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August 9, 2019
Wisconsin's 12th Senate District contains communities in Florence, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Oneida, Shawano, and Vilas Counties.

Committee Assignments:
  • Joint Committee on Finance
  • Sporting Heritage, Mining, and Forestry Committee (Chair)
  • Elections, Ethics, and Rural Issues (Vice-Chair)
  • Local Government, Small Business, Tourism and Workforce Development
  • Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions
Northern Wisconsin Rail Service

This week, Michigan State Senator Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah) and I announced we will be holding two public listening sessions to provide individuals the opportunity to discuss the lack of rail service in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In 2013, the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation published the Wisconsin Northwoods Freight Railroad Market Study. The report was a response to an initiative that came out of Wisconsin's first Governor's Freight Industry Summit in November 2011. The event was an opportunity to hear feedback from manufacturers and shippers from across the state. One of the problems that was identified was inadequate rail service in Northern Wisconsin.

Over the last 25 years, several segments of rail that stretch across Northern Wisconsin have had their services discontinued. This has left many areas of the state with fewer options for shipping by rail. I have heard from several businesses across Northern Wisconsin that this has negatively impacted their operations.

These meetings will give people the opportunity to share their stories and suggest solutions to fix the problems with rail service in our region. The meeting will be open to the public and everyone is invited. If you would like to anonymously submit comments to be shared, you can send them to my office. 
Governor Vetoes

This past spring, some colleagues and I introduced the “Road to Sustainability” package that laid out a roadmap for ensuring long-term reforms to how we fund and deliver transportation infrastructure in Wisconsin.  I had the opportunity to work with stakeholders who have years of experience working with the Department of Transportation (DOT) on a number of projects, and their ideas were incorporated on how to achieve better cost savings and efficiencies.  I have consistently said that if the Legislature was going to give the DOT additional dollars, that there has to be reforms cemented in place to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best return on their investment.  The goal of the package was to make sure that the DOT could become more efficient, transparent and accountable.

This week, Governor Evers signed one of the bills into law and vetoed two.  The Governor signed Assembly Bill 275, which directs DOT to keep an inventory of at least five design-build projects to help ensure projects are ready to go once resources become available.  Design-build is an alternative delivery method for how construction projects are shepherded through the bidding process, offering cost savings and quicker turnarounds for projects.

The Governor vetoed Assembly Bill 273 and Assembly Bill 284.  Assembly Bill 273 would have allowed contractors to propose using alternative subbase materials if they are structurally-equivalent but are less costly.  Material costs represent a large portion of road construction project spending, and this would have allowed an option to source materials at a lower cost.  Assembly Bill 284 would have provided discretionary merit compensation awards to DOT staff who propose cost savings, innovations, or efficiencies.  The bill incentivized DOT employees who know best how to improve processes and find cost savings.  

I am unclear why Governor Evers would veto two important reforms that would promote both contractor and employee innovation.  I will continue to support reforming the DOT to make sure the additional resources we provided in the budget are spent efficiently and effectively.
FEMA Review
 
Last Friday, the Governor formally requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) for 19 Wisconsin counties and tribes hit hard by severe storms, flooding, straight line winds and tornadoes. This is the first step in potentially requesting federal disaster aid for local governments as they recover from the storms.

Teams comprised of officials with FEMA and Wisconsin Emergency Management will work with local, tribal and state officials in viewing public infrastructure damage in Barron, Clark, Forest, La Crosse, Langlade, Marinette, Menominee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Polk, Portage, Rusk, Vernon, Waupaca, and Wood counties. In addition, FEMA will assess damage on tribal lands of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.

Current local damage assessments show more than $14 million in damage to public infrastructure. Most of
the costs are for emergency protective measures, debris removal and damage to electrical equipment owned
by municipal and rural electric cooperatives.


FEMA will not be assessing damage to individual homes, cabins or businesses. Much of the reported damage by individuals is either covered by insurance or would not qualify for federal disaster assistance such as downed trees on private property.

