Superior Days delegation lays groundworkLobbying day began with a visit from Gov. Jim Doyle and a pep talk from Superior Days founder Frank Boyle before the group took their message, as Doyle put it, “under the dome.”
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Lobbying day began with a visit from Gov. Jim Doyle and a pep talk from Superior Days founder Frank Boyle before the group took their message, as Doyle put it, “under the dome.”
“We have to make sure we are making a strong pathway,” Doyle said Wednesday. “We have to build on who we are and what our resources are.” That means the Great Lakes, and for this region, Lake Superior.
“It is what defines us,” Doyle said. Through the Great Lakes Action Plan more than three-quarters of a billion federal dollars will be spent on Great Lakes improvement over the next two to three years as part of President Barack Obama’s Great Lakes agenda, the governor said.
“We all have to work together to make sure that Wisconsin gets its fair share,” Doyle said.
He also touched on health care, broadband access, jobs and education in his speech. He advocated mandating three years of math and science for high school graduation and spoke of the opportunities available in renewable energy sources.
Doyle also urged the delegates to be vigilant during the upcoming gubernatorial campaign.
“I’m just going to give you a little warning,” he said. “Every now and then, people start talking about, ‘Well, maybe we ought to close a campus.’” Then they start looking toward the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Doyle said legislators and residents need to make sure that doesn’t surface during the coming campaign.
“That campus is not only critical to Superior, it is critical to the state of Wisconsin,” he said, earning a round of applause from the group.
As he left the room, Doyle stopped to spend time with Domenic Picinich of Solon Springs and get his picture taken with exchange students from Washburn and Ashland.
“He likes what we’re doing here,” said Picinich, a high school senior. “He said keep up the good work.”
In response to a question by the Solon Springs student, Doyle also handed him a handwritten card to connect him with a staff member versed in biomass and other renewable energy sources.
Boyle, a retired representative, kept his message brief but passionate.
“You represent the hope for this future of this democracy,” he told delegates of the grassroots lobbying effort. Boyle said it was another grassroots group, The Windchill Legacy, which brought the genesis of a bill to strengthen animal cruelty laws to Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior. A hearing was set on Assembly Bill 747, at the same time lobbying efforts were taking place.
“This is the way this process changes,” he said, through the pure efforts of everyday people. “You come here with a handshake; you come here with a message you think this process is important.”
Following the lobbying session, a number of agency meetings took place and area leaders sat down with Doyle in his office to chat about tax reciprocity and other local issues. Minnesota ended the tax reciprocity agreement, Doyle said, but in the end, the change will benefit Wisconsin. Now the state no longer has to pay eight percent interest on the taxes collected from Wisconsin residents working in Minnesota, which was sent to St. Paul in October.
Milroy and other representatives submitted a proposed bill Tuesday addressing the reciprocity issue. If passed, the bill would require the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to collect data for a study that shows how many people are affected and how much income they are earning on both sides of the state line. The study would lay groundwork for revisiting the issue.
Following lobbying and lunch, student delegates paired up to shadow legislators and staff members from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“This is cool,” said Robby Blair, a junior from Northwestern High School as he peered into the Assembly Chambers. He and Superior High School sophomore Katie Stenroos spent time following Don Nelson, assistant director of state relations for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I do legislative lobbying for UW-Madison,” he said. Nelson admitted he’s not an expert in any particular field except the legislative process. His job is to educate legislators about UW-Madison’s issues about. Wednesday, he had a bill to kill, one to pass and information to give.
As he gave them a tour of the Capitol, Nelson showed the youth his lifeline – an iPhone – and his most valuable tool, the Facebook social networking site. He started a profile to keep track of his daughter’s site. Now he uses more than she does. Among the hundreds of friends Nelson tracks are legislators, staff members and even reporters he works with. He’ll look up their profile and make note of recent posts.
“That’s the first thing I’m going to talk to them about,” he said, because it’s something they care about.
The youth shook hands with Rep. Dean Kaufert, D-Neenah, and stopped to view the hand-painted walls in the Assembly Parlor before following Nelson to legislative appointments.
As the day came to a close, a 25th anniversary took place at the Concourse Hotel. Delegates stopped decorating and hauling in Jack’s Links jerky to give a few thoughts on the Superior Days event.
“I was particularly happy with this year’s event,” said Mark Abeles-Allison, Bayfield County Administrator. “We got good feedback, got some constructive thoughts in addition to positive responses” from both legislators and department heads.
Coordinator Fariba Pendleton with Douglas County UW-Extension was wearing a big smile.
“I think it was just great this year,” she said. “Of course it will take us a while to know the results, you know, what we accomplished, what we didn’t, but what I’m hearing from our delegates is that it was extremely successful.”
And, legislators hammered home a fact that has been true for more than two decades. Superior Days is, well, Superior.
“(They) all said Superior Days is the example for all the other organizations of the state to follow,” said Abeles-Allison. “That’s a real kudos to all organizers who put in unending hours to get the unique needs of Northwestern Wisconsin across to legislators.”
As Superior City Councilor Warren Bender put it, “Superior Days is the best; the other lobbying efforts are just the rest.”