KATHLEEN VINEHOUT
PEOPLE FIRST

The Zen of Deer Hunting

Sitting alone in the fog. Blending in with the grass and trees. Don’t move. Just listen. Breathe.

“Caaw, caaw caaw.” Two crows overhead. One higher, hoarser, more nasal. A young one. Looking for food. They are opportunists. Listen.

“Tuk, tuk, tuk tuk, tuk.” A wild turkey to the north.

The soft whoosh of wings overhead. Something flies by. Very still. Don’t move. Wondering. An eagle screeches. A Hairy Woodpecker drums. It’s still early. Dark. Quiet. Watch.

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“Faces of Addiction and Recovery” Came to the Capitol

The day was busy. Filled with bills voted on by Senators. Bills that, someday, will change people’s lives for better or worse. Senators do not often see the faces of those whose lives changed.
 
Bev, Bonnie and Jamie are working to put a face on the lives affected by the actions of lawmakers. The women are showing Wisconsin the faces of those suffering from addiction.
 
With the help of Senator Erpenbach, these strong women brought three panels of a very large quilt to the Capitol. On the quilt were the faces of those suffering from addiction. The background behind the face tells a story. The person may be in recovery (white), in prison (gray), or died (black).

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Testimony in opposition of SB 281- The Organization and Operation of Cooperatives and Extension of Credits by Electric Cooperatives

I thank Chairperson LeMahieu and committee members for the opportunity to testify on Senate Bill 281, which alters Chapter 185 regarding the organization of cooperatives.

As an organic farmer and member of many cooperatives, I understand need and history of cooperatives for agricultural and rural communities. Cooperatives provide a crucial link between community members and access to markets like feed and livestock. These service organizations are guided by the principles of putting the welfare of their members first; not the bottom-line of the cooperative.

Earlier this year, our office requested a legislative council memo describing Senate Bill 281 and comparing the bill with certain provisions of current law. The memo clarified the concerns I had about this bill. 

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Speed and Secrecy Leaves the Public Out in the Cold

In the past eleven years, I wrote 64 times about the problems of speed and secrecy in the legislative process. However, I never saw a calendar as broad and deep in controversy as the most recent one before the State Senate.

For weeks, we heard that the Senate would vote a hodge-podge of highly controversial bills. “Horrid,” one staffer called the expected Senate Calendar. None of us, including the public, knew what bills would come up for a vote.

The cloak of secrecy raised a bit on Friday when we received the tentative list of bills. But even the day before the vote, we did not have the official bill materials and were scrambling to get details.

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WEDC Admits They Are Not Following the Law

“We have not been able to verify the jobs,” said Secretary Mark Hogan at a recent public hearing of the Joint Committee on Audit.

In this statement, the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) confirmed what several years of audits repeatedly found: our state awarded hundreds of millions in tax credits and cash payments to companies to create jobs without ever checking to see if jobs were actually created.

WEDC is the state agency overseeing economic development efforts. They hand out tax credits and cash payments to corporations to create and retain jobs. WEDC writes contracts for companies to receive state money. When a company abides by the contract, it receives a payment, a certificate for a tax break, or their loan is forgiven. 

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WEDC’s History Raises Concerns about State’s Ability to Oversee Foxconn Deal

“Can you find out the nuclear flaw in the Foxconn deal?” a woman asked me. She was referring to words leaked out of secret negotiations between the state and a Taiwanese billionaire.

Lawmakers, who recently voted in favor of the Foxconn deal, did so without seeing any contract. They put faith in a state operation known as Wisconsin Economic Development (WEDC).

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Audit Committee Focused on Protecting Veterans’ Care at King

For 130 years, Wisconsin provided care for our aging veterans. Our state committed resources to build a beautiful campus on the Chain O’ Lakes. Known as the Veterans Home at King, the home gives veterans and their families a picturesque retirement.

Recently, stories leaked out from King that all was not well. Delayed maintenance, slipping quality of care, and management decisions, in the name of cost cutting, took away amenities central to veterans’ quality of life. Impersonal vending machines replaced the coffee shop stocked with home baked goods.

Concerned, Audit Committee members directed the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) to investigate. Recently, the Audit Committee held a public hearing to examine the LAB’s reports and plan future action. 

Among many findings, auditors uncovered serious problems with short staffing and low staff morale. During the study period, auditors found overtime worked by staff was equivalent to hiring over 70 additional full-time staff. Staff were subject to mandatory overtime rules. High turnover especially hit part-time staff.

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Hemp: Its Time Has Come

Farmers in diverse states like Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine and Minnesota are researching a new crop: industrial hemp. Many states are changing laws to allow growing of hemp.

Wisconsin is slow to get in the game. Hopefully, this is about to change.

Lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism Committee are considering a hemp legalization bill. If Senate Bill 119 becomes law, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would create an active industrial hemp program and license growers.

Hemp is not a new crop to Wisconsin. We once had flourishing fields of hemp. But, as the saying goes, you are sometimes known by your relatives. Even for a plant. Hemp suffered from an association with its cousin, marijuana. By the 1950s, farmers stopped growing hemp. Federal and state drug laws swept up hemp in an effort to eradicate marijuana.

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De-licensing Question & Answer Fact Sheet

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Are you a licensed or registered professional in Wisconsin? Do you use the services of licensed professionals?

Consumers and professionals of all kinds could be affected by two bills moving through the state legislature. The bills establish a process for delicensing professionals and allowing unlicensed people to register as “state certified”.

These bills jeopardize consumer protections now in the law, erode confidence in professionals, and could have disastrous consequences for patient safety and worker protection.

What’s happening that might affect all professions in the state?

Under the proposals, all the requirements for every profession and occupation currently licensed, including continuing education requirements, would be up for repeal or change every 10 years.

A partisan appointed Occupational License Review Council is given the authority to write legislation to effect the repeal or change.

The legislation creates a “self-certification registry” and individuals would be able to add their own names if they complete a registration process through a private “supporting organization”. Those individuals could then call themselves “state certified”. 

The bills have been voted out of committee in the Senate and could be up for final Senate passage by the end of October.

All professions currently licensed by the state would be affected.

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Proposal to De-license Occupations Gains Steam in Senate

Imagine you are with your loved one who is in the hospital. Night comes. You prepare to leave, gently kissing your loved one “good night”.

As you walk down the corridor and into the hospital parking lot, you might wonder how your loved one will feel in the morning. Will things be better, worse or stay the same?

One thing you don’t worry about is the quality of care provided to your loved one because the nurses working the night shift are licensed by the state.

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