The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) does provide assistance to local units of government to secure low-interest loans. For those towns that have incurred significant expenses due to storm clean-up, you can call Tom German at BCPL if you are interested at 608-267-2233.
Wisconsin Forestry

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to address the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association board of directors. The focus of our discussion was the budget - including local transportation funding, storm cleanup, and the upcoming railroad hearings. I appreciate the good questions from the board
Also, a study was released by the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST) at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point that focused on the importance of the paper industry to the state's economy. The study found Wisconsin ranks first in the nation in the number of paper mills, the number of industry employees and the value of products sold.

According to the study, Wisconsin’s pulp, paper and converting industries directly generated $18.2 billion in economic output and employed more than 30,000 workers in 2018. The paper industry’s total contributions to Wisconsin’s economy—including  direct, indirect and induced benefits—came to more than $28.8 billion and more than 95,000 jobs.

The study also found that 41 of the state’s 72 counties are home to at least one paper manufacturing business, whether that is a mill or a converter. In some counties, paper manufacturing represents more than 20% of local manufacturing activity.

The report concludes that Wisconsin’s paper industry is better positioned than many of its peers to meet demands for new products due to investments in plant upgrades, technological advances and improved worker training.

Smoky Turns 75

For 75 years, Smokey Bear has been protecting our forests and getting the word out about wildfire prevention. In honor of Smokey Bear's 75th birthday on August 9, 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is celebrating the nation's favorite bear.

To honor and observe this historic event, Gov. Tony Evers named August 9, 2019 'Smokey Bear's 75th Birthday' with an official Governor Proclamation recognizing Smokey's contribution to the education, health and safety for all Wisconsinites.

Throughout his birthday year, Smokey will be giving back to communities across Wisconsin. The DNR is partnering with the non-profit organization Box of Balloons to support fire prevention and the mission to make a child's birthday happy, celebrated and memorable.

Coordinated by eleven chapters across the state, Box of Balloons provides birthday boxes to children in need. This year, Box of Balloons is highlighting outdoor recreation and Smokey Bear themed birthday boxes for Pre-Kindergarten through 2nd Grade. Many box and birthday celebrations will include a surprise visit by Smokey Bear. DNR forestry staff, acting as Smokey, will also provide fire prevention activities to educate and entertain the children attending each party. This unique partnership helps both organizations expand into rural communities and introduce Smokey to children while making them feel special and celebrated on their birthdays.

Visit the DNR website to find other Smokey Bear events at our state parks and forests in the coming weeks by searching "Smokey" within the event calendar. Looking to do more? Visit Box of Balloons to help give a Smokey Bear themed birthday kits to kids in need.
District Events
Date Event Location
August 8 - 11 Vilas County Fair Eagle River
August 10 Best Fish Fry Cook-Off Boulder Junction
August 10 SEE ME TRI Triathlon Woodruff
August 10 Ride with Leinie Land O'Lakes
August 10 Antigo Tater Trot Antigo
August 10 Boulder Junction History Day Boulder Junction
August 10 Thrilla on the Grilla Tomahawk
August 10 - 11 Oconto County Fair Gillett
August 14 Paul Bunyan Fest Eagle River
August 14 - 18 Lincoln County Fair Merrill
August 17-18 Footstock Barefoot Water Ski Tournament Crandon
August 17 Minocqua Dragon Boat Festival Minocqua
August 17 Trump Lake Walleye Fundraiser Wabeno
August 18 Badgerland Classics & Customs Annual Car Show Antigo
August 22 - 25 Marinette County Fair Wausaukee
August 23 Music by the River Oconto Falls
August 23 - 25 Florence County Fair Florence
August 31 Corn Roast & ATV/UTV Parade Townsend
August 31 MKLPA Pig Roast Minocqua
Contact Me:
Mail: Senator Tom Tiffany, PO Box 7882, Madison, WI, 53707
Phone: (608) 266-2509  Fax: (608) 282-3552
Email: sen.tiffany@legis.wisconsin.gov
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Copyright © 2019 Office of State Senator Tom Tiffany, All rights reserved.


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As always, if you have any events for our calendar, comments or thoughts regarding the subjects of this newsletter, please feel free to contact me.