — with no explanation to local post offices — just months before the election.  On Tuesday afternoon, DeJoy suddenly altered course and said he would suspend — though not reverse — any operational changes until after Election Day.  The announcement came on the same day that Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul announced he is joining other attorneys general in filing a federal lawsuit challenging those operational changes.  Sen. Ron Johnson also announced he would hold a hearing Friday of his Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, but a Washington Post report indicates he is more likely to be sympathetic to Trump administration cost-cutting at the USPS. At Milwaukee’s mail-sorting facility—which processes a huge portion of the state’s mail—four machines have already been removed and another three are pegged for removal, according to Chris Czubakowski, legislative director for the American Postal Workers Union of Wisconsin and vice president of the union’s Milwaukee chapter. After the next three are removed, the facility will have 29 machines, he said. Those machines can each sort up to 30,000 pieces of mail per hour, Czubakowski said.  “It’s no coincidence that the directives came down and you’re hearing reports from all over the country that people’s mail is being delayed,” Czubakowski said. Czubakowski said he fears those machine reductions could “continue unabated,” but added that there is not currently a slowdown at the Milwaukee facility, which primarily handles mail items like letters or ballots. Instead, he said, staffing and overtime cuts have created a logjam at the package sorting facility in Oak Creek, a southern Milwaukee suburb.  “It’s frustrating, and my concern is what is going to happen over the holidays when our volume increases?’’ Gennett said. “Being able to ship packages through the post office is saving our business, which isn’t being helped by anything else in our government right now. It’s just ridiculous. How many ways can they try to ruin a small business?” Wisconsin business owners told UpNorthNews postal service delays are hindering their operations, many of which already are hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In Eau Claire, Jamie Kyser said the Tangled Up In Hue store she owns with Erin Klaus is “experiencing serious disruption to our business” because of USPS cutbacks.  “We ship many packages daily, and now we also deal with serious delays and time spent dealing with customer service related to these delays, as well as extra costs to replace items,” Kyser said. “This is horrible for small businesses already struggling to make ends meet.” Other business owners ranging from those selling books, to those who sell items via eBay, to freelancers who are paid by paper checks sent through the mail said they wonder how they will remain in business without a reliable mail system. Eau Claire resident Anna Schmidt said simply paying her monthly rent would prove difficult without the postal service.  “My landlord doesn’t accept cash or checks, only money orders,” she said. Medication worries Kriss Marion, a Democratic candidate for the 51st Assembly District seat, says she hears complaints about slow postal service everywhere she goes. “The anxiety around the post office has been palpable for months and in the last few weeks it’s really ramped up,” she says. “The pandemic and the recession have been bad enough, but now people feel like they can’t rely on the post office. It’s heartbreaking to see the dismantling of a beloved, century-old institution.” Marion joined a group of about 25 people that gathered on Monroe’s courthouse square last weekend to protest in support of the postal service. Donna Phillips, of Monroe, carried a sign that read, “We need our medication sent by mail.” Her late husband, Robert, was a veteran served by the Veterans Administration health system and received his V.A. prescriptions by mail.  The delayed sending of medications is another serious ramification of postal service cutbacks, Marion said. “I’m worried about the elderly who get their prescriptions through the mail,’’ Marion said. “We don’t have a pharmacy in Blanchardville. The nearest one is a half an hour away. Older people are at risk (from COVID-19) and they don’t want to have to go out to go shopping for their medicines. The post office is very important for our rural population, which tends to be elderly.” Ben Wilson is among Wisconsin residents who could soon face delays receiving medications vital to his health with reduced postal service. Wilson, a 41-year-old Viroqua resident, takes medications for HIV each night, and without them his immune system is compromised, which could lead to serious health concerns. Wilson recently received notice from his pharmacy that the sending of his medicines may be delayed, and that he may have to pick them up in person to receive them in a timely manner. “Missing a single dose would be a problem for me,” Wilson said.  His health insurance plan does not allow him to have those prescriptions filled locally, so Wilson must instead have his medications filled at a La Crosse pharmacy 35 miles to the north, then mailed to him. Having his medications processed that way costs Wilson $50 monthly, he said; having them filled at a local pharmacy, outside of his plan, would cost $1,500. Wilson’s parents face a similar dilemma, he said. They live in the Hayward area and recently were notified they may need to pick up their prescriptions in Eau Claire, a drive of about two hours each way, to receive medications they need.  Other people told UpNorthNews they face similar long drives to obtain their medications if they can’t get them in the mail. Kim Butler takes a medicine, anastrozole, to prevent recurrence of breast cancer. She typically receives it one or two days after ordering it, but recently had to wait seven days, and faces a two-hour drive each way to pick up her meds in person. “There are a lot of people in the northern part of the state who face longer drives to get their medicine than me,” said Butler, who lives in Balsam Lake and is a candidate for the 28th Assembly District.  ‘Show real respect’ Saturday’s march to the Monroe Post Office was organized by Barb Woodriff, who circulated petitions asking for increased funding for the postal service. She said the group gathered 114 signatures in Monroe Saturday and next weekend plans to visit New Glarus. The trip to New Glarus is planned because Woodriff heard about a local cheese shop, Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus, that has seen its delivery times double, causing some cheese shipments to arrive at their destination already spoiled, because of postal delays. “Obviously, the worst-case scenario that you don’t want is your product getting there and it’s rotten,” said Mark Ryan, Maple Leaf co-owner. Maple Leaf’s online orders experienced a sharp uptick when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Ryan said, and shipping delays soon came around the start of summer. Deliveries that typically took two to three days are now taking seven to 10, he said, and a few batches have gone bad sitting for days in a postal facility. “We’re just concerned about reputation as far as shipping and things like that,” Ryan said. Woodriff and Phillips said they also wanted to show support for postal workers. Phillips said they heard that postal workers have been told to leave when their shift is over, even if the mail is piling up. “They’ve been working through the pandemic and it’s time to show real respect and appreciation for them,’’ Woodriff said. “The USPS needs funding to serve all Americans equally. We must be able to vote by mail during the pandemic. This is a non-partisan issue.” Time needed for ballots Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said that mail-in balloting seemed to work well during the Aug. 11 primary election, but that people need to give their local post office more time than they did in the past. “In the good old days, you could drop a letter or ballot in a mailbox and it would be at city hall in a day or two,’’ Magney said. “Now, almost anything you mail is going to go to Milwaukee first, to a big sorting facility. The U.S. Postal Service has told us they need a week to get a letter from point A to point B in Wisconsin.” Magney said people should request their absentee ballots for November now, by going to myvote.wi.gov or by contacting their local clerk in writing. Clerks will begin mailing ballots Sept. 17, and voters should fill them out and mail them back promptly, he said. Anyone who requests a ballot but doesn’t receive it by the end of September should call their local clerk, Magney said. “Going into November, time is our friend,’’ Magney said. “People shouldn’t let those ballots sit around on their kitchen tables.” Magney said that some municipalities allow voters to drop off ballots at the polling stations on election day and others don’t, so it is best to check with clerks or mail the ballots as soon as possible after receiving them. “I understand that people are concerned about the post office, but as long as you give them enough time, everything should be all right,’’ Magney said. Czubakowski, the postal worker union representative, said the USPS should be able to handle an influx of ballots, provided mail-sorting machines are not continually taken out of commission. “We’ve got a track record of doing more mail than any election would require in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we’ll get the job done,” said Czubakowski, a 24-year veteran postal worker. “We’ve just got to be given a chance.” The current attacks on the post office, Czubakowski said, seem to be part of the long-running push from private shipping firms and conservatives to privatize the Postal Service. “They’ve already accomplished, I believe, what they’ve set out to do,” Czubakowski said. “And that’s to undermine people’s confidence.” But businesses that rely on the post office are running out of patience with the Trump Administration. “Robbing the people of the post office is so divisive and it doesn’t even make sense,’’ said Bushel & Peck’s Gennett. “Republicans like the post office, too. They don’t hate the post office. Just the Trump administration does.”  UpNorthNews reporters Jonathon Sadowski and Julian Emerson contributed to this report.   Susan Lampert Smith A freelance writer and operator of the Blue Valley Gardens produce farm outside Mount Horeb, Susan previously wrote an award-winning newspaper column and has authored two books